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Billings students learn to rock 'n' roll at AMP Camp

AMP Camp Kids
Posted at 8:35 PM, Jul 10, 2024

BILLINGS — Founded in 2014, Billings AMP Camp has been teaching kids all about music for a decade, and this year, it's being held at the Art House Cinema.

The camp offers classes in different types of music, theory, songwriting, and small ensembles. Previous music experience is required to join. What started 10 years ago with six kids has grown to almost 60, with an immeasurable impact on its campers.

“Music has been such a big part of my life. It is my home. It's my safe place. Like, when I'm sad, this one song can cheer me up, and I just love that about music,” said Ava Hammond, a singer at the camp.

Three music teachers – Alex Nauman, Matt Devitt, and Parker Brown (who make up the acronym A-M-P) – wanted a place for their students to play music they might not otherwise learn in a traditional school music class.

Amp Camp
Parker Brown helped start the camp in 2014 and enjoys playing with the students, including his son, Ezra Brown.

"We've all taught for years before we started this camp, and so we're like, we don't have anywhere for our students to come and play with each other. That was kind of the impetus of the whole camp, was like, let's get them together and play the music that they're learning in their lessons, where they didn't really have an outlet," said Brown.

Not only is the camp fun for the students, the instructors also look forward to it all year.

"I didn't have that kind of camp. None of us did. So we were like, we should do this for the kids, give them something we didn't have. We get to go to camp every summer, too, at a rock camp. So it's pretty fun for us," said Brown.

The week-long camp goes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Each hour has a different class or rehearsal. Tony Hammond teaches vocal lessons and joined as an instructor in the second year of the camp when it was held at Rocky Mountain College. As a music educator, he saw the value the camp had for his students.

"It's a different dynamic in the classroom, and there are different curricular things that you are aiming for in the music classroom, and this is just a different side of it,” said Hammond. "I get to connect with some of these students as Mr. Hammond in the classroom and then I'm just Tony the voice teacher at AMP Camp and they get to see still the same teacher and a lot of the same instruction but maybe a little select different dynamic when I'm instructing."

Tony Hammond
Tony Hammond is a vocal instructor for the camp and joined in 2015 when the camp was held at Rocky Mountain College.

The week leads up to a final performance at the Babcock Theater on Saturday, where each of the eight bands will get to show off the skills they've learned.

"You just get to see them shine and be supported by their fellow campers and their parents, and it's just like this huge blanket of awesomeness for everybody," said Brown. "It's why we started the camp, because it feels so good to play music with people in front of people and have that interaction, and they get that."

Both Brown and Hammond have children who participate in the camp, and they have gotten to see them grow up with the camp. Their children, drummer Ezra Brown and singer Ava Hammond, have now attended for years and have enjoyed the friendships and skills it has brought them.

"Music is my home. And I think my dad can agree on that too because he's just so happy whenever he teaches music," said Hammond. “I've learned to connect with my bandmates and make friends with them, and then you have to trust the process. If someone messes up, you mess up, you have to let it go. We're not all perfect.”

"Honestly, it's all super fun. It's just, even the stuff that seems boring is a lot of fun," said Brown. “Like the first year, I didn't have any friends. But then I got a lot of friends, and it just made it so much better."

Amp Camp Kids
From left to right: Anker Kanning, 12, Ava Hammond, 12, Ezra Brown, 11, and Mercer Jensen, 12.

Two of those friends, Mercer Jensen and Anker Kanning, who both play the guitar, are grateful for the opportunity.

“This year, I was scared, like always, but then now, I'm coming every year now because of how good these instructors are and how nice everyone is here. I really like AMP Camp," said Jensen.

“If you find something you love, and you get pretty good at it, stick with it, and you can probably do anything,” said Kanning.

The final performances will be at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Babcock Theater on July 13. The performances are free and open to the public.