FARMINGTON — Summer camp memories usually include fond recollections of swimming, canoeing and singalongs around the evening campfire.
But the Jazz Camp at the University of Maine at Farmington held from July 10 to 23 attracts kids toting saxophones, trumpets and violins.
For the past five years, Gabe Terracciano, 18, of Portland, has been one of those campers who has grown up in the digital world of Guitar Hero and YouTube. His parents started him at age 3 with violin lessons. After eight ears, he was ready to quit. He just wasn’t inspired by classical music.
His father convinced him to explore jazz, he said, and suddenly, “everything made sense.” Terracciano is articulate, smart and intense, with a mischievous smile and keen sense of humor. He loves the complexity, creativity, details and demands of jazz. His list of favorite musicians includes, of course, John “Trane” Coltrane.
“Oh, and what’s that guy’s name?” he said, playfully faking forgetfulness. “Oh yeah, Miles Davis.”
He’ll begin college this fall with a double major in liberal arts at Tufts University and music at the New England Conservatory of Music He’s an instructor this summer, which is an honor for someone so young, camp director Paul Lichter said. Terracciano’s YouTube clips, including Donna Summer’s “I Will Survive,” Middle Eastern fusion at Berklee, a knock-out “Bootsy’s Groove” and a stirring “Round Midnight,” hint of a brilliant future. Lichter said Terracciano gets the essence of jazz.
“There is something totally immediate about how viscerally and emotionally people respond to this music,” Lichter said. “They realize this is going to be my pathway to myself and how I’m going to find out who I am and express it to the world,” he said.
Director and Columbia University vocal instructor Christine Correa loves watching these young musicians become more confident and skilled, whether they plan for music careers or just the chance to learn from the best jazz musicians in the world.
Students and staff are like a big family, eating meals together and learning from each other. Since the 1970s, Jazz Camp has been part of the music education equation for Maine students, with schools and booster groups raising money to send them to the unique immersion experience.
“We used to get more kids from Presque Isle than from Portland,” Lichter said. “Now, because of the Internet, we get more kids from New York City.”
Correa tries to make sure no one is turned away because of money, awarding scholarships when she can. Fundraising is an endless part of the job, but she has “angels” devoted to supporting the future of music.
“The Davis Family Foundation in Falmouth believes in us, and we have some generous alumni family donations,” she said.
Students on tight budgets save all year to buy instructors’ CDs or get instruments repaired. Ernie Scholl, owner of Everyday Music in Farmington, helps with low-cost rentals, and the community comes to Lincoln Auditorium to hear two weeks of great music for free.
The Tuesday afternoon instructor is pianist Dan Kaufman. He relaxed between classes in front of a piano on stage, playing a few bits and pieces that demonstrate techniques and style. One student catches a quick nap on the floor, while others settle into seats for the next lesson. Kaufman looks not much older than some of the students, but his YouTube clip from the Cornelia Street Cafe in New York City shows his “chops” as a professional. He expects the best from his students, too.
“These kids get up really early, and they go to hours of rehearsals and master classes,” Kaufman said. “They work really hard, and I try to keep these afternoon classes really lighthearted.”
Colin McCarthy-Edwards, 15, of Strong, starts his third year of Jazz Camp on Sunday. He’s gone to concerts every night, and he wants to learn more about composition, improvisation and technique. He started playing the clarinet but switched four years ago to the alto saxophone. He’s a fan of Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker, he said.
“I like the freedom of jazz,” he said. “I don’t go because my parents want me to.”
Featured musicians at free concerts in Roberts Learning Center (8 p.m., unless otherwise noted):
* Sunday: Frank Carlberg, piano; Christine Correa, voice
* Monday: Jeremy Udden, alto sax; Michael Sarin, drums
* Tuesday: Michael Formanke, bass
* Wednesday: John Carlson, trumpet
* Thursday: Kenny Wessel, guitar
* Friday: Student concert (6:30 p.m.)
* Saturday: Student concert (10 a.m.)
For more information: www.mainejazzcamp.com; 778-7758