2007 Midwest Stick Seminar
Beginner Stick® Seminar and Teacher Training Course
August 4-5, 2007
Ann Arbor, MI

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How do you follow an event like the monumental 2006 Midwest Stick Seminar and 1st National Chapman Stick Festival. Well ... you don't. You don't even try. You do something completely different.

With that in mind, the timing for this year's event couldn't be better. For well over ten years now, Greg Howard has been teaching beginners (as well as intermediate and advanced players) how to play. One of the things I've always appreciated about Greg's teaching and one of the reasons I always ask him back is because he puts a lot of attention into his teaching. His material is constantly evolving and he never comes into town with the same stuff he brought last year. In order to get beginners off the ground though, he has been honing his introduction to the Stick material and really putting a fine polish on a set of instruction that can be taught and re-taught.

In the fall of 2006, Greg organized and taught the first Beginner Seminar and Teacher Training Course in his home town of Charlottesville, Virginia. The idea was to teach a seminar for beginners but, at the same time, bring in intermediate and advanced players as students and show them how to teach his his ideas on Emmett's Free Hands parallel two-handed tapping method. Ideally, enough grads are created so that eventually those grads teach all the beginner seminars while Greg and others like him focus more on new material for intermediate and advanced players. So the fall seminar in Charlottesville came and went. The feedback from that event was very positive and, almost immediately, Greg began talking about where he might hold the second event.

This was right about the time that Steve Oz and I began deliberating about what kind of event we might hold in 2007. With seven seminars under our belt and a fairly impressive attendence record, it only seemed fitting that the second of Greg's Beginner and Teacher Training Seminars should take place here in southeast Michigan. With one teacher and one goal in mind, this event almost planned itself and, come August, we were ready.

The attendees of the seminar were as follows:
Greg Howard - Virginia Steve Osburn - Michigan Glenn Poorman - Michigan Peter Croce - Michigan Tony Diorio - Michigan Darrell Havard - Texas Kerry Hays - Illinois Jim Kam - Texas Tim Larsen - New Jersey John McBride - Michigan Cory McCormick - Arizona Kevin Sands - New York Zach Schwartz - Michigan James West - Iowa Aaron Wolf - Michigan


Unlike previous seminars, we kept this one to a two day event. With most people coming in the night before though, we opted to have a meet and greet on Friday night. Originally the plan was to meet up at Oz's, do some introductions and then plan the rest of the evening by ear. Greg suggested that waiting at Oz's for everyone to show would likely have us eating dinner at around midnight so we might want to send everyone directly to a restaurant. Turned out to be a good idea. After much chatting with Steve Oz, we opted to send everyone to Siam Kitchen at 6:30pm.

I got to the restaurant pretty much on time and found Aaron Wolf and Zach Schwartz along with Zach's parents already there waiting. Zach is a local and a student of Aarons. He is primarily a guitar student but has been studying Stick and, at age 10, would end up being the youngest student we've ever had at a Michigan Stick Seminar.

As the evening wore on, more people trickled in. Turns out Greg was right. We would have waited all night at Oz's for everyone to show up ... including Greg. He called during dinner and announced that travel hang-ups would put him in town pretty late and so he wouldn't be making dinner. Just about everyone else made it to the dinner with only a couple of exceptions who were still traveling. With that, we all ordered food and enjoyed.

As the hour moved beyond 9:00pm, we wrapped up. Rasa and I opted to hit the road and head home so we could catch Greg as he got into town. The rest of the crew were on their own and I could hear plans being made for some night life as I left the restaurant. Back at our place, Greg rolled in around 10:00 or 10:30.


Saturday morning began at 9:30am. Greg and I made the trek into Ann Arbor bright and early with two vehicles loaded with gear. This was gear for both our seminar day as well as the Firefly Club gig that would occur later that evening. As is usually the case, everyone was at Oz's with time to spare eager to get going. We didn't really waste much time either. As has been his practice lately, Greg did his morning session without instruments so there really wasn't any setup required. We simply cleared the space in the annex of Oz's and got right into it.

We had fourteen students total including Steve Oz and myself. Of those fourteen, five were signed up as teachers in training. Those were me, Oz, Aaron Wolf, Darrell Havard and Jim Kam.

The day started out talking about the physicality of playing. This is where we use the ground and our legs to move around on a large scale to get the idea across of how we should move our hands and arms when we play. This almost always seems odd to people right at the start but ends up making sense once you start to soak it in. The idea being that you almost automically optimize your movements when you're moving your body around and need to get into the same habit when playing and moving around the fretboard. Just prior to lunch we setup amps and pulled out instruments generally setting the place up for the rest of the weekend. Then it was time to eat.

For lunch, we hit gas become the Saturday afternoon staple of the Midwest Stick Seminar. That being the Chinese joing adjacent to Oz's. Excellent food and they're always willing to sit a large group of us. After a great meal, we dove into the afternoon session.

For the afternoon, we started moving into more familiar themes with things like scale patterns and modal playing. At each step of the way though, we were taking the morning session into account and being aware of our movements along the fretboard (sort of like Mr Miyagi finally letting Daniel stop waxing and start fighting). We wrapped up a little before 6:00pm and started packing things up for the Firefly gig.

We were really looking forward to the gig at the Firefly. The proprieter of the club (Susan Chastain) has been really supportive of us over the years and this would be our third Stick Night at her club. This year had an added element in that the club was moving to a new location and we would be the last show at their Ashley Street spot.

Greg and I grabbed a quick bite after leaving Oz's and got to the Firefly around 7:30pm to start setting up. In addition to our live rigs, we also setup for some good quality audio and video recording so we could cut some short video clips from the gig.

We were setup with plenty of time to spare and kicked the night off right at 9:00pm. The lineup for the evening was Darrell Havard, Jim Kam, Steve Oz, me and Greg Howard. The deal was that we were supposed to have music from 9:00pm until 1:00am. In order to avoid having anyones entire set be performed for nobody because the hour is either too early or too late, we opted to do short sets and go through the lineup twice. So the order we decided on was Darrell, Jim, me, Greg and then Steve Oz. Steve was only doing a single set so after he finished, we would repeat the order and end the evening with Greg.

All in all it was a blast. This was Darrell's third trip to a Michigan seminar and he's always a favorite to listen to. He's got an unmistakable groove that they just can't teach you. It was nice to hear Jim also. Jim has been at it for longer than I have. We've exchanged many a mails since I started playing back in 99 but we've never actually met until this year. Jim leans more toward the folk style playing and he does a lot of singing which you don't tend to hear from a lot of Stick players. It's always a nice addition on the rare occasion that it happens here. I felt like I executed my first set really well. Lord knows I've had my share of car wrecks and many of them have occurred at seminar performances. I put in a lot of preparation for this one though and was pleased with how it went. Greg was up next. Inevitably this is the moment that most of the seminar students are always waiting for and you never know whether he's going to whip out a collection of tunes or switch to improv mode. On this night he opted for tunes and it was a really nice set. A nice mix of rock and jazz and he really managed to pull some of the regulars back into the show with tunes like "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat." To wrap up the first half, Steve Oz did a set. Steve's originals are always great to hear. At one point, he pulled out his classical/electric guitar and did an original as a duet with Greg on Stick. This turned out to be a real highlight. It started a little disjointed but then they found their ground and the result was exceptional.

For the second part of the evening, we repeated our lineup except that Steve didn't play any more. All in all, the second half of the evening wasn't nearly as polished. It was getting late and we started to lose a lot of audience. Darrell executed really nicely as did Jim. My nicely executed first set turned into a second set fraught with errors. Not a huge deal as I think I was the only one who noticed. Finally Greg wrapped up the evening. Admittedly we didn't leave him a ton of time so his last set was fairly short. We were all pretty much ready to call it a night at that point anyway so with that, we packed up and headed home.


Sunday started at 10:00am. We were only a few minutes late which was pretty good considering how late we went to bed. The whole group went right to it. Again we worked through various playing techniques and scenarios using our instruments and still making the connection back to the physical movements from Saturday's morning session. Just before lunch, we started a group improv. This is a regular exercise to wrap up these events and is always a lot of fun. One person starts and soon the music takes on a life of it's own until we finally and naturally conclude.

Lunch marked the end of the line for the beginner students. Their seminar was over but their work was just beginning. The teachers in training along with Greg grabbed some lunch at Big Ten Burrito and then headed back to Oz's. The idea was that the teachers would have an additional wrap-up session. By this time, Cory McCormick had opted to join the teachers portion of the event so he was with as as well. We didn't play at all. Mainly we all took a good hard look at where we're at or where we think we're at. We called out our own strong points and weak points as well as giving some honest criticism to one another. We also discussed how to move into the ranks of teaching and build up our skills there and drew out a roadmap to proceed with. At around 5:00pm or so, we wrapped it all up and called it a seminar.


Technically the seminar ended on Sunday but there was still one more order of business. Originally there was another seminar planned for the following weekend in Minneapolis. Assuming Greg would be driving from Ann Arbor to Minneapolis, We booked a gig up in Traverse City at the Loading Dock. So on Monday we piled in cars and headed up to the Poorman retreat in Leelanau County and did the show on Tuesday night. The turnout could have been better but the people who were there seemed to have a blast and so did we. I mention it here because Peter Croce gets honorable mention and bonus points for being the only seminar student who made the four hour trek north to catch the show.


This was yet another really cool event. After last year's successful but very hectic vent, this was a breath of fresh air also because one teacher with a very specific goal in mind made for a seminar that almost planned itself. Again, it seemed fitting that southeast Michigan would be an early proving ground for this seminar. This is the eighth seminar we've had here and the seventh that Steve and I have organized together. These events are always a shot in the arm for anyone who attends. Always. For the guys who came in hopes of teaching, it was added motivation to get out there and do it.

Obviously a major thanks goes out to Greg Howard for coming and teaching here again. Out of eight seminars, he's taught at seven of them and always comes in with fresh material. As the ranks of Stick players continues to grow though, it's only fitting that Greg should train the next batch of teachers who can then take over beginner teaching duties.

Next thanks goes out to all the guys who signed up this year. This was a really good crew. Everybody hit it off really well and seemed to have a great time. You guys are our bread and butter here and it's always a pleasure.

Thanks to Steve Oz for continuing to help support these events and providing space. Oz is the reason why there is such a healthy Stick environment here in southeast Michigan.

Thanks to Susan Chastain at the Firefly for giving us her stage on a Saturday night. She's become a great friend of this event over the years and we're hoping on some future shows at the "new" Firefly.

Thanks also to the staff at Oz's who answered phones and tool all of the registrations.

Last and biggest thanks is, of course, reserved for Emmett and Yuta Chapman for starting us down this incredible road.

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