2003 Midwest Stick Seminar
November 7-9, 2003
The Clonlara School, Ann Arbor, MI

Click any image to see the slide show

All photos by Glenn Poorman except where otherwise noted in the slide show.

Also visit Tom Griesgraber's diary from the event.

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Organizing the 2003 Midwest Stick Seminar was somewhat tricky business right from the start. We had gone through a good portion of the year thinking we would be taking 2003 off and letting this event happen in Chicago. Plans in the windy city didn't materialize though putting the ball back in our court. It was already too late into the year to plan an event for the summer so we started looking toward fall. It was right about then that the World Seminar in San Jose was announced. Now the trick was deciding whether or not to continue with our plans and, if we did continue, how to avoid clashing with the event in San Jose. Shouldn't be too difficult right? Well ... one more thing happened. With the San Jose event bringing all of these European teachers to the states, the thought had occurred to us that we might be able to hijack one on the way. Steve Oz had mentioned to me that Jim Lampi had family in the area. So I dropped an email to Jim to see if I could talk him into coming a little early, stopping in Michigan to visit family, and ... oh ... I don't know ... teaching a seminar while he was here. Somewhat to my surprise, he got back to me fairly quickly and agreed. By this time, I had already lined up both Greg Howard and Tom Griesgraber to come out and teach. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to have Jim here, we went with three teachers and hoped that, with the event in San Jose only a week later, we'd get enough signups to make it worth everyone's while.

The event turned out wonderfully. We had fourteen students sign up (although one cancelled on the first day of the event) and everyone went home happy. In addition, we had three straight nights of performances delivering some fantastic music to seminar students and concert goers alike.

The attendees of the seminar were as follows:
Greg Howard - Virginia Jim Lampi - London Tom Griesgraber - California Steve Osburn - Michigan Glenn Poorman - Michigan Simmon Barney - Colorado Dave Bovee - Michigan Dave Brosky - Pennsylvania Alex Duncan - Michigan Greg Liestikow - Indiana Hugh Miller - Michigan Jonathan Sholl - Indiana Wes Teregan - Michigan Dave Tipton - Ohio Ben Weber - Minnesota Aaron Wolf - Michigan


Thursday, November 6. The weekend's activities began with airport duty. Tom was flying in from San Diego while Jim flew in from London. To my surprise and relief, their flights were arriving within ten minutes of each other. Tom was first so I parked and waited. I found the baggage carousel for Tom's flight and saw a big SKB rack case coming off. Hoping it was his, I went ahead and grabbed it. Tom showed up moments later and the case did indeed belong to him. With Tom's baggage picked up, our next order of business was to drive over to a different terminal to meet Jim. After asking around, we found out where the international travelers come in and went there to wait. After sitting for a few minutes, I decided to call home. I couldn't get a signal inside the terminal so I stepped out on to the street to call and when I did, I found Jim sitting by the curb waiting for us! It was kind of hard to miss the guy with the Stick bag slung over his shoulder.

So with Tom and Jim in tow, we headed back toward my house. As we got close, Jim figured it would be best for me to take him straight to his uncle's house so he could spend the evening visiting with family. I was pretty shocked when he led me to a house practically right in my neighborhood owned by a guy named Norm Lampi. Here I'd known about Jim through playing Stick all these years and then I find out later that, here in southeast Michigan, I'm surrounded by Lampis.

After dropping Jim we headed home, dropped Tom's stuff, and then went out with Rasa to grab some dinner. From there, it was simply a matter of waiting up for Greg to arrive by car. He came in at about 12:30AM and we didn't stay up long before retiring.

Day #1 (Friday)

Friday would be the only day we had some morning wiggle room with activities not starting until noon. We packed up two vehicles with gear, picked up Jim at his uncles, and headed for Ann Arbor. We arrived at Clonlara at about 11:30AM and already some of the students had arrived. The plan for Friday was to work as a single group in one room so we setup my rig and Greg's rig in the atrium. Once everyone who hadn't already stated that they would be coming late had arrived, we began. We did something a little different this year. Instead of going around the room for a simple meet and greet, we went around for the meet and greet and also asked that everyone play a little bit. We began with the teachers all playing a tune. Jim played a little of what he called "jet lag music" which gave us all our first taste of not only Jim's style of play but also his sense of humor. Greg followed up doing the familiar "Charmed Life". Tom played one of his original tunes and said that getting started in the morning, he wanted to pull out something old that he could play pretty easily similar to what Greg had done. Still having Greg's tune on the brain, he told the group that the name of his tuned was "Charmed Life". A few laughs ensued and then Tom did his tune. From there, we continued around the room and everyone except those just getting started played a little bit.

After the introductions, Greg took the group into a discussion of instrument setup and instrument position. Originally, it was thought that this would eat up the rest of the day but it turned out we had quite a bit of time left and so we launched from there into some real work. During the course of the first day, everyone got a good feel of where everyone else was at. The group also got a good feel for our instructors and where they would be coming from. These three teachers would actually turn out to be a really good mix. Greg wanted to spend the weekend putting a lot of focus into the physical aspects of playing Stick. This is something that he has been stressing a lot lately and something that really requires live instruction to pass on. Jim would hit several theoretical and philosophical concepts as well as tips for turning your ideas into music. Tom did a lot of work on listening as a group and developing good timing. He stressed (something I've always agreed with) that lack of timing is death for a musician and for many solo players, timing is the achilles heel.

At around 5:00PM, we broke for the day. Setup for the evening's performance was to take place at around 8:00PM. We packed up all of the gear that needed to go to the club and headed into Ann Arbor. Greg, Tom, and I unloaded at the Firefly Club and then walked over to meet the rest of the group at the Parthenon for a group dinner. From there, it was back to the club for setup.

The Firefly is a cool Ann Arbor jazz club. Oz had talked to the owner Susan about doing an event there and she was very open to the idea. We setup quickly and were ready to go on time. Shortly before 9:00PM, Jim came in and had brought a bunch of family members along. Just to make sure everyone got to see him play, Jim went up first. Jim delivered a very cool performance. He used a "fretless" effect on the bass side of his instrument that worked quite well for what he did. Jim's material was very much about feel and groove. I remember being very taken right off with his use of large space in his playing. Solid grooves with the left hand were accompanied buy a combination of right hand and vocals never putting any notes where they didn't need to happen. Greg Howard called seeing a Jim Lampi performance "a lesson in musicianship". I would call that a pretty accurate accessment.

After Jim finished, Tom Griesgraber did a set. I had seen Tom perform just a few months earlier when he came through town opening for the California Guitar Trio. Tom has developed a large repertoire of some really cool material. He's a great player in general but one of the standouts in Tom's performance is his overall sound and tones as well as the compositions. Tom uses melody really well and his performances are very musical.

Next up was Greg. Greg ran a set of tunes (you never know if he's going to run a set of tunes or launch into a full length exploration of sound and improv). The thing is, even when he does play tunes, you never know where he's going to take them. Many of his familiar melodies permeated the air but, in usual Howard form, he gave us all lessons in taking your tunes to new places launching into some exceptional improvs and always bringing them back to earth to end on the original theme.

I drew the short straw on Friday and went up last. I had worked up about a thirty minute set and was pretty happy with the delivery. This was probably one of the most relaxed shows I had ever done and I felt really good right from the first note.

With the first performance wrapped up, we packed our gear and headed home. As would be the case for the entire weekend, we were very late to sleep and early to rise the next day. We didn't waste too much time on chit-chat back at the house and, instead, turned in almost immediately.

Day #2 (Saturday)

On Saturday morning, we almost made it to the school on time. With the performances happening every night, we were always carrying gear to and from the school which meant we were always traveling in multiple vehicles. We convoyed out of my neighborhood and luckily hadn't gotten too far when I realized that my Stick was still back at the house. Back we went. By the time we reached the school, it was just a little after 10:00AM.

On Saturday, we broke into two groups. A question was posed, that being which hand anyone felt like they needed more work on. The results were a pretty even split so that was how the groups were chosen. We moved half of the amps into one of the front classrooms and left the rest in the atrium. During the morning hours, Jim took the front classroom group while Greg stayed with the atrium group. While the two of them worked with their groups, Tom began taking people out one at a time for one on one lessons. We worked this way until about 1:00PM at which point Greg and Jim switched rooms and groups.

At 1:30PM, we broke for lunch and went en masse over to a local Chinese restaurant near Oz's. This place always seems to have plenty of room for us and they have great food. After a leisurely lunch, we returned and went full steam into the afternoon session. Greg and Jim continued working with the groups while Tom continued to pull individuals out for private lessons. At around 5:00PM, we broke for the evening.

Saturday night's performance was at 313.JAC which is upstairs at Jacoby's restaurant in Detroit's Greektown area. We broke early enough so that everyone could get to Detroit, park, and head into Greektown for dinner. Finding good food in that area is a breeze. Once you're on Monroe, you can pretty much close your eyes, point, and walk into the place you pointed at and get a great meal.

Back at the club, there really wasn't any form of security where we'd left our gear so Greg and I stayed behind to setup while everyone else went to find food. It was actually kind of nice because we were never rushed. We setup at our own pace and sound checked everything pretty thoroughly. The only thing we really didn't get much of was people. There were a smattering of people outside of the seminar group but not a lot. Although I think all of the performances were good ones, this was the one performance night that gave us some real fits (which I'll get to in a minute).

We pushed off the start time until 9:30PM in hopes of pulling in a few more people. Pretty promptly at 9:30, I began the evening. I had run all of the tunes I'd practiced lately on Friday and didn't want to repeat anything so I went through my patch list and spent my set randomly selecting tunes that I hadn't run in quite some time. Again, it was a very relaxed atmosphere and I thought many of the tunes I played came off surprisingly well considering how long it had been since I played them. When I was finished, Greg did a set. Personally I thought Greg delivered a killer set on Saturday. He ran a bunch of tunes and really seemed to pick up steam as he went on. He ended his set with his rendition of "All Along the Watchtower" and launched into an insane improv section that included some percussive string and pickup pounding.

By this time, we'd already started developing a problem with the music downstairs. Between me and Sue (the woman who booked us), we probably went downstairs about a dozen times to get them to turn the stereo down and they kept waiting five minutes and turning it back up. This became increasingly annoying especially when some of the quieter performers were trying to play. At one point, I went down again and the trailer-maid behind the bar flat out said "no" to my request to turn the music down. The exchange that followed probably sealed my banishment from the restaurant down there but, considering I was never adventerous enough to eat anything that came out of their kitchen anyway, this is no great loss.

So ... the evening continued on. By this time, Rasa had already told me that she'd been talking to the various students and putting the pressure on them to perform. I figured I would be a little extra cruel and call up our first student right after Greg finished delivering a stellar set. Without any hesitation whatsoever, Dave Brosky came up, let it rip and did fine job. Steve Oz was next. He delivered a really nice short set of some his original tunes. From there, it was back to the pool of seminar students and one of the cooler surprises of the weekend. Simmon Barney came up and did a great rendition of "Stray Cat Strut" with vocals and all. Surprises like that have always been one of the cool things about these Stick Nights. Now it was Jim's turn. Jim did a really cool set and, of course, managed to dazzle us all. He wrapped up with an amazing rendition of "A Night in Tunisia". From there, it was back to the student pool. Jon Sholl played followed by Dave Tipton. Both gave solid performances of one tune each. This led to the conclusion of the evening as Tom took the stage and announced that, like me on Friday, he had drawn the short straw. Tom ran a short set of his original tunes and then we called it a night. By this time, it was around 12:30AM. We packed up quickly for the long trek back to Novi. Again, we were late to sleep and early to rise.

Day #3 (Sunday)

On Sunday, we were downright late. I knew we would be. We all returned to our house pretty fried on Saturday night and I hit that snooze a few extra times before finally getting up. By the time we reached the school, it was pushing 10:30AM.

On Sunday, our teachers kind of swapped roles. Everyone moved back into the atrium and Tom spent the entirety of the day working with the group while Greg and Jim each pulled people out for one on one lessons. I thought Sunday was particularly cool as Tom brought his timing and ensemble exercises to the group. We started by taking a bass line from one of Tom's own tunes and breaking it into pieces assigning certain notes to certain sub-groups and working to try and put it all together as a cohesive whole. Anyone that has ever tried anything like this knows that it is not an easy task and really drives Tom's points about timing home. I personally found this to be one of the coolest group efforts of the weekend. Especially considering it's an exercise of equal use regardless of whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro.

Shortly after 1:00PM, Steve Oz came over to the school and we put in an order for delivery of pizzas and Mexican food. Thirty minutes later, the food arrived and we all broke for lunch.

The afternoon continued with Greg and Jim doing private lessons and Tom working with the group. The afternoon group work revolved around scales, modes, and improvisation. At one point, we were going around the room improvising over some modal chord changes and Jim had taken a break. When we got over to him, he didn't have an instrument with him and Tom told him to scat something. He did! It was pretty cool actually.

I did manage to cut out a bit in the afternoon and do some one on one with Jim. We worked on some left hand bass grooves and he gave me some tips on coming up with more musical parts for my left hand.

As we got close to quitting time, Greg had returned to the atrium. Just as the day was about to end, he did something that has been becoming kind of a trademark. He picked a key and told everyone to start noodling and we'd see what happens. In addition to the noodling, he also gave instructions to make sure and listen to what was going on around you so as to enhance and not detract. We killed the lights and began. What came actually turned out to be really cool. These kinds of exercises are always full of surprises. Without anyone saying anything, the music took some natural curves in dynamics and we actually ended as a unit without anyone saying "we should end here". The music clearly dictated it's conclusion and everyone read that.

So the last order of business for the evening was to pack up and haul our gear over to Oz's Music for the Sunday night performance. By this time I was completely exhausted and wanted nothing more than to go home. The screaming headache I was developing didn't help either. We got to Oz's and the Fusionauts had already setup. I knew that Gary Jibilian would be coming with his drummer and he was planning on playing early so I just stacked my stuff in a corner. The Fusionauts started their set and I went into the back room to ease the pain of loud music on my already aching head. Wes and Ken Kazora gave a cool performance. They really gel as a unit these days and did some cool grooves. After their set, Gary and his drummer did an extended set and blew the roof off the place. From the room in back, it sounded like they had a good sound going and got a great response from the now full performance space at Oz's.

After Gary's set, we had an intermission while we swapped rigs and I setup for everyone else. Jim had family at the store and some of them weren't planning on staying for the duration so we had Jim play next. Jim did some great stuff and Sunday might have actually been one of his best performances of the weekend. After Jim, Oz played. Oz is, of course, a local favorite and did a bunch of his original tunes which I always like to hear. After Oz finished, I did a set. By this time, my headache was subsiding and I was actually feeling pretty good about the whole evening. I repeated a couple of tunes that I had played on Friday at the Firefly and was pretty happy with the execution. Then I did something I like to do every so often and simply picked a key, fired up the looper, and began improvising parts into the loop. This seemed to come off really well and after a few minutes, I simply set the loop to slowly decay and walked off stage into the back room.

Next up, Aaron Wolf played. We've been trying to get Aaron to perform at these events for years. He's a good player but generally doesn't work up stuff that he can play as a solo. On Sunday, he got up and didn't so much play tunes as he did some improvisations over ideas that he'd been working with. The stuff he did worked quite well and even resulted in myself, Greg, Jim, and Tom doing some clapping on the back beats.

I thought that might be it as both Greg and Tom had declared that they were taking the night off. I guess there was something about the vibe in the room though as, when the chips were down, neither of them could resist. Tom ran a couple of his tunes and, as usual, executed really well. Greg came up last and ran a mono cable from his Stick straight into my SWR head without even so much as a touch of reverb. He began with a extended improvisation that eventually steered into Pachelbel's Canon. It was a really nice way to wrap up the evening and, when the Canon concluded, so did our seminar.

By the time we got back to the house on Sunday evening, we didn't stay up long. We had already said our goodbyes to Jim as his uncle was taking him to the airport on Monday. The rest of us put in a pretty solid sleep on Sunday night. On Monday morning, we were moving pretty slow. Greg hit the road at around 10:00AM. Tom and I spent the next couple of hours getting him packed up and messing with my rig. At around noon, I drove Tom to the airport and returned home for a day of loafing.


This being the fifth Michigan seminar and the fourth that I've been directly involved in organizing, you'd think it would become commonplace and anti-climactic. That just never seems to happen though. I am frequently amazed at what a good group of people Stick players in general seem to be. There is always a strong sense of camaraderie that develops among the students at these events. Although it may sound cliche at this point, the fact is that the students make these events and for that, I thank everyone who attended this year.

As usual, I can't let a seminar go by without thanking Steve 'Oz' Osburn and his wife Leslie. Oz organized the first Michigan seminar back in 1998 and he and Leslie have backed all of the events since then providing support, time, space, and general logistics. If it hadn't been for Steve, I would have never gotten involved in the first place.

Each year I'm always amazed at how giving of their time and skills the big names in the world of Stick performance are. Greg Howard has taught at more of these seminars than anyone but it never seems to get old for him. He always comes in with new stuff to teach and new areas to emphasize. I have to attribute a good chunk of my own successes to Greg and that doesn't show any sign of slowing down in the near future. Thanks just doesn't seem a strong enough word.

Tom and Jim were newcomers this year and brought so much more to the table than I ever anticipated. Tom really managed to get practical with the group and brought a lot of education with him that is equally applicable regardless of your skill level. Additionally, the quality of his own performances was the best testament to what he was trying to teach. Jim proved to be about as easy going a guy as you could work with. He came to Michigan at my request and really brought a strong sense of skills as service to the music. In a recent description of Jim's playing, Greg Howard said "He uses his chops like a master chef uses seasonings, with the focus always on enhancing the dish." I couldn't have put it any better. Thanks Tom and Jim and I hope to get you guys out here again some time.

Getting the planning started rather late this year, securing performance spaces proved a difficult task. Right from the get go, Susan Chastain over at the Firefly and Sue Sommers at 313.JAC were very very supportive of what we were doing and worked with us to set it up and get the word out. Additionally, Sue Sommers put out some nice press releases that made their way into several local papers. To the two Sues ... thanks so much for the support.

Additional thanks goes out to Kathleen Baxter for again letting us use the wonderful space at Clonlara. Thanks also goes out to Aaron Wolf for his additional work in the early stages and taking care of the merchandise, to Paul and Grace Potts for their work in promoting the performances (we missed you at the seminar this year Paul), and to Gary Jibilian for coming out to perform at Oz's on Sunday.

I also wanted to thank Bob Culbertson for working with us on scheduling an event so close to the World seminar in San Jose. We worked it all out and everything worked as planned both in Michigan and San Jose.

Saving the best for last, to our musical parents Emmett and Yuta Chapman, you've changed our lives forever.

2004? I need at least a week without thinking about seminars.