WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Summer music camps tend to focus on classical music. But in Winston-Salem this week, there’s a new option. Campers are trading in Beethoven for B.B. King. The Blues Kids Foundation Blues Camp International is being held at Winston-Salem State University for the first time.
Fernando Jones is the founder of the camp. He explained why he first started Blues Camp International back in 2010 in Chicago.
“I wanted to have a place where kids who wanted to play the blues could be with like-minded others. When I was a kid, it was unheard of for a kid to play the blues and keep playing the blues,” Jones said.
Jones and his band are well known. The 13 tweens and teens at the Winston-Salem camp are excited to learn about the history of the blues and refine their techniques under Jones’s guidance. Floyd Carroll even had a chance to play along with Jones.
“It feels great,” Carroll said. “I didn’t think I could do it. It feels very good.”
Blues Camp International has a long track record of success. When he was a part of the Chicago school system, Jones said current NBA superstar Anthony Davis attended the camp. In recent years, camp goers have gone on to work with famous rappers like Lil Durk or pop stars like Justin Bieber.
Building musical skills and talent are just a part of the many levels of blues camp. Atiba Berkley is a parent with kids at blues camp and explained the additional lessons the group is learning.
“We’re engaging in culture, in leadership, personal accountability. That will go on to be employable skills,” Berkley said.
Jones is also an educator. He is a part of the music department faculty at Columbia College in Chicago. So holding the camp on a college campus means a lot to him.
“Whether they do music or not, at least that fear of coming to college would be out of the way,” Jones said. “I think that what we need is to have kids exposed to higher education.”
Dr. Myron Brown, Music Department chair at WSSU, agreed.
“To do it on a college campus is an even more awesome opportunity because it’s not just entertainment and fun, there are learning objectives attached to this camp,” Brown said. “There are things students can take away that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.”
Dr. Kashif Powell is the executive director of the Delta Arts Center in Winston-Salem, which is one of the sponsors of Blues Camp International. Powell said it was important to hold the camp because the pandemic has taken so much from kids.
“We felt it was very important to have live music and bring the arts back to life after the pandemic. So it was really important for us to do this,” Powell said.
Carroll said he can see the growth in his son.
“This is his second blues camp. He has learned quite a bit. The exposure to music is critical at an early age,” Carroll added.
On Thursday evening at 6:30, Fernando Jones and his band will play at the Delta Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased on the Delta Arts Center website.
This year’s “blues kids” are holding a free concert at the Delta Arts Center at 12 p.m. on Friday.