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By Mike Ferrians
The Times 

Walla Walla Rock Camp Times Two


Mike Ferrians

"Biphy" is the name of a rock group formed at camp this year with a solid punk sound.


Session One of Walla Walla Rock Camp is in the history books. As I write this, Session Two is in progress. I've been aware of Rock Camp for years through the involvement of friends in the Touchet Valley, but this is the first year I've participated. The organizers recruited me as a keyboard and vocal coach.

Rock Camp is an annual intensive music program for youth ages 12-18. They receive instruction from experienced musicians on everything from guitar, piano, and voice to songwriting, live sound mixing, and world percussion. All instruments are welcome, and no experience is necessary. Students are given a space with which to connect to peers and experience live performance. Campers work to put a band together, then select and arrange songs to perform at the final concert. They learn to be professional and one hundred percent present on stage. Some students come back year after year.

Rock Camp is provided at no charge to young people interested in performing arts. This is made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Walla Walla Symphony (www.wwsymphony) and its organizational partners: ArtWalla, United Way of Walla Walla, Walla Walla Valley Honda, Walla Walla Public Schools (WWSD), and Walla Walla Music Organization (WWMO).

It's great to be part of something so alive with energy, growth, and promise through the oldest continually operating symphony west of the Mississippi River. It's been a tough year and a half for the arts, of course. Because of the pandemic, the camp was canceled last summer.

However, funds have been received, which make it possible to run this year's camp for two weeks. About 100 young people are attending Rock Camp this year. Some bring quite a bit of musical experience; some are just starting out. It's all good. Everyone is there to learn and have fun.

The combined experience, knowledge, and skill of the entire instructional staff is incredible. They have been great to work with and are accepting and encouraging of the kids. For me, there has never been anything like watching a young person discover the world of arts and the wonder of their own beauty and creativity. They literally bloom before your eyes. The cultural and musical diversity of Session One was impressive. As I write, I expect Session Two to be just as great.

Roger Garcia, director of music programs for WWSD and band instructor at Garrison Middle School, has been the director of Rock Camp for many years. This is his last year. He is passing the baton to my colleague Rodney Outlaw and WWMO. It's a perfect fit with our music production and live sound elements. WWMO looks forward to directing Rock Camp in June 2022.

Earlier this month WWMO was notified that it would receive a $180,000 grant from Sherwood Trust ( as part of its annual Core Grant partnerships. This provides three years of support toward consolidating and growing our program of music and sound production for students in Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon. Outlaw is to be applauded for his years of hard work, sacrifice, and determination to bring this quality program to our region. As a new DAW (digital audio workstation) production student, I'm proof that you can have years of musical experience and still learn all kinds of new tricks.

Join us this Friday, July 2, at 5:30 pm for the final concert of Session Two. There are two ways to see the performance; live at Washington Park, 700 West Cherry in Walla Walla, or on Facebook Live through the Symphony's Facebook page. There is no charge for admission. (You can still watch last week's concert as well.) In-person or virtually, you'll see and hear some very good, very happy, and very groovy things. (Did I just say "groovy"?)


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