Camp SOUL Provides A History Of African-American Music Traditions

Camp SOUL educates teens about the evolution of African-American musical styles, from traditional gospel to 1960s jazz, to modern soul and hip-hop.

group photo of Camp SOUL students

Photo: Camp SOUL

Students of 2010's Camp SOUL pose for a camp photo.

From slave songs to soul music, Camp SOUL aims to educate teens about the evolution of African-American musical styles. A week-long program for young musicians, at Camp SOUL students work individually and in groups to learn about and experiment with soul music.

Where A Week Can Grow Into Four Rich Years

“We see how the music transfers itself in different ways: in terms of the sound aesthetic, as well as the historical message.” says Coordinator Keith McCutchen. “I hope the students will learn to continue their process of developing both their individual practice habits and learning how to practice more efficiently to get to a desired effect, and learning ensemble techniques, collaborative work, that they will gain the confidence to believe in themselves as future artists.”

Another goal of the program is to encourage the students to attend IU. They are given tours of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, the African-American Arts Institute and Jacobs School of Music.

Celebrating A Complex Musical Heritage

The camp wrapped up with a final presentation on June 18th, which they called Soul Travels: Musical Journeys Past and Present. The performance included hand-clapping music from the Gullah islands, traditional gospel, 1960s jazz, and tributes to James Brown and Jill Scott. Indiana University Professor David Baker‘s string quartet performed its unique blend of classical music and jazz.

There was also a piece from the late-1700s Afro-French composer Joseph Boulogne, known to many as ‘the black Mozart,’ a musical work which, McCutchen says, “shows what’s going on within the African diaspora or the Afro-French people, Afro-European people as what’s happening the African American experience.”

The concept of “soul” transcends more than one or two styles of music, he explains. “‘Soul’ is a way to describe the essence of cultural experience, historical experience in the music of African Americans and the essence of triumph in the midst of adversity.”

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