So You Want to be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star?
Post Independent Contributor
Justice Bouchet never imagined she would become a professional singer.
The 14-year old Ross Montessori graduate, whose voice echoes those of folk stars Traci Chapman and Nina Simone, says she has always been a singer at home. “My singing has been confined to the shower,” she told the Post Independent after an a cappella cover of Alison Sudol’s (A Fine Frenzy) “Birds of the Summer” at the recent grand opening of the Carbondale Branch Library.
So, how did Bouchet (pronounced Boo-shay) make the leap from singing in the shower to performing on stage? “Shanti Gruber signed me up for AMP,” she explained.
AMP stands for Academy of Music and Performance, and Shanti Gruber is one of the instructors. Gruber is also the choir director at Glenwood Springs and Roaring Fork High schools. She spent five years as music director at GSHS, teaching choir, band, guitar, and music theory. But, after most of those classes were cut, she became involved with AMP. “I thought, ‘if the public schools can’t do it, we’ll start our own school,’” she explained.
The brainchild of Satank resident Mark Taylor, AMP teaches teens the ins and outs of the music industry, including audio engineering, stage lighting and management, performance and promotion as well as songwriting and arranging. Taylor said that kind of knowledge keeps young people interested in the music industry. “If you want to go to school to study music, that’s great,” he said. “But, this gives kids tools to be teachers instead of flipping burgers or whatever they do to support themselves through school.”
The weeklong, summer music camps at Carbondale’s PAC3 also give budding singer/songwriters a supportive place to concentrate on their craft. “[Students] learn cover songs and also write a song or two,” explained Taylor. “At the end of the week, they give a performance.”
This year, AMP camp culminated with the Carbondale Library performance and two shows at the upcoming Carbondale Mountain Fair. Gruber was recruited by Taylor last year to teach at AMP. “Becoming a professional musician is more than being a good musician,” she said. “You have to know how to set up a stage for performing and how to be a good performer.”
Megan Webber, 15, was also a part of the Carbondale library show, singing a heartfelt version of Jessica Andrews’ “Who I Am.” Webber, who lives in Carbondale, will be a sophomore at Roaring Fork High School this fall. She appears confident and comfortable on-stage and said singing is in her DNA. “I was raised on music,” she said. “I went to Telluride Bluegrass Festivals when I was still in the womb.”
She is involved with KDNK Community Radio’s Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment Program so is no stranger to being in front of a microphone and an audience. She’s also been working with Gruber to improve her singing voice. “I’m learning how to support air in my diaphragm and throat, and how to use my mouth to amplify sound,” she explained like a professional.
She said AMP is fun because it’s hands-on. “In just a couple of lessons, you start writing,” she added.
For Mark Taylor, AMP is a dream come true. “I could have used something like this when I was a kid,” he explained. Growing up in rural North Carolina, Taylor played the trumpet in high school sort of against his will. “I wanted to play saxophone but my mom wanted me to play trumpet,” he said. As director of AMP, Taylor gives teens something he didn’t have. “[AMP] is a safe place to explore music and songwriting and find a place that works for you,” he added.
Summer AMP camps cost $250 for one week. Right now, costs cover guest instructors and some of the local instructors’ salaries. Taylor and other AMP staff have donated much of their time over the past two years to get the academy off the ground. PAC 3 currently donates space for AMP, and Taylor said a scholarship fund is in the works with Alpine Bank. “I want every nickel that’s donated to the Academy to go towards scholarships.”
Gruber and Taylor agree that AMP is an investment in the future. “These kids, within a matter of days, can create wonderful, deep, meaningful songs,” Gruber said. “How they count on each other and trust each other to make it happen is very powerful.”
“It’s really amazing,” added Justice Bouchet, who said she didn’t know “diddly-squat” about music until she got involved with AMP. Now, she’s writing songs, singing on-stage, and has signed up for choir at Roaring Fork High School this fall. “[AMP] really inspires you to go farther into music,” she said. “It’s great to learn to work with other kids to create music together.”
More information about AMP is available at http://www.amp-carbondale.com or by calling Shanti Gruber at 366-2889.
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