2011 Chapman Stick Workshop

July 28-30, 2011
Interlochen, MI

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In July of 2011, we held the 2nd Interlochen Chapman Stick Workshop in association with the Interlochen College of Creative Arts. The first of these events was held in 2009.

From the writeup of that event:
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.
After a stellar debut in 2009, the 2011 event featured instruction from long time performers and teachers Greg Howard and Bob Culbertson.

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After the success of 2009, ICCA director Matt Wiliford and I decided that we would wait two years until the next workshop. This, we hoped, would keep the workshop fresh and continue to draw enough students to make it worth while. The instructor decision for this year was pretty much made before the 2009 event even ended. The tandem of Greg Howard and Bob Culbertson has always resulted in some of the best workshops we've had in Michigan. Plus Bob just seemed like a natural fit for the whole Interlochen culture so I was very keen on getting him there.

"When" and "where" were the next questions and these were the questions that took up the better part of a year for Matt and I. We started very informally talking shortly after the 2009 event had ended and really started stepping it up during the summer of 2010. There were some significant changes that occurred since 2009 that made our decisions more interesting.

The first change was the breakup of the Guitar Workshop. The current model had grown in size to a point where there was only one weekend they could possibly hold it and that was in late August. By breaking up into classical, fingerstyle, rock, jazz, etc. they could have smaller and more manageable groups. Seeing as how we shared our weekend with the guitar workshop in 2009, this raised new questions for us here in 2011.

The second change was the new Mallory-Towsley Center for Arts Leadership which is a new building opened in 2010 dedicated to the College of Creative Arts. During our conversations in 2010, Matt pointed out that having our own dedicated space meant we could host our workshop during the Summer Arts Camp but only if we were willing to separate ourserlves from the guitar workshop. This meant that instead of sharing the campus with 60 or 70 adult guitar players, we would share the campus with 2500 to 3000 young and very talented music students ages 8 to 18. This was what I had wanted to do when I first approached Matt about the 2009 event. The August event was fun but the vibe during Summer Arts Camp has always been really amazing. There is music coming from every nook and cranny. In every little hut there are students practicing. Ensemble rehearsals go on morning, noon and night in the various larger practice spaces. Here was an opportunity to share that same vibe I used to have as a high schooler with the Stick students that attend our workshops. So after some deliberation, we opted to go for the vibe and shoot for a July workshop. Once we decided on a weekend and cleared it with Greg and Bob, we were good to go.

Who Was There?

The faculty and students at this event were as follows:
Glenn Poorman - Novi, MI Greg Howard - Charlottesville, VA Bob Culbertson - San Jose, CA Steve Balogh - Canton, MI Jeff Dallavalle - Kalamazoo, MI Tony Diorio - St. Clair Shores, MI Bill Evenhouse - Cairo, Egypt Peter Gani - Grand Rapids, MI Richard Kendrick - Queen Creek, AZ Eric Knapp - Monona, WI Tim Longfellow - Norton, OH Jeff Luebke - Northville, MI Cory McCormick - Glendale, AZ Tom Naughton - Austin, TX Don Scott - Marion, IA Harry Shifman - Glen Spey, NY Brad Styes - Ferndale, MI Zack Swartz - Maybee, MI


There was certainly a little finger crossing going on as far as weather goes. In 2009, the temperature was pretty comfortable but it rained continuously for the entire long weekend. This year the rain forecast was looking promising but for better than a week leading up to the workshop, our temperatures were well into the 90s every day and our humidity wasn't far behind. The week prior to the Interlochen workshop, Bob had managed to land himself a booth at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. The timing was perfect as it allowed him to fly in, do both events, and then fly home. The only drawback was that during the Ann Arbor event, he would be playing outdoors for 10 hours a day during one of the hottest summers I can remember. I figured that if anyone could do it though, it would be Bob. Meanwhile I kept my fingers crossed that we would be in for milder weather for our northern event.

So with the Art Fair over, Bob and I headed north on Monday to our place there. The next guests weren't due to arrive until Wednesday so the plan was to hang out and show Bob the sights for a couple of days. We spent some time in Traverse City and took the nickel tour of Leelanau County taking in Empire, the Empire Bluffs and Glen Arbor. Later on Tuesday, Rasa arrived and we all grabbed dinner at the Leland Lodge and took in a walk around Fishtown.

Wednesday was still to be mostly a day off. Bob got up and took my car into Leland and I had originally intended to practice and re-string my 10-string. Plans changed when my phone literally broke in two. I briefly considered doing without but since my phone was a point of contact for several people travelling to the area, I quickly realized that not having it simply wasn't an option. The only hitch was that unlike suburban Detroit where you can always find an appropriate store within 10 minutes, this was rural-ville and replacing my phone meant an hour round trip to Traverse City plus time spent in the store. There were no other options though so off I went.

After the road trip and the procurement of a shiny new phone, Bob and I both put in some practice time at which point the dinner hour approached and more people arrived. Cory McCormick was the first in around 5:00PM. Cory would be staying at our place the entire weekend. Greg Howard was staying on campus but was planning on having dinner with us so after checking in at Interlochen, he got to our house a little after 6:00PM. Rasa and I cooked up our usual pre-workshop feast and we all sat down to eat. After dinner, we cooked up a bonfire out on the deck, sat outside, and caught up. At the end of the night, Greg and Bob headed for campus while the rest of us turned in at our place.


Thursday was to be a very casual day. Technically nothing started until 1:00PM but I wanted to get their early to scope out the space so Cory and I left the house around 11:00AM. The day's schedule called for registration at 1:00PM, a campus tour at 1:30PM, the welcome meeting at 2:30PM and then the first workshop session at 3:00PM. The plan was to do a setup session from 3:00PM to 5:00PM. At 3:30PM, I was going to pull students away who wanted a music theory primer and teach that in another room until 5:00PM. We started to deviate from our schedule almost immediately though and changes would be made over the course of the entire weekend.

The half hour welcome meeting ended up going an hour. Matt and I started with introductions and logistics. Then we went around and had everybody introduce themselves and talk a little about what brought them. This year had some surprises. The first was that we probably had the largest span of ages we've ever had at any Stick seminar. Zack Swartz was the youngest at age 14 while Bill Evenhouse clocked in at age 72. In addition, Bill officially become the person who travelled the furthest to attend a Michigan seminar coming from Cairo, Egypt.

After the welcome meeting, we kicked into the setup session and Greg also used the time to talk about positioning, posture and such. This turned out to be a really good session and everybody was into it so I opted to postpone the theory class to another day.

Shortly after 5:00PM, we locked up our space and went for our first meal of the weekend. With the Summer Arts Camp in full swing, we had our choice of three different dining halls. The first was the Stone Center cafeteria which is the central location where we had our meals in 2009. Pinecrest is located among the girls cabins and was a viable alternative while Lochaven over in the boys camp was a bit of a walk. On the first day, most of us went to the Stone Center while a few others went over to Pinecrest. Just as in 2009, meal time was about what you would expect from a cafeteria. Still, they did a nice job and we all left fed and happy. With the addition of 2700 young students, the dining halls were noticeably more lively than they had been in 2009.

After dinner we stepped back outside and the scene on campus had changed rather dramatically. In addition to the usual performances, the Kresge Auditorium also serves as the Traverse City area's large concert venue. On the schedule for Thursday night was Dierks Bentley who is apparently a rather huge country star. We had actually heard them sound checking earlier in the day but now the fans were showing up in a big way (boots and hats everywhere). We made our way through the crowd back over to Mallory-Towsley where our plan for the evening was an open stage giving the Stick students a chance to play.

I went back a little early so I could setup chairs and get our performance area ready. Right around that time, I got a call from Steve Oz who was on his way up. He wasn't far away at that point and I half jokingly asked if he'd be ready to hop out of the car to play a few tunes after driving for four hours and battling concert traffic. Without blinking, he said "sure I'll do that".

At 8:00PM, the open stage kicked off. I hadn't originally planned to play but while looking for a sacrificial lamb to open the evening, it was suggested that I do it. So I pulled out my rendition of Nora Jones "Don't Know Why". Just as I was wrapping up, Oz came in with Stick in hand. I opted to give him a little breathing time though and instead turned the stage over to Tony Diorio.

The order for the evening was me, Tony, Eric Knapp, Zack Swartz, Bill Evenhouse, Steve Balogh, Tim Longfellow, and Steve Oz. Tony did a really nice rendition of the Beatles "In My Life". Eric followed up with two compositions by guitarist Andrew York that translated really well to his SG12. Zack played one of these open stages for the first time and did an original tune that sounded great. Bill Evenhouse was perhaps the highlight of the evening. He had only recently taken delivery of a half fretless NS/Stick and did some old time folk music complete with yodeling on it. Certainly it was the first time I'd heard the Stick and yodeling mix. Steve Balogh followed up with a rendition of "Yesterday" and some original looped music. Tim Longfellow played a really nice rendition of Pat Metheny's "Last Train Home". Oz wrapped up the evening with a handful of his original tunes. As an added bonus, he saved his "Chunk O Funk" tune for last and Bob accompanied him. They jammed on this one and it was a great way to wrap the performance.

With the first jam night finished, we didn't waste much time locking up the room and stepping out for the evening. Several of the group staying on campus were planning on heading out to the Hofbrau for nightcaps. Cory, Steve and I had to make the trek back to our place so we opted to head out straight away. Everyone moved outside at that point and the scene out front was kind of amazing. I had never been on campus when they had a huge show like this at Kresge and there were cars piled on top of each other as far as you could see. Luckily when Oz showed up, one of the women directing traffic took pity on him and let him into a spot right next to Mallory-Towsley. While he quickly gathered up his vehicle, Cory and I gathered up mine and the three of us headed out. With one quick market stop along the way, we were back shortly after 10:00PM. Rasa had been out and returned with our friends Mark and Ginger. We all gathered up chairs around another bonfire out on the porch and sat up chatting for a couple of hours before finally turning in.


Friday was the first day where we had to be up early and the workshop courses started in earnest. The plan was to start right at 9:00AM but I wanted to get in a bit early both to unlock and also to move some gear and chairs around. So after breakfast, Cory, Steve and I piled into my vehicle and hit the road.

On campus, we broke into our usual "less experienced" and "more experienced" groups. Greg started with the former and did us usual beginner workshop. This workshop has really been honed over the years and has become a must for anyone just getting started. On the other side, Bob took the other group and did a lengthy course on jazz and blues techniques covering scales, key changes, various expressive techniques, etc.

After the morning session, we all headed for the Stone Center cafeteria to have lunch. By now our weather had turned glorious. We had blue skies and seasonably warm temperatures. With that, instead of eating inside, we loaded our trays and carried them down to the lake just behind Kresge where there were several picnic tables right at the water. While we were eating, one of the young campers was practicing the pipe organ inside Kresge. The organ was hooked up to the big sound system and the sound was massive. He was an excellent organist as well so we hung out for a bit just taking it all in.

After lunch we took a scenic route back to Mallory-Towsley. By this time there was music everywhere. All of the little practice huts had students practicing in them. Pianos, violins, horns, anything you could think of. Right next to our building was a larger rehearsal space called "Charlie's Shack" where a high school jazz ensemble were rehearsing. They were excellent and we stopped for a few minutes to take that in. Finally we got back to our own matters.

Greg and Bob changed sides in the afternoon. Bob worked with the less experienced group on some soloing techniques while Greg did a 2-handed bass workshop with the more experienced group. By this time we were watching the clock a bit as a third room was going to become available. There was an adult pastel painting workshop going on right next to us and they had wrapped up shortly after lunch. During our first afternoon break, I moved my own rig in there and when everybody else started back up, I went off to get some practice in for the evening performance. While I did that, Bob and Greg traded sides again with Greg doing his fretboard navigation class with the less experienced group and Bob working out song learning methods with the more experienced group.

We broke for the evening at 5:00PM. By this time, the jazz ensemble in "Charlie's Shack" had been replaced by a full symphony orchestra. They were in full rehearsal mode and sounded wonderful. Bob, Greg and I were supposed to be over at the Upton-Morley Pavilion at 6:00PM for soundcheck so we had little time to eat. Greg opted to stay behind and practice. Bob, Cory, Steve Balogh and I decided to make a quick run to the Stone Center. When we got down there, there was a pretty massive line to get in so we opted to head over to Pinecrest. Things weren't much better there but by this time we deciced to wait it out. It was interesting as due to the location and the time, the diners at Pinecrest were pretty much all middle school and grade school girls plus the four of us. We didn't have time to take in the awkwardness of it though.

From there, Bob and I joined up with Greg and we moved our gear over to Upton-Morley using Matt's spiffy and personal golf cart. I should point out here that the Upton-Morley Pavilion is a brand spanking new facility. I saw it in progress back in May and it was finished just in time for the Arts Camp. It's a smaller outdoor amphitheater and really beautiful. We had a wonderful sound staff at our disposal made up of summer interns. We all setup our rigs at once and checked everything out with plenty of time to spare. After that we parted ways until showtime. Right around the same time, Rasa arrived and we hung out back over at Mallory-Towsley.

Showtime came at 8:00PM. Matt introduced us and I kicked off the evening. By this time I had opted to drop one tune from my list just to make sure we didn't run too long. The sound on stage was fairly boomy but I was assured that things evened out where it counted. I ran just over 20 minutes and was fairly pleased with the outcome splitting my set between Alto and Grand Stick. Greg played next. He did a fantastic set doing some of his older and newer favorites and also dropping in a Mozart piece he worked up on his SG12. I believe it was during Gregs set where the orchestra that had been rehearsing in "Charlie's Shack" had let out and all stood back on the road listening. Bob was next delivering some great renditions of both original and cover tunes and then wrapping up with an improvisation. With the three sets done, we all met back up on stage and did a 3-Stick jam of "All Along the Watchtower". This was kind of a last minute thing and we had only briefly practiced it during the sound check. It came off pretty well though and was a blast.

Post-show, we packed up and carted our gear back to Mallory-Towsley and locked up. Once again, the guys staying on campus headed up to the Hafbrau while Steve, Cory, Rasa and I piled into vehicles and headed back to the house. Once again we setup shop out on the deck and had another bonfire before turning in.


On Saturday morning we were up and out early one more time. This time Oz took his own car and followed me down as his plan was to head home right at the end of the workshop day. At 9:00AM we started up for the day. Greg was once again doing his 2-handed bass workshop only this time he was working with the less experienced group. Bob moved over to the more experienced group and dove into some of the techniques he uses to arrange songs for performance. During one of morning breaks, I set my rig up back in 108 in preparation for my theory class which we decided I would do right after lunch. At right around noon, we broke for lunch.

Once again the weather was glorious so just as we'd done the day before, we grabbed lunch at the Stone Center and took it down to the lakeside behind Kresge. Again we soaked up the afternoon sun and listened to the organist practicing up above us. From there we split up and I took a leisurely walk down the main road so I could swing by the security office and turn in my key. After that I headed back but stopped by Charlie's Shack to listen to the jazz ensemble rehearse some more.

We started back up around 1:30PM. Greg moved back into the more experienced group and Bob took the beginners. I grabbed a small handful who were looking for the music theory primer and we headed over to 108. We ran the theory course until 3:00PM. At that point everybody else were taking a break. With the rest of our afternoon, we opened up the room divider and got back into one large group. At this point, Greg was doing a major setup job on Tony's Stick and so Bob took the time to do some playing and have a Q&A session. Later, Greg came in and opted to lead the entire class in a group improv. The improv actually turned out really well. Many times these kinds of open jams have moments of clarity among piles of chaos but this one, briefly starting chaotic, really seemed to take on a life of it's own.

After the jam, our last order of business was to grab one of the big speaker phones and call Emmett. Steve Oz had talked to Emmett earlier and warned him that we'd be calling so he was ready. We all chatted a bit and then packed it all up.

At that point, a handful of participants took to the road immediately. Tony Diorio was one of the first ones out and about ten minutes after he left, Cory found his Stick sitting inside. We were feverishly trying to find a way to get his cell number (which nobody had). Finally as I was calling Stick Enterprises to see if they had it, he called Matt and said he was on his way back. Crisis averted!

So just like in 2009, our tentative plan was to wrap up the event with a bonfire on Good Harbor Beach. Unfortunately after a gorgeous weekend, I checked the weather and there was a line of severe storms heading in over Lake Michigan. We did all meet briefly at the beach just to take it all in. I think Bob had been looking for an opportunity to swim in the lake all week so at this point he got out of the car and was in the water before anyone else knew what had happened. Once we were all gathered and accounted for, we moved the party back to our house. Rasa fired up the bonfire and we all gathered chairs out on the deck and had a great evening. Of course ... not a single drop of rain fell.


Bob had a 7:00AM flight out of Traverse City on Sunday he had to catch and the Interlochen staff had promised to get him their on time so he went back to campus a little early on Saturday night. Greg checked out of his room on campus and spent the last night at our place. Cory stayed the last night as well and everybody else went back to campus. On Sunday morning, Rasa made a breakfast fit for kings. After that Greg hit the road. Cory wanted to trek up to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain (a local and now closed ski resort) and check out the views from the top. Rasa and I took the dogs down to Good Harbor Beach and went swimming. After meeting up back at our place, Cory hit the road and I pretty much slept the rest of the day driving back to Novi on Monday.


It's no secret by now that I have a major soft spot for Interlochen. I'll always jump at the opportunity to be on campus and after two successful Stick workshops I can safely say that the place really does work for us. As I mentioned at the start though, the 2009 and 2011 events were very different. In 2009, the adults (the guitar players and us) were the only ones on campus. We were the center of attention and the Corson performance was really well attended and fantastic. In 2011, we were the only adult workshop sharing the campus with the Summer Arts Camp students. In this case we were but one tiny cog in a huge machine but the overall music vibe during this time was really incredible. Both times of the year appear to have their advantages and disadvantages and this will be the topic of many conversations between now and 2013.

Regardless of where they appeared on the calendar though, both workshops were fantastic and I can safely say that neither would have happened they way they did if I'd not met Matt Wiliford back in 2008. Matt took an immediate shine to the idea of a Stick workshop at Interlochen and has been the champion of these events since they started. I can't thank him enough as well as Kristin Shroeger who continues to be the organizational mind that keeps everything on schedule and keeps us afloat.

Greg continues to be a mainstay at the Michigan seminars. Yes this is partly due to the fact that I consider Greg a good friend but also because he puts more effort into it than anyone I've ever seen. He keeps tweaking and honing his courses and his logistical help during these events is something I can't put a price on. Bob comes in second as far as the number of Michigan seminar's taught and his courses are always fantastic. He's probably been teaching the instrument longer than anyone short of Emmett himself and the performances he brings along are always amazing. Both these guys have always been exceedingly generous with their time and I think we all owe them a debt of gratitude for that.

Once again, the students make the event and we had quite a few repeat students this year. You guys all keep these events going and it's always a pleasure to spend the time with you.

Lastly, thanks to Rasa for again opening our home to bunch of musicians, to Cambria for logistics and merchandise from the California end, and to Emmett and Yuta for their ongoing support and for the fantastic instruments they create.

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