“The greatest thing about this camp is that you really get to see that kids are such a wealth of creativity,” says Christine Gilardi, three-year director of a real-life School of Rock in La Jolla. “If you give them the tools, they can just create.”
DayJams, a rock-and-roll music camp for kids aged 8 to 15 of all ability levels, started in San Diego five years ago at a church in Spring Valley. The program focuses on teaching kids to write an original rock song based on the National Guitar Workshop curriculum.
“There are lots of rock camps out there,” Gilardi says in a phone call, “but DayJams is the only one that teaches kids to write an original song.”
Enrollees meet fellow band members on a Monday; agree on a name; write a song; design posters, flyers, T-shirts, and CD inserts; and rehearse their show until the Friday concert for family and friends, which is recorded by a professional engineer.
After a year in Spring Valley, DayJams relocated to the Bishop’s School in La Jolla for one summer, but noise complaints from neighbors forced them to move.
“I’m in the room with my band, and this old man comes in and starts yelling and cussing at my kids,” says bass instructor Zach Wheeler of funky retro-rock band Scarlet Symphony, “so I take him outside and he punches me.... That’s why we moved from Bishop’s.”
The Litchfield, Connecticut–based program with 19 locations nationwide now holds its San Diego sessions on the opposite side of La Jolla at the French American School, where it has held two weekly sessions annually until this summer, when recession-related drops in enrollment cut the program back to one week. The nine-to-five camp trains enrollees in guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, and vocals and has produced bands with names like Shred Gnarnia, Turkey Sub, and Fluffy Bunny Apocalypse.
“Some of them are super good,” says Zach, whose twin brother and Scarlet Symphony drummer Josh has been instructing at the camp with him for the past three years. “It’s gnarly. Twelve or 15 years old and they’re just rippin’.”
Zach recently ran into a former student of his who is now playing in a metal band with a show booked at Soma.
“I wish I had something like this when I was 13,” says Zach. “It’s an honor to be part of growing their talent.”