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NashCamp 2008

Posted by vt picker on Saturday, November 1, 2008

Heres a rundown of the action at the 8th Annual NashCamp Osborne Banjo Retreat Oct 17th-19th.

Around 50 banjophiles, teenagers to sixty somethings, from all over the country meet the evening before camp at the Big River Grille in Nashville to eat, drink and get acquainted (or re-acquainted). And then on to Nashvilles bluegrass pub The Station Inn for a faculty concert, staff members strutting their stuff in various combinations- and what a staff! Cindy Sinclair, Sonny Osborne and Bill Evans are camp directors joined this year by Ned Luberecki, Alan Munde, J.D. Crowe, Charlie Cushman and Frank Neat. Megan Lynch (fiddle), Jon Weisberger (bass), Chris Jones (guitar), Mike Witcher (dobro), and Roland White (mandolin) provided expert support.

The next morning were off to Joelton, twenty miles outside of Nashville and the Hachland Hills Vineyard, a large bed and breakfast style retreat run by Phila Hatch, a charming and energetic hostess famous since the fifties for her cooking, the first woman in Tennessee with her own TV show. We check in, find our rooms and receive our weekend schedules and group assignments (students are divided into four groups according to self-assessed levels of expertise). Classes are designated for a particular group, as electives or for everyone.

Evening activities include guided jamming on Friday with instructors and Missy Raines, her husband Ben Surratt, Mike Witcher, Roland White and his wife, and Tim May. More faculty performances on Saturday followed by informal jamming well into the night. Even mealtimes are exciting and educational when you find yourself sitting next to a banjo legend.

Personal highlights-

Bill Evans did his usual great job keeping things on track and running smoothly from the stage. It didnt hurt that he was playing Sonnys priceless Granada all weekend. Cindy is an organizational whirlwind behind the scenes. Frank Neat and Charlie Cushman are treasure troves of technical info as well as extremely personable, helpful people. Robin Smith whom wed met earlier in the week is the same way- were starting to suspect that these top level banjo techs may have discovered the secret of life. Alan Munde has been a major influence for me as a player and now also as a teacher. His easygoing manner and ability to get to the heart of the matter with a few simple words speaks to the depth of his experience on stage and in the classroom. Ned Luberecki is the banjos reigning nut job; playing (and rapping) backwards, Van Halenesque two hand tapping, encyclopedic knowledge of TV theme songs and, not surprisingly, the most uninhibited flair for improvising we heard all weekend. Not to mention the constant barrage of off-the-wall one liners. And speaking of humor, all these guys are serious smart-asses! As I told Bill, the repartee going down between songs was as entertaining as the music. Even Crowe. And J.D. sure treated us to a generous helping of his signature sound, that touch and timing that have made him the most influential traditional player in the last thirty years.

And finally, keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings from the back of the room was our Commander and Chief Sonny Osborne. Despite recent health problems he looked great and seemed to be in good spirits. He cant tell a story without cracking himself up and his jovial manner definitely set the tone. Sonnys reminiscing with J.D. about the early days of bluegrass was the highlight of the weekend. Sonny confided later that, although he and J.D. had known each other since 1952 (theyre the same age, 71) this was the first chance theyd had to visit and compare notes in this manner. Longtime fans like myself truly appreciated this precious glimpse of bluegrass from the ground floor with two living legends, Earl Scruggss most devoted and successful disciples.

The comfortable setting, great food, the camaraderie, top flight teachers- all good reasons for attending NashCamp. But for anyone seriously interested in the history of bluegrass banjo, hanging with these pioneers for a weekend is an experience bordering on the surreal.


3 comments on “NashCamp 2008”

kathy315 Says:
Saturday, November 1, 2008 @12:15:42 PM

It's always a pleasure to see you and Kelly..Camp once again was's a whirlwind of information,jamming,jaw dropping,etc.This was my 5th year and it feels like home.Many thanks to everyone working to make this camp so great.I've learned so much over the years,and I truly believe this camp is one of the main reasons for my progress.Hope to see you guys on the bluegrass trail...Great post..Kathy

vt picker Says:
Sunday, November 2, 2008 @12:31:44 PM

thanks Kathy, and glad we're all close enough to see you at other events b+k

jpoulette Says:
Tuesday, December 23, 2008 @1:36:01 AM

Hey - Cool new photo! What the heck are you guys doing on the crumbly side of the country - any noticable earthquakes??

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