Otis Music Camp, Theatre Macon and others adapt to pandemic in different ways


Keith Holmes Jr.

A group of students standing on stage as they practice sound and lighting design at Theatre Macon Academy summer camp.

A purple-white background hangs behind the students as they learn about lighting and sound at the Theatre Macon Academy summer camp. For these students, meeting in person is important. For other students, meeting virtually is necessary as well.

Macon summer camps are tackling their activities in a variety of ways in 2021. While many camps are in-person, some camps will remain virtual and even adjust their schedule to better accommodate virtual activities.

Each camp modified itself differently for their activities. 

For example, the Theatre Macon Academy, which occurred in person from June 1-5, had students practicing in a variety of theatrical exercises like improv. 

Because of COVID-19, the camp wasn’t held in 2020 but this year the students are participating inside and in-person. 

“For our first year, we have 70 kids that are signed up and participating throughout the week, which is really exciting,” Richard E. Frazier, the artistic director of Theatre Macon, said. 

The design of the camp, Frazier said, was to allow students to practice different parts of theatre such as dance, improv, set/stage design, and music in an environment where they wouldn’t have to perform to try new things. This meant meeting in person was crucial for Theatre Macon.

“So we’re just taking it one day at a time and we’re learning and just making sure that the kids are learning new things, but also having a great time as well,” Frazier said.

The Theatre Macon Academy culminated in a final performance where students showcased everything they learned without the pressure and judgment of a live performance. 

The Mentors Project Summer Program, which began on Monday at Ballard-Hudson Middle School, is in-person only and runs from 8 a.m. to noon until June 18. 

“As soon as we got word that the school district felt it was safe to have in person, we got busy planning the summer program,” The Mentors Project Executive Director June O’Neal said. 

According to O’Neal, the camp is aimed at 7th to 12th graders attending school in Bibb County School District. 

The Mentors program is bringing various guests including members of Bibb County’s Sheriff’s office.

“[Our goal is] to introduce them to different occupations,” O’Neal said. “And actually [do] work for this two week session.” 

O’Neal said their program  is also feeding both students and faculty for the duration of the camp. 

Another performance program, the Otis Redding Music Camp, elected to remain virtual this year. It began on June 7 and runs until June 18 with campers meeting everyday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The camp was virtual in the summer of 2020 during the thick of the pandemic and had a lot of practice running a virtual, said Justin Andrews, the Director of Global Outreach for the Otis Redding Foundation.

“We’ve perfected it now, we’re pretty good at it,” Andrews said. “The hardest thing to do was figure out how the kids were going to actually record their songs, that was what we were most concerned about last year.”

The Otis Music Camp helps young musicians gain a better understanding of the music industry and teaches them how to create their own songs, but faces some difficulty doing so due to the virtual format.

Andrews and his crew ended up using a digital audio workstation called Soundtrap so the campers could create music without leaving home.

“The kids have really taken to it and really enjoyed it,” Andrews said. “We also see more and more collaborations now because it’s easier to share music here or there, because you can share it with the click of a button.”

The ease of creating music and connecting virtually also fits in with the camp’s goal of teaching students about the music industry. Andrews said the industry is shifting towards a more digital workflow.

“You can darn near record a whole album with an iPad, a MIDI controller, a microphone and some cables,” Andrews said with a laugh. “You don’t really need this elaborate studio anymore. The digital platform, man, that’s the wave of the future.”

This meant the Otis camp was able to benefit its students not just despite the virtual setting, but because of it. The virtual setup for the program provided other benefits as well.

“A big benefit is having more industry professionals involved in the camp, from singers to songwriters to lawyers, you know,” Andrews said. “It is so much easier to grab these people on this virtual platform because they’re still all behind screens as well.”

Easier involvement doesn’t just apply to camp instructors. Students from all over the country can participate. 

“We have a young lady from Kentucky, we have another young man from Louisiana, so it gives us the opportunity to help even more kids outside our local area,” Andrews said.

For more information on Macon summer camps, see these summer camp roundups from Macon Magazine and Georgia Family.