Jimmy Christensen considers camp “a great safe place to find out who you, how far you can push yourself, and who you want to be.” And for him, it’s being DJ Snafu, the music mixing half of Junk Science, the rap duo.
Ever since he spent free afternoons at Packer Middle School making music with his friend Michael Tumbarello, and the two have been at it ever since. They’ve been doing shows and working on music in the studio, but recently, they are taking it to new heights, distributing their music on a custom designed rubber flash drive. And given the tight-knit camp community, it’s not surprising that the head of their label, Definitive Jux, is also an Incarnation Camp alumnus.
Starting at Camp
Jimmy first started at Incarnation Camp the summer after fifth grade. He had heard about the camp from Michael “Ace” Barth, who he had been friends with since second grade. Jimmy spent two years at Frontier and entered Pioneer Village the following year when Derek Edwards was the Director. Clinging to the Incarnation Camp spirit, Jimmy started working in the kitchen under Tom Dewolf in 1996. “That was really unprecedented,” he says, “usually kitchen staff is for older kids.”After a year off, he came back to camp as a Frontier counselor for a year. After another hiatus from camp, Jimmy returned to Pioneer Village in 2004 in a variety of positions including counselor, Waterfront Director, and for last 2 summers, Boys Unit Director.
Helping Kids Overcome Fears
As Unit Director, Jimmy helps campers overcome their anxieties. “When kids first see the rope swing, they don’t think they can do it,” he says. “Even counselors can be intimidated by it…I overcame those fears, and I help campers to as well.”“At that age, camp is about discovering yourself,” he says, recalling the time he met Troy Jefferson. “He tested me, but I stood up to him, and we’ve been good friends ever since. Sharing a tent with someone every night forces you
to face that challenge.”
In fact, just sleeping in a tent was an experience worth savoring. “Falling asleep during a rainstorm with the tent flaps open, watching the lighting hitting past the lake — I hadn’t seen that before,” he recalls.“Recently, my mom was going through an old trunk and found a medal I got for hiking 48 miles. That’s something that I never thought I would do,” he says. “The opportunity is incredible. When do you get the chance to spend a week biking 150 miles?”
As a counselor and unit director, Jimmy encourages kids to test their mettle through various activities. “Anything a camper or counselor wants to do, as long as it is within reason, we can make it happen.” This might include the climbing the high rope (which he is certified for), having a political discussion, or bringing in music production equipment to help kids rap.
Freedom & Responsibility
Campers entering Pioneer Village at 14 or 15 years old have more freedom than the previous year. “With freedom comes responsibility, and we give them more freedom, as we see they can handle it,” Jimmy says. For example, the camp had recently re-introduced wood chopping. “When I was a kid, it was so cool that someone trusted me enough to do that.” “We are seeing how responsible they can be, how they can step up to the plate and do what needs to be done without having to be told. This is not taught elsewhere, and parents appreciate that.”
Jimmy remembers a time when one camper voluntarily helped another. “We were 2 days into a hiking trip and one camper had a stomach pain. After extensive questioning about what he had eaten and expelled, we couldn’t determine what the problem was, and so we determined to get him back to camp. It was a mile and half back, and the sun was going down, but one camper, Christian Brown, stood up and said he’d help walk this kid out. Chris was not specifically his best friend, but he was strong enough to shoulder him. It was getting dark, and we were using flashlights, and finally the camper let out a huge fart. It turned out that he was embarrassed to do that in front of a girl he liked. But Chris didn’t get upset about having to carry him out.”
Another one of Jimmy’s memories is being on a mountain with a Scottish counselors. “I never thought I would be 4,000 feet up, talking to someone from Scotland who was in a band, when I was 14. The staff was international — from London, South Africa, China — it was so great to have a spectrum of experiences to draw from.”
Helping Kids Take Flight
Now Jimmy helps kids soar in another way. During the school year, he gets students to work together as a team simulating missions to Mars in his role as Flight Director for the NYC Center for Space Science Education. “The kids work in mission control or the space modules. It gets them excited about math and science,” he says. Not coincidentally, he works there with Peter Giles, who was previously the Director of Pioneer Village.
Jimmy continues rapping it with Miraculous Machines and Junk Science, bringing in the influences from other cultures that he was exposed to in camp. So when he created a rap video about the artificial constructs on the family, where you think it was filmed? Why PV, of course.