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Camp Amped provides an opportunity for the youth of Athens to try their hand in the music scene of AthFest.

Camp Amped comes full circle after starting two weeks ago with the final goal being performing at AthFest on the KidsFest stage. KidsFest, the activity and music center for the youth of AthFest, welcomed performances by young musicians from Camp Amped, the intensive music camp that gives kids a glimpse into the reality of a music career.

Camp Amped runs for either a one-week after school program or a two-week summer program in both June or July. Those attending the June session get to perform on the KidsFest stage – three different bands played, with some playing in more than one band.

The camp, open to kids in middle and high school, is run by the nonprofit Nuçi Phillips Memorial Foundation that owns Nuçi’s Space on Oconee Street.


“I think that the fact that these kids can put together bands with this much panache and professionalism in just two weeks is incredible."

- Lisa Bayer, mother of 14-year-old Lily Gehner who played trumpet and keyboard for Freak Show.


“We’re here at Athfest celebrating peace and love and all that,” said Javier Romero-Heesacker, vocalist of opening band Freak Show. “Right on.”

Nuçi's Space advocates for ending the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness – it was opened by the Phillips family in 2000 in honor of Nuçi Phillips, a University of Georgia student and musician who committed suicide.

Within the seemingly small building, musicians from all walks of life have access to equipment rentals, rehearsal spaces, sponsored health and wellness services and counseling, as one of Nuçi’s mission points is to prevent suicide.

Campers in the June 2018 session also got the chance to record original songs at local studios, such as Japanski Recording Studio and Full Moon Recording Studio.

Each alternative rock band had its own distinct sound and original sets. Band members would switch instruments and places mid set, surprising the audience by creating new sounds with each song. Sets lasted about three to four songs long.

Romero-Heesacker, an aspiring musician since he was 8 years old, played in Freak Show and The Tears as a vocalist and guitarist. He will continue to play music “until it’s no longer fun.” He went into Camp Amped as a bassist, but learned guitar and vocals along the way.

“I think that the fact that these kids can put together bands with this much panache and professionalism in just two weeks is incredible,” said Lisa Bayer, mother of 14-year-old Lily Gehner who played trumpet and keyboard for Freak Show.

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Camp Amped provides an opportunity for the youth of Athens to try their hand in the music scene of AthFest.

Lily Gehner said most of the bands created at Camp Amped don’t stick together, however, individuals continue to perform music and may attend the camp more than once. This allows them to form relationships with other fellow young musicians.

“It’s such a great kick starter for young musicians,” said 17-year-old Sam Smith, vocalist, bassist and drummer in Freak Show and The Talking Teds. “I think it’s really gotten a lot of people on their feet.”

Smith is appreciative that the campers get access to contacts that can potentially help them launch a music career in the future. Playing with her first band at the age of thirteen, she also plays in bands Monsoon and Cheese Dream, both of which were scheduled to play at this years AthFest. Camp Amped gave her a chance to practice music with friends, while also having fun.


Correction: In a previous version of this article, Lily Gehner was misidentified. The Red & Black regrets this error and has since corrected this information.  

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