2001 Midwest Stick Seminar
September 15-16, 2001
Oz's Music, Ann Arbor, MI

Click any image to see the slide show

It's almost a miracle that this seminar happened at all. It began with some uncertainty as to whether or not we would even host a seminar this year. Then in mid summer, Steve Osburn spoke with Bob Culbertson and Bob agreed to travel to Michigan to instruct a weekend seminar in September. This left us with a fairly short amount of time to plan and advertise. In spite of the short notice however, we managed to secure performance spaces and managed to get the word out early enough to get nine students signing up (that is in addition to Steve, Bob, and myself). So things were looking up and I was starting to smack myself for ever having any doubts. Then, with only four days to go until the seminar, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon occurred. After some long and hard thought, my personal feeling was that we should continue with our plans. I sent messages to everyone else involved and they all agreed. Almost immediately, however, we started losing some students due to the fact that flights in the US were grounded. In the end, we had three cancellations. Bob, coming by automobile, was still on course for Michigan though so our plan was to push on.

The plan for the weekend was to start off Friday night at the Union Street Saloon with an evening of music by myself, Steve Osburn, and Bob Culbertson. The actual seminar would be taking place at Oz's Music on Saturday and Sunday. Additionally, there would be an evening of music on Saturday at the Alexander Music Building on the campus of Eastern Michigan University where anyone attending the seminar could play. Aaron Wolf, a seminar attendee and employee at Oz's, is a guitar student at Eastern and manage to secure the space for use just a couple of weeks before we got started.

The attendees of the seminar were as follows:
Bob Culbertson Steve Osburn Glenn Poorman Rich Brandt Steve Cambell Dennis Keller Wes Teregan Dave Tipton Aaron Wolf

The weekend started Friday night at the Union Street Saloon in downtown Detroit. Rasa and I got there at about 7:00PM to find Steve Osburn, Wes Teregan, and Bob Culbertson just arriving. Bob was traveling with his girlfriend Susan (originally from Detroit). Her sister Christine was also with them and had a viola in tow. We got right into the room where we would be performing and began setting up. We did some quick sound checking and then broke for a while to grab dinner out in the dining room. After that, we finished our sound check and, shortly after, it was showtime. The turnout wasn't nearly what I had hoped for but there were a fair amount of people in the room so we started at about 10:20PM. I opened up with about a 30 minute set. The set felt good although I was just debuting my new sound setup and my ears were treated to some surprises here and there in the form of some tinny auto-filter settings and some wicked feedback. After I finished, Steve Osburn played. I had never seen Steve play as a solo before and I really liked what he did. He had Wes playing Zendrum along with him and delivered a rock solid set. From there, Bob played. I hadn't seen Bob play since I was at NAMM in January of 2000 and had almost forgotten what a monster player he is. He did a ripping set mixing up classical, celtic, and jammin blues. He did a rendition of "Little Wing" that brought the place down and then called Wes up with his Zendrum to do a version of "Birdland". At
one point, Bob announced that we all knew who the next tune would be dedicated to and performed a beautiful and stirring rendition of "Amazing Grace" following that up with an announcement that his CD and gig proceeds, for now, are all going to disaster relief. Toward the end of the night, the jams got started. Bob and Steve did a couple of Steve's tunes together and then Bob played a couple of jams with Christine on viola. Christine proved to be an excellent viola player and the combination of viola and Stick was really nice. In spite of a low turnout, we all had a blast on Friday. My only complaint from the night was the loud talkers in room which has happened there on numerous occasions. Luckily, they quieted down later in the set.

On Saturday morning, the seminar began in earnest. Being a smaller group than we originally had planned, we decided to move the seminar over to Steve's house. So we all made a coffee run and then setup at Steve's where we would spend the next two days. We started the day out working as a single group. Bob started with some rudimentary work on the tapping action and getting a good solid sustained tone. From there, we worked on some chord positions/inversions and also worked on getting familiar with the notes in the bass. After that we split up. Rich, Steve Cambell, Dennis, and Dave setup upstairs while Wes, Steve Osburn, Aaron and myself remained in the basement. Bob split his time providing material to work on for each of the two groups and then leaving them to work while moving to the other group. Our group continued to work on chord inversions as well as chord stacking which basically meant combining simple triads of different scale notes to build more complex chords. We also worked on using the knowledge of chord inversion and stacking to spruce up our soloing and make it more interesting. Sometime around 2:00PM, we broke for lunch and went down to the Chinese place by Oz's. As always, we were moving much slower after the meal but we did make it back to Steve's where we continued on. With the groups still split up, we did some work on Emmett's motor bass technique until finally wrapping it up at about 6:00PM.

From there, we packed up what we needed and set out for the Alexander Music Building on EMU's campus for the Saturday night performance. We grabbed some take-out on the way and arrived at the recital hall at about 7:30PM. We met up with Nelson Amos who was the the faculty sponsor of the event and started setting up gear. At about 8:40PM, the show started. Wes performed two tunes accompanied by Fusionaut's Zendrummer Ken Kazora and played a solid set. Wes was followed by Steve Osburn who played three tunes calling Kan Kazora back up to accompany him on the last of the three. From there, I went up and ran two looping pieces. After I finished, Bob took over and, again, played a ripping set. As 10:00PM approached, we did a couple of jams before calling it a night. First, we did a blues jam with Bob, Aaron, and myself on Stick along with both Wes and Ken on Zendrum. For the last tune, Bob and I did a rendition of one of my own tunes along with Wes on Zendrum. After that, we called it a night.

On Sunday, we all met up a Steve's at 10:00AM for our last day. As a group, we refreshed on some things from the day before and then split up again. During the morning, our group worked on various techniques we could use to add some fullness to the right hand. We also worked a bit on combining melodies with the chord arpeggios we'd worked on the day before and we worked on two handed bass and two handed melody playing. At about 2:00PM, we broke for lunch and, upon returning, Bob spent the rest of the afternoon providing some one on one time with each of us. Right at 6:00PM, we officially wrapped it up. We spent a bit of time packing up, taking photos, and saying goodbyes. Then ... everybody hit the road.

As I said at the start, it almost felt like the odds kept stacking against us. In the end, however, the seminar was a success. We had a good group of guys and everybody was very enthusiastic about what was going on. It's all about sharing ideas and that sharing is something that, in my experience, Stick players seem to have an abundance of. With a bit more time, we could have gotten into at least one larger venue with a much larger audience to perform for. In spite of that though, we did have a blast performing both on Friday and Saturday evenings so I'm not complaining. The seminar itself was great. I had never worked with Bob before so it was a real treat to get a somewhat different perspective on things. Bob proved to be a great teacher. There was virtually no overlap with the instruction Greg has provided at the seminars I've attended with him so last weekend simply added to our arsenal and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the chance to study with both of these extraordinary players.

Many thanks to Bob Culbertson for traveling to Michigan and being our guide for the weekend. Thanks also to Steve Osburn for providing the seminar space, to Wes Teregan for providing the PA gear, and to Aaron Wolf for getting us a great performance space for Saturday. Lastly, the biggest thanks, to all of the students who attended the seminar and to those who tried to come in spite of recent events and could not.

Here's looking to next year.