Chloe Gold, right, experienced the Americana Song Academy at Caldera in the runup to Sisters Folk Festival.
 wphoto provided
Chloe Gold, right, experienced the Americana Song Academy at Caldera in the runup to Sisters Folk Festival. wphoto provided
The Americana Song Academy (ASA) is a three-day music camp where musicians come together to learn from each other, regardless of skill level. ASA takes place at Camp Caldera, near Sisters, the week before the Sisters Folk Festival, which allows performers like Martyn Joseph and Ellis to come and teach classes at the camp.

I’ve been playing guitar and writing my own music in the Americana Project at Sisters High School for about three years, but I’ve been playing music for about eight years. This year, I was fortunate enough to attend ASA with the help of the Family Access Network.

The ASA is an experience like no other in terms of how full I felt, creatively and emotionally. Prior to attending song camp, I’d gone all summer without writing an original song. To put this into perspective, my average turnaround for writing an original piece is about two weeks, as is the curriculum for the Americana Project class at Sisters High School. Approximately half a day into ASA I was sitting in Keith Greeninger’s class when inspiration finally struck, and I wrote a song — lyrics, chords, and all — in about 20 minutes. Inspiration hit me so hard that I physically got up and left the class to complete the song, for fear of losing it before it could begin.

ASA is a different experience for each musician.

For Sierra Henneous, a high-school-aged musician, ASA is about “The different music and backgrounds each person brings,” she said.

This year was Henneous’ second year attending ASA, but she hopes to continue to return each year because, “Each day is new and different [t]here. You’re different when you come back to reality.”

For Brent Alan, one of the musicians hired to be a part of the house band at Caldera during ASA, his favorite part is “watching people turn their insecurities into confidence.” Alan has attended song camp every year since it started in 2002. He continues to return because for him, “It’s like reconnecting with my tribe,” he said.

For Martyn Joseph, a guitar player and singer-songwriter from Wales, and instructor at ASA, ASA allows him to help others “Express themselves and make sense of the world while writing songs,” he said.

Joseph originally played at the Sisters Folk Festival in 2010, as well as 2011. He continues to come back because he just loves Oregon.

“We’re here doing this wonderful communal stuff in a poetic landscape,” he said.

For Ellis, a musician from Minnesota, ASA is about slowing down and meeting new people, as well as seeing old friends. Ellis feels as if there’s “something healing here. It’s like a retreat space where the creative cup gets full.”

Experienced or inexperienced, young or old(er), the Americana Song Academy is an enriching experience for all musicians, regardless of skill level. The ASA has a closing ceremony it does each year, and the calm that I’d felt throughout the week intensified as I stood in the circle of musicians and listened to Ron Artis II play the final song of camp. As the song came to a close, we all thanked and complimented each other, with genuine compliments. There was an energy about the circle that was difficult to part from, because it felt warm and embracing.

As I left ASA that morning to return to school, I did feel different as I came back to reality, just like Henneous had said. I felt reset as a musician, and as a human being.