This year will be my fifth time going to California Brazil Camp. I’m really looking forward to it; it’s how I grow the most as a musician, and I’m lucky to have many friends there.
This year several folks from my bloco will be going for the first time, and they’ve been asking me what advice I’d give to newbies, and what to pack. I’d summarize my lessons into 4 principles:
- Meet people
- Be Yourself
There is so much going on at camp, it’s easy to overdo it. I’ve heard many stories of people who stay up 20 hours a day drumming, dancing…and who end up useless to the world by Wednesday afternoon.
Remember to pace yourself.
A lot of the more experienced folks at camp bring comfy beds, couches, lights for their tents, coffee makers, and other comforts. I suggest you do the same.
Rest and Relax
Remember to take breaks. I bring a hammock and nap in it every day.
Above all else, Brazil Camp is an amazing opportunity to learn and grow.
I’d recommend taking notes and audio recordings. It’s impossible to remember even half of what you’ll learn, so use tools. What matters is how much you can absorb in total.
One of the things I keep learning is that drums are a musical instrument. Playing them should produce music, should flow. It’s not just making sounds, it’s about playing music.
Imagine you can ask musicians, dancers, and teachers any question you want. What would you ask?
I make a list ahead of time of things I want to know:
- How are groups run?
- How do other folks lead their groups?
- What paths have my friends taken? What’s their history? What styles of music+dance did they study, and what changed?
- How do you teach new people?
- How do you learn, yourself? What are effective study+practice methods?
- Who should I know? Who should I meet?
Playing music is a deeply human endeavor.
My first year at camp, I knew four people, all from my Seattle bloco. I stumbled across a three-step way to get to know lots of people:
- Sit next to someone I don’t know at every meal.
- Ask them simple, leading questions like “How was your morning afternoon?”, “What classes did you take? What did you think?”, “What are you going to do next?”
- When you see them later, say hi again, and catch up
These simple steps have spawned connections, friendships, and relationships.
Most of all, though, the people are what make CBC so special. One of my greatest joys is seeing my dearest friends for several hours every day.
All of the powerful, moving moments at camp had a single thing in common: I was feeling vulnerable at the time.
That time I met someone new, grew to trust her, and was sharing deep secrets in a day? Vulnerable
Swallowing my pride and accompanying samba dance classes, knowing I’m the very worst accompanist, and trying to learn? Vulnerable.
Feeling incredibly self-conscious when dancing forró for the first time, and doing it anyways? Vulnerable. (Little did I know that this would lead to one of my most tender relationships).
Trying to play 3rd surdo in advanced bateria, screwing up continuously the first day, and going back for more? Vulnerable.
Be vulnerable. Be brave. Put your entire being into what you’re doing. Try out new stuff. Go to bed having fucked up something, saying “well, at least I tried”.
Back to Reality
Finally, there’s the most painful lesson of all…the only constant is change.
Coming back to my day-to-day existence (‘re-entry’) is bitterly difficult. I question why I’m sitting at a desk every day, where my passion has gone, and how lonely I feel when I’m not surrounded by so many friends.
Be gentle with yourself. A few things help me re-enter:
- Wear the camp wristband for a little while
- See people you love more than usual. Good people make everything better.
- Play music more than usual. Keep working on what you’ve started to learn.
- Reach out to people you’ve met. Make plans to see them, to play together. Take a chance
Dev is a data scientist, musician, an an aspiring polymath who lives in Seattle.
know this post by Dev probably seems very relevant to most of you who have been to CBC before. Do you have other tips for dealing with re-entry? I would add:g on the phone and talk to people. Stay in touch with each other. We are all feeling the same things to some degree.
I hope to see you all at camp this year!