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Band camps are music to area youngsters’ ears

By Rod Lee

There’s just no telling where the next Adele, Jimi Hendrix, Don Henley or Keith Urban might come from. Maybe an obscure street corner like some of the winners of American Idol or The Voice; perhaps a talent show at the local high school or from a performance at a neighborhood church or concert hall.

Meanwhile, Blackstone Valley Music in Uxbridge is doing its part to point young people toward an immersion in an art form that always enjoys a surge in popularity at Grammys Awards time. As evidence of this there is the studio’s popular upcoming “Band Camp” for kids thirteen to eighteen, scheduled for February 20-24.

Nor is BVM’s instructional expertise limited to children. Lessons are available to students of all ages. “One of our banjo teachers is seventy-seven years old,” BVM”s Mark Mandeville—himself a banjo teacher—said last week.

The lessons’ menu available to prospective students is far-reaching and includes guitar, bass, violin/fiddle, piano, clarinet, ukulele, banjo, trumpet, flute, cello, trombone, saxophone, drums, voice and music theory.

The purchase of a six-string acoustic guitar at Mary Walling’s antique and collectibles store on Church St. in Whitinsville had brought a visitor to Blackstone Valley Music for the first time last week in search of sheet music, and into a conversation with Mr. Mandeville. He said the studio, which is situated on Mendon St., in space formerly occupied by the Gig Stop, doesn’t carry sheet music. It does offer a number of “method books,” however. As for instruments, there are lots of guitars to choose from on the floor; also a moderately priced keyboard—for instance.

In its bid to forge “a new identity” from the location’s Gig Stop days, Blackstone Valley Music is about more than “music education.” The “basic necessities” for a musician—strings, stricks, reeds, tuners, metronomes—are available. The studio features a music lending library consisting of more than 1000 CDS. It also runs a book swap, “novel for novel.”

Mr. Mandeville said response to the band camps, which occur three times a year, has been strong.

One teenager who has benefitted, he said, is Vito Caccaveli, a guitar player and singer who has been involved in BVM’s band camps since the program began in 2012. Another such impresario is likely to emerge from the band camp happening later this month. It takes place from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. daily and concludes with a concert at 7:00 p.m. on the 24th.

Vito Caccaveli is also a member of the BVM Rock Band, which has a live show—“Winterfire”—coming up on Saturday, February 25th from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Webster Memorial Beach. The group will also perform at the Blackstone Boys & Girls Club on Saturday, March 18th from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.

The band camps’ participating students choose the songs they are going to perform, develop the arrangements themselves and organize a set list to be played during a recorded in-store concert. Daily rehearsals in a band setting prepare them for the show.

“We’ve had success getting kids to perform in the community,” Mr. Mandeville said.

Another aspect of Blackstone Valley Music’s operation is a coffee house held the first Saturday of the month. Last Saturday’s featured the music of Led Zeppelin.

The band camps occur “in February, July and August,” Mr. Mandeville said on February 2nd—the seventh anniversary of Proprietor Doug Williamson’s store.

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.