The stage was set, the lights were dim, and the audience was seated. The performers stood ready, their silhouettes moving slightly.
Adele’s “Rollin’ in the Deep” played on the speakers as the lights went on and the performers began singing and walking forward. It was the conclusion of House of Music’s week-long Diva BootCamp last Friday, with participants showing everything they had been working on. A final show for the musical theatre camp had taken place earlier in the day.
House of Music co-owner Meg Callan wrote and directed both shows with Laura Lee Lewis. She said the camps were as much about learning performance and vocal techniques as they were about building confidence. This is achieved through improvisational games and voice lessons, among other activities. Campers also keep a journal so they can communicate thoughts they might not feel comfortable sharing, said Callan, and there is lots of encouragement throughout the week.
Callan and Lewis make an effort to understand different personality types, especially those who might feel nervous about performing. Lewis said she was shy as a child, so she can relate to how they might be feeling.
“We just encourage them to push themselves with baby steps out of their comfort zones,” said Lewis.
Callan said audiences have been statistically proven to like performers before they have even begun, which she makes sure to tell camp participants.
The Diva BootCamp is exclusively for girls, and focuses in particular on building self-esteem.
“We have a diva creed that we read every day,” said Callan.
Both camps run for three hours a day for five days. Auditions are held on the first day, which allow Callan and Lewis to determine the abilities of the participants. That night, they decide what role each camper will play in the performances, and they also write the script for the musical theatre camp.
“We just get a feel for how much of a load they’re able to carry that week. When you write the script you just keep them in mind,” said Callan.
Diva BootCamp is more intense than the musical theatre camp, said Callan. Auditions are held at the beginning, after which participants are assigned roles based on their abilities.
“There’s the idea that you need to work for your part,” said Callan. “There is an element of pressure because this is a performance.”
Callan said in addition to building confidence from performing, campers also learn responsibility from having to memorize their lines on time.
Ainsley McCallum, 11, has been participating in Diva BootCamp for four years. She keeps coming back because of the people she’s met, and because the performance is different every year.
Ainsley takes voice lessons with Lewis, and hopes to be a singer one day.
“It’s kind of my dream,” she said. She has loved singing since she was three years old.
“At Christmas time I used to belt out all the songs I knew,” she said. “I like how you can express yourself with every song, and you don’t have to pretend to be anyone else.”
Ainsley said she has become less shy from participating in the camp and from taking voice lessons.
While she has always loved singing, she said she spent more time “behind the curtain” at her first camp. She describes the anticipation of performing as a “rollercoaster,” and said she has butterflies before she steps on stage.
“Then when you get out there, it’s just the excitement that matters.”
Callan said she enjoys teaching young people at the camps.
“It’s so refreshing, their innocence is inspiring,” she said. “It’s nice to have an impact on that age group in your community.”
Callan and Lewis have been running the camps for five years. Diva BootCamp participants receive a professional photoshoot by Lewis, who is also a photographer, and a CD recording produced by House of Music. The next camps will run Aug. 20-24, and they are open to ages seven and above.