Watch out Tanglewood, there’s a new competition in the summer camp business, and it comes straight from Simon Cowell. That’s right, the runaway hit television show American Idol is starting a summer camp. The camp, for kids age 12 to 15, is being billed as “Idol Camp.”
In early July, 700 kids – selected not by their singing ability but by a written essay – will descend on Northfield, Massachusetts. Celebrity artists, past contestants on the show and other “surprise” guests will attend sessions, and there will also be more traditional summer camp activities, such as swimming and field sports.
The camp is set up, not as a fast lane to fame and riches on the highly-rated television show, but to learn vocal performance, choreography, set-building, music video production, and possibly most important to some of the attendees – how to audition. “It’s structured to provide an inspiring environment that’s all about self-esteem, self-empowerment, self-expression, and friendship,” said Felicity Carr, director of sponsorship and live events for FreemantleMedia, co-producer of the television show.
Telling people the camp won’t be about competition, the author says, is “like having a military boot camp … but saying, ‘Oh, we’re actually pacifists,'” Halpern continues. “Everyone knows what ‘American Idol’ stands for.” But the camp literature and application makes clear that being selected for the camp does not guarantee a spot on the Fox television show, nor does it have any affect on any future audition.
But don’t be surprised if some of the Idol Camp participants leave a little bit confused, says M.J. Santilli, who runs a popular blog devoted to the television show. The camp is being billed as “you can be anything you want, no matter how talented you are, and you’re all winner,” Santillia said. “Well, that’s not what ‘Idol’ is about. ‘Idol’ is about, well, most of you [stink], and get lost.”
The applications to the camp became available Friday, and for the winners of the essay contest, a “passion for the performing arts” is paramount, Carr said. But just as there will be no required singing in order to qualify, there will be no final contest at the end of the week. Even so, it’s a “good bet that youngsters will come to Idol Camp with the show in mind,” according to Jake Halpern, author of “Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America’s Favorite Addiction.”
The 700 selected campers will be grouped into four sessions of no more than 175 students. The camp is being housed at the Northfield Campus of the Northfield Mount Hermon School, which has previously hosted camps focused on soccer and Ultimate Frisbee.
The camp will cost $2,900 per student for 10 days. That includes room and board, classes in singing, dancing and acting, and souvenirs. There will also be a “certain percentage” of students eligible for full scholarships based on financial need. Carr recommends families begin applying now. The “winning” essays will be announced beginning March 9.