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Midwest Banjo Camp, Day 2

Posted by Kevin G on Saturday, June 5, 2010

Another outstanding day on the campus of Olivet College, despite threats of rain that turned into an all-out assault later in the day. I decided to continue the Clawhammer track this morning with Terri McMurray, just to make sure that I hadn't forgotten everything I had learned in the one session I took with her yesterday. Sadly, I had. Fortunately, the new sessions started out with some new songs, and step-by-step practice to learn them. So I was able to keep up, mostly. (Although, in the evening, as I write this, I'm pretty confident that I'll be starting from scratch again tomorrow. There simply isn't enough time during the camp to practice the new things you've learned.) But it was fun, and I think I may have even gotten a proper CH stroke in occasionally. Again, the class was small, so Terri was able to visit each student and make a few in-motion corrections. Good stuff.

From there, I returned to the bluegrass track because I wanted to take a few workshops with Murphy Henry. I'd heard good things about the Murphy Method of learning to play by ear, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn a few things from Murphy Henry directly. It was a novice-level class, so I didn't feel totally out of my element, and she was simply fantastic. The first workshop I took was on vamping for the first time, and she took us through various chord positions and shapes, then gave us an opportunity to vamp while she played. Her approach led to a strong sense of success, even if you messed up a few times. I stuck around for her next workshop, too, in which she wanted to teach us a song or two by ear. It was late in the afternoon by this time, and everyone was suffering a bit from information overload, but she still made sure that everyone had a chance to practice the licks and ask questions. Murphy and her daughter Casey sell quite a few DVDs with their “Learn by Ear” method, and I picked one up in the “Camp Store.” (How can there be a camp without one of these?) If it's anything like the workshops I participated in, I'm sure that it will help. Murphy Henry has great classroom presence and has perfected her method nicely.

The afternoon wrapped up with an hour-long special concert by the Krueger Brothers band. These guys are phenomenal and earned their second standing ovation in two days. They played a mix of almost folksy, German-style ballads (they might not think so, but it reminded me of a German balladeer named Reinhard May), jazzy experimental banjo and hard-driving bluegrass. An hour was too short; I think we all could have listened to them play on and on.

After dinner, the second half of the staff and faculty put on a faculty concert, and again, the staff demonstrated just how various and wonderful banjo music can be. While I'm writing this, jams are going on throughout the main classroom building, after which there's pizza. Camp will wrap up tomorrow after a couple of morning classes. Again, I'm torn. Jens Krueger is teaching a workshop called “Instant Banjo” in the novice track; but there's a Clawhammer back-up class for novices, too, and I might just choose to finish up with Clawhammer just to keep working on the stroke. I'll let you know.

I'm glad I came here, although now I feel a little drained. Information has been pouring in, and it seems almost futile to try to keep it from streaming back out. With any luck, a little of it will stick. But I feel as if I've learned a lot, and I can't wait to try out some of the new things when I get back home.

Time for pizza. Gotta go.


1 comment on “Midwest Banjo Camp, Day 2”

TopCat Says:
Sunday, June 6, 2010 @12:56:30 PM

Thanks for the excellent Day Two report! Hope you enjoy the rest of the time there.

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