Strangers to Bandmates in the Shake of a Hand

Author: 
Angelie Humbert , GRAMMY Camp LA

There are few things more crucial in the music industry, and nerve-racking for uncomfortable teens, than making a good first impression. Typically, people go through the coached motions of a handshake and “Where are you from?” or a “What do you do?,” then go along their merry way of small talk. Now take this same situation: you put instruments in each person’s hand, give a crunched time frame in a beautiful place and a foreign piece of music and you will get two things: a healthy balance of self doubt and confidence, and the sweet sound of harmonious companionship.

Members of the performance instrumental tracks at GRAMMY Camp in Los Angeles, California have nine days to make the University of Southern California their personal growth playground for honing their craft, and making pals on their way there. Each instrumentalist is put into a combo group with different instruments and play as a band in the blink of an eye under direction of skilled music industry professionals. With peers of ranging skill level, genre interest, and background, the combos make the task look like fate, leaving audiences entranced and impressed.

Matthew Burhans, a bass player hailing from Tallahassee, Florida, sat in the solace of a sun-filled lunch break and divulged the feeling of being thrown into a band of new faces. “It’s a little intimidating at first, really, not knowing what you’re jumping into. But then you meet everyone, learn each others’ styles and abilities. Its a lot of fun.” Burhans, an incoming 11th grader, has been playing guitar for twelve years, and picked up the bass at age eight. A combo-mate of his, Trace Miller, a drummer who calls Houston, Texas home, shared a table with him and chimed in on the experience. “The best is being with people of different backgrounds, I think we’re working well together so far,” Miller said.

While they’re from both different states of geography and states of mind, that doesn’t limit the combo from finding their common beats with each other and the rest of their crew. Matthew and Trace will soon be playing two selections together, alongside a singer from the vocal performance track.  Each combo was assigned songs in a skew of various genres and musical eras. Matthew and Trace will be performing “Rumor Has It” by Adele, and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles. Both young men are trained classic rock musicians who find a home in the psychedelic rock of The Beatles piece, but are in a new jam with the Adele piece, a jazzy pop tune that strays from their desired genre - but one they all still manage to fall in perfect sync with.  

Part of what makes the program so groovy is exploring limits and getting a further understanding of what it means to be an artist - collaborating and pushing one another to understand what individuals can’t quite grasp without the helping hand and a push of faith. “It really opens your eyes to the possibilities,” Burhans said, “It’s incredible to see what we can all do.”

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