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Kentucky Music Week 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Kentucky Music Week just ended for over 400 tired attendees and teachers.  I was  a part-time teacher this year.  I had 12 students in an introductory clawhammer banjo class, and I could not have had a better time.  The students were enthusiastic and worked hard on mastering the basic clawhammer stroke.  (I use Dan Levenson's bum-pa ditty approach with double thumbing from the beginning.)  Many of these students were taking 4 or 5 classes all week on multiple instruments. 

We started in G tuning and looked at "Miss McLeod's Reel" in a simple and fancy version.  This tune allowed the students to play their banjo in a tuning that they probably had used all along and play a very nice melody using primarily double thumb strokes.  We then moved to Double C tuning and "Soldier's Joy" and "Angeline the Baker."  We closed the week with an introduction to Sawmill tuning and "Shady Grove."

I got to sit in on a class with Cathy Barton and Dave Para who shared a number of Grandpa Jones' arrangements.  I also sat in an ensemble class where we learned a played arrangements with 4 or 5 voices.  Very different for me and required me to sight read music to play on my banjo.  A stretch in a new direction.  I also met some fine artists, including Ken Kolodner, Rick Thum, Jim Miller and Les Gustafson-Zook.

There were instructor concerts and large jams in the evenings.  Nancy Barker has been coordinating Kentucky Music Week for 27 years now, and she has a great mix of loyal repeat attendess and new folks who discover the event every year.  The week-long festival is centered around the mountain dulcimer and hammered dulcimer, but there are classes on fiddle, guitar, banjo, penny whistle, steel drum, singing, basketry, etc.

This was a very satisfying week for me.

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Playing Since: 1964
Experience Level: Purty Good

dbrooks has made 33 recent additions to Banjo Hangout 

[Teaching] [Jamming] [Helping]

Occupation: Retired Systems Manager

Gender: Male
Age: 75

My Instruments:
Vega Longneck (1927 pot and 1967 neck) purchased in 1969 from Thom Haile, Haskell Haile's brother. Tom was a stringed-instrument repair expert at Shackleton's, a Louisville music store landmark.

John C. Haynes Bay State Model 300 A-scale banjo
Bay State Model 318 banjo (both 1890s)
Bay State Model 352 with recent neck reset

Bart Reiter Regent A-scale (2001)
Bart Reiter Tubaphone (2001)

Prust Tackhead fretless
Bell Boucher fretless

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Pete Seeger
Doc Watson
Dan Levenson
John Balch
Stairwell Sisters
Adam Hurt
Laura P. Schulman
Brendan Doyle and Maxine Gerber (on Mark Simos' CDs)
Reel Time Travelers
John Hartford
Uncle Earl
Highwoods String Band
Flat Mountain Girls
John Prine
Ry Cooder
Taj Mahal
Mississippi John Hurt
Old Crow Medicine Show
Leon Redbone
Evie Ladin
Abigail Washburn
more to come

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Profile Info:
Visible to: Public
Created 3/11/2004
Last Visit 5/24/2022

I grew up in Bardstown, KY, the location of My Old Kentucky Home and the Stephen Foster Story, an outdoor summer musical drama. I was lucky enough to meet Mike Lawrence, the banjo player for "the drama' in 1964 or so, and spent much of that summer with him. He taught me to fingerpick the guitar (Saturday Night Shuffle and Freight Train) and to play a little Bluegrass banjo (Ballad of Jed Clampett and Cripple Creek). We spent many afternoons in front of My Old Kentucky Home where I played guitar back-up to his banjo playing. Thank you, Mike, for those life-long gifts. Fifteen years later, I returned from college to play the banjo for the Stephen Foster Story. I was even in a black-face minstrel show with E.P. Christy, Mr. Tambo and Mr. Bones in the Stephen Foster Story -- a claim that cannot be made by many. I played guitar and banjo through high school and college (the Vietnam years) and met some wonderful folks. In graduate school, I started a family and spent less time with the instruments. This finally led to a 15-20 year period where I played maybe 2-3 times a year. Around 2000,, I had the neck reset and refretted on my Martin 00-17, and my guitar playing was revived. While waiting for the guitar work to be done, I picked up my Vega and clearly heard it ask me to play it clawhammer style. I found a Ken Perlman book I had bought years ago for this very day, and the journey began. I slowly learned the clawhammer technique and began to pick up tunes. In 2004, I had a hallway conversation with Dan Levenson at the IBMA meeting in Louisville that led to two summer workshops with him and some degree of reengineering of my clawhammer technique. I derive daily satisfaction from my playing and from the learning I still experience and enjoy.

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