July 27th, 2012
Jam Camp had ofﬁcially entered the pre-teen years.
It had grown immensely in scope, imagination and precocity since its humble, scattered infancyby the shores of Mabel Lake, when songs were about moss and the moon, and facilitators wererewarded with gloriously creamy homemade sheep’s cheese for their efforts. Now it hadgathered creative power from year to year and from song to song, giving it form and force andvelocity for the new campers as well as the old, and it broke out in waves of self-aware,thoughtful, compelling, zany musicianship unlike any I had ever seen at previous camps.
Every year at Jam Camp, I admit that I come expecting to be surprised by the creative ﬂow that is inevitable there: and despite myself I am surprised anyways, and it just keeps getting better. Still, I’m caught off guard, all the more so this last year when so many of the campers, whom we’ve witnessed each year growing up through their childhood and teens, have come into their own as young adults gifted with insight, awareness and sensitivity, as well as the voices and the means to express those things, sometimes with disarming clarity, sometimes with screwball senses of humour. It’s a testament to the youth, and their parents, and the whole community.
I’m told that children in their ninth year become more responsible, more independent; theybegin to think critically about things and are more intellectually curious, emotionally mature,and socially conscious. I think Jam Camp got there too, in its ninth year: with a whole new crewof facilitators bringing fresh perspective and energy, with campers who were already formingbands and gigging on their own, with Jamaican dancehall night and Balinese ketjak, and writing
songs about bettering the world, and healing family dysfunction, and holding fast to friendshipin the face of the hardships that might come to shake us.
So here’s the power of Jam Camp: the collective effervescence that comes from playing musicand writing songs together over one short, transcendent week, teaches us lessons and lights up pathways for us that we can take away with us and follow in our daily lives. And walking thosepathways daily in turn nurtures and informs our values and inspires our creativity, which all gets expressed again in music and song. Awesome.
Jam Camp, kudos. Happy 10th anniversary.
Christopher Suen sings and plays clawhammer banjo, guitar, piano, pipe organ, and classical Chinese zithers (guzheng and guqin). Although he only started playing banjo in 2005, he has firmly established himself in Vancouver's acoustic music community with his different musical projects: the alt-bluegrass string band Whiskeyjar; the high energy Appalachian old-time trio Shout! White Dragon; and the rootsy folk band Lily Come Down. He also teaches banjo lessons and workshops, and he is at the heart of a collective of old-time musicians in Vancouver who host regular jams, workshops and square dances. Chris is also assistant choir director and principal organist at his Vancouver church Holy Family Parish, a community that offers traditional services in Latin, with Gregorian chant and Renaissance choral music. His love of music and community finds full expression in Jam Camp, which he values as a unique opportunity for campers, parents, and facilitators to be enlightened by each other's musical energy and creativity in the spirit of fun and sharing.