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Rock Band Camper Julise Ornberg, 15, of Westerly, playing bass guitar, practice at the Tower Street Community Center with fellow camper Evan Brunelle, 11, on vocals and their instructor Matt Niebles, of South Kingstown, on keyboard on Wednesday. The campers will have a final performance on Friday.  Jill Connor / The Westerly Sun
Rock Band Camper Daniel Simard, 11, of Westerly works on back-up vocals during the Green Day song Rock Band Camper Julise Ornberg, 15, of Westerly, playing bass guitar, practice at the Tower Street Community Center with their instructor Matt Niebles, of South Kingstown, on Wednesday. The campers will have a final performance on Friday.  Jill Connor / The Westerly Sun Rock Band Campers Evan Brunelle, 11, playing electric guitar and Julie Ornberg, 15, playing bass, both of Westerly, rehearse at the Tower Street Community Center on Wednesday. The campers will have a final performance on Friday.  Jill Connor / The Westerly Sun Campers in the Rock Band Camp program at the Tower Street Community Center, including Joven Syminster, 10, of Westerly, practice the song Jill Connor / The Westerly Sun

After a week, these students rock


WESTERLY — Rocking in a T-shirt her dad gave her from a 1991 Nirvana concert in Seattle, Julie Ornberg played bass guitar like she belonged.

Less than a week into her first true lesson on the instrument, the 15-year-old was already playing The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” in a quartet of youngsters looking for an adventure in music.

“I really wanted to know what it’s like being in a rock band,” Ornberg, who attends Westerly High School, said.

“I always thought it wouldn’t be a possibility. Now, I think, ‘This is something I could do in the future.’”

Ornberg and her bandmates took advantage of Rock Band Camp this week, the first opportunity of its kind offered at the Tower Street Community Center. Campers formed a band, learned and wrote tunes and performed in front of an audience Friday.

No experience was necessary to sign up — Monday was the first day 11-year-old Daniel Simard ever even looked at a keyboard.

“The only thing I ever played was a recorder,” the Westerly Middle School student said. “It’s fun learning something so fast.”

Camp instructor Matt Niebles, a Rhode Island-certified music educator in the Providence public school district, holds rock band and music camps throughout the state.

He said Westerly’s group, rounded out by drummer Joven Symington and guitarist Evan Brunelle, was full of quick studies.

“They are very skilled beginners and this gives them a chance to explore something new,” Niebles said. “It gives them a chance to be in a rock band.”

Earlier this month, Niebles also instructed Drum Jump, another camp that focused on rhythm games, African drums and xylophones.

“I do have a thing for the arts and we haven’t done anything like this before,” said Anne DiOrio, the programs and operation facilities assistant at Tower Street.

“It’s nice to have music here — we haven’t had a whole lot of that lately. The camp sounded good to me and it’s nice to offer a variety of things for kids.”

Evan, an 11-year-old who will attend the middle school in the fall, attended the camp to learn more about how to play the guitar.

“I tried lessons online,” he said.

“Those didn’t work as much. I’m learning a lot here, and it’s not like school, it’s fun.”

Of the four band members, Joven was the veteran. The middle schooler has played drums for a year, although he played his first drum set this week.

“I got hooked on it through Guitar Hero,” Joven said. “My mom thought it would be good to expand my knowledge of music, so I signed up for this.

“I like to refer to myself as a music geek,” the 10-year-old said.

“I know a lot of classical rock.”

This week, Joven was all about the rock band, even singing part of the vocals for one of his favorite songs, “House of the Rising Sun.”

But for him, the gig is temporary.

“I’m thinking of being in a garage band for a little bit,” he said.

“I’m not going to be playing a lot of gigs. I think I’ll be playing in bars.”



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