Camp of rock


AUBURN – In the middle of The Clash’s “Should I stay or should I go,” 9-year-old Trevor Laliberte jumps up and down, his purple electric guitar jouncing against his legs while his spiky mohawk bobs to the punk rock beat.

Across the room, an 8-year-old percussionist rocks out, beating the drums with gleeful abandon. A towheaded oboe player toots in time to the music. A pair of grinning preteen girls hunch over a microphone, their singing nearly drowned out.

It’s loud. It’s chaotic.

It’s Camp of Rock.

“In all the time I have been here, I have never gotten bored once,” said 11-year-old guitarist Matthew Taylor.

Held at Central Maine Community College, the summer day camp brought together 17 young musicians for a week of intensive rock education. Monday through Thursday they learned the fundamentals: power cords, 12-bar blues, the Rolling Stones.

On Friday they’ll hold an all-out, pounding-beat rock concert for their biggest fans: mom and dad.

Auburn music teacher Brian Gagnon came up with the idea for Camp of Rock after watching “School of Rock,” a hit movie about a substitute teacher who turns his class into a rock band.

“I just thought to myself that would be as fun a job as I could think of,” Gagnon said.

The community college, which hosts a police camp, a DJ camp and other unique day camps, jumped at the chance to add a rock-and-roll experience. The college provided the classroom and lunches.

The kids provided the instruments. And the enthusiasm.

“Once I heard he was doing a rock camp, I said ‘I have to be inside that camp!'” said 10-year-old singer and clarinet player Meggie Wise.

When the campers’ musical enthusiasm boils over into chaos, Gagnon mutes the amps and keyboards so he can be heard. When that didn’t curb the noisy mania Wednesday, he suggested a break.

The campers took that as a threat.

“No!” they shouted, dismayed in unison.

Gagnon has to force the kids to stop, even for recess. Even for popsicles.

“They’d sit there and play all day if I let them,” he said.

The campers admit they didn’t sound all that good when they started Monday. But by Wednesday afternoon, they could play “Steady as she goes” by The Ranconteurs, keeping the beat, hitting the right notes, staying together. They were well on their way with “Should I stay or should I go.”

“The best part about camp? Meeting new friends and rocking out,” said Laliberte, who started playing guitar when he was 6. “This is a really good chance for me to rock.”