2005 Midwest Stick Seminar
June 3-5, 2005
Oz's Music, Ann Arbor, MI

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

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They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. Just as I do every year, I looked at our signup sheet for this year's Stick Seminar back in late April, saw that four people had signed up, and began to panic. As we moved into the last month before the event, the cards were sent out, people's plans came together, and our signups went up dramatically ... something that also happens every year. In the end, we had nineteen sign up and added one during the event bringing our total up to twenty (not including Oz and I). It was the perfect size and, in reality, any more than that would have been too many.

So off we went. It was a familiar itinerary but with a change of venue. The first seminar I helped organize was in 2000 at Oz's Music. At the time, the space worked. In the years since then, however, several factors made Oz's a less desirable option and so we moved over to the Clonlara School. With a semi-new expansion to the store and with Clonlara being unavailable this year, we moved the whole thing back over to Oz's and the space worked out very well.

Our weekend consisted of two and a half days of seminar, two performances, and a bunch of happy faces when it was all over. Once everybody had gone home, I had an overwhelming urge to practice which, according to Emmett Chapman, is the sign of a good event.

The attendees of the seminar were as follows:
Greg Howard - Virginia Bob Culbertson - California Steve Osburn - Michigan Glenn Poorman - Michigan Japhlet Attias - Minnesota Dave Barrett - Ontario Dave Brosky - Pennsylvania Michael Brozovich - Pennsylvania Alex Duncan - Michigan Tim Fitzgerald - Wisconsin Gary Garner - Missouri Jocelyn Garner - Missouri Darrell Havard - Mississippi Zach Lewton - Ohio Tim Longfellow - Ohio Jeff Luebke - Michigan Cory McCormick - Arizona Tim Moroney - Michigan Ben Robbins - Wisconsin Sean Robinson - Michigan Louis Sinclair - Minnesota Ken Slauf - Illinois Jon Smith - Rhode Island Aaron Wolf - Michigan


In reality, things started several months ago. Actually, about a year ago when our plans for a late 2004 seminar became an early 2005 seminar and then became a mid 2005 seminar. In order to keep anyone from drifting off to sleep though, I'll skip to the Thursday before the event started. Both Greg and Bob opted to fly into Detroit this time around. Bob was actually doing the Italian seminar in Milan the weekend prior so his flight was coming from Rome. Greg was on a direct flight from Charlottesville. Somehow (and this is quite miraculous), their flights were within 30 minutes of each other and they were coming out at virtually the same place so the pickup was quick and easy (except that poor Bob's plane didn't have a gate to park at so they had to sit on the tarmac for upwards of 30 minutes). We didn't have to be anywhere until around noon on Friday so we got to start the weekend at a pretty leisurely pace. We cooked up some food Thursday night at my house and slept in on Friday. Well ... actually ... Bob was up at the crack of dawn all weekend taking walks around my neighborhood while the rest of us slept in.


On Friday, we got to Oz's around noon. One of the local students, Jeff Luebke, really bailed us out here. Greg usually drives and it takes a couple of vehicles to get all the gear to the seminar. With only one car and three bodies, I really didn't know how we were going to pull this off. Luckily, Jeff lives really close to me and came by the house on Friday morning to help haul gear and an extra body. Thanks Jeff!

People started rolling in around 12:30 and by 1:00, we were ready to go. We didn't setup any amplification on Friday and started off with no Sticks. For some time now, Greg has been developing a strong emphasis on the physical aspects of playing and wanted to start off with no instruments exploring this in further detail. We started off with some rhythmic exercises that went while everyone in the room took turns introducing themselves and giving some background. From there we moved into a lecture about movement that came complete with some dancing (yes ... dancing). We took a short break at around 3:00ish and then did our usual first day setup session. To wrap things up, Bob gave a master class that ran right up until 5:00.

Friday was when we sort of took on the twentieth student. In 2002, we had our first father and daughter Stick playing duo when Gary and Jocelyn Garner both signed up for and attended the seminar. This year, Gary returned solo but we learned that he was stopping here in route to Chicago and that the whole family was with him ... including Jocelyn. At that point, we invited Jocelyn to join us. She didn't attend the entirety of the weekend but she did come to the afternoon sessions and also gigged on Sunday (more on that later).

By 5:00 on Friday, everyone's whistle was wet enough where they were eager to start playing. But we left them hanging for the day and broke for dinner. Earlier in the week, Steve had given the folks at the Parthenon in downtown Ann Arbor a head's up that there would be a large group of us coming in. They were ready for us right at 6:00 and we had a nice group dinner. After that, we all split up for the night. Greg, Bob, Rasa and I headed back to our place, had some beers, and turned in.


On Saturday, Bob was up and out for an early walk. The rest of us were up by 8:00, grabbed some breakfast, and then headed to Oz's. First thing on Saturday was to split the students into two groups. There were somewere around seven or eight students who were playing at a high enough level to get right into some advanced topics. The rest categorized themselves as beginners. With the groups straight, we setup so everyone could be heard and Bob took the beginners in the large expansion to Oz's while Greg took the intermediate/advanced players in the small room in the back of the store. We ran our morning session pretty much straight through until 1:00 when we stopped for lunch. Already I could see that glaze in the eyes of the students that comes from being heavily loaded with info. I know the look because I've had it many times and I can attest that it's good.

At lunch, we all headed over to the Chinese place next to Oz's that has become somewhat of a Stick Seminar staple. They got us all in around a single table and things went smoothly (which means fast and tasty). From there it was back for the afternoon session. At this point, Greg and Bob switched rooms and everyone got a taste of the other's approach. We ran the afernoon session right up until 5:00 and then started breaking down for the evening's show at the Firefly.

The Firefly gig had been problematic for some time and was showing no signs up letting up. First of all, I had booked the show quite a while back. About three weeks prior to the seminar, I discovered that Susan (owner) had booked another act. We spoke on the phone. It was a mistake, she was very apologetic, and I wasn't going to make a thing about it just as long as it was fixable. So we were pushed back to 6:30 and the other act booked for the evening was pushed forward to 9:30-10:00. So from Oz's, we headed immediately over to the club to setup. We didn't have to wait long before Susan arrived and unlocked. We were ready in pretty decent time and only started about 10 minutes late.

Steve Oz started off the evening playing his Grand Stick along with his friend and well known Ann Arbor drummer Maruga. They were also joined by Fusionauts Zendrummer and percussionist Ken Kozora. Just before starting, Steve had borrowed my cable. At the start of his set, he was cooking along and I decided to step outside. Just as I was walking out, I heard the music stop abruptly. I turned around and saw Steve tapping away with no sound coming out. Apparently, my cable had finally fried so now he and I were both out a cable for the night. Luckily we were in a room full of Stick players so we nabbed a spare and the show went on. Steve finished his set and, as usual, did a great job.

I was the next one up and, for the most part, things could not have gone any worse. In the first tune, my sound was just wrong. Levels were all over the place and it really threw me off. I brought it back together for the second tune but then things really fell apart in the third one. Playing a tune that I can usually do with my eyes closed, I lost the drum machine and got to a point where starting over was the only choice (the thing that nightmares are made of). So I stopped and started over proclaiming to the audience that "there's just no recovering from that" (something that would become somewhat of a mantra for the rest of the weekend). So I gave the tune another shot and finished it up. The last tune, which I had butchered every time I'd practiced the week before, went fine (go figure).

Greg was up next and did what was probably the best set of the evening. He opened by himself playing "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" (always a favorite) and then brought up Maruga for a handful of his originals and a great rendition of Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon." Aside from getting a bit off from each other during "El Chicle", the two of them made a cool duo and the set was really solid.

Bob wrapped up the evening doing a combination of tunes and improvisations on both the Acoustick and his electric Grand Stick. Bob's sets are always a real joy to watch. He had some really cool interplay going on with Maruga and, as always, managed to mesmerize a room full of Stick players.

Just before Bob's set though, we were already getting pressure from the late band. For the most part, the guys were pretty cool but we were getting some hostility from one in particular. The way I saw it, we were the ones who were booked first and, if anyone should have been hostile, it should have been me. If I was happy with how we shuffled things around, he should have been too. This really wasn't our problem though so we settled and packed up. Susan had spent the evening working her tail off to make this work and really made the best of it all so ... hat's off. Truth be told, we were kind of happy to be getting back at a reasonable hour which is exactly what we did. We threw down some more beers back at our place and then called it a night.


Sunday morning, we were again up and out for a 10:00 start time at Oz's. On Sunday, we split the morning session in two. Greg took the beginners while Bob took the intermediate/advanced group and we worked that way until about 11:30 or so. At that point, they switched groups and the plan was to work up until 1:00. Our lunch plans involved ordering out for pizzas. The thing is, at about five minutes before 1:00, Steve and I realized that neither of us had ordered any food. So lunch would be a little late. A couple of guys were getting ready to head out at this point though so we broke anyway for our group photo. We worked a bit more after the photo and then the pizzas arrived.

After lunch, we changed things up a bit. Greg asked how many players were planning on performing Sunday night. After the show of hands, he advised the group that anyone who thought that they would not perform was not going to get off that easy. So he put together a group of people who didn't have anything to play and they spent the afternoon working on a group piece. The rest of us stayed over in the Oz's expansion and ran tunes for the evening show. Bob wanted to hear what people were going to do ahead of time and critique. In hindsight, that planned also served to loosen everyone up and probably made for better performances in the evening.

So the day ended and it was time to get ready for the evening performance. Luckily, the Sunday night "Stick Night" was right in the Oz's expansion so we didn't have to move anything. We cleared the miscellaneous stuff out to make room for chairs and got the stage setup with the necessary rig. From there we grabbed a snack and then it was time. Well ... almost.

With a room full of people and us ready to go right at 7:30, the skies opened up and it rained just about as hard as I've ever seen. A few cracks of thunder, a few flashes of lightning, and some flickering of the lights convinced us it was time to shut it all down for a while. After about 15 minutes, things started to calm outside so we got the show on the road.

I opened up and did just a couple of short tunes. Tonight's set went pretty much without a hitch so I was happy. From there, we went straight to the group piece. Greg's group used the name "The Yellow Brick Road Warriors" and they did one piece. It came off really well with the whole group playing the unisons tightly and each player taking turns tossing in some solos. After the group finished, Steve Oz did a set. This is always a crowd favorite in Ann Arbor and especially in Steve's store. From there, we started moving through students.

Darrell Havard did a couple of exceptionally cool and funky tunes. Darrell is from Mississippi and tours with Afroman. I've known Darrell via email for a few years now but this was the first seminar he'd had a chance to come to.

Following Darrell were three tunes from Louis Sinclair. Louis came from Minnesota and wrapped up his set with a cool rendition of the opening music from "A Clockwork Orange."

Following Louis was a somewhat new Stick player Japhlet Attias. Japhlet also came from Minnesota but hales originally from Mexico. He did a medley of tunes from other Stick players including Greg, Larry Tuttle and Guillermo Cides. His execution would lead you to believe he's been at it much longer than his 10 months of playing.

Jon Smith had come from Rhode Island and was the only seminar student to travel with his dog (which made him ok by me). Jon did an original tune that he said he'd pretty much written on the trip to Michigan and it was really cool.

The Garners were one of the highlights this year. Jocelyn started their set with a solo piece that she also sang. From there, dad Gary and her drumming sister played two tunes as a trio.

Bob was up next and started his set on the Acoustick playing a beautiful rendition of an old tune of his titled "Time Enough for Love." From there, he grabbed his 12-string and performed an improv.

Greg wrapped up the evening of solo players doing an extended improv that eventually made it's way into Pachelbel's Canon in D. The early improv sections were excellent and some of the spacey bass chords brought a hush to the room. I particularly liked that part.

The last event of the evening was Aaron Wolf's new band the Darktown Saints. The group consisted of a drummer, piano player, Stick, and a fretted electric violin. It's always nice to bring a band into these performances as a band can always get a place rocking after an extended night of solo performers. The Darktown Saints brought a lot more than just a band though. They were a dynamic and very entertaining live unit and the musicianship was excellent. The piano player did the bulk of the lead vocals but everyone in the band sang. Aaron rolled some really full bass grooves and the violist ripped some exceptionally cool riffs that almost sounded like an electric guitarist gone mad. To wrap up their set, they put down the instruments, turned off the microphones, and sang barbershop. They wrapped up the evening perfectly.

In the end, the event ran until nearly 11:00PM. Everybody stuck it out though and had a great time. There was a lot of hovering around and talking as we slowly packed things up. Finally at around midnight, we piled in the car and headed back to my place.


Monday morning was a sleep in morning. We got up when we got up, had breakfast, had coffee, chatted and then made our way toward the airport. Greg and Bob's flights were close enough together that I could simply drop the two of them at once. From there, I had the rest of the day to myself. Arriving back home, I was a little taken aback by the utter silence of my house and neighborhood so I basked in that for a while. Then I plugged my Stick straight into a little practice amp I keep on my back porch and played.

This year was the sixth seminar we've had in Michigan and the fifth one that I organized. Each one seems to take on it's own personality and I can remember all of them in great detail. But with those unique personalities, they also have something in common and that is the glazed over look the students get in their eyes as the weekend progresses. There is a ton of information that gets passed on in a short amount of time but everybody seems to love it. Plus there is the whole experience of spending a weekend with a bunch of other players that is really inspiring.

Of course, we have to make sure to give credit where it's due at the close of the event. Several variables need to align at once to make it all happen. As is the case every year, it all starts with Steve Oz and his wife Leslie. This year, they not only provided the management but also the space giving up a good chunk of their store for the weekend. In addition, Leslie does much (if not all) of the behind the scenes book keeping of these events taking registrations, contact information, and managing the merchandise we get from Stick Enterprises to sell. Basically, there would be no Michigan seminar without them.

Susan Chastain at the Firefly has been a huge supporter of our event ever since our first Stick gig there in 2003. We had a pretty major hiccup this year in the scheduling but we rolled with it and Susan did a great job making the best of an awkward situation.

Thanks also to Maruga and Ken Kozora for coming down and jamming with us on Saturday. You guys are excellent.

What can I say about our teachers. Greg Howard has done five of the six Michigan seminars and I can never say enough good things about Greg as a teacher. He is constantly refining his teaching methods and takes them just as seriously as he does his music. The net result of this is that, even if you attend a seminar that Greg teaches every year, you'll never get the same lectures twice.

Bob Culbertson was my first Stick instructor in the form of his "Lessons on the Stick" video series and has been to three of the Michigan seminars. He presents just as well (if not better) in person and his mastery of the Stick fretboard is unparalleled. He is as dynamic as teacher as he is a performer.

In the end, the students always make or break these events. We had a great crew this year and I found you all very inspiring to listen to and to hang with. Thank you all for coming and please keep in touch.

Lastly, the biggest thanks goes out to Emmett and Yuta for their continuing efforts, support, inspiration, guidance ... you name it.