Reading, PA -Since the first time Aaron Oliver performed in front of a crowd, he was hooked.
“It is so fun and the fact that you can do what you want gave me a boost of encouragement,” Aaron, 13, said during rehearsal at the Olivet Boys & Girls Clubs’ 325 Walnut St. location in Reading. “It lets me break out of my walls; this is the place I go to live out my dreams.”
Aaron is now in his fourth year of the Olivet’s Summer Theater Camp and he is sharing his love for performance with more than 30 other kids.
“Face The Music” is a two-week program within the camp in which youngsters ages 9 through 18 learn four musical disciplines.
The children worked diligently this week, rehearsing for the culmination of the program, the “Face The Music” concert to be held at the Olivet PAL Center for the Arts today. For the performance, the kids will be split into four groups. Each group will either sing or play guitar, keyboards or drums.
“The arts are really a lot of work,” said Richard Bradbury, the PAL club director. “It is our (performers’) job to make it look like play.”
Camp kids started out practicing in two of the music skills that appealed to them, then they narrowed their focus to one of the areas the final week of the program.
The guitar program is led by Josh Taylor, a local musician who is also coordinating the program; Janet Peck, artistic director of N’Boyne Drum & Dance Ensemble teaches African drumming; Northeast Middle School music director Tim Gross leads the singing group; and Cliff Starkey, a composer and former band leader for television chef Emeril Lagassee, leads the keyboard group.
Starkey helped youngsters learn songs on the keyboards, including a few current pop hits that the children like.
“This gives the kids something to look forward to,” Starkey said. “It gives them joy when they get to work on something they want to.”
The program is funded through $5,000 of a $29,000 grant through the Reading Musical Foundation.
Bradbury said the camp helps children hone musical skills but also makes them more disciplined and builds confidence.
The campers will also be performing a musical version of “James And The Giant Peach” in August.
About half of the youngsters in the camp are new to it, like 9-year-old Sofia Caraballo, who along with Aaron will play a lead role in “James and the Giant Peach.”
Sofia said she loves the program and working with the other kids and already looks forward to next year’s camp.
“I’m excited (to perform in front of people),” Sofia said. “I’m coming back next year.”