Summer camp

NMC signThirty years ago, I went for a single two-week session to Northeast Music Camp, in Ware, MA. It was the third camp I’d ever been to, and the second sleepaway camp, and I had a terrible time. I even called home a couple of times (a collect call, from the camp payphone – this was long before cell phones) and begged my mother to come get me early.

The next year, a good friend of mine decided he wanted to go to NMC, and so I figured I’d give it another try with him. I went for a month this time, and loved it, and I went back each of the next two years for 6 weeks. NMC became one of the important signifiers in my personal mythology, the site of numerous small social triumphs and failures, and some formative musical experiences as well. I kept in touch with friends from NMC for years, and it seemed I was constantly bumping into people I knew from there.

Even today, certain things still take me back to NMC. There’s a smell of dry pine needles that puts me right on the path between the dining hall and the converted barn we called a concert hall. Biking up the steep hill that leads to my house feels just like the killer climb up Hardwick Pond Road after a coffee frappe at Snow’s. And I still use a mug given to me by my first girlfriend at NMC.

I’ve been thinking about all of this lately because it’s summer, and because my kids are at camp (still daycamp), and because I’ve been poking around some old photos at the NMC Facebook page. It’s refreshing to look at pictures of people I haven’t seen in decades and suddenly remember names, instruments, conversations we had. Makes me feel not quite so far removed from the younger me I see there as well.

August 4, 2010