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Jazz musician Carl Grubbs’ music and dance camp set to return this summer in Baltimore County

Renowned jazz saxophonist Carl Grubbs and his wife, Barbara, plan to reopen their music camp this summer at a new facility on St. Timothy’s Lane in Catonsville.

Since 1997, the Grubbs have directed a music and dance program for youth between the ages of 4-17, in the Baltimore metropolitan area under sponsorship of their nonprofit, Contemporary Arts Inc.

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“We had classes for piano, guitar, drums, saxophone, flute, clarinet, and dance,” Carl Grubbs said. “We had to stop last year because of COVID.”

This year’s camp is expected to run from Aug. 2 to 13, although the Grubbs are still planning the details and waiting for the state to approve their application, “but we have our staff and program in place,” Barbara Grubbs said.

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The camp was previously held in a music wing at Loyola University in Baltimore with various amenities such as spacious rooms, a theater, event planning services, and catering services.

“It was a humbling experience to get that much support from an institution,” Barbara said.

Loyola can no longer host the camp due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on campus. The program, a collaboration between music and dance, provided students with a two-week camp that included field trips, music education, and private lessons.

Tuition-free scholarships were given to some participants in the camp that ended up pursuing music as a major or minor in college.

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“We tried to give them support financially, but not a huge amount, just something to show our appreciation,” Barbara said. “We try to make our relationship with campers and parents like a family.

The program also offered students an option to take instruments home for free, allowing them to practice in their own spaces.

“I thought it was important,” Carl said. “Today, it’s so expensive to have an instrument and take music lessons.”

He also believed it taught the kids responsibility.

“That gives you another level of feeling about an instrument when you care for it,” he said.

Carl Grubbs said the camp had up to 60 students before shutting down last year and mentioned challenges with virtual learning.

“We couldn’t do it virtually because the kids needed an instrument and a computer,” he said. “It was impossible to get that going — most of the kids we were dealing with didn’t have all that.”

One of the objectives of Contemporary Arts Inc. is to provide role models and opportunities for aspiring artists of all ages.

John Coltrane, a revolutionary and groundbreaking jazz saxophonist in the 1960s, embodied this statement for a young Carl Grubbs.

“I met him though my first cousin, Naima, who was his first wife. I didn’t know he was the famous John Coltrane,” Carl said with a laugh.

At age 13, Carl Grubbs was mentored by Coltrane.

“He taught me the theory of music,” he said. “I used to watch him practice and that sound was so sweet.”

Today, Carl Grubbs is known internationally for his distinguished musical career as a performer, composer, music educator and recording artist. He is a recipient of numerous awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts award, the Ruby’s Art award, and Mary Sawyers Baker award.

Carl hopes to continue educating the next generation of aspiring artists with the reopening of the camp.

“Seeing the kids that latch on to playing instruments is one thing I’m excited about,” he said. “Some kids go on to college from the camp.”

Anyone seeking more information about the Grubbs’ nonprofit, Contemporary Arts Inc., and this summer’s music camp should visit: www.contemporaryartsinc.org.

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