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Boise Rock School Offers 'Free Camp'

Monday, Aug. 18 through Friday, Aug. 22

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For about the cost of a refurbished iPod or a boss tattoo, kids ages 3 to 18 can attend a Boise Rock School summer camp and learn several things, including how to play an instrument, how to write songs, how to record music, how to produce a radio show, how to design a gig poster, how to form a band and how to name that band. BRS co-founders Jared Goodpaster and Ryan Peck could use a lesson in that last one, though.

"We probably should come up with a name for it," Peck said, laughing. "We've just been calling it 'Free Camp.'"

It is both of those things, but it's so much more. BRS' Free Camp for Refugees and At-Risk Youth (Monday, Aug. 18-Friday, Aug. 22), was created as an expansion of BRS' nonprofit outreach program, Rock on Wheels, which takes music instruction to places where there isn't any--for example, teachers make a weekly trip to Horseshoe Bend. Free Camp was a natural extension of the Rock on Wheels concept and came about through an act of generosity following a tragedy.

A few years ago, at the funeral of a young musician who died in a car accident, people made donations to BRS in the musician's name.

"A lightbulb went off," Peck said. "I told Jared, 'Rather than buy a new guitar or something for the school, we should do something really cool with the money.'"

That "something really cool" grew, and now nearly 40 youth from around the world and all walks of life attend the weeklong Free Camp, a unique opportunity for young people dealing with behavioral or emotional issues, or some kind of major upheaval in their lives, like moving to a new country or losing a parent.

"One kid I signed up today, his dad went to jail and [the kid] was sent to foster care," Peck said.

The original plan was that Free Camp--now in its third year--would be a one-time deal but as it turned out, the teachers took as much from the experience as the kids.

"We were only going to do it the one year but it was so much fun," Peck said, adding that BRS hopes to expand even further and find the space and funds for 100 kids--or more.