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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

7088 reviews in the archive.

Janet Beazley

Submitted by LaurenLK on 1/30/2013

Overall Comments

I'm going to second OldTimeyTunes. I have not had the pleasure of having Janet close enough geographically so that I could take lessons from her, but I have attended almost all of her sessions at Midwest Banjo Camp since I began attending in 2011 (one month after I got a banjo!).

Janet is encouraging, warm and friendly in her approach. You feel comfortable right away! She is also very knowledgable and skillful -- she has great ideas and great teaching skills (just knowing how to do something doesn't mean one can teach that something!).

She encourages people to try something new, but without lots of pressure -- so when you are *ready*, you forge ahead.

If you have the chance to take lessons, or a workshop, from Janet -- do so! You won't regret it!

Overall Rating: 10

Casey Henry

Submitted by LaurenLK on 1/30/2013

Overall Comments

I picked up a banjo for the very first time in April 2011. In June 2011, I attended my first Midwest Banjo Camp, and took one of the beginner sessions taught by Murphy Henry ("the Murphy Method"). After camp was over, what I found was that the tune she workshopped with us, and the techniques, stuck with me easily. Pretty much everything else, I had to go back to my notes and work through again. This amazed me!

I use Twitter, so I started to follow Murphy's daughter Casey. One night, on an out-of-the-blue whim, I sent a message to Casey -- 'would you take me on?' She said yes! Since I had done the message mostly tongue-in-cheek, I was a bit taken aback, but felt I surely had to go through with this. I have NO regrets.

Now, I live in northern Michigan -- Casey lives in northern VA. No way can I travel for a once-a-week lesson 4 states away! So we do our lessons via Skype. The technology limits us a bit -- we cannot play at the same time. But still, it has been an extremely worthwhile experience.

Like Murphy, Casey teaches by ear. I also have a local teacher who teaches by tab. Here is what I have found: learning with Casey has given me a much greater understanding, more quickly, than learning by tab. I have learned more songs, more thoroughly, in a few months with Casey than I did in a year of working from tab.

Here is how I think it works for me: when I learn from tab -- which isn't hard for me; I cannot remember *not* being able to read music, and reading tab is way easier -- there is a "middle phase" if you will. I have to recall how the tab looked on the page, translate that to rolls and left-hand technique, then play. When I learn through the Murphy Method, I simply learn how this goes on the banjo, period. This has given me a much greater understanding, and a much greater comfort level, of the banjo as an instrument. I feel so much more 'at home' on the banjo now!

Aside from the learning-by-ear technique, there are also lots of things which separate a good teacher from a poor one. Just knowing how to make excellent widgets does NOT make one a good widget-teacher, as an analogy. To be a good teacher, you must
--know how to break the skill down into small "learning chunks";
--recognize typical novice obstacles;
--devise ways for novices to overcome those obstacles;
--provide appropriate feedback (supportive, corrective, etc.) in an appropriate way and time;
--etc., etc. !

There is a LOT to being a good teacher -- Casey has it all. Since she can teach via Skype, you do not have to be geographically close. If you have the opportunity to take lessons remotely, or to participate in a workshop or camp with Casey, I would recommend her! You won't be sorry.

Overall Rating: 10

Midwest Banjo Camp

Submitted by LaurenLK on 12/6/2011

Overall Comments

I see that this event hasn't been reviewed for a couple of years, so I thought I might add an updated version.

I attended the 2011 Midwest Banjo Camp -- first of all, this was my very first banjo camp, so I had nothing to compare it to. Also, I'd never even picked up a banjo until about two months before this camp -- and I did that on a whim, taking a weekend workshop just for fun while on vacation in NC. I just fell in love. So when I saw a Camp in my own home state, I signed up right away.

Voyageur has pretty much everything right, in my opinion. Olivette is a very small college (all classes in one building! -- which makes it great for Camp), in a very small town. Dorms are dorms -- personally, were I sending a son/daughter to this school, I'd ask someone where all my $$ were going, as they aren't going to the dorms! But as Voyageur says, all you do is sleep and shower there. There is a good variety of food -- I was not so impressed with the quality (but I'm picky, being a gourmet chef myself). Pretty much everyone seemed to enjoy it.

This is an INTENSE camp -- you eat, breathe and sleep banjo! I woke up on Sunday morning, and the fingers of my right hand were picking rolls on the top of my sleeping bag! But this can be good -- after this very intensive weekend, I had my annual physical the very next day -- my BP was lower than its been in years! Playing the banjo is good for your health!

Clearly, I was a novice -- so novice I didn't even recognize some of the great names we had as teachers (I've learned since then). However, I've years and years in education/training, and I know a good instructor when I see one -- and these folks were the BEST. Good players, you bet -- Mike Sumner won the Banjo championship two times running -- but also the most wonderful teachers!

Our novice group became quite connected. In no time at all we welcomed our instructors to "the delinquent class"! Instruction was overwhelming at first, -- we thought Mr. Sumner was really dumping on us -- but by Sunday it all came together and made so much sense! We had classes too from Janet Beazley and Murphy Henry -- as a woman, I truly appreciated these fine female leaders in Banjoism. They were wonderful and gave us different ideas about what we could do.

I thought I might be quite an oddity -- female, and an older one too! I wasn't -- folks of all ages and abilities were there, and it was a great community. I think every single one of us walked away feeling like we were taking home precious and exciting learning and new friendships.

I expect to attend in 2012 and I'd urge anyone elsewhere to consider this Camp (we had banjoists from Germany, the D.C. area, the Pacific Northwest -- just about anywhere you can name).

Overall Rating: 10

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