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Rock Band Camp to close with Rock Fest VI

By Staff | Jul 11, 2012

Andrea Galabinski Cape Coral rockers Derrek Connolly, Lauren Reynolds, Danny Reyes, Tommy Coppola and Alex Reynolds prepare for the upcoming Rock Fest VI, the final performance of their summer Rock Band Camp.



For the last two weeks, several young Cape Coral musicians have been at a unique summer camp – Rock Band Camp. This Friday, July 13, they and fellow camp-goes from across Southwest Florida will be featured in a big performance called Rock Fest VI.

Four bands of the camp-goers will be featured, put together by musical style and personality on stage by camp instructor Jim Knecht Jr.

Knecht is the choir and orchestra director at Three Oaks Middle School, a 2008 Golden Apple Teacher recipient and the president of the non-profit Music Foundation of Southwest Florida.

Through the Music Foundation he has held the summer music camps for the last six years, and with the help of the Cape Coral Kiwanis Club Foundation, which has donated $1,000 this year toward the camp and the big performance, and a new sponsor, the show will be bigger and better.

Knecht said he chose the larger Estero High School auditorium venue for this year’s performance because the event is being sponsored by Brett’s Music, with more powerful sound equipment than ever before. They are even offering both balcony and floor seats, just like professional rock concerts. He should know – he’s been there, in the music business and performing extensively with bands for the more than 20 years.

“This will be just like back in the good old days,” he said.

This year was the first time Rock Band Camp went to two weeks.

“We had to cram everything into one week and I felt it got to the point we were neglecting important things like stage presence, stage performance, costuming and things like that,” he said.

And the students said they loved that.

This is the sixth year of attending the camp for Cape Coral resident and North Fort Myers High School graduate Alex Reynolds. He plays bass, and will be in the band Commoner formed at the camp.

“This is a great experience,” he said of the two week concentration.

Since attending the camps, he started his own local rock band last October with a friend.

“From what I learned it was a lot faster experience,” he said.

Cape resident Tommy Coppola will also be with Commoner. He will be attending the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston this fall, studying classical guitar.

“This (the camp) gave me a lot of experience of being in a band and I do want to start bands in the community,” he said.

He said what he’s learned, about performing will translate to the classical guitar.

“I really like the enthusiasm and the hard work we’ve done in the last two weeks, everyone was focused,” he added.

“If you are good at playing an instrument and if you are not in a band but like to play music, this is for you,” said North Fort Myers High School student and Cape resident Derrek Connolly. He has attended the camp for several years, and calls Knecht “Chill,” teen-speak for cool and laid back.

“You will experience what it feels like to be in a real rock band, and it makes you prepared to get into more of your performance,” he said.

The teen has played at numerous performances throughout Lee County, at benefit shows and more.

Other Cape Coral students participating include Lauren Reynolds and Danny Reyes.

Besides Commoner, the other three bands to be featured Friday night include Forget the Following, Squirrel Tactics and generation zero.

“The band pairings were very structured,” Knecht said. “We paired them up based on ability, chemistry and personality.”

Knecht said the idea for the camp came about one day about six years ago when he and Danillo Hernandez, a former Lee County teacher and himself an accomplished guitarist, started brainstorming about a fun and educational summer camp for local students.

“We thought, why not have them produce in four or five days, a band like professionals?” he said.

The response was overwhelming that students have had to audition for slots each year, as they take only limited numbers of participants.

The band team members, as part of their training, use communication skills among each other, work together choosing songs and name their own band.

Tickets go on sale at 5:30 p.m. and the concert starts at 7 p.m. The cost is $5 per person for balcony seats and $7 per person for floor seats.

Estero High School is located at 21900 River Ranch Road, in Estero. For more information, go to music-foundation.org and find them on Facebook.

“Two of our participants created Rock Fest IV pages,” Knecht said.

To learn more about next year’s Rock Band Camp, email Knechtj@Comcast.net.