Even if you’ve never heard of the The Neptunes, you’ve heard their work: The R&B/hip-hop production team of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo have cut 24 top-10 Billboard hits for artists from Britney Spears to Jay-Z. But before the duo’s beats helped Justin Timberlake “Rock Your Body” and brought all the boys to the yard for Kelis’ “Milkshake,” Williams and Hugo jammed at a Virginia summer music camp for gifted and talented teens.
“Have you seen that movie School of Rock? That was us.” Hugo told The New York Times in 2004. “Except we played jazz standards.”
We’ve devoted plenty of space in this blog to the practical reasons to attend a summer camp or academic program: previewing careers and colleges, expanding your academic horizons, or bulking up your transcript. But what about just meeting other cool people who share your creative interests? We can’t promise your summer friendships will lead to Grammys and sold-out arenas, but here are a few notable bands who met at camps or summer music programs.
Maroon 5 vocalist Adam Levine and keyboardist Jesse Carmichael first played together at French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts in upstate New York, and returned last summer to perform with campers. We apologize to any readers who now have that song stuck in their heads for the rest of the day. You know the one.
If you’ve picked up a spiritual undercurrent in the lyrics of folk rock darlings Mumford & Sons, it should come as no surprise that singer Marcus Mumford and banjo player Winston “Country” Marshall met playing worship songs at a religious summer camp in the United Kingdom. (P.S. Am I the only one who just found out Mumford & Sons were British?)
Eleven-year-olds Damian Kulash and Tim Nordwind found their future band name at Interlochen Arts Academy’s summer camp, where a visual arts teacher would instruct the class to begin drawing with the command “OK Go.” Known for their quirky music videos, the OK Go singer and bassist most recently appeared in a clip announcing the camp’s 2012 scholarship contest.
A personal favorite, the rollicking country rock quartet Those Darlins met as volunteer instructors at the Southern Girls Rock 'n Roll Camp, teaching girls ages 10-17 to rock out on various instruments, collaborate on a song, and perform live (I’m assuming the curriculum did not include the Darlins’ signature stage move of taking a huge gulp of beer and spitting it into each other’s faces).
All seven members of funk rock collective Lettuce met in 1992 at the Berklee College of Music Summer Performance Program for pre-college students. Guitarist Erick Krasno and bassist/keyboardist Neal Evens also play in the soul-jazz trio Soulive, and bassist Eric Coomes has recorded and toured with Britney Spears and The Game.
I was planning to include Summer Camp on this list, but it turns out the London electro-pop duo’s claim to have met as 14-year-old campers was just a weird publicity ploy (they also claimed to be Swedish). Anyways, they keep coming up on my Google Alerts and have a habit of sampling lines from John Hughes movies, so add “Better Off Without You” to your summer playlist and party like it’s 1989.