George Got Me Here! George Follows Me Everywhere!
by Ely Rosenblum
Camp follows me everywhere. The stories of my life are all connected to moments at camp. And my career path can even be traced back to passions I discovered at camp.
My oldest camp memories are so telling of my entire experience as camper, counselor, specialist and Rosh Anaf at Camp George. My first camp award, at age 10, was Most Enthusiastic Skier. I think they made that award up just for me, and they haven’t given one out since. That is just the kind of thing that you see at George: staff see a camper who discovers a new passion, and they embrace it with open arms. I still remember singing Wimoweh (otherwise known as “In The Jungle” or “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”) on my first island adventure 13 years ago; this is one of the many gifts that has come with me to the present day. Three months ago, when my supervisor at Smithsonian Folkways gave me a copy of the album that I would help create marketing materials for – Pete Seeger: Live at Bowdoin College 1960 – I spotted Wimoweh on the track listing and smiled. Camp just seems to follow me everywhere.
Ten years ago, I was 13 years old, standing atop the ropes course, looking 40 feet down, delighted and horrified simultaneously. You see, I am afraid of heights. But with 20 of my friends and cabin-mates cheering me on, I stepped onto the wires and completed my first high ropes element. Three years later, as a first-year-staff, I played with a band for the entire camp from the top of the ropes course! As a camper I was taught to embrace the things that scared me, and express the enthusiasm for the things I loved, allowing me to conquer new heights (pun intended).
With that in mind, I am taking my first steps as a musicologist, to study and teach both traditional and contemporary music from around the world. Making a commitment to study music for a living is a scary endeavor! However, after finishing my BA at Dalhousie University & University of King’s College I decided to hop the pond to Goldsmiths, University of London, where I completed an MA in Visual Anthropology and studied British folk music. Hot off the heels of an internship at the Smithsonian Institution I will help their Canadian counterpart, folkwaysAlive! at the University of Alberta, organize a conference on folk singer Woody Guthrie.
I always knew that music would be an important part of my life, but it took time to figure out just how exactly I would make it a part of my career. My friends at camp, many of my closest who are now professional musicians, taught me how to play and listen to music in a collaborative environment. Most importantly, camp taught me about the context of music. From American folk to rock to jazz to rap, every one of my fellow campers brought a new album to the cabin with a story from their own lives. The rainy day program I took part in as camper and staff was to pick your favorite song and tell the cabin what it meant to you and why it was so important. Those moments helped me crystallize my own interest in recorded music. That was just one way that camp taught me that there is and always will be an endless amount of music to enjoy; the perfect form of storytelling to teach us about the world and the communities around us.
Now, as I prepare to start a PhD in Cultural Musicology at the University of Cambridge this fall, I am simultaneously as nervous as that first time on the ropes course and as excited as that first time up on water-skis. Camp gave me the opportunity to test out all of my wacky ideas on music and life. I spent countless hours showing music to my campers, in just the same way that my staff introduced it to me. Some of them have become serious about their own study of music. It’s a part of camp that I wanted to bring into my own life, and I am delighted that I got to pass the torch to others. George ‘got me here’ by teaching me that enthusiasm breed’s enthusiasm, and gave me the courage to pursue a career that is totally unconventional. May we all be so lucky as to have our camp memories and friends influence us in how we make big decisions, to follow our dreams and see them become a reality. And just maybe you’ll find- camp also follows you everywhere!
Originally posted at Summer Central: Camp George’s Blog