Spring 2009

Camp Director Q&A with Jim Mazzaferro

by Heather Thomson

Jim Mazzaferro is no stranger to Cazadero Music Camp. Attending Caz for the first time in 1970, he continued to attend Caz until 1975 as a camper, Counselor in Training, Counselor and Utility Crew member. Jim was appointed Camp Director in 2001 and is entering his ninth year in the position. He recently sat down with Development Director Heather Thomson for a quick Camp Director Q&A.

You?ve been involved in Cazadero since you were a teen, and working as Artistic Director since 2001. What got you hooked on Cazadero, and what keeps you coming back?

What got me hooked on Cazadero was the fact that everyone loved what they were doing, it didn?t matter what their role was. The campers, kitchen staff, utility staff, counselors, coaches and conductors ? they all were having a good time. I?d never been in a place where everyone enjoyed what they were doing. It was pretty incredible, and I wanted to be a part of it.

What keeps me coming back is watching other kids experience what I experienced at the camp ? they may be apprehensive when they arrive at camp (as I was), not sure what to expect ? but they are different people when they leave. To watch that transformation is pretty remarkable.

What do campers get out of their experience at Cazadero?

It?s a combination of things ? the staff, the campers, the beauty of the place, and the fact that there aren?t a lot of distractions. Music is the main focus. You don?t have to worry about all life?s other distractions ? school, homework assignments, etc. Campers get to focus on what they love to do - make music, and eat!

What if a child has no plans to become a professional musician? What does Cazadero offer them?

From my perspective, the goal is really to see how far we can take a person musically in a week, or twelve days. Not everyone is going to end up playing in the New York Philharmonic or the San Francisco Symphony, but you can develop your love of music through performance at Cazadero, and carry that love with you throughout your life.

Cazadero offers children a chance to grow on many levels. One thing music teaches us is that everyone has to work to be their best individually, then work to be the best that they can as part of a group. Whether or not you continue in music after high school or college, those qualities ? teamwork, self discipline, learning to give and take, compromise ? all those skills are skills learned through music.

Cazadero is also a place where kids discover their love of music. Because there are no cell phones, no TV, your total focus is on music. Being immersed in that environment for as long as they are, they come out of that with a real love of music; whether or not they decide to go on to pursue music professionally.

How do you go about choosing your summer faculty and staff?

There are 3 criteria: do they love music; do they love kids; and do they loveteaching kids music. We look for the most talented people we can find ? but we are looking for talent not just in music, but in other relevant areas as well - the arts, sports, etc. Most of our staff are returning staff or were once campers themselves, so they understand what we are trying to achieve.

One of the most important qualities a teacher needs is flexibility ? the ability to adapt, meet the student where they are. For example, instead of being disappointed if a child is not where you thought they should be, asking instead how can I get this child to where I want them to be in a week? That attitude makes it fun for both the child and teacher. Good teachers also need to inspire, motivate, and to be empathetic. If you do that, you create an atmosphere where a kid is going to want to get better. We did not all start out being able to play Paganini or Chopin.

We had a student who came in with a very different background ? her band at school was just 7 kids. The first night she arrives she sees a band of 85 students and staff, all working together. It was amazing for her to sit amongst this group who shared their love of music together. She knew she wanted to be a part of that. That inspired her to work hard, and to return the following year.

What do campers have to look forward to this year?

We?ll have a new performance facility. We?ll have guest artists at every session ? offering both clinics and master classes. For the high school session this year we have an orchestra conductor from Switzerland, a former camper and Staff Member, Paul Taylor ? we are reaching out to the international community more. We?ve also done a lot of upgrades to the camp this spring, with the help of the Berkeley Kiwanis Club and Circle K club from UC Berkeley. We?ve done a lot of tiling, bathroom upgrades, fencing, painting ? things are looking good.

Most folks know about Cazadero?s Summer Camp program, but fewer know about the Jumpstart program. Why is the Jumpstart program an important addition to Cazadero?

We began Jumpstart in 2002, and it now serves school districts in Alameda, Contra Costa and Sonoma Counties. JumpStart is designed to get school districts to bring their music program up to camp for an intensive 3 day experience, similar to camp - a musical retreat. This kind of outreach to our younger music students is extremely important. The hope is that once they get started, they won?t want to stop. Unless there is someplace to foster that musical development, it never starts.

The hardest thing about the Jumpstart is getting people to go up to Cazadero. Once you get them up there, there are very few that don?t want to come back. JumpStart serves all kids that want to come to Cazadero and have a music experience ? well-off kids, underserved communities, it doesn?t matter. That?s the beauty of JumpStart. Everyone gets to come. And for the schools, teachers typically see a lot of growth in a short period of time. Students come back to school more motivated.

Jumpstart also allows the teachers the opportunity to see their kids in a different setting. Instead of seeing kids one hour per day, at JumpStart you are with them for three solid days. You find out more about what they are like, and have the opportunity to delve a little deeper into the music. Jumpstart allows the teachers who participate more time to pull the music out of the kids.

Any parting words?

Just that I hope to see as many people as possible up at Cazadero this summer, and that invitation goes out to everyone - campers, parents, and friends.


Join Jim Mazzaferro and the rest of the fabulous Caz Staff at Caz this summer!

For more information about our summer sessions, check the Cazadero website here.

For a list of concert dates, click here.

For a list of our Guest Conductors, click here.

Cazadero Music Camp