A little music camp retrospective

Written by:

Good early morning from Jamestown, California, population 961. We’ll have a hot time in the old town today. First story I viewed sipping my coffee this a.m. on mymotherlode.com……”Portions of the Motherlode could –emphasize could — see temperatures of up to 110 degrees on Tuesday and Wednesday.” Now if that doesn’t get you re-evaluating your plans for the day, nothing will. I’m thinking I WON’T be working on the llama’s new winter enclosure today. By Saturday it’s supposed to drop to 80 degrees.

Yesterday I received a cc: on an email from Whit Washburn to Mark Varner that read, “I want to let you know that I really liked the August Breakdown’s articles written by Music Camp participants! What a great way to get people excited about Music Camp AND involved in the CBA and Breakdown. Good going!” Whit’s email caused me to go back to my Breakdown and re-read the stories posted about Summer Music Camp ’10. For me, it’s hard to read these pieces without feeling some of the excitement of the writers. Let me share a few of my favorites….

FUN in Grass Valley
John Oakie

“Whadja do for Father’s Day, Pops??” asked Number One son, calling from Las Vegas. My head filled with sounds and colors and laughter and music.. his “Pops??? Are ya there, Pops??” brought me back and so I told him, as I’m telling you now:

I had fun. Fun with a capital F capital U capital N. FUN.

I was present when “Cemetery Soup” was first made public.

I laid claim to being the only person to have taken Dobro I for four straight years, from four different instructors, each an amazing craftsman in the best musicological tradition.

I witnessed the continuing evolution of Jack Tuttle’s incredible family, and of course AJ Lee.

I have pictures.. I have video clips…

I have memories that are more precious than any diploma or certificate or ribbon or medal.

And, I’m here to attest that my Brethren…. my bluegrass brethren.. are a gentle civilized folk. Passionate about their music, certainly, but no arguing, no fussing, no pushing, no shoving, no line-jumping, no rudeness.. oh, my. Of course there’s that guy in the corner noodlin’ while we talk.. but what the hey.

I spent some pleasant time at Vern’s Stage, enjoying the OMGG group. Did you see the crowd of people there??? Saturday?

After their performance they had their first CD for sale on the deck. I reached in my pants pocket for my small leather wallet and my pocket was empty. Hmmm…. half of my mind was retracing where I had been, the other half was planning…. I’d have to get my driver’s license replaced, but I’m up for renewal in a couple of weeks…and my credit card…. ughhhhhhh. There was about 65 or so dollars in there also. I had spent a couple of hours before noon at the main stage… sitting in someone’s chair, moving a couple of times, but right smack in the middle. I went back over to that area and went to the Lost and Found booth, next to KVMR. No luck. No one was playing just then, and most of the seats were empty, so I went back to where I was sitting.
I looked down and there… I swear… glowing in a ray of sunlight, right in the middle of the seat, was my wallet. I looked around; there wasn’t anyone with 50 feet of me except one fella sitting alone. I called to him and asked him to come to me, and he did. I told him I wanted him to witness this event and I showed him my DMV card, the credit card and the money, and I surely believe that he thought I had lost my mind, rather than my wallet.

What can I say? I know now for certain sure that my bluegrass brethren have a strength of character, a rock-solid honesty never before encountered in MY lifetime, and I will turn Seventy in July. I thank each and everyone of you, for enriching my life.

Music Camp, Grass Valley, June 2010
Annie Barrett Cashner (mountain dulcimer, dobro)

The Historic Nevada City Fairgrounds snuggled into the ponderosa pine belt of the western Sierra offers a haven for the CBA Music Camp. It is music mania. There are more instruments and musicians per square campsite than anywhere else, at least in mid-June in California. How does one explain the camp, its people, the tasty food, and the many reasons for the musician campers to return year after year? The 2010 camp was my third year as a camper and I plan to return for more. Sometimes it’s like living from June to June just so I can pitch the tent again, attend the morning classes, choose from the myriad of afternoon class sections, then jam with old and new friends into the wee hours of the morning if we all choose. This is clearly the idea of FUN for the lucky ones who consider learning, sharing, and unifying generations through bluegrass to be the most enjoyable week of the year.

The classes concentrate on instrumentation skill, and there is an air of dedication and seriousness as students scurry to their morning classes (M-W) for a three hour block of instruction. One can sign up for double bass, guitar, banjo, mandolin, dobro, fiddle, and voice . One chooses the skill level that seems more suitable: “Beginning” means able to play a few tunes is suggested, or “Intermediate” or “Advanced”. Spouses and families are welcome, and camping is fun with tent or motor home specific areas, showers and shade. It is best to sign up for the delicious camp meals and not have to cook for a few days as that frees one up to just play music and relax. Vegetarian fare is available upon request. Life is good at camp!

There are campers and musicians of all ages. On this note, I am not sure if the generations unify the bluegrass music, or if bluegrass unifies the generations. However, bluegrass is for all ages and one can see a four-year-old tote a violin or a senior citizen enjoying himself at camp. Mandolin player Frank Sullivan said he used to come to the Father’s Day Festival as a boy, and this year he taught at the camp and then performed on stage at the festival. The members of another performing band at the Festival, G2, grew up in Sweden and their fathers played bluegrass at home so these performers grew up with the tunes and bluegrass movement to form the second generation of family bluegrass pickers (thus G2) . Someday perhaps there will be a G3 Band. The young OMGG Band of the camp (average age 12) astounded us old folks with their skillful harmonies, picking and arrangements. Don’t think it’s always the old who teach the young! Bluegrass is a multi-generational thing!

Back at our camp jam, however, it was both the old teaching the young and the young teaching the old. Eager youthful fiddle player Galen and banjo player Ricky jumped in with our old time jam going strong. We were honored to have snagged their musical interests as they wandered into camp and new friendships were made. Indeed, the magic of bluegrass transcends something as trivial as how many times one has traveled around the sun.

My compliments go out to those who chose the instructors this year. Where did you find these great instructors? I feel like I hit a gold mine to be taught by instructor Andy Hall, dobro player of the Infamous Stringdusters. And the afternoon workshops that this band gave were exceptional. Where else can one ask about song writing and composition, harmonies, sound systems, etc, and gather inspiration from a group of highly talented and approachable musicians who are sincere, friendly and encouraging? Andy Hall and Chris Pandolphi (banjo player of Infamous Stringdusters and instructor at camp) are also graduates of Berklee College of Music , thus these instructors brought tremendous knowledge and are fine examples to the youngsters at the camp who may be college students someday. Indeed, the professionalism at the camp became clear to me with the backgrounds and skills that these instructors shared. It was incredible to have the opportunity to learn from Andy as well as to watch and listen to him play on stage at the Father’s Day Festival which followed the ca

Read about: