Sampson pays it forward with performing arts camp

Published 7:11 am Monday, March 31, 2014

Bruce Sampson is coming home, and he’s bringing friends. And that means a rare opportunity for local students from the third through the 12th grade, especially those interested in the performing arts.

Sampson’s home is Bogalusa.

He was born and raised in the city. Then he moved away and found success, and he’s coming back this summer to offer guidance, experience and a conduit to similar positive outcomes to children from his native community.

The entertainer, writer, director, producer, recording artist and educator is an associate director of the internationally acclaimed Young Americans. And that’s just a fraction of his resume. Sampson has rubbed shoulders with Broadway stars, Emmy winners and television personalities, and he wants to rub some of that success off on the children who know the same streets he did as a child.

Sampson is bringing his Believe Summer Camp Experience to Bogalusa High School July 7-11, and enrollment is now open. The camp will include five days of classes, activities and games that are led by industry professionals.

Participants will be divided into three peer groups for most of the camp so that classes and activities can be age appropriate. They will learn songs, dance routines, skits and more that will ultimately be presented as a stage show for the community on Friday night.

Sampson said the idea of bringing the camp to Bogalusa was a natural.

“I’ve been so blessed with opportunities to live out my dreams and to travel the world,” he said. “I’ve learned and grown so much, and I want to share that with my hometown.”

He had an epiphany while he was in Europe last summer directing the Young Americans Outreach Tour.

“We were conducting a workshop at an all-male prison in the Netherlands,” Sampson said. “It was one of the roughest and most challenging experiences I’ve ever faced. Many of the YAs were in tears and ready to quit. But we found a way to get through to those men, and I saw real change happen in them in just two days. 

“It was then that I realized that I needed to do more personally to reach people… not just as part of the YA organization. And if I was going to do it, I was going to start with my hometown.”

Sampson said his schedule of traveling with the Young Americans and working on other projects in southern California has kept him from visiting Bogalusa as much as he would have liked.

“This offers me a chance to come home, and reconnect with my community and pay forward everything that I’ve been taught and blessed to experience,” he said. “I’m honored and humbled by the support I’ve received so far and looking forward to contributing to Bogalusa’s centennial celebration through this project.”

Everyone he called, including Chad Harry at BHS and the instructors from Los Angeles, Hollywood and Las Vegas he’s bringing for the camp, responded with encouraging enthusiasm, Sampson said.

“I’m also really excited that two other YAs from Washington Parish will be joining the team this summer,” he said. “Kate James, who toured with the YAs, and Annie Gambino, currently on tour with the YAs in the United Kingdom, will both be on hand to help teach the camp and participate in the culminating show. Even Shauna Pierce, who was accepted to the Young Americans back in 1979 with me, is coming back from Germany to help out.”

Camp classes will take place from 8 a.m. to 3:30 pm Monday through Friday, with a lunch break around noon each day. The culminating stage show will be open to the community and will start at 7 p.m. Friday.

In an effort to make attendance affordable for all kids, the registration fee is $10 per day or $50 for the week for those who register by May 15.

“The show I’ve written especially for this is called, ‘Believe: Live-Laugh-Love,’ and will have a variety of styles of music, dance and acting throughout,” Sampson said.

“It’s going to be a fast-paced week of singing, dancing, acting, laughing and fun for everyone.”

The camp covers beginning to advanced levels and is not dependent on experience or particular talent, he said.

“I’m planning and hoping that we get 300 or more kids from all over Washington Parish,” Sampson said. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve never sung, dance or acted before. It’s going to be so much fun, and you’ll learn to do things you didn’t know you could do before. Whatever your current experience or talent, we aim to take you the next level.”

His goal is to make the camp a community affair. 

“This camp and the show are a celebration of youth, music and community,” Sampson said. “I’m hoping that local businesses and churches will get on board to help out, sponsor kids and sponsor the project through donations of services, products and money.

“I’m also hoping to mentor to young local talent, as we are asking college-aged singers and dancers to join our team as camp counselors. 

“This will give them an opportunity to work closely with some talented professionals and give back to their own community in the process.”

For additional information or to register, visit www.believe.iconarts. org.