2008 Midwest Stick Seminar
October 17-19, 2008
Ann Arbor, MI

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Just imagine the sound of 16 Stick players all playing "Kashmir" at the same time. Later on, that would turn into 16 players all thumping out the bassline to "I Wish." Those were just two out of the many musical moments to come out of the 2008 Stick seminar.

The 2008 event had some ups and downs during the planning phase but ended up a huge success. How do I know? It's that look that people have as they're leaving that that says "there is so much new information in my brain right now that I'm afraid if I lean some it will spill onto the pavement."

Truth be told, the year started with me considering skipping it this time around. But then the usual itch came so I started talking to Oz and we made the decision to keep the scale a little on the small side this year and invite Steve Adelson to come teach. Steve A, as always, was agreeable to the idea and so we were off.

All in all, planning went pretty smoothly except that I kind of dropped the ball in gig scheduling which gave us a bit of a scare. I'd put all my eggs in one basket as far as a gig venue. Things got complicated though when an annual event that they promised to host decided to schedule for that same weekend. By then the other clubs in the area were booked. After some talking though, Oz got us a venue for students to play on Friday and the original club gave Steve Adelson an hour slot just before the main attraction on Saturday. This actually turned out really well as it gave us two performance nights and also left us with plenty of time on Saturday night to take the Stick players bowling ... (yes that could be a song).

The attendees of the seminar were as follows:
Steve Adelson - New York Steve Osburn - Michigan Glenn Poorman - Michigan Steve Balogh - Michigan Peter Croce - Michigan Tony Diorio - Michigan Jeffrey Dallavalle - Michigan Steve Giedosh - Minnesota Katie Hill - Oregon Eric Knapp - Wisconsin Tim Longfellow - Ohio Jeff Luebke - Michigan Cory McCormick - Arizona Shounak Mitra - Colorado Phillip Newbold - Missouri Zach Swartz - Michigan


We opted to do something a little different this year and kicked the weekend off with the "Stick Night" performances featuring anyone who wanted to play. We usually do this more toward the end of the weekend but schedules more or less dictated some choices this year. Just about everyone managed to make it for the kick off though and a handful of people played. More on that in a minute.

Earlier in the day, I was still working and sent Rasa off to do airport duty. Steve was coming in around 3:00PM and so Rasa nabbed him from the airport and headed back to our house. At one point, she called me on the phone saying that Steve had disappeared back into the airport and she couldn't find him. She said she had to park and go wandering the terminal looking for him. After a couple of minutes I smelled a rat and they confessed that they were already back at the house. Very funny!

Anyway ... we hung out for a while, did some fish on the grill and caught up. After that we packed up my vehicle and headed out to "Gotham City" where the evening's activities were scheduled to take place. The club was easy to find and it didn't take us long to setup. Right at 9PM, they opened up and Stick players started piling in. We all said our hellos and chatted for quite a while until I broke the ice and started playing pretty close to 9:30PM. I did a short set of some originals and a couple of cover tunes and then passed the baton over. The next up was Peter Croce who did one of his original tunes. Pete was followed by Steve Geidosh who did a short set. Next up, Oz did a set of his original tunes. From there, Steven Balogh did a set on his NS/Stick and then Tim Longfellow did a set. To wrap up the evening, Steve Adelson ran a handful of tunes. Steve historically loves to have some drumming or percussion going along with his stuff so he managed to get Pete's dad Jim Croce to play djembe on a couple of tunes and later on Oz did the same. Of course Steve brought the house down.

All in all we had a blast. It was really fun to get out and do some jamming and listen to so many others doing some cool music. It really set a cool tone for the rest of the weekend as well.

By the time we wrapped up at Gotham City, it was already getting pretty late so we hauled most of our gear over to Oz's and then headed home. At that point it was straight to sleep.


On Saturday morning, we were uncharacteristically early. Steve and I were up on time and made it over to Oz's about 15 minutes early. Just about everyone was already there waiting except Oz. I had tried to call him but his phone was going straight to voice mail. Luckily, he'd given me a key the night before so I opened up and we setup.

The morning was excellent. We had some introductory stuff with everybody in the room introducing themselves and talking a little bit about themselves. Then we went right to it. Steve had a lot of great material really putting an emphasis on listening. This started with breaking off into pairs and having "conversations" except using music instead of words. We attacked this various ways including having somebody randomly pick an emotion and having the two players try to emulate that emotion in their conversation. At one point, we got to Peter Croce and Eric Knapp and Steve told them to pretend it was the vice presidential debate with each assuming the role of one of our candidates. Interesting to say the least. The rest of the morning remained a focus on listening while moving into the realm of improv and some left hand stuff.

For lunch we hit our usual Saturday Stick Seminar lunch spot. That would be Chia Shiang right next to Oz's (home of the "Tasty Wheat Gluten Stick"). They are always very accomodating when invaded by a large group of musicians. Plus they really do have excellent food.

After lunch we headed back to Oz's and took up where we left off. Steve was still flying and moved into heavy bass territory covering walking bass lines and the notion of motors. It was great fun but certainly by the time 5:00PM was rolling around, everyone was getting a little fried so we opted to call it for the day.

The evening plans called for a performance by Steve and then some recreation. The Firefly Club, a semi-regular spot for us, was unable to give us a full on show like they usually do. They'd already committed to "Edgefest" which takes place in several venues including the Firefly. When we first started scheduling, the club didn't have dates on Edgefest yet but, wouldn't you know it, it ended up being our weekend. Their festivities didn't start until 9PM though so Susan at the Firefly told us we could feature Steve in an hour set at 7PM. This was great. We opted to make Steve the only player so as to maximize his time and headed over to the club right from Oz's to setup. When we got there, the 9PM band was in the process of setting up already. Now, Edgefest is "a celebration of avante garde jazz" and as it turned out, the band setting up to play right after Steve was "Prezens" which features David Torn on guitar. Torn is a pretty well known guitarist and has done a lot of stuff with Tony Levin so seeing the Sticks come in was no big shock for him.

So with Prezens all setup, Steve snagged some real estate and put his own rig together. Right at 7PM, we were off. Steve did a fantastic set with nice mix of some familiar tunes (both original and covers) and some good old ripping improvs. He took advantage of having a room full of musicians as well and started tossing trivia questions out there having to do with some of the tunes he played. It was a great time and everybody in the room loved it.

With the odd early time for the Saturday night show, we were left in the unusual position of having time to kill. We packed Steve up, hauled his gear back over to Oz's and then met up with a bunch of people at Colonial Lanes in Ann Arbor for some bowling. This was the perfect capper for the night. We grabbed some lanes, rented some bad shoes and had a blast. Turns out that Steve is not too shabby a bowler. I on the other hand, am quite bad! We all had great fun though. At one point there was a video camera making its way around capturing some great moments like Pete looking into the camera saying "this is for my homies in Woodland Hills" right before tossing one straight down the gutter. Nobody ever said we were bowling experts. A good time though and another of our seminar guys Phil had the foresight to snag a bunch of pizzas so we were all well fed also.

Once we wrapped up the bowling, we all went our separate ways. Steve and I briefly entertained the notion of heading back over to the Firefly to catch Prezens. After thinking about the next day's itinerary though, we opted to call it a night and drove back to Novi.


Sunday we were up bright and early. Some good breakfast conversation took over though and we ended up out of the house a little late. We got to Oz's around ten after the hour and found everyone hovering out front waiting for someone with a key. We opened up and were ready to go in short order. The morning session was very cool (again). Steve talked more about left hand and basslines. We picked apart some popular tunes dissecting where the basslines came from and why they work. This was where our first group attempt at "Kashmir" came into play. After working it up, we counted off and plowed in with Steve doing the vocal lines over the top. I have to say there is nothing quite like the sound of many Sticks all playing that tune. The next one we hit after that was Stevie Wonder's "I Wish". Again we had the line down enough to have everyone play it at once ... and we did.

Shortly after noon, our youngest Stick student Zach had to take off for a couple of hours to play a football game with his team the Mavericks. Zach was our youngest student at age eleven. This is his second Stick seminar as well and seems to be making good progress. We used the opportunity of Zach taking off to break for lunch again. The plan was to do carry out and come back to Oz's so half the room went back to Chia Shiang while the other half went and hit Big Ten Burrito. Back at Oz's, it was an hour or so of good food and good conversation.

The afternoon session was a bit more of a free for all in that we re-visited a lot of what we'd covered over the weekend and Steve also gave talks about a bunch of different techniques he uses. After about an hour, Zach returned and the group learned that not only did the Mavericks crush their opponent with a score of 38-0, but that Zach made another kid cry. A first at one of our Stick seminars for sure. So once Zach had returned, we took a short break for group photos and then we called Emmett on the phone and gave him a serenade of "Kashmir". I'm not really sure how it sounded on the other end of the phone but I think he appreciated the sentiment.

We kept up the technique study and did some question and answer with Steve until around 5PM at which point we called it a weekend. Everyone hung out for a while chatting and then, one by one, people headed home. Once we had all of the gear cleared out of Oz's, Steve and I hit the road for Metro Airport and from there, I went home and decompressed.


I felt a little scatter-brained with this one and was suffering a fair amount of anxiety over the whole situation with the performances but in the and (and as usual), the whole event turned out really well. This was only the second time I'd been involved in a seminar that Steve taught. He was here for the 1998 event that Oz put on by himself but that was before my time. Then he was here for the Stickfest in 2006. This year he was the solo teacher and proved to be excellent (not that we didn't all know that already).

So first and foremost, a big thanks goes out to Steve Adelson for coming here to Michigan to teach again. Steve is always very gracious with his time and knowledge online and has recently graced us with a great insructional book. Getting him here live was a real treat and we look forward to getting him back here again in the future.

Next thanks (as always) goes out to the people who signed up and attended. It's been my experience ever since I joined this community that Stick players are a great bunch. The whole vibe at these events is so friendly and fun and that is due in large part to the people who pay to come here. We had several repeat students this year as well as a few new ones. Katie Hill from Oregon and Cory McCormick from Arizona had also recently attended the Santa Cruz seminar making this two seminars in as many weeks for them.

Thanks also to Steve Oz who continues to be the center of all things Stick in southeast Michigan. He lets us use his space and tirelessly promotes the instrument which results a fairly large number of Michiganders attending these events.

Thanks to Susan Chastain at the Firefly Club who in spite of having another event booked, eagerly worked with us to make something work and provided us with what turned out to be a great time slot in a great performance space (if you haven't been to the relocated Firefly Club yet, you really owe it to yourself to check it out).

Thanks also to my wife Rasa who took over the book-keeping duties this year in regards to signups and such. Not to mention being so agreeable to opening our home to the traveling Stickists each year.

And of course, huge thanks to Emmett and Yuta Chapman and everyone at Stick Enterprises for continuing to make and promote these amazing instruments. There are no equals.

Stick and Chapman Stick are federally registered trademarks of Stick Enterprises, Inc.