2010 Interlochen Guitar Festival

August 26-28, 2010
Interlochen, MI

After the success of last year's Stick workshop at Interlochen, Matt Wiliford (the director of Interlochen's College of Creative Arts) and I made a conscious decision not to follow up in 2010. This was done in an effort to avoid having the event become too commonplace. We would instead look ahead to 2011. I wanted to keep our event and our instrument "visible" around campus though so right after the 2009 event, I spoke with Matt about returning by myself for the 2010 guitar event just to perform and to have a Stick demo and hands-on session for the guitar players and we agreed that we would do just that.

I returned this year with several instruments in tow. Since the part I played this year was much smaller than last year, my schedule was very un-hectic. Rasa and I travelled in on Wednesday evening and immediately went over to one of our favorite local restaurants and met up with Steve Balogh and Cory McCormmick. Steve and Cory both have attended numerous Stick events here in Michigan and were both taken enough with last year's event at Interlochen to return this year as guitar students. A good plug for Interlochen I would say.


On Thursday my plan was to put in a full day's work (day job) from our northern house but also to slip out for an hour or two to attend the "Welcome" session on in the morning. This mostly went as planned. I showed up on campus with about 15 minutes to spare. I met Matt at his office, picked up my badge, and then walked over to the chapel with John Wunsch (guitar program directory and all around good guy). We arrived to find a rather large gathering of guitar players outside. Once the place was unlocked, we all piled inside. I went up to sit with the other faculty members. I chatted a bit with some of the guys I'd met last year and then I sat down only to have Michael Chapdelaine sit down next to me, introduce himself, and start chatting (I had already planned on coming back Friday evening to watch Michael perform).

So the session started and John reminded everyone that I would be on campus Friday performing during lunch and doing the hands-on session. My session was also in the schedule. Once everyone was introduced, he opened the floor up for questions and several of the first questions were regarding the Stick session. I took that as a good sign.

Once the welcome session ended, my plan was to head back and continue my work day. That part of the plan sufferred a bit of a delay when I returned to my car and realized I'd locked my keys inside. In an effort to quickly grab my camera when first arriving, I had dropped them on the seat. I went back to to Matt's office and Kristin put me in touch with security who informed me that they were no longer allowed to open locked cars (likely due to some frivolous lawsuit when somebody opened a locked car and put a scratch on the top of the doorlock button). So I had to call AAA and wait for a local towing company to come and do the job. Surprisingly enough, they showed up in fairly short order and opened my car up in about 10 seconds. So with my dignity only slightly bruised, I drove back to the house and worked the rest of the day.

Thursday evening was play time. Quite a while back, Rasa and I met a gentleman by the name of Bill Dungjen who has a local bluegrass band called Sour Mash and also hosts a weekly open mic at the Hayloft Inn. Bill said that the music at these events was pretty eclectic and he's been inviting me to come by for quite some time now. Since we came up on Wednesday, I told him I'd be there. This was a fun night. Rasa and I were there early and I signed up in the first group. By the time the show started, the list was pretty much full and there was a good crowd in the place. Everything went reasonably well except for my butchering of a brand new untitled tune that I opened with. No harm done though and after wrapping up, Rasa and I hung out for a good chunk of the rest of the evening listening to all manner of players and singers. Fun time. I had quite a few conversations with some patrons too and it re-affirmed my claims that Traverse City is place that is loaded with musicians.


Friday was my only "official" day at Interlochen and it was a long one. I did a little bit more work in the morning to make up for time lost fishing the keys out of my car the day before. Then I packed up all of my gear and headed for campus.

The weather was phenomenal. It was completely blue skies and temperatures ended up the high 70s to very low 80s. I unloaded at the gazebo, setup my big rig, and started to play right around 12:30PM. It was fun. There was never really a time when I drew any kind of crowd but there was a somewhat steady stream of people walking around and just about everybody stopped a bit, listened, and then moved on. Some people stopped to chat about the instrument between tunes. Some of the staff came by just to thank me for playing.

I played until around 1:45PM. I was planning on stopping at 1:30 but never really checked my watch and lost track of the time. I packed my stuff back up and had some time to kill. The first thing I did was grab a quick lunch in town. Then I went for a long walk around campus starting down by Green Lake and ending up by the boys cabins over on Duck Lake. I stood outside my old cabin from my high school days and had flashbacks of the morning ritual at Interlochen back then which was ... every morning at the crack of dawn you had between the buglers first note of Reveille and his last to wake up, get out of bed, get on your shoes, and be lined up outside by cabin for calisthenics. The scene in the cabins during this ritual was always a bit chaotic. I'm not sure if this is still the morning routine or not. I'm guessing probably not (going back to that frivolous lawsuit comment again).

At around 3:30PM I went back to the new Mallory-Towsely building to setup shop for my afternoon session. I came armed with three rigs (my big rig and two small practice amps) and three Sticks (my Grand, my old 10-string and my Alto). In addition to those instruments, Steve Balogh was also kind enough to bring along his NS/Stick and so we set that up as well.

For the most part the session was pretty mellow. I was in there from 4:00PM to around 7:30PM taking a half hour break to grab dinner. All told, I'd say that around a dozen or so guitar players trickled in and out trying out instruments and asking questions. Several of them were fairly young guys as well which is always heartening to see. I did a fair amount of demo playing but pretty much let the visitors make most of the noise. It was really cool to watch some of the visitors take to the instruments. As I would have expected as well, the NS was an item that several guitarists really seemed interested in.

By 7:30PM, Rasa arrived and helped me pack up. We had picked up tickets for the evening's concert at Corson which was guitar players Michael Chapdelaine and Phil Keaggy. I was really looking forward to both. Keaggy was the only one of the two who I was a little familiar with and I also knew he was into loops so I really wanted to see what he did.

The show did not disappoint. Keaggy went up first and I was really blown away by his show. He is a phenomenal player and really enjoys himself. His material is really wonderful and his technical mastery over the instrument is remarkable. He made some really nice use of loops. Nothing too complicated but so seemlessly integrated into his stuff that sometimes it took a while to even notice. A real master. Chapdelaine came out afterwards. He started off really strong. He's an award winning fingerstyle guy and, like Keaggy, showed some real mastery over his instrument.

Rasa and I had one more engagement before the end of the evening (a celebratory anniversary drink even though we would celebrate proper the following day) and so we bugged out just a little before the concert actually ended. On Saturday, I had no committments and had also promised the mentioned celebration and so my workshop officially ended Friday night.


I think I am addicted to Interlochen now. I had always kept a soft spot for the place since I was a camper there. But over the last two years I've gotten involved again and I like it. Rasa says that I have "romanticized Interlochen". Maybe she's right. All I know is that I always get a chill when I'm there. Like there is something larger going on.

Back to Earth though. Even though there was no official Stick workshop, it was still a real pleasure to come to the guitar workshop. The classes, the faculty and enthusiasm is really cool to see and the whole adult program seems to really be gaining momentum.

Next year I am hoping that we can bring the Stick back in an official capacity. Matt and I will be talking in the coming months to figure out what we are going to do. Hopefully I will be able to make some preliminary announcements in early 2011.

In the mean time, I'd like to once again thank Matt Wiliford, Kristin Celeste and John Wunsch for their work and for their hospitality. You guys help make these visits a real pleasure. I would also like to thank Steve Balogh for bringing his NS/Stick along and letting me put it out there for the hands-on. Thanks also to Bill Dungjen for inviting me out to the Hayloft and getting the "buzz" started and to Anytime Towing for getting my keys out the car.