When this year's edition of Guitar Camp at Marietta Middle School wraps up on Saturday with a performance at the ColonyFest, Cheyenne Alexander expects plenty of butterflies in her stomach.
"I am so nervous. I can barely sing in front of a lot of people," said the 11-year-old incoming Waterford Elementary School sixth-grader. "I shake. I shake. I just play with stuff, like my shirt or my skirt."
"But she sings really good," interjected Ruth Hartline, an incoming sixth-grader at Marietta Middle School.
Guitar Camp students perform Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
Hartline and Alexander are both attending the weeklong camp led by middle school teacher Mark Doebrich, and while they are learning to play guitar, they're also participating in a new addition to the event - a section especially for singers.
"I've got kids that want to sing," Doebrich said simply when asked about the change.
High Schools That Rock - the group that grew out of the guitar club Doebrich started at the middle school more than a decade ago - has long featured vocalists like Sadie Cavitt, an incoming freshman who credits her experience with the group with helping her get into Marietta High School's Premiere show choir.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
From left, incoming sixth-graders Ruth Hartline, Allen Caltrider and Cheyenne Alexander, and incoming senior Emilia Jacobs sing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” Tuesday during the annual Guitar Camp at Marietta Middle School.
"Everyone is friendly. You get along, like a family," she said.
The annual camp gives students an opportunity for a minimum of five hours a week of practice, as opposed to the once-a-week sessions during the school year. And some students stay for more than one session, as a few guitarists hung around Tuesday to accompany Alexander, Hartline, Cavitt and incoming sixth-grader Allen Caltrider on songs like the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel."
The students aren't limited to Marietta Middle School, in terms of age or geography. Three-year veteran Wes Starling, 14, doesn't even live in Ohio - or a nearby part of West Virginia.
Upcoming High Schools That Rock performances
2 p.m. Saturday - ColonyFest in front of the Colony Theatre on Putnam Street.
5 p.m. Friday, July 13 - Opening the live entertainment at the 2012 Riverfront Roar at the Ohio River Levee.
3 p.m. Saturday, July 21 - Sweet Corn Festival in the 300 block of Front Street, Marietta.
Saturday, July 28 - Devola Community Day at the Devola pool and playground.
2 p.m. Sunday, July 29 - Harmar Days, 100 block of Maple Street in Historic Harmar Village.
"I love it up here," said Starling, who lives in Gilbert in southern West Virginia and attends the camp while staying with his grandparents in Chesterhill. "We get to do a lot of good music."
Doebrich said he hopes to provide students with opportunities to play and develop stage presence, as well as just have fun.
"My goal is they have a good time and learn some basics on the guitar," he said, adding he encourages students to take lessons outside the group.
He's been assisted in recent years by Emilia Jacobs, who joined the group in sixth grade and is heading into her senior year. Her experience with High Schools That Rock helped Jacobs decide she wants to become a teacher.
"It's great working with kids," she said. In the camp, "we kind of teach the mechanics of the guitar. We explore new songs that we might not even play at a performance."
The group has plenty of performances lined up for this summer. After the traditional gig at ColonyFest, High Schools That Rock is on the bill for four events in July.
"We play at least once a month every month," Doebrich said. "If there's not a performance, there's no reason to practice. Would you want to practice football when there's not a football game?"