Summer Jazz Camps Serve 300 Young Students

The son and grandson of band directors and teachers, third-year jazz trumpeter Gabriel Medd grew up going to—and loving—jazz camp. But he was still surprised when he switched roles and became one of about 30 teachers—all Juilliard faculty or students—at two of the five Juilliard Jazz camps this summer. “I’ve never had to get up every morning and just talk to trumpet students with no safety net. It was a crash course in what you know and how you can describe it to other people.”

Medd taught middle- and high-school students for two weeks in West Palm Beach, Fla., in June and for one week at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. Other camps were held in Atlanta; Manizales, Colombia; and Victoria, Australia, with a total of about 300 jazz students served. “The kids were all extremely motivated, but especially with the middle schoolers, you had to figure out a lot of different approaches to get on their good side and earn their affection,” Medd said. “And some things that seemed second nature to me—I’d realize that I’d never had to think them through and explain them before. But there were also some things that they would just get and I thought, ‘I could never had gotten that so quickly.’”

There were other surprises as well. “There was a very good social aspect to camps. It was good to see not only how our professors teach or run a rehearsal, but also how they are outside the classroom,” Medd said. And of the other Juilliard students who were teaching at Snow, he said, “it was really cool to talk to them about how they were teaching and what they found hard. We were learning together.”

Despite the busy schedule, Medd found the camps to be relaxing in a way that student life in New York City never could be. “At camp, after you’re done teaching or learning, you’re in Ephraim, Utah, and there’s not a lot of other things to do, which really strengthens the bond,” he said. “You’re playing all day and hanging and talking about music all night. It’s a really cool alternate reality where jazz is the center of the world.”