I first heard about SummerSongs from its founder, Penny Nichols, but was a bit skeptical that it could be as good as she claimed. After finally making the trip to upstate New York from California, I realized that I had found something so precious that I wanted to go back again and again. So I did. Now I teach at the SummerSongs West and WinterSongs West camps in Cambria, California, and donate money to the foundation when I can afford it. Our job on staff there is to encourage the campers in whatever ways they need to be encouraged. This is not a "music industry" camp where we criticize songs that are not hits, but rather a personal creativity camp where each participant is encouraged to write songs, perform them, and grow in the process. And since everyone is in the same boat, so to speak, the camaraderie and friendships formed are strong and lasting. And there is no boundaries between students and teachers - we are all students at camp! I also find that helping others reach their musical goals has the unexpected result of boosting my own creative output.