Guitar Camp striking a chord with kids

MARIETTA – By the time her first session of Guitar Camp wrapped up Monday, 11-year-old Victoria Humphrey admitted her fingertips were getting a little sore, but she had already learned to play her first song.

“I just wanted to try this. My brother comes to Guitar Camp so I decided to come along,” she said. “But I didn’t expect to be playing a song so soon.”

Victoria and her older brother, Brandon, 15, of Marietta were among a dozen or so students taking advantage of the 13th annual Guitar Camp that began Monday with local musician and retired Marietta school teacher Mark Doebrich.

After a “hands-on” session learning to position their fingers for the basically two-chord song, Doebrich taught the beginner group to play “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty.

“I’m not a music teacher. I taught math and science in the Marietta schools,” Doebrich said. “But I love doing this, trying to get kids interested in learning musical performance skills, including singing.”

If the camp students do well, he often encourages them to move on and take formal lessons from a “real” music instructor.

“I really hope all of them will go on to take lessons,” Doebrich said.

The guitar camp sessions are free and take place from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday this week in the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Society building at the corner of Third and Putnam streets in Marietta. The camp will culminate in a group performance by all of the campers at the Ohio River levee from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday.

“We’ll also have a dress rehearsal Friday at Third Street Music where the group can set up with some professional equipment,” Doebrich said.

Nine-year-old Ryan Knight from New Matamoras was part of Monday’s first session for beginners.

“This is all new to me now, so I got a little nervous and messed up once,” he said. “But I’d like to become an expert and maybe someday play before a stadium full of people.”

Ross Cline’s son, Mason, 16, of Marietta brought his bass guitar to the camp Monday.

“He’s been playing for about five years now and started when he was in middle school,” Cline said. “Now he plays bass and six-string guitar and occasionally the saxophone.”

He said Mason plays in the Marietta High marching band.

“Mason’s grandfather plays guitar, and that’s where he first became interested,” Cline said. “But the annual guitar camps help kids get a feel for what it’s like to really play an instrument.”

While much of the focus is on guitar playing, Doebrich said he encourages campers to play other instruments like percussion and keyboards, as well as the saxophone.

“This camp is a nice opportunity for kids to spend some extended time with the instrument, work hard all five days, and then play on stage,” he said.

Once they complete the camp, the students can join the High Schools That Rock group that performs at local festivals and events throughout the summer.

Doebrich said this year’s schedule includes the Belpre and Parkersburg homecomings, Marietta Riverfront Roar and the Marietta Sweet Corn Festival.

High Schools That Rock grew out of a guitar club Doebrich started at Marietta Middle School more than 13 years ago. He also founded a music club at Washington State Community College last fall.

His next endeavor will be a Guitar Camp at the Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg from June 23-27.