Make a Scene: .38 Special guitarist to teach at rock ‘n roll summer camp

Camp Jam Power Chord Academy (PCA), the nation’s largest and most popular provider of rock ‘n roll summer camps, will set the stage for one session at the University of Puget Sound this month.

For parents scrambling to make those last-minute summer camp decisions, Camp Jam Power Chord Academy (PCA), the nation’s largest and most popular provider of rock ‘n roll summer camps, will set the stage for one session at the University of Puget Sound this month. Camp Jam PCA is a program for teenage musicians offering a variety of high-energy, exciting, professional learning experiences. Aspiring guitar players, bass players, keyboard players, drummers and vocalists will get to unleash their inner rock star under the guidance of local musicians, music teachers and guest instructors with special appearances by celebrity musicians, in addition to playing on the big stage with the top music gear.

The camp’s extensive curriculum combines structured lessons, master classes and band rehearsals in an environment that fosters confidence and creativity and is accredited by American Camp Association (ACA). This community of camp professionals, for nearly 100 years, has joined together to share knowledge and experience and to ensure the quality of camp programs. ACA-accredited camps meet up to 300 standards for health, safety and program quality.

Camp Jam PCA was founded by Jeff Carlisi, who played guitar for .38 Special, and Dan Lipson, entrepreneur and guitarist for Vintage Red. Carlisi grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. He moved to Atlanta to attend college, earning a degree in architecture.

When he returned to Jacksonville he became a founding member of legendary Southern rock band .38 Special. He left the group in 1997. He and the other founding members went to high school together.

When he was about 10, Carlisi’s parents suggested he take piano lessons. They took him to a piano teacher. She advised against the family purchasing a piano, in case the child lost interest and it would become “an expensive piece of firewood.”

Instead she suggested he begin on an accordion. “It was not the most glamorous instrument,” he recalled. He did learn to play the accordion, often playing theme songs from cartoons on it. Carlisi had a good ear for music. He also learned some music theory.

His interest in guitar was sparked by watching the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. He told his father he wanted to the play the instrument. His father purchased an acoustic guitar. “I never put it down,” Carlisi said. “Morning, noon and night I had that thing in my hands.”

As a teenager he played in several bands in Jacksonville. While in seventh grade he took some lessons from an older boy, who later let Carlisi be the rhythm guitarist in his band.

Camp Jam was started in Atlanta in 2004. Carlisi and Lipson designed a curriculum and planned out the logistics.

The program really took off after a reporter from Los Angeles Times read an article about it in an Atlanta paper. She then wrote a story on it. Soon they were getting interview requests from NBC Television, People Magazine and other major media outlets. “We realized we had something special,” Carlisi recalled.

In 2005 camps were set up in Dallas and Houston. The third year it expanded to seven locations. They hired more staff and got some of their musician friends involved.

“The game plan was to expand,” Carlisi said.

Last year it acquired another company, Power Chord Academy, which operated a similar program. That acquisition means Camp Jam has expanded from 15 camps last year to 22 in 2012.

One musician who will participate in the camp in Tacoma is Jennifer Batten, who played guitar for Michael Jackson. “She is fantastic,” Carlisi remarked.

Other artists who have participated in previous camps include musicians who have performed with Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Guns ‘n Roses, Survivor, The Fray, Rod Stewart, Bad Company, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The All-American Rejects, Don Henley and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

At first Carlisi assumed the kids who signed up for the camps would have prior musical experience, but he soon learned most do not.

He noted Camp Jam fills an important niche in an era when many schools face budget cuts and they are curtailing spending on music and arts.

Parents whose children have attended the camps tell Carlisi the youth boost their self esteem and learn how to better interact with other kids.

The overnight camps have opportunities for youth to make a music video and learn about recording.

At the end of the weeklong camps the students perform a concert.

Carlisi attends many of the camps, but he will not be at the one in Tacoma due to another obligation.

The overnight camp, for those ages 12 to 17, runs from July 22-28. A day camp will be offered from youth ages 11 to 17 from July 23-27. One for those ages 7 to 10 will also be July 23-27. Participants in the camp for 7 to 10 year olds do not need prior musical experience.

To register or for more information, visit:


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