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Rockin' at the Rozsa

Young musicians rehearse at Rock Camp

August 11, 2012
By Stephen Anderson ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - Thirty-one local youth musicians are one week into PJ Olsson's Rock Camp, and after another intense week of professional instruction they'll take the stage for the camp's final show.

The independent musicians ages 11 to 19 have been split up into bands, and, along with breakout sessions with instructors from 1 to 9 p.m. Aug. 6 through 17, the groups are preparing for the 7 p.m. Aug. 18 final show at the Rozsa Center.

"This particular camp we chose making the final show the real important focus," Olsson said. "We let the kids know from day one this is about the final show and about the final show being great community awareness, so this community understands just how much talent there is in the youth around here."

Article Photos

Daily Mining Gazette/Stephen Anderson
Professional guitarist and Rock Camp instructor Steve Jones teaches a student during a percussion and rhythm session Friday night at Michigan Technological University's Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are on sale for the 7 p.m. show Aug. 18 at the Rozsa Center.

Now in their third year of the camp, Olsson and co-founder Todd Brassard have refined the two-week process and brought in more quality instructors, and they've been getting the kids on stage from the beginning.

"The Rozsa Center is unbelievable, not just the building, but the staff has completely opened their arms and embraced these kids and have let us do things like be on the stage now instead of just two days before," Olsson said Friday evening, as instructors Lester Brent, Gary Brown, Steve Jones, Danny Thompson and Hannah Bethel worked with groups on audio, lighting, percussion and rhythm and songwriting.

"I did it two years ago and it was a blast," said student Sky Vercauteren, who is from Laramie, Wyo., and visiting family. "I want to do music for the rest of my life. It's been unbelievable.

"My school has classical band and jazz band and if you want to do anything outside of that you have to do it yourself," he added. "I'd love to do it myself. I have all the equipment. I'm there skill wise, but I have no one to play with. This gives me that experience."

It's just as much of a learning experience for instructors like Thompson, who is a drummer with PJ Olsson in the band, the Alan Parsons Live Project.

"It's becoming like a big family and it's been amazing," said Thompson, who has appeared on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," "Jimmy Kimmel Live," and "Last Call With Carson Daly," but who has seldom taught in a group environment. "The past two days, everyone's been so energetic and so enthusiastic. It's coming together really fast."

Olsson has big dreams for the camp, hoping to turn it into a year-round opportunity and spread the message and mechanism of the camp around the state, region and even country.

The message is working locally, and, while all camp attendees and many other kids want to be rock stars, Olsson is also real about those prospects and he's preparing kids.

"The music business is an incredibly discouraging hard business, and if there are some kids here that are going to make music their life, I really try to let them know that you better love what you're doing," he said. "If a kid belives in themself so much, they'll be able to handle all the ups and downs, and for those kids who don't make it their life, the challenge of performance and working together and overcoming their nervousness will definitely have a positive impact on anything they do."

Several of the kids will be taking their music to the streets today at noon in downtown Houghton, but all the efforts of the camp are building to next Saturday's show.

"We had a really full house last time, but we want to sell it out," Olsson said. "On (Aug. 20), we want (The Daily Mining) Gazette to be able to say 'sold out.'"

To buy tickets, stop by the Rozsa Center box office or visit For more information on the Rock Camp, visit



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