Students audition for music camp

Blowing, singing the judges away

When Cameron Smith learned about a new summer music academy named in James Brown's honor, he packed up his drums and was the first to audition.

On Tuesday, the 12-year-old North Augusta Middle School pupil played for the chance to win a scholarship to the J.B. Academy of Musik Pupils, founded by The Brown Family Children Foundation Inc.

Cameron has played drums for two years through band classes and a summer camp at his church. The drummer and singer hopes to pursue a career in music.

"I've always loved music, so I wanted to be able to do it over the summer, too. To be able to say that I'm one of the ones who made it (into the school) would be an honor. I think he's awesome," Cameron said of the late James Brown.

Several young, budding musicians from across the Augusta area played in front of judges at C.H. Terrell Academy on Tuesday. Joseph Daniel Wallace, a 15-year-old at Aquinas High School, impressed judges with his auditions on both the drums and keyboard.

Born into a musical family, he has played the drums since the age of 2 and the keyboard since he was 9. He wants to be a music producer and follow in the footsteps of his Grammy Award-winning grandfather, Bishop Lee Wallace, who has written songs for groups including the Mighty Clouds of Joy, Mighty Sons of Glory and Swanee Quintet of Augusta.

Though he has never taken formal music lessons, the 15-year-old has learned from the musicians on both sides of his family. He plays for his church and wants to attend the academy because it would be a new experience, he said.

"I love what I can make it do," he said about his love for music. "I can take a song and make it sound completely different and the same at the same time. I love the different melodies that I can make. I love the way that I can move people with music."

James Brown often discussed how music programs were being eliminated in schools, saying it would be detrimental to children, said his daughter Deanna Brown-Thomas.

Her father also talked about how students were no longer getting the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of music, such as reading music and playing instruments. In the computer age, many people are making music on the computer, she said.

"Knowing that and remembering those conversations with him, we looked at this and said, 'Let's try to see what we can do to help create, develop and support music programs for youths,' " Brown-Thomas said. "Some schools don't even have music teachers at all, from what I'm hearing across the nation."

The auditions were held for ages 9 to 15 to earn scholarships to participate in the performance group at the J.B. Academy of Musik Pupils.

"These students have already been introduced to an instrument," Brown-Thomas said.

Children ages 5 through 12 who are not currently playing a musical instrument can attend beginners' classes at the academy.

The four-week summer program will be held at C.H. Terrell Academy on Broad Street from June 20 to July 15.

Space is limited, and the program can accept only 40 pupils, she said.

Brown-Thomas hopes the summer program will evolve into an after-school program and later a year-round school called J.B. Musik Academy. She would like for the year-round school to open by 2012, she said.

Rebecca Dent, the founder of C.H. Terrell Academy, her daughter Kimberly Baxter-Lee and their staff offered to help create and develop the program. Local musician Karen Gordon and a local band director, Scott Richardson, will serve as music directors.

"To be able to play music is a God-given gift," Brown-Thomas said. "There's so many talented children out here, especially right here in the CSRA. We want to give these young kids this opportunity to express their talents through music, be it singing or playing an instrument.

"But either way, still knowing the fundamentals and the basic knowledge of reading music and knowing how to make arrangements and melodies."

The Brown Family Children Foundation plans to apply for grants to fund the music school.

The foundation also hopes to receive private donations and contributions of instruments from the community, Brown-Thomas said.

"I am encouraging parents that if you have young kids between these ages that are interested in music and learning to give them that opportunity," Brown-Thomas said. "You never know. We may find the next little James Brown, Michael Jackson or Alicia Keys."

Miss the auditions?

For those who missed the auditions to win a scholarship to the J.B. Academy of Musik Pupils, the academy is holding a second set of auditions from 5:30 to 8 p.m. May 23 at C.H. Terrell Academy.

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