ELORA – The students of Adrian Jones Music School once again kicked off the Riverfest Elora music festival this year.
Students ranging in age from eight to 18 performed on Aug. 19 in what has become an annual tradition for the music festival.
The school runs summer rock band camps where campers are put into a band that they play with for the duration of the week-long camp, owner Adrian Jones explained.
At the end of the week, they put on a performance for friends and family and then Jones brings the bands to Riverfest to perform.
“The thing is those bands had been together for five days,” Jones explained. “They have five days of rehearsals, and there’s the band.
“But the thing is … whether they’re seven or eight or nine years old, or 16 to 18, they always managed to pull it together and be able to perform, which is pretty cool.”
Jones noted he always breaks the students into bands that make sense for ages and skill level.
At this year’s Riverfest Elora, the school introduced four bands, with two solo performers, one of which Jones accompanied. Performances ranged from current hits to classic and 90s rock.
“Leading up to camp we discuss with all the band members some song ideas and they come up with some and then the band leaders, they recommend some, and between all of them, they decide on some songs that would work well,” Jones explained.
The summer camps ran in mid-July, Jones said, giving students roughly a month off before Riverfest.
“We usually get together, and we do one rehearsal between camp and Riverfest, just so that they remember everything,” he said, adding he encourages students to get together on their own to rehearse leading up to the festival.
“The week that they’re in camp, they’re rehearsing eight hours a day – it’s full time,” Jones explained. “By the end of Friday, they’ve probably had close to 30 hours of rehearsal time.”
Jones said it’s been great being able to perform in Riverfest over the years.
“It’s such a fantastic festival, and it’s so well run,” he said. “I’m really pleased to be able to be a part of it and have my own little section for the students.”
Jones said it was extra special this year because the school had some of its rock camp alumni perform in the festival.
“So it’s really nice to see that our students they come up through the ranks,” he said. “They work really, really hard and they put together a band that ends up starting to create a buzz, they ended up playing Riverfest.
“It’s very rewarding.”
As for how it all started, Jones said Riverfest organizers approached him about having a spot in the festival to showcase youth musicians.
“Since I was running rock band camps and the school, it seemed to be a good fit,” he explained. “They have always been very supportive in promoting and inspiring young musicians.”
Although there’s always a lot of nerves that come with performing in front of a crowd, Jones said the student response was great.
“For a lot of them, it’s their first experience performing in front of a larger crowd and on a big stage,” he explained. “And there are lots of nerves, but we do our best to get through that.”
Jones has also been hosting an open mic at the Elora Brewing Company to encourage students to come out and perform. It runs Sundays from 8pm to midnight.
“Some of our students that are feeling comfortable performing solo, they’ve been putting together little three-song sets, coming out and performing and getting their first taste of that sort of venue,” he explained.
As someone who was fortunate to have encouraging teachers guide him through his music studies, Jones said it’s “wonderful to be able to offer that” back to the community.