In 2016, Danielle Merlis created Westport’s first cello camp.
The award-winning musician — who was initially inspired at Long Lots Elementary School, earned first chair honors in the Staples High orchestra, and went on to perform with Chris Brubeck and the Eagles, at venues like Lincoln Center — wanted to give back to the community that gave her so much.
It was an instant success.
She tells everyone she knows about the summer experience for youngsters. One of those friends is Andrew John Kim.
His a cappella group — Backtrack — recently performed at Carnegie Hall, the Beacon Theater and on Broadway. They won TV’s Steve Harvey “Sing Off” competition.
Despite a busy tour schedule he takes his ensemble across the US, conducting workshops for students from elementary school through college.
With the popularity of the Pitch Perfect movies, a cappella is hot. (Of course, it’s been around for quite awhile…)
As Danielle thought about her enthusiastic cellists, and Andrew’s experiences with singers, they realized the time is right for another camp.
When she told him about the strength of Westport’s music program — including stars like Staples graduates Justin Paul and Mia Gentile — he knew this town would be the perfect place for an a cappella summer experience.
The camp they’ve designed includes vocal technique, beatboxing, ensemble skills and choreography. There’s a final performance — with a professional a cappella group.
Danielle and Andrew — himself a Connecticut native — would have loved to had summer camps like these growing up.
Now Westport’s got ’em both.
Camp A Cappella CT: August 13-18 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ), for singers of all levels ages 9 to 18, at Westport’s Unitarian Church; click here for information. The Cello Camp: August 20-26 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), for beginning and intermediate cellists entering grades 4 through 10, at Fairfield’s Greenfield Hill Congregational Church; click here for information.