Camp. Credit: Amplify Arts Project photo

Noozhawk’s ParentNooz Camp Guide is officially here and we made sure to make things easy when planning your child’s summer!

To give parents the tools to help make informed decisions about Summer Camps for their kids in Santa Barbara, Noozhawk has conducted a series of interviews with representatives of local programs for this year’s Summer Camp Guide.

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Jen Baron, Executive + Camp Director at Amplify Arts Project (formerly Girls Rock SB) to learn more about the summer programs they are offering this year.

Amplify Arts Project

Question: What is the name and focus of your camp or program?

Answer: Amplify Sleep Away Camp is an empowering, award-winning music + creative arts summer camp in Ojai, California. Every girl deserves the chance to be their most authentic selves, and Amplify helps them do that with lifelong friends and positive role models in a safe, supportive environment. While the disciplines and skills learned center around music/“rock band” (vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keys), music production, sound engineering, photography, filmmaking, DJing, etc., the themes explored center around empathy, self-confidence, teamwork, and other important qualities that make up compassionate leaders. We of course incorporate tons of classic (and not so classic) summer camp fun as well, like beach trips, arts n crafts, board games, songwriting, pool time, live performance, karaoke and lip sync “battles,” and much more.

Q: How long have you been running the program? Do you have any professional accreditations or certifications?

A: Day Camp has been going since 2013, and Sleep Away Camp since 2015. We’re an accredited member of the American Camp Association and meet over 250 standards in health, safety, staffing, training, and transportation. We meet strict standards set for site and food service, transportation, healthcare, operational management, human resources, and program standards. We’re proud to meet all state and local laws governing the operation of pools, dining facilities, living accommodations, and the Organized Camp Regulations. We always partner with local Public Health agencies/departments to ensure our operations are as safe as possible. In addition, every summer our camp staff training includes CPR/First Aid Certification, Mental Health First Aid, child psychology, conflict resolution, and much more.

Camp Credit: Amplify Arts Project photo

Q: What goals will the participants be working on to achieve?

A: All campers participate in the big end-of-camp showcase where they boast what they’ve learned and created in front of the whole camp community. This could be an original song written and learned with their bandmates, an a cappella choir production, a self-produced single or mix, a music video, a photo essay, even a mini documentary! Beyond these more “tangible” achievements, all campers are also working to achieve important goals like feeling safe, accepted, accepting, proud of themselves and others, confident about their futures. By the end of 2022, 99% of our youth felt safe; 97% felt respected for who they are; 94% had more respect for peers of other cultures, races, genders, and sexual orientations; 90% developed skills they think will help them in a future career; 89% felt more proud of girls, women, and gender-expansive humans… there’s way more where that came from.

Q: How would you best describe the educational aspects of your program?

A: Amplify is a great mix of fun music/arts/tech education and awesome summer vacation! For an average of about 1/2 of each day, campers are in group + private lessons learning things like guitar, vocals, photography, music production, etc., depending on what they sign up for. Then there’s also less “lesson”-like but still educational time spent in things like songwriting workshops, band practice, open project time, etc. Instructors are professionals in and beyond their field:

-Experience teaching all levels, ages, and learning styles

-Passionate mentors

-Engaging curriculum

-5+ years in the field

-Supportive coaches for showcase performance

-Dedicated to bringing out the skill, determination, and joy in each camper

Q: Describe the types of activities a child would participate in on a typical day.

A: On a typical day, campers wake up, have breakfast, participate in group/private instruction and/or band practice/project time (vocals, drums, photo, music production, etc., depending on which immersive they’ve picked for the session), have lunch, pick from 40+ activities (songwriting, pool time, zine making, screen printing, board games, nature photography, DJing, sooo many more), hang with their friends in free time, have dinner, come back together for rad evening activities like live guest concerts, talent shows, karaoke, yoga. On a not-so-typical day, campers are headed to the beach, learning to surf, doing a high ropes course, exploring Downtown Ojai, having all-day pool parties, raging at nighttime dance parties. We even embark on overnight camping adventures that include kayaking, zip lining, whitewater rafting, and more for our older campers AND any campers staying 4+ weeks!

Q: What is the typical age range for your camps?

A: Camp serves 3rd–12th graders, with most activities separated into grade-based cohorts. Campers grow and evolve every year… their camp experience should, too! Every aspect of camp is fine-tuned to best nurture and support youth where they’re at (and where they’re going). That’s why older campers get additional privileges, challenges, and opportunities to be incredible role models to younger campers.

Q: Do you offer full day and 1/2 day options?

A: While we don’t offer 1/2 day options, we appreciate that campers sometimes need to leave early and such. For Day Camp, we also offer early drop-off at 8am, which includes breakfast, and late pickup at 7pm, which includes dinner.

Q: What is your policy regarding background checks and training for staff? What is the child to staff ratio?

Camp Credit: Amplify Arts Project photo

A: Our staff begin their training months before camp begins by studying pre-orientation manuals and completing online training courses and certifications. They arrive at Amplify before the season starts for a comprehensive week-long training period, learning to safely operate all activities around camp. Training includes CPR/First Aid Certification, Mental Health First Aid, child psychology, conflict resolution, and much more. In order to even be considered as hired staff, they must first excel at our multi-step interview process (including 3+ professional references) and pass a sophisticated background check.

Our program directors and executive director spend the year going to conferences and trainings outside of the summer session. Amplify staff typically return year after year, and many work year-round in our non-summer camp programs. Program directors hold daily staff meetings to openly discuss and resolve incidents as they arise. Our staff are an integral part of providing an excellent camp experience for our campers. The grand majority of our staff have been with us for several years. In addition, most of our staff are teachers, instructors, and tutors when they’re not joining us at summer camp.

Our staff-to-camper ratio is on average 1:3, ensuring a level of instruction, engagement, and mentoring that makes the experience unlike most summer camps out there. Swimming includes 2 certified lifeguards and no less than 2 additional staff members.

Q: What is the cost of your camp? Do you offer any scholarships?

A: Day Camp begins at $499 for a week. Sleep Away Camp begins at $2,300 for a week. In all sessions, the longer you come to camp, the more you save! Tuition includes EVERYTHING campers need: food, housing, onsite programming + camp events, camp t-shirt. That said, we also have very cool optional add-ons, like private 1:1 lessons, swag at our onsite camp store, and more. Before the dust settles from cars pulling away after dropoff, campers have already made new friends and become part of the Amplify family. But, learning how to rock out on the drums, produce sick beats, photograph, skateboard, write amazing songs, etc. is not so instantaneous. To provide sufficient time for these new interests to blossom and new skills to develop, we strongly recommend 4 weeks for most campers, especially first-timers.

So, why do we offer shorter sessions at all and not just 4-week sessions? Just because campers are ready to dive into Amplify for 4 weeks doesn’t mean parents are! Opting into only 1 or 2 weeks gives families a camp test-run, preparing them for even more adventure and fun the next summer. If you’re unsure what duration is the best fit for you, please reach out anytime. After 10 years and 11,000 kiddos, we know a thing or 2 about this stuff 😉.

We also offer a number of different discounts, including a sibling and friend/referral discount. Furthermore, we distribute about $100,000 in camp scholarships/tuition assistance every summer because we’re on a mission to make our programs as accessible as possible to all youth. We become stronger as a global community when we’re exposed to people of different backgrounds, religions, income levels, regions, ethnicities, cuisines, music tastes. Applying for tuition assistance does not affect any camper’s or family’s chances of being accepted into summer camp. We encourage you to ask for help IF YOU NEED IT.

Q: Is there anything you would like to share about your program that was not already mentioned above?

A: We offer a FREE roundtrip shuttle for day campers!! 2 locations: Montecito and Ventura, every morning and evening, every weekday. Our local families mean the world to us, and we want getting to camp in Ojai every day to be as easy as possible for you!

Click here to learn more about Amplify Arts Project!