2009 Interlochen Stick Workshop

August 20-22, 2009
Interlochen, MI

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All photos by Glenn Poorman except where otherwise noted.

Nestled between Duck Lake and Green Lake in the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula, the Interlochen Center For The Arts was founded in 1927 and is a world renowned organization boasting a 2500 student summer arts camp for kids ranging from ages 8 to 18, a 500 student visual and performing arts high school, two 24 hour listener supported public radio stations, an evolving series of adult arts programs and eight decades worth of alumni worldwide.

This year the annual Guitar Festival and Workshop, an adult program hosted by the Interlochen College of Creative Arts, added a dimension by expanding their program to include a Chapman Stick® workshop. The event celebrated the 40th anniversary of Emmett Chapman's discovery of the Free Hands tapping method and featured instruction and a performance from Emmett himself as well as long time Stick performer and teacher Greg Howard.

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In the summers of 1977, 78 and 79, I was a student at the summer arts camp at Interlochen playing the saxophone in both the high school concert band and the high school jazz ensemble. Being a student at the camp meant total immersion in music and anyone who was ever there will tell you that their years at Interlochen were among some of the best musical experiences they ever had. In the years since I graduated high school, I have been back to visit the campus on quite a few occasions and had considered hosting a Stick seminar there many times but never followed through on the idea.

During the spring of 2008, I was on a six week sabbatical playing and recording music in northwestern Michigan near Interlochen. One day I decided to take a self guided walking tour around campus. The summer campers had just arrived and there was music everywhere. During my walk, I happened upon a large cabin where a small jazz ensemble made up of what looked like high schoolers were playing. I called Greg Howard on my cell phone right on the spot, stuffed the phone in the open window and proceeded to tell him that we really needed to have an event here. At first my intention was simply to try and rent space for one of our usual seminars but when I went to the alumni office to find out who I needed to talk to, they put me in touch with Matt Wiliford at the College of Creative Arts. Matt was in the final stages of planning the 2008 guitar workshop and was already looking at 2009. I dropped him an email and he replied almost immediately wanting to meet. Twenty four hours later I was sitting in his office and we were talking about officially including the Stick in the 2009 Guitar Festival and Workshop.

Matt had really done his homework. We got together a few times throwing around ideas on how to make sure we could attract a reasonable number of students. Interlochen wasn't going to be as geographically convenient as Ann Arbor and the cost per student would certainly be higher than in the Ann Arbor events. Matt suggested commemorating the 40th anniversary of the discovery of Free Hands and inviting Emmett to teach and perform. I wanted to make sure we had a second teacher also and threw Greg's name in the hat. From there it was just a matter of selling the idea to Emmett and to Greg and also to the rest of the board at Interlochen. Within about a month or so, we had come to terms with all parties and started the planning process.

Working with Interlochen on this event was a real breath of fresh air for me. They were considerably better organized than I ever had been in the past and they were very specific about things they needed and dates they needed them by. We had the teachers committed by the fall. By Christmas we'd put together a schedule of classes with detailed descriptions. By spring we'd made posters and mailers both electronic and physical. By the time summer rolled around, there was practically nothing left to do but watch the enrollment.

By August 1st we were up to 20 students. We were pretty happy with that number. It was more than enough to cover expenses but not so much that any one teacher was overloaded. In the last weeks leading up to the event, some emails were sent to the students, equipment logistics were worked out and travel arrangements were made. We were ready.

Who Was There?

The faculty and students at this event were as follows:
Glenn Poorman - Novi, MI Emmett Chapman - Woodland Hills, CA Greg Howard - Charlottesville, VA Steve Balogh - Canton, MI Dave Brosky - Carnegie, PA Michael Brown - Warsaw, IN Jeff Comas - Knoxville, TN Pete Croce - Grosse Pointe Farms, MI Jeff Dallavalle - Kalamazoo, MI Tony Diorio - St. Clair Shores, MI Michael Duclon - Tarpon Springs, FL Art Durkee - Beloit, WI Steve Giedosh - Detroit Lakes, MN John Hise - Belgium, WI Eric Knapp - Monona, WI Peter Ling - Croton, NY Tim Longfellow - Norton, OH Jeff Luebke - Northville, MI Cory McCormick - Glendale, AZ Jim Meyer - Vancouver, BC Tom Naughton - Austin, TX David Veldhuizen - Streamwood, IL John Vice - Kitchener, ON


Some extra time off work and a house in the area meant that I was able to head north the weekend before the event started and stay until well after the event was over. This gave me the opportunity to visit the campus on the Monday before the event, scout our facilities and make sure we were covered as far as electrical outlets, extension cords and power strips. I met with Matt and his assistant Kristin Celeste Shroeger to go over last minute details and everyone's travel arrangements. We appeared to be ready.

The first arrival was on Tuesday. Jim Meyer, an old friend and someone who has organized as many or more of these seminars than I have, flew into Traverse City on Thursday afternoon. I drove into town to do airport pickup duty and after a quick Traverse City tour, we returned to our house. The following afternoon, Pete Croce arrived at our place and also stayed with us for the duration of the event. Around dinner time on Wednesday, Jim and I drove back to the Traverse City Airport and picked up Emmett. We all returned to our house and began cooking up a meal fit for a king. Around 7PM, Greg Howard arrived and we feasted. After dinner we built a bonfire out front and sat around catching up until Greg and Emmett piled into Greg's vehicle and returned to Interlochen where they would stay for the duration of the event. The rest of us stayed behind and crashed.


Thursday began with registration. We had a lot of gear to bring so even though there were only three of us coming in from Cedar, we had to take two cars. We got to campus a little after 9AM and the Stone Center Hotel lobby was alive with Stick players and guitarists alike. I spent a little time putting faces to some of the names I already knew but then I had to sneak out to load gear into the facilities. Most of our classes were scheduled to take place in either "The Shed" (intermediate/advanced courses) or "The Writing House" (beginner courses). The two facilities were within sight of each other and a very short walk. In addition, Greg would do a session on recording techniques at the IPR studios on Friday and on Saturday I was scheduled to do a looping workshop at the Frohlich Piano and Percussion building. I took my car over to the Shed and unloaded. I also met up with one of the facilities guys to gather up enough extension cords and power strips to cover all of our facilities. From there it was back to the Stone Center. We took a quick inventory of the amps that had been brought by the Stick players, made sure we'd be covered in both facilities and then headed to the Chapel for the official welcome gathering.

The welcome gathering was where we went over the weekends events and introduced all of the faculty to the students. Matt Wiliford started off the gathering and then passed the floor over to John Wunsch. John was the director of the guitar workshop. He and I had exchanged several emails leading up to the event but had not met until that day. John was a great guy to be leading the weekend. He was very enthusiastic and very pleased to have the small army of Stick players on campus along with the guitar guys.

Once all of the introductions were wrapped up, everyone headed to their first classes of the day. The itinerary for the day was as follows:

11:15 Stick setup and truss adjustment, Chapman Warm-up routines/ideas, Howard
12:15 Lunch
1:30 Basic Stick technique, Howard Finger Sticking/string percussion, Chapman
2:45 Basic Stick technique (cont.), Howard RH 3 finger melodic concept, Chapman
4:00 Open discussion and student performances, Poorman
6:00 Dinner
8:00 Concert: Greg, Emmett and the Mel Bay Trio

Getting the first class rolling took a little bit of extra time as we had to get all of the various amps and mixers running and make sure everyone had sound. That only had to be done once though and soon enough you could hear the sound of many Sticks all warming up at the same time. We were officially rolling.

With the classes in full swing, I went back to the Stone Center Hotel to setup the merchandise table. This is a staple at all Stick seminars and we had a nice collection of accessories, CDs and DVDs for the Stick players or anyone else who wanted to buy.

By the time lunch rolled around, the rain was coming down pretty hard. People made there way back to the Stone Center either by foot or riding on one of the many covered golf carts driving around campus. I went over to the Writing House to get Emmett and he was still going over the setup on several of the student Sticks. Cafeteria hours were pretty rigid and we were on the tail end of the lunch schedule so I managed to hurry things along and get everyone heading for lunch.

Lunch was tasty and did the trick but it was essentially cafeteria food. It was still nice that everyone (Stickists and guitarists alike) were together sharing some down time though. Just like old times. A bunch of music students talking and eating in the Stone Center. For a second I felt like I was 15 again.

After lunch it was back to class. For the rest of the afternoon, Greg did a 2-part session covering his beginning Stick techniques in the Writing House. This has become a must have class for the beginning Stick player. Back over in The Shed, Emmett did classes on finger sticking and an extended 3-finger melody technique.

At 4:00, Emmett and Greg needed to head over to Corson Auditorium to sound check for the evening's concert. That left the rest of us to get together in The Shed to perform for one another. Originally I had really hoped on moving this particular session out into the Gazebo in the Osterlin Mall. The rains were still coming down though so that idea was out. I setup my performance rig in the shed and we jammed there.

The student performances are always a fun time and a favorite among the attending players. With my rig setup, I opted to go first and didn't make any announcements. I just started to play. I ran about four tunes and then turned the floor over to anyone who wanted to play. The players for the day after I finished were Tim Longfellow, Eric Knapp, Jeff Comas, Jim Meyer, Steve Giedosh and Dave Brosky. All the performers did a great job. We had a nice mix of seasoned vets, newcomers, and everyone in between. Eric gets the extra call out on this one simply because this was his first time ever playing in front of people and also because his tunes consisted of Mozart and Bach. The Cello Suite in particular was excellent.

We wrapped up the jam session right at 6:00PM, packed up and headed for dinner at the Stone Center. After that I headed over to the merchandise table to chat with people walking through the vendor area and sell some merch.

By the time we got close to the concert hour, Rasa had driven down to join us. We headed over to Corson and made our way inside. Corson is a beautiful theater. The first time I'd seen it was my first year as a camper in 1977. At that time it was two years old and was the newest auditorium on campus. It has been kept up quite nicely and the acoustics inside are as near perfect as you're going to find. The attendence was somewhere in between 250 and 300 so there was a decent crowd inside.

If there is one thing you can say about Interlochen, they are punctual. John Wunsch came out at 8:00PM sharp and introduced Greg Howard. Greg ran a fantastic 25 minute set including some of his favorites like "Goya's Dream", "Tomorrow Never Knows", and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" (which he played on his SG12). It was an excellent set and as I'd already mentioned, the sound was phenomenal. After Greg finished, John returned to the stage and introduced Emmett. Emmett launched into a full set of the music that only he can create. He started with a rendition of "Bridge Over Trouble Water" that he took to completely new places. He also played the Celine Dion song from "Titanic" as well as his own "Parallel Galaxy". It was exceptional to hear and see Emmett performing his music in this kind of concert hall on Interlochen's campus. It felt like we were really taking what we do to another level and the audience received both Greg and Emmett extremely well.

With Emmett's set finished, there was a short intermission. We chatted in the hallways exchanging impressions of the show. Then the lights flashed and we returned inside. The entire second half of the show was the Mel Bay Trio which consisted of guitarists Corey Christiansen, Vic Juris and Matthew Von Doran along with a drummer and bassist. These guys were a top notch jazz ensemble and ran an excellent hour set to wrapup the evening.

With the concert over. We found our vehicles and Jim, Pete and I headed back to the house. By this time, we'd picked up a fourth. Emmett's brother Dan was planning on doing some filming during this event for the documentary that he's working on about Emmett. At the last minute though, something else came up that required his attention so he sent along Tanner Wolfe. Tanner is a cinematographer and is also a Michigan native. He flew into visit family in Grand Rapids and then drove up to Interlochen on Thursday. He would also stay with us the rest of the weekend so we headed back to the house late Thursday in a convoy of three vehicles. Once back, we had a couple of beers around yet another bonfire and then turned in for the evening.


On Friday we were all up by 7:30AM. Rasa made breakfast for everybody and we managed to hit the road by about 8:30AM. This time Jim and I were back in my vehicle again while Pete rode with Tanner. We arrived shortly after 9:00AM and went immediately into the days classes. The itinerary for the day was as follows:

9:00 Left hand motor accompaniment, Chapman Interdependent continuum, Howard
11:15 Right hand lead lines, Chapman Life on the margins, Howard
12:15 Lunch
1:30 Rock and Blues basslines, Howard Lead line chord progression, Chapman
2:45 Rock and blues basics: soloing, Howard Wheel chart / Offset Modal System, Chapman
4:00 Recording techniques, Howard Free Hands for guitarists, Chapman
6:00 Dinner
8:00 Concert: Spanish Classic

Emmett spent the entirety of Friday morning in the Writing House working with the beginners on left hand motors and lead lines with the right hand. Greg worked with the intermediate and advanced players. He started with a cool workshop on interdependence vs independence and then moved into position shifting techniques. Everyone was really dug in by this point and the information was flying quickly. I took some time out during Greg's first class to work with Tanner on some interviews.

We broke for lunch at about 12:15 and for a brief period, the sun actually poked out from between the clouds and it was somewhat pleasant outside. I did what was becoming my usual ... eat and then attend to the merch table. We also took some time to walk around a bit. I was really hoping on getting some more time to show some of these guys the campus but the weather was not agreeing with us. I still jumped on little opportunities here and there though to play tour guide.

After lunch we were right back into it. Emmett and Greg changed places with Greg moving to the Writing House to work with the beginners and Emmett moving to the Shed to work with everyone else. Greg was doing some fun stuff working on rock and blues bass and soloing. Emmett started the afternoon talking about lead lines and then moved into the first half of the talk on his "Offset Modal System". This ended up being some pretty heady stuff and after the first half, people were beginning to look visibly fried. This turned out to be a pretty common look amongst everyone from both facilities on Friday afternoon though. It was a long day with a lot of information being tossed around and it still wasn't over yet.

For the last two hour stretch, Greg moved over to the IPR (Interlochen Public Radio) studios and did a workshop on recording techniques for the Stick. This was similar to the tech seminar we'd done in Charlottesville a few years back and was very popular. A small handful who decided they'd had enough that day opted to stay in the Writing House and practice. Emmett stayed in the Shed and did a Free Hands workshop for some of the guitar players. It looked as though there were about four or five guitar players that showed up for this as well as one of our own Steve Balogh who wanted some techniques more focused to the guitar fretboard.

Emmett wrapped up his last session at about 5:00PM. He and Tanner were heading off for dinner and I closed up at the Shed. The IPR session ran right up until 6:00PM so by the time they started filing into the cafeteria, I had already eaten and took my place at the merch table.

Again, Rasa joined me that evening and we headed over to Corson at 8:00PM. There were no Stick players in tonight's show but there was plenty of guitar action to be had. The theme of the evening was "Spanish Classic" and consisted of Gohar Vardanyan who played classical guitar with a Spanish tinge, Peter Baime who played Flamenco and award winning classical guitarist Denis Azabagic. Once again the sound in the room was perfect and we enjoyed some really beautiful music.

After the show, Rasa and Jim Took off in her car back to Cedar. I met up with Tanner and Pete who were over at the Writing House recording interviews with Greg and Emmett. They were just wrapping up. They packed up Tanner's van and followed me back to Cedar. Just as we'd done the night before, we had some beers out by the fire and then turned in.


Our last workshop morning. Again we were all up by 7:30AM, had breakfast and set out to Interlochen. We arrived just before 9:00PM and headed straight to our classes for the day. The itinerary for the day was as follows:

9:00 Whole body Stick playing, Howard Offset Modal System II, Chapman
10:15 Fretboard Music Theory, Chapman StaffTab notation/writing, Howard
11:30 Song arrangement, Chapman Arrangement and playing tactics, Howard
12:30 Lunch
1:30 The Stick for the Stickless, Howard Looping workshop, Poorman Geographic approach to Free Hands tapping, Chapman
3:45 Q&A session/master class, Chapman/Howard
5:00 Dinner
8:00 Concert: Double Grammy Guitar

Saturday kicked off with Greg over at the Writing House talking to the beginners about using your entire body to play. Emmett continued his discussion of the Offset Modal System over in the Shed. A lot of the guys in the Shed were still a bit fuzzy from the day before but during the second half of Emmett's lecture on the subject, you could look around and see the light bulbs starting to turn on in the room. That's always a rewarding sight for a teacher.

In the second half of the morning, Emmett and Greg changed venues. Emmett went over to the Writing House to talk about fretboard music theory on the Stick while Greg did a StaffTab session. Feeling pretty strong in that department, I took the opportunity to skip out and print some things up in the office and make some copies. I ended up walking back to the Shed with Matt Wiliford having a long talk about how things were going and potential future plans. Once we got back to the Shed, the StaffTab discussion was just wrapping up and there seemed to be some healthy debate going on surrounding some of the notation Greg had introduced recently. It's always interesting to hear points of view from people who are used to reading for other instruments. Greg made notes and will continue to revise no doubt.

We headed back to the Stone Center for our last lunch. I was planning on cutting lunch short as I was teaching a looping workshop and needed to setup. By the time I finished eating and looked at my watch though, I was cutting it very close. I charged back to the Shed, packed up my rig into a vehicle and moved it all over to the Frohlich piano and percussion building. I had a really good turnout for my workshop and they were all piling in at about the same time I was. I needed to do some serious setup so I started talking about gear and my own rig whilst setting up and this provided for plenty of discussion until I was ready to play. Once I was up and running, I had no problem filling the rest of the two hours. If there's one thing I've learned about Stick players it's that they love talks that involve gear and so we had plenty of lively discussion. I really had a blast doing this particular workshop and would love to do more.

During my workshop, Emmett did a class that he calls the geographic approach to Free Hands tapping. Greg was in the Shed doing his "Stick for the Stickless" class which involved giving guitar players a chance to strap on a Stick and try it out. From what I gathered, that workshop was very well attended and a lot of fun.

The three 1:30 courses wrapped up and from there, everyone moved back over to the Shed for our last session. This was a master class and Q&A session with both Greg and Emmett. This was a great wrapup to the weekend. We ran right up until the end with a lot of great questions thrown around and both Greg and Emmett talking and playing. At 5:00PM, we called it a day.

During the breaks leading up to the last session, I'd packed up quite a bit of stuff so when the last session ended, we managed to get things moved out of the facilities and into vehicles in pretty short order. I did a quick pass through the Shed and the Writing House making sure we didn't leave anything behind and then headed back over to the Stone Center for our last dinner. After the meal we moved into the lobby and vendor area. Nobody was really ready to leave yet so the music conversations kept going. I sold some last minute items from the merch table and then packed it up. The conversations were still going strong and I had to pull Jim, Pete and Tanner away so we could head out.

Earlier in the day, we decided it would be really cool to wrap up the entire weekend with a bonfire on Good Harbor Beach. I typed up directions for everybody and handed them out before dinner. Right after that, Rasa called and informed me that she'd visited the beach and the waves along with the winds made a beach fire an unattractive option. So I modified my directions and sent people to our house. With that, our small group decided to skip the evening's concert and get ready for the after party. The people who weren't staying with me stayed behind for the concert.

The theme for the last concert was "Double Grammy Guitar" and featured former Wing's guitarist Laurence Juber along with award winning composer Andrew York. The guys that stayed behind really enjoyed this concert and were treated to a special ending when the two performers came out together and debuted a new Andrew York composition for two guitars. A perfect ending to the whole event.

Back on our end, Jim, Pete, Tanner and I convoyed back up to Cedar. We stopped on the way for some supplies and saw Tim Longfellow and Art Durkee rolling up shortly behind us. Back at the house, we fired up the bonfire and got the evening rolling. Later on as the 11:00 hour was approaching, the rest of the crew showed up which included Mike Brown, Corey McCormick, Jeff Dallavalle, Steve Giedosh, Jeff Comas and of course Greg and Emmett. This turned out to be the real wrapup and we had a blast. We played some music, had some good talks and put away a few drinks until well into the morning. Then we all split up and called it a wrap. At that point, those of us left behind at the house crashed hard.


Jim and I started off our Sunday by sleeping in. Once we were up, we still kept the activity level at pretty much zero. We made a couple of local trips and I put my rig back together at the house. That was pretty much it though. Later on as the sun was going down, we grabbed some firewood and headed down to Good Harbor for that beach fire we'd tried to have on Saturday. Unlike Saturday though, the weather on Sunday night was perfect.

On Monday, Jim and I headed back to Interlochen. The idea was that we would visit the shop which we didn't take the time to do during the workshop. We would also check in to make sure Matt and Kristin were still standing. The weather was actually beautiful (finally) so I gave Jim the extended campus walking tour that we didn't have a chance to take the week before. We checked out Duck Lake and the boys camp area, walked through the Giddings Concourse and went back to the Shed and Writing House so that Jim could get some good outdoor shots in the sun.

With the walking tour behind us, we went over to the shop only to find that they were closed for the week so we went to find Matt at the Stone Center. Matt hadn't arrived yet but we ran into Kristin and chatted for quite a while until Matt came and joined us. By this time we were way overdue for lunch so we bid our farewells to Kristin and Matt and headed back. With the rest of the day, Jim and I played Stick back at the house and then he treated Rasa and I to dinner at the Cove in Leland.

Jim had a 6:15AM flight on Tuesday morning so there really wasn't anything left to do after that except to turn in early. The next morning, he and I were up around 4:20AM and we hit the road for Traverse City. I dropped Jim off with plenty of time to spare, turned the car around, and headed back to the house where I fed the dogs and promptly went back to bed.


This event is quite possibly my favorite of all the events we've organized here in Michigan. It's probably been fairly obvious since this event was announced that Interlochen is a place that means a lot to me so that alone was going to make this event unique. But even aside from that, the whole atmosphere with the campus and guitar workshop was really incredible and everyone felt like they were part of something special. The staff at Interlochen were wonderful around every turn and they really helped make this a one of a kind event. There were simply no hitches or glitches anywhere.

The first person I really need to thank is Matt Wiliford. It was pretty clear the moment I walked into Matt's office the first time that he really wanted to make something happen and if it weren't for his enthusiasm early on, the idea would have died as quickly as it was born. Once we decided to move forward though, Matt was tireless in his support. That's also when Kristin Celeste Shroeger and John Wunsch entered into the picture. Kristin was essentially the glue that kept us all on schedule and handled all of the students calling to sign up. John helped a lot with scheduling as this was my first time scheduling an Interlochen workshop and he was also very welcoming and enthusiastic once the workshop got started.

I am very grateful to Emmett for agreeing to come to this. I realize that it's very difficult for Emmett to travel with the demands of his business and I feel very fortunate to have gotten him here to Michigan twice now. It was a real joy to celebrate 40 years of Free Hands on the Interlochen Campus and I can't imagine that this event would have had near the turnout without him. Greg still continues to amaze me with his teaching even after all these years. Greg's material is constantly evolving and branching out and I've never run across anyone who puts as much preparation into these seminars as Greg does. I'm always appreciative when Greg comes to town and I think his students generally feel the same way.

The students are inevitably the backbone of these seminars and it never ceases to amaze me what a great group of people Stick players are in general. We all had a blast and all of you were a genuine pleasure to be around.

I have to put a huge thanks out there to my wife Rasa who continues to open up her home the travelling Stick player and Stick teacher every time we hold one of these events. This year she added a meal fit for a king as a precursor to the event and a great party to wrap it all up. I'd never make it on my own. Of course, I also have to thank Yuta Chapman for her undying support and also for letting us have Emmett for the week.

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