PENDLETON — When the Pendleton Center for the Arts is crammed with over 70 teenagers playing rock music in every nook and cranny, it must be time for Rock & Roll Camp.
Open to teens ages 13 to 18, this week’s camp runs through Friday. Campers spend the week learning instruments, forming bands, and eventually writing original songs that will be performed live Friday night.
This year is Addison Schulberg’s second time directing the camp. But his legacy with it goes all the way back to its creation, when he attended the first-ever Rock Camp in 2005 at age 13.
“It was the most magical thing,” Schulberg said of his time as a camper. “It changed the course of my life.”
When he aged out of camp, he asked to be a volunteer and was eventually offered a position as a paid counselor. Three years ago, when then-director Peter Walters offered him the position, he was in awe.
“I knew I couldn’t say no, but it did terrify me,” Schulberg said.
Today, he spends time recording other artists and playing in a few bands, including Pendleton locals 200e and Misty Mouth.
And it seems that some will follow similar paths. This year’s camp is the final one for members of the local band REV, which was formed at Rock Camp a few years ago. Schulberg just helped the all-female group record their first EP.
Others are just getting started in their careers.
“We don’t know what our band name is,” said first-year camper Maria Alvarez. “We don’t have a clue about the song.”
She’s playing violin in a group with three other first-time campers, who are considering naming their band No Clue.
They can’t seem to get enough, as they roll through the song they wrote together in full. It’s poppy and sweet with acoustic guitar and a heart-thumping drum beat.
They were inspired to write the nameless piece when keyboardist Ethan Collins was messing around and incidentally played something catchy.
“It’s challenging,” Alvarez said.
Either way, she’d like to come back next year.
Alvarez and her bandmates are not alone in being new to the world of rock music.
“A lot of these kids come in never having played an instrument,” Schulberg said. “Not only do they learn how to play an instrument, but also how to write a song, start a band, and perform their song in front of a couple hundred folks. It’s pretty epic.”
This year’s camp was particularly exciting because Schulberg won the Dancing with Your Pendleton Stars competition last year, and raised $18,000 that went toward equipment for the campers.
The camp boasts an impressive roster of counselors — including prominent locals like musician Sallie Ford and writer Casey Jarman — who travel to Pendleton to teach the kids about all corners of the music industry.
For kids less interested in playing music, there is instruction on music journalism, photography and film-making.
On Wednesday, the campers gathered in the Pendleton Center for the Arts auditorium to have a discussion about what happens when a musician experiences technical difficulties on stage.
When the discussion was over, the action started.
“Who likes Panic At the Disco?” asked one of the counselors to the crowd.
Immediately, three teens hopped up and assumed positions at the instruments on stage for an impromptu jam session as “Girls/Girls/Boys” blasted on the speakers. The whole room erupted in dancing.
“(This) is giving a 15-year-old the confidence to get up on stage and develop a sense of self- confidence and self-worth,” said Roberta Lavadour, director for the Pendleton Center for the Arts.
Pendleton Rock & Roll camp was formed 14 years ago when the arts center’s development director, J.D Smith, and local musician Peter Walters became interested in finding something more for teenagers in the area to do during the summer.
“J.D. raised the money, and Peter got the human capital together,” Lavadour said.
Campers will be performing all-original music during a free outdoor concert at 400 S. Main St. at 7 p.m. on Friday.