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June 22, 2014

Rock ’n’ Camp: New camp teaches details of forming, running garage band

A handful of friends. Second-hand guitars and amps. A drum kit. A garage. Big dreams.

Those are all the ingredients needed to create a rock band, right?

Not quite. The checklist for success involves a few more necessities. Tim Doyle knows the often overlooked details of making music in a group. The 37-year-old has played guitar for nearly a quarter-century, honed his style while living in the music hotbed of Austin, Texas, studied in guitar legend Robert Fripp’s Guitar Craft forum, sports a master’s degree in guitar performance and currently handles that instrument for two popular Terre Haute-based bands. Doyle understands what it takes to build and maintain a band.

People, equipment and lofty hopes comprise only part of the equation.

Doyle and a team of instructors will provide answers to aspiring musicians during Rock Camp — a seven-day, residential summer camp conducted by Indiana State University’s Community School of the Arts. The new program introduces high school-age students of any level of musical experience in music performance, business and history, starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, July 6, and concluding at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 12.

They’ll choose one of five rock instruments — guitar, bass, drums, keyboards or voice — to learn in individual and group settings. After a week of rehearsals, they’ll perform in groups that Friday night.

“We’re going to lay out all the details that you don’t think about when you form a band in your garage,” Doyle said, grinning.

Topping the list of requirements is a good work ethic.

What? Rock ’n’ roll involves work?

It’s true. Doyle and the Rock Camp staff aim to show prospective musicians that work and fun go hand in hand.

“I’m hoping when they go home, they’ll have vivid memories, not only of the fun stuff we did, but also of the work we did,” Doyle said.

The importance of full effort hit home for Doyle one day while giving a private guitar lesson to a teenager in Austin. He asked the young man how much time he’d spent practicing that week. “Twenty or 30 minutes,” the kid answered.

“And then this voice in my head said, ‘Well, how much did you practice this week?’” Doyle recalled. “And I realized I hadn’t practiced that week.” The moment proved pivotal in Doyle’s life.

“That’s when things really started to change,” he added.

His career projects grew more purposeful, organized and productive. When Doyle and his wife, Christine Boone, moved to Terre Haute three years ago, both found outlets for their musical abilities. Christine became an instructor of music theory, skills and upper-level analysis courses at ISU. A soprano who sang ’60s and ’70s pop in her high school days in St. Louis, the 32-year-old has also performed in operas at Indiana University and written research papers on rock’s ultimate band — The Beatles. When Tim formed the jazz-rock group Lunes Domingo, he enlisted Christine as vocalist.

“I jumped at the chance, because I wanted to have that rock experience going into the [Rock Camp],” said Christine, who will teach the singer hopefuls at the camp.

For one of their shows at The Verve in Terre Haute, Lunes Domingo performed every song on The Beatles’ iconic final studio album, “Abbey Road.” “People were so excited to hear it front to back,” Doyle said. Fittingly, in terms of the bottom-line message that will permeate the Rock Camp, re-creating that intricate, diverse album took a lot of rehearsal and, yes, work.

And that’s what made it so fun, Doyle said. He hopes to convey that roll-up-your-sleeves enthusiasm to the students. Their bands’ projects should excite them.

“Make it an event. Make it fun,” Doyle said. “Yeah, bite off more than you can chew, but people who are your fans will give you credit.”

The key is, “You just have to get up and do it,” he added.

During an interview at the Corner Grind coffeeshop downtown, Doyle spins his laptop to show the full schedule of activities, day by day, for the Rock Campers. They’ll learn or fine-tune their instrumental skills under Doyle, Boone, ISU music faculty members Brent McPike and William Pool, and some university students. McPike will tutor the students to play bass, a rhythm instrument that also complements the tuneful guitars, keyboards and vocals.

“It’s about knowing the form of a song, knowing the levels of volume and [equalization] in the amps and your instrument, and it’s playing with the drummer,” McPike said.

Campers will also study how to market their band. One session will focus on stage presence. Another will explain setting up and taking down equipment for a show. Doyle is creating a “Jeopardy” style rock history game.

Through the week, he and the instructors hope to also convey relational lessons necessary to maintain a band. “The kids develop a sense of community, a bonding through music,” said Petra Nyendick, director of the Community School of the Arts. As Doyle put it, each band member needs an “attitude of goodwill” toward the others; to show up on time, prepared and practiced; to have a well-defined objective for the group, both long-term and for that particular day’s rehearsal.

“When I started doing those things in my music, it just seeped into the rest of my life,” Doyle said.

Developing the nerve to stand up and make sounds is vital, as well.

At the camp, on Day 1, each student — regardless of incoming skill level — participates in a “placement audition,” a term Doyle reluctantly uses. The venture merely gives instructors an idea of each student’s starting point. Doyle doesn’t want them to get an image of the “American Idol” judges panel, bluntly scrutinizing that TV show’s contestants. “I don’t want [the placement auditions to be] like that,” he said. “Then again, that pressure of ‘I-don’t-know-you, you-don’t-know-me’ is a big part of being a musician.”

Playing rock ’n’ roll requires doing so in front of real people, after all.

The students will get that chance in their Friday night performances at Rock Camp. The benefits can transcend music.

“Maybe they’ll come away with life lessons they can apply to engineering or being a doctor — equally, if not more important careers,” Doyle said, with a laugh.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or

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