Camp MMW Returns to Catskills

Medeski Martin & Wood summer camp to include workshops, practices, lectures and performances

Billy Martin of Medeski, Martin and Wood with an aspiring student at their 2008 summer camp
Medeski Martin & Wood

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The Catskill Mountains of New York are a haven of crystal lakes, rolling terrain and lush greenery, an idyllic location for a five-day music retreat hosted by the eclectic jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood (MMW).

And yet, anyone who attends Camp MMW may likely be so occupied with making music they will barely have time to pause and absorb the scenery.

For the third year in a row, between Aug. 1 and 6, MMW will host nearly a week’s worth of workshops, ensemble practices and guest lectures by visiting teachers such as guitarist and Berklee professor David “Fuze” Fiuczynski, among other activities geared to draw musicians of all skill levels outside their comfort zones and into what the band hopes to be an experimental awakening.

“Overall, we want to open up [campers’] musical language – to give them a deeper well of musical expression and get them inspired to experiment,” said percussionist Billy Martin. The band has a particular interest in exposing students to diverse musical genres, including classical, avant-garde and African and Brazilian traditions.

The program itinerary reflects this focus on creative development, although, Martin explained, campers do get hour-long breaks in between planned events and can continually benefit from the peaceful environment. “It keeps you relaxed, open, and less grounded,” he said.

Against the mountain backdrop, the camp will offer daily workshops hosted individually by Martin, keyboardist John Medeski or bassist Chris Wood, with each workshop revolving around a certain approach, such as rhythm-based or improvisational. In addition, the three band members will collaborate to divide the campers into ensembles balanced across factors like instrument of choice, age, skill level and musical background. Under the guidance of Medeski, Martin or Wood, these groups will practice throughout the week on a single piece to perform the last day of camp, in a culminating exhibition of what the campers have learned from MMW as well as their peer musicians.

Anyone interested in this kind of immersive program can submit an application online by June 21, including mp3 samples of recordings. Applicants must be at least 16 years of age and submit a non-refundable $50 application fee, which will count toward overall tuition costs for everyone who is accepted. There are two basic payment options, the most comprehensive being $2,000 to cover tuition, shared accommodations at Full Moon Resort and meals. Campers can alternatively choose to pay $1,100 and provide their own outdoor accommodations such as a tent and sleeping bag.

Martin acknowledged that these costs might be steep for many otherwise interested musicians, which is why the band has introduced three need-based scholarships to help reduce payment for certain groups. One offers a 20 percent discount on tuition, the other a 40 percent discount, and the third scholarship a 40 percent discount specifically for eligible women.

Applicants will be notified of their acceptance or rejection by June 25 and of their scholarship options by June 29, and all tuition payments are due by mid July.

According to Martin, the camp can accept a maximum of 80 applicants, though it has received fewer applicants than the target number in the past. Still, the band has high hopes for this year’s experience in the Catskills, which Martin said is defined by its emphasis on collaboration. “There is so much to learn, even for us. We try to explore it together,” he said.

For those who want a taste of the MMW experience but cannot make it to the camp, the band will be streaming web casts at 7 p.m. on June 9 and 10, performing live from Nevessa Soundstage near Woodstock, New York.

You can find out more about the web cast, including the set lists and costs, by visiting the Nevessa web site. Information on Camp MMW can be found at MMW’s web site.