Hailey Finn (this whole page was her idea, btw)
I attended my first year of MWROC in 2014. I heard about it at my first EYS concert in March of that year. At MWROC, I learned how to express myself through music in a way I never knew I could. I learned how to do so many things with my violin that I didn’t know how to do before. I also learned that I can do whatever I put my mind to. I met a lot of different people from all of the world who shared the same love for music that I did. Camp is like my second home. Everyone at camp has become my family even though we don’t see each other in a daily basis. Everyone is so different yet has so much in common. We all love music. We all express ourselves in different ways.
Update: MWROC has been my home away from home since 2014. I’ve grown up with many of the returning campers. We’ve watched each other blossom into these magnificent musicians through the years. I keep returning because I feel truly happy around everyone that attends. I don’t have to speak to you to know that we are friends.
I’ve had so many great memories with everyone at camp. My favorites always happen at the meals, faculty concerts or rock n’ wreck because that’s when everyone has time together to be themselves outside of rehearsals. I recommend MWROC to every musician because it’s a great place to discover yourself and meet him new people who are just like you. It’s a place to try new things and express yourself in a judgment-free zone.
It’s the only place I’ve been where I’ve been encouraged to be who I want and be accepted by everyone around me.
Now, when I say that I wasn’t the kind of person that would love violin, that’s an understatement. I hated it at first. I could never get any of the notes right, and I couldn’t get the instrument to sit comfortably on my neck, and I’m pretty sure that I didn’t know what a bow was. But, as luck would have it, my parents took me to go see this “electric-violin-guy” at the high school. Now, at the time, I was only an impressionable fifth grader, and I only saw this as time taken away from me doing stupid things at the house. I was not happy.
So, before the concert started, I was feeling pretty bored at the beginning when a bunch of Wyoming (Ohio) people started talking. And then Mark Wood came on stage. And when he started the first song, and it was music that actually sounded good, I was amazed. It was interesting, fantastic, and changed my mindset completely.
After the concert, I got to talk to Mark, if fifth-grade blabbering is considered talking, and that led to me getting a brochure for this weird camp in the land of Oz (otherwise known as Kansas). But, as I was way too young to be doing that, I didn’t get to go that year. Or the next year. Or the year after that. This evil cycle continued until I finally got to go when I was 13, a full 4 years after I had first met Mark.
And when I had finally gotten there, it was nothing like I had ever experienced. It was almost as if everybody there was a long-lost friend of mine, there was a constant atmosphere of dedication and love of music, and there was a desire to learn. This had to have been one of the few places where I could really be myself. And I think the only time when someone was really upset was when my friend was told he had to tone down how much milk he was drinking.
MWROC completely changed my life. I created bonds between friends that cannot be broken, and will not be broken. This camp has brought me closer to people who share my passion, and to people who can help me reach my goals.
Update: I returned to MWROC this year because of the community. Never before have I been in a more accepting and kind place than this camp. It is a place where people from all across the country, and world sometimes, come together and play music. Differences are put aside and people can be whoever they want to be and they will be welcomed with open arms.
This allowed me to overcome my fear of making a mistake so that I could perform a piece for one of my closest friends, it allowed me to learn music that I didn’t think I could play, and it allowed me to make more friends in a week than I had all year. This is why I would recommend this camp to anyone. These are the reasons why I check my calendars and clear out one single week in July for this camp nearly a year in advance, and this is why so many other people continuously come back year after year. We are a family here at MWROC, and if you come for no other reason, come to be a part of that family.
‘If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.’
As a revelation to this quote by William Shakespeare, if music is the food of love, then MWROC is the plate which provides the accessibility to feed the hunger and passion for music. To merely call MWROC “a summer camp” would be a substantial understatement. It is a life changing experience for any musician with the zeal to perfect their craft in an absolutely idealistic environment.
Each summer, the year-round, anticipated week of merriment starts with a 2 hour plane ride to Olathe, Kansas. After unloading my overpacked, slightly overweight, carry-on suitcase and weapon shaped turquoise Viper, I make my way to Mid-America Nazarene University. Immediately I am greeted with exuberance and friendliness from staff members and students from across the globe. This positivity is a constant theme for the duration of the stay. Throughout the week, I attend classes taught by various musicians of the utmost expertise. Integrated amongst the learning opportunities are endless chances to formulate strong relationships with the students and mentors, especially during spirited, nightly jam sessions.
Unlike any other experiences, at MWROC I feel free to completely express myself amongst a group of humble and non judgmental people. As the gaiety of being immersed in an electrifying string experience comes to an end, I am honored to perform with the people I call family in the final concert.
In the beginning of the week, I enter with the innocence of a an eager student, and by the end, I leave with the proficiency and confidence of an MWROCer!
I found MWROC kind of by accident. My mom worked at my old middle school, and one of her students asked for us to attend an EYS performance. We got the chance to speak to Mark afterward, and he seemed, I dunno, intrigued by me? He told me about his camp, one thing led to another, and here I am signing up for a third consecutive year.
Camp really changed my life. My ability as a musician blossoms every year I go back, and I always leave with a new drive and enthusiasm. Total strangers became best friends over one meal. I find myself constantly missing the people I’ve met there. The atmosphere is just so encouraging and welcoming, and I really feel at home there. It’s a sort of completeness that I’ve felt maybe four or five times in my whole life. They really are a family there, and it’s a world all its own.
I’ve been fortunate to go to MWROC for the past 3 years. It’s one week of the year that makes all the other weeks bearable.
I play the cello and have been classically trained since I was 7. When I was 13, my mom pulled up the MWROC website and asked me if I wanted to go. It didn’t sound like any other music camp I’d gone to so I wasn’t really sure. I’m so grateful she said “go one year and just see what you think.” The first year was UNBELIEVABLE!!! I’ve never been around so many cool, fun, talented, excited musicians.
I was surprised that so many music educators were there as students, I think that says a lot about that level of instruction. The faculty is the best of the best…Berkley, Juilliard, professional rockers, classical virtuosos. The level of talent I got to play with and caliber of instruction I received was phenomenal.
The 2nd year was even better, maybe because I knew what to expect. I couldn’t wait to see my rockin’ musician friends. For me, 2015 (3rd year) was without question the best experience yet. They added a Dream Theater ensemble that blew me away!
I want to share the unselfish, authentic commitment they taught me to help other musicians reach their dream. MWROC empowers you to play it forward!
I love camp because it was the first time in my life that I had people who related to me and loved the same things I do. It was first time I felt alive and happy and was able to be myself. I found out about camp when Mark Wood camp to my school when I was in 8th grade. After that, I befriended Dr. David Wallace [head of the string department at Berklee] who continuously influenced me to go to MWROC and after years of hoping, I finally followed Doc’s word and went to camp. People should go to camp because you truly find yourself. You become who you truly are and it’s an amazing way to express and share yourself. It’s incredibly educational & helpful musically and on top of that, it’s the most fun you’ll have all year!
Noah Gruenberg (headbanger on left)
I like MWROC because MWROC likes me. It’s a place where I’m allowed to be the me I’ve always wanted to be and the develop friendships deeper than the ocean blue. Its a haven of creativity that futures musicality and expression. I found out about it like most people; I met Mark [at an EYS event] and he liked me because of my spunk and hair.
If you like to have fun, meet great people, better yourself, and eat surprisingly good meals made by a killer staff, come on down. I’ll show you around myself.
I found out about camp because EYS came to my school in 6th grade and 8th grade. I love MWROC because it takes you in for who you are. You feel accepted and valued. You share almost all the same interests with everyone. I love the faculty and guest performers that come in. Every year is a new experience. I made new friends every day I was there. I love the classes that are provided. I also absolutely loved Chuck’s combo group. The combo groups [smaller ensembles] made me feel like I had a more personal experience than just being in a big orchestra. MWROC has all the rockers, misfits, rebels, freaks and weirdos of every orchestra and chorus class around, and puts us in one big room to go absolutely crazy. MWROC is a place for everyone.
So, my orchestra teacher all the way from 6th grade to the present is one of the camp counselors, Jeremy Samuel. He suggested to the class that we go to MWROC and so I listened to him, and I’m super glad that I did!
I still remember my first day, it was terrifying at first, but when Mark came and talked to me, I knew I belonged. I love MWROC because of the nature of it all. Everybody feels welcomed and loved. There was A LOT of hard work involved but everyone made it feel so much easier and it was all worth it because each year gets better and better!
Nine years ago, when Mark Wood looked me, a tiny, shy, timid eleven year old in the eye and said “I want you at my camp”, I had no idea what could possibly be in store for that summer. Back then, music was just a hobby, playing violin wasn’t something I was confident in, and singing in public was a distant dream I thought would always be out of reach. But, as the charm on the necklace says, I gathered my COURAGE, took a leap of faith, and showed up for that first camp in the blazing heat of July.
Nine years later, here we are. I am a Music Education major who moved from Texas to New York to pursue songwriting and classical and electric violin. My senior year of high school I led my own Rock Orchestra event modeled after EYS, I have a five string viper that I perform on at jam sessions around New York, and I’m in the process of working on my first album. I speak with confidence, and while I still have fears and uncertainties about my career, I know it’s what I want, and I know I have the tools and mentors to pursue it and be successful, even if that should mean redefining success for myself every once in a while.
Laura Kaye always tells me that the person I am today was always there within me, but I don’t think that person would have ever seen the light of day without this camp. It’s more than your casual summer music camp-it truly is a celebration, a diverse and powerful event that rocks my world every single summer. The faculty members come from a million different backgrounds, with different styles and approaches to music, and yet when we unite here, we fit together like a puzzle. There is no describing the emotion this camp evokes. Here, there is no hiding, no holding back your true self. There is only embracing it.
When I tell people “I grew up here”, they usually assume I mean I grew up in the Olathe area, but what I really mean is I grew up HERE, in the company of rock stars, in this sacred place we create every year. I grew into the person I am today, and I know I still have so much to learn. If you feel a longing in your heart to play, or sing or dance or write, you MUST be at this camp. There is no substitute for, or alternative to, the kind of education you will receive here. You will change for the better every single summer – they will find what is missing in you and fill it, and you will make lifelong friends and connections you will not regret. I promise.
Mark Wood chose me to come to his camp my 8th grade year. He came to my middle school for an EYS Concert. In our first rehearsal, we were playing his rock arrangement of Hoedown – I was one of two people playing the more advanced version of the viola part. I was really loved the viola part and I had practiced it a ton. I guess I’d played my part rather well because Mark stopped the rehearsal, pointed at and asked me my name. I answered. He then proceeded to ask me with a very invested and inviting look on his face, if I took lessons. I had never taken lessons when he had came and even to this day I still have not had like real actual consecutive lessons. His immediate reaction was “Damn, you’re good.” Those were literally the words that came out of his mouth. Then we had a rushed on break and he taken to the side and told me that he wanted me to come to his camp and I was like I have to talk to my mom but hopefully I can. I was hooked nearly immediately because he told me I would’ve been on scholarship, and that he wanted me there and I was like “oh my goodness this is actually happening.” My inspiration to come back to MWROC stemmed from how I felt after I’d gone home afterwards. When I had gotten home I felt like I wasn’t ready to be home yet. I really felt I needed to be a camp for like 2 more weeks and then I could go home. My experience at Camp was truly one-of-a-kind and I go back because every year it gets better and better and better and I find something that sparks a light inside of me, every time, to do better. It’s also the most musically and socially intimate Camp I’ve ever gone to. It’s literally a judgement-free zone… when you go in you’re afraid of performing and you’re afraid that you’ll be criticized or ridiculed because you don’t play as well as others, that standard has completely disappeared and is non-existent at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp. There is no better place to go to have fun and to educate yourself on technique, diversity, style, different genres of music and overall enjoying your instrument. This camp makes practicing fun for me and I actually utilized my time a lot better then I did four or five years ago. I’ve advanced immensely just in the last 5 years directly as a result of that one week every year – It’s literally the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I think about it every single day of the year.
My number one experience at Mark Wood’s Rock Orchestra Camp is the people overall. Every single person at that camp has given me a reason to want to be a better person. They’ve given me a reason, whether they know it or not, to want to be a better musician and a better leader. Mark Wood chose me to sit in the first desk of the viola section for the third time. This proved to me how much I really appreciated. This also demonstrated the trust that people have endowed upon me and it’s liberating. Secondly, I would have to say that being able to prepare a string quartet by Shostakovich months before camp and only have about a total rehearsal time of maybe 2 hours… It literally only happens at this camp. And to be able to perform it with a professional musician… It only happens at this camp. I would never have been able to advance in chamber music and an improvisation anywhere else because there is no camp that does it like Mark Woods let alone any can’t that does anything similar to Mark Woods camp. It’s one-of-a-kind for sure. My third greatest experience would have to be when Laura Kaye saying the song Requiem from their album sanctuary. This song meant so much to me that I literally cried when I first heard it. This song embodies the emotional release everyone needs when life lets you down or unfortunately when there is loss. I experienced an overwhelming sense of appreciation and love when she sang that song because I did not know she was going to sing it at all. Words can’t even depict the slightest spiritual and emotional bond that I have created with everyone at this camp. The only way to experience is to go there yourself, meet the phenomenal people there, play with them, and then you will know what real genuine and raw talent can turn into with just the right people supporting you along the way.
I feel like if you have a desire to play with the freedom and assurance of no one judging you for playing the wrong note, but more so about how much fun you’re having, you need to come to this camp. It’s all about being you without any limitations. We get to play in groups with people who are so different yet we all have the same objective when it comes to music. That’s what I love about them. I’ve become a part of a family and a culture that is based on a foundation of humbleness and generosity. At the same time we all love to have fun and joke around. It’s just a great environment overall.
This year I returned for many reasons, but the main reason why I returned is because of my friends. They are really more like family than anything else. The music was another reason I came back. It’s nothing compared to any music I normally play throughout the year. On top of that you can learn so much from all the faculty members. It’s such a pleasure to be a part of camp and to learn from the faculty. The entire week goes by so quickly, and there’s so many different things that they sometimes blend together. Because it’s all so amazing it’s hard for one thing to stand out. However, the concert, of course, was significant, but on top of that one of Greg Byers’ classes has really stuck with me. It was a class that showed me a whole new way to look at my instrument and playing it. Like I said before, it stayed with me and I’m sure that it won’t fade anytime soon. It’s classes like that and the friends you make that compel you to go back every year. This year was my fourth year and it was the best year. In fact, every year I’ve been to camp it’s improved. Without a doubt I’ll do whatever it takes to go back next year and I recommend this to any strong player who’s interested in playing music that isn’t your everyday type of stuff! Anyways, I anticipate the week MWROC is scheduled for and dread the moment I have to leave. It is by far my favorite music camp I have ever attended.
I found out about MWROC through YouTube and couldn’t go for about a year and a half. But man, the wait was worth it!
I became so close to new friends in less than a week and had the time of my life. The skills that I learned at MWROC such as improvising, live looping, different tones and effects, etc. are irreplaceable and it’s hard to find another camp even remotely similar to this. Even though I’m only a first year, I’ve made tons of memories at camp and I can’t wait to come back.
My teacher recommended it to me and the community is just so amazing you have a need to keep coming back.
The final concert this year made me realize how much i live to perform, and that was life changing.
MWROC is so much freaking fun you learn without realizing it. It’s also a place where people never want to leave.
Clara Knotts is a PhD candidate in music education with a focus on string pedagogy at Florida State University. Clara is directing the orchestra at Lincoln High School and serving as the string lab instructor/liaison for the FSU string music education majors. She also serves as the 1st violin coach for the Tallahassee Youth Orchestra and maintains a private violin studio.
For 25 years, the majority of my string experience existed within the “traditional-realm” of playing and teaching. I began playing the violin at the age of 8, attended a performing arts high school, received a bachelor’s degree in music education, and taught for 13 1/2 years while simultaneously continuing to perform throughout central Florida until my entire musical world was ‘ROCKED.’ In October of 2011, a colleague told me to call Mark Wood because he would be the person to contact for the best instruments and options. Mark was extremely gracious, allowed me to use a selection of his instruments, and offered to do a clinic and concert with my orchestra. I immediately accepted his offer for a 2-day clinic and concert with my orchestra and I even ordered my own personal 7-string fretted Viper that was ready in time for our EYS event.
After seeing the transformation in my orchestra students and the enrollment skyrocketing, I knew that Mark Wood came into our lives at just the right time and was the change that my students, program, and I needed.
I was finally able to attend the MWROC for the first time in July of 2015 and WOW; it was six-full days of mind-blowing exhilaration. Imagine: being surrounded by young people that are so on fire to play and learn more about making music with their instruments, orchestra teachers that are eager to enhance their instructional “tool kit” and skills, a kind and helpful faculty, and a teaching staff that is second to none; that’s what you get at the MWROC Music Festival.
Every day since saying good-bye to new friends at MWROC, I have worked diligently on the skills and techniques learned during the week and have anticipated my return. This year, I am delighted to share the experience with one of my current students and I look forward to seeing her musical mind blown to the possibilities that she will see and experience at MWROC.
To think that I spent twenty-five years in a very small bubble is crazy. Now I have the opportunity to introduce these type of experiences with my current and future students so their music making potential is limited only by their own creativity. NOW is the time to take action and introduce the experiences Mark Wood provides to all of our friends, family, and colleagues.
Do not delay, it’s time to Electrify Creativity, Passion, and Purpose in all musicians!
Debra Scott is a middle school Orchestra teacher in Rockwall, Texas.
I found out about MWROC from Mark Wood, after an EYS program at my school. I was hesitant to attend because I thought it was a camp for kids. Boy, was I wrong!
MWROC is an incredible experience. I have learned so many new things about teaching, playing techniques, how to use technology, and how to teach my students to use technology.
Because I have been able to incorporate these techniques into my teaching, students who were the on the fence about staying in Orchestra now say it’s the best part of their day. They are able to connect to the music and their instruments because it’s relevant to them. On a personal level, I have been challenged musically. I have found myself counting the minutes until I can leave school and get home to practice! All genres of my personal playing have improved and I am back to feeling the immense joy of playing.
Joe Deninzon, MWROC Artist Mentor
When I was 17, I was a misfit at my high school A violin nerd who had a deep love for Led Zeppelin,. Rush, Kiss, ACDC, Zappa, and wanted to rock out! If only a camp like this existed when I was 17, I would have been all over it! I see my younger self in every kid who attends. There really is a familial atmosphere and I have made lasting friendships with campers, teachers, and fellow colleagues who are a part of this incredible experience! It is not just for string geeks; Guitarists, bassists, singers, drummers, keyboard players, teachers and students of all ages are welcome! I can’t speak enough about what a game changer this week has been for so many musicians and can be for you!
Even More Testimonials:
“It was so nice to be in a place… that everyone supports each other, is positive, and has the passion for music just as I do. I’ve been to many camps/workshops, but this one is different. My only hope is that one day I can influence the lives of others as you have influenced me. You … made us want to … break down another layer of that barrier holding us back from greatness.”
– Lacie (educator/camper)
“All of the students are truly blessed with the priceless gift of being able to learn from the most talented musicians on the planet! It is truly touching that this amazing faculty “gives back” by giving their time and talents to educate and inspire the artists of tomorrow! I know Kevin’s life will forever be influenced by his experiences at MWROC! A huge thanks to Mark Wood all for giving the artists of tomorrow this amazing opportunity!!!”
– Michelle (parent of camper)
“Thank you to the faculty for teaching us the things that will stay in our musical vocabulary for the rest of our lives and that will guide us to our musical successes.
You have shown me both how to sing and feel it and how to POUR my heart and soul into the sound that is coming from my instrument…”
– Abby (student/camper)
“Thank you everyone for such a great week! The MWROC experience was so amazing and made me a better musician and teacher. I started teaching private lessons again yesterday and I’m already incorporating stuff that I learned.”
– Tarvia Bell
“MWROC is a time that I set aside just for me, a time to recharge my inspirational battery… it’s a time to forget about day to day problems… it’s a time to focus on music, creativity and friends.”
“MWROC was amazing, well organized and had an impressive faculty! I would (and have!) recommend it to anyone– student OR educator!”
“By far the best!!! World class faculty that are always willing to help out, AMAZING concerts, I get to perform with outstanding musicians from all over the country, and I always make awesome friends that become like a second family! No other music camp has had such a huge impact on my life!!”
– Nick Schafer
“I want to personally thank Mark and Laura (and everyone for that matter) for giving of themselves. You all showed tireless dedication to making this a great experience for everyone. You have created a safe and comfortable environment to connect and create. I can’t tell you how impressed I was with your professionalism and commitment to details.”
– Fred and Austin Warmbier