Amy Sky had never sung in public until her 15th summer when she was working at camp. She'd been studying classical cello, but when the staff and campers put on an evening of Gershwin, Sky had to step out of her comfort zone and step into the American songbook.
"In the warm and supportive environment of camp, I got a lot of positive feedback and it really built my confidence," says Sky, best known for her songs I Will Take Care of You and Love, Pain and the Whole Damn Thing. Sky has also written songs for Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John and Sheena Easton. "Camp broadens your horizons, because you meet people from all over," says Sky. "And it increases your confidence, since you get positive feedback just for trying something new."
Sky had been hired as a teenage babysitter for the family of Paul Steinhauer, the noted child psychiatrist, who with his wife, Estelle, ran the legendary drama program at Camp Tamakwa in Algonquin Park. Sky participated in many of the elaborate full-scale productions and stage-managed one, The Pajama Game. After a staff talent show, an older counsellor, who was also a working musician, told her she was good enough to have a career in the music business. It was a life-changing moment for her. "That's the kind of mentorship and friendship you get at camp," says Sky, who would go on to win SOCAN awards for her songwriting and Juno nominations for her singing and songwriting.
During the seven years that her own daughter attended Tamakwa, Sky held annual songwriting sessions with campers. Working with cabin groups, she'd help the campers rewrite the lyrics to popular songs to reflect their own experience. "The girls wrote incredibly sentimental lyrics about how much they loved each other, and everybody would cry," she recalls.