Knight-supported Otis Music Camp doubled in size in 2015

Campers and coaches at the 2015 Otis Music Camp. Photo courtesy of Otis Redding Foundation.

It’s been 48 years since Otis Redding Jr. passed away, but his legacy lives on. In 2007, his wife, Zelma Redding, founded the Otis Redding Foundation, a Knight Arts grantee. She was determined to follow through with her husband’s mission to empower youth through music.

Like many recording artists, Otis Redding Jr.–who was born in Dawson, Ga., but relocated to Macon, Ga., as a child–began his music career in the church. Redding Jr. was exceptionally talented. Within years of launching his career as a teenager, he had released such well-known hits as “These Arms of Mine,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Respect,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” “Satisfaction” and “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay.”

Karla Redding-Andrews serves as executive director of her father’s eponymous foundation. Under its umbrella, she oversees several programs, including the Otis Music Camp, which she started in 2008 alongside Lisa Love, the former executive director of Georgia’s Music Hall of Fame; the new Otis Redding Center for Creative Arts; and the Dream Academy, a charter school that will open in the fall of 2016.

“We have grown so much,” Redding-Andrews says. “With the Knight support bringing more attention to our [work], we have expanded to a year-round program, creating the Otis Redding Center for Creative Arts.” The new center, which is next door to the foundation offices and mini museum, “offers lessons in guitar, piano [and] strings.”

The 7-year-old Otis Music Camp is also expanding.

Initially called the Big O Singer/Songwriter Camp, the program takes place each year in June (African-American Music Appreciation Month), bringing together students between the ages of 12 and 17. Campgoers are given access to professionals who represent every aspect of the entertainment industry, and at the end of the camp, the students put on a grand live production with music, choreography, lights, camera, hair, makeup and costumes. Some students event walk away as recording artists.

“With the Knight Foundation’s invaluable support, our camp has doubled in length, going from one to two weeks,” Redding-Andrews explains. “We’ve also had the opportunity to grow in numbers, increasing the camp size from 25 to 50-plus campers, with 25 of those campers being on scholarships. So we’ve been able to bring this amazing opportunity to a more diverse group from our community.”

A typical camp day is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., just like a real job. During the day, the students attend workshops that range from vocal lessons to dance therapy. They also have jam sessions and go on field trips. In the process, the Otis Music Camp may very well discover the next Otis Redding Jr.

The 2016 Otis Music Camp will take place from June 7-18. Applications are currently open, and students will be accepted on a rolling basis until all 50 slots are filled. The application deadline is May 3, 2016.