2013 Chapman Stick Workshop

July 11-13, 2013
Interlochen, MI

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In July of 2013, we held the 3rd Interlochen Chapman Stick Workshop in association with the Interlochen College of Creative Arts. After the first event in 2009, we made a decision that we would make this a biennial event. We followed up with a hugely successful event in 2011 and then hosted the third in 2013.

From the writeup of the 2009 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.
The 2013 event featured instruction from world class performers and techers Bob Culbertson and Steve Adelson.

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Between the 2009 and 2011 events, several changes occurred. In 2009 we hosted the event in August and shared the campus with a very large adult guitar workshop. In 2011, the guitar workshop was broken up into smaller pieces and the building of the new Mallory-Towsley Center for Arts Leadership meant that the adult programs had their own building to call their own shots in. This moved the whole program earlier into the summer and it meant we shared the campus with the Summer Arts Camp students. This meant that our live performances didn't receive near the attention they had in 2009 but also meant that the campus was alive with young talented musicians around every corner practicing their craft. After the 2011 event, I asked several participants who'd been to both which they preferred and most said emphatically that they loved being on campus with the young students. As a learning experience, they found it very inspirational and also very relaxing. It was like a total immersion experience. With that, we decided to make July the rule and held the 2013 event around the same time.

In 2011, Bob Culbertson had taught at the Interlochen event for the first time. His selection was easy as he was already heading to Michigan to perform at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. The Interlochen Workshop was scheduled for the weekend right after that so we just extended his stay a bit. As it turned out, Bob was offerred a recurring gig at the Art Fair. During his stay in 2012, we began discussing the possibility of another Interlochen Workshop. Early in the fall, Ann Arbor posted their dates for 2013 and Matt and I immediately set our 2013 dates opting to hold the workshop the weekend prior to the Art Fair.

The selection of Steve Adelson seemed an easy one as well. Steve is one of what I consider a small handful of a real world class Stick teachers. He and Bob have a history of not only teaching together but also performing together and it seemed very logical to pair them up for this. A few emails and a few phone conversations later, we were set.

Who Was There?

The faculty and students at this event were as follows:
Glenn Poorman - Novi, MI Bob Culbertson - San Jose, CA Steve Adelson - Long Beach, NY Steve Osburn - Ann Arbor, MI Steve Balogh - Canton, MI Pete Gilbert - Ann Arbor, MI John Hise - Belgium, WI Thom Jayne - Frankfort, MI Eric Kemp - Erie, PA Eric Knapp - Monona, WI Tim Longfellow - Norton, OH Jeff Luebke - Northville, MI Cory McCormick - Glendale, AZ Bob Niemczewski - Dearborn, MI Harry Shifman - Glen Spey, NY Laura Steinel - Lenexa, KS Joe Viau - Cranston, RI Debi Viau - Cranston, RI


It seems like every event has a story or two leading up to it that attempts to throw a wrench into the best laid plans. For the most part this one was smooth sailing right up until the last minute. My only real complaint up until then was that it simply snuck up on me too fast and some of the details I wanted to iron out were left to be settled on the fly during the workshop.

This year we had three people who had never picked up a Stick before and would need to borrow instruments. It's actually not unusual for us to have one or maybe two at the most. Three is a bit unusual and out of all the local folks, I had the only spare. Luckily Bob was able to ship two extra in time for the workshop so that was taken care of.

Logistics-wise, things fell into place just perfectly. I told both Bob and Steve that they had the option of flying into Detroit and driving up with me or flying direct to Traverse City. For various reasons, Bob ended up choosing Traverse City while Steve chose Detroit. The timing was perfect though. Steve came in on Wednesday at about 10:00AM. Bob was due to arrive in Traverse City at 3:30PM leaving plenty of time to get Steve, pack up my stuff, make the drive to Traverse City, and pick Bob up. Any overflow of gear that wouldn't fit into my car would go with Rasa who would drive up separately with the dogs in tow after she got off work.

Unfortunately a canine medical emergency crept up on Tuesday. The oldest pup had to have some surgery done and wouldn't be able to travel. This left Rasa staying behind which resulted in some logistical complications but, more importantly, just isn't as much fun. We pushed on though and pretty much kept to the original plan with the exception that we had to make a run to the north house and unload before we'd have room to grab Bob from the airport in Traverse City. It all worked out almost to the minute though.

Once we were back at our place, we relaxed for a bit and then headed into the town of Leland where we met Pete Gilbert for dinner at the Bluebird. From there we walked around Fishtown a bit until finally I dropped Bob and Steve at Interlochen and retreated back to our place for the night. I should add here that the lodging provided to Steve and Bob at Interlochen was fantastic. Usually they put these guys up in the Stone Hotel but when I checked them in, we were directed to L-74 and L-75 which was basically a big cabin with two units in it. Each unit had a very large bedroom with an added couch, a full bath, and a small kitchen. Very nice indeed.


Thursday was the official opening of the 2013 workshop and the schedule for the day read as follows:
Registration: Mallory-Towsley Lobby

Welcome and Student Introductions: Mallory-Towsley Great Room

New Players (Poorman,Osburn): Classroom 106/107
Everyone Else (Adelson, Culbertson): Mallory-Towsley Great Room

Ensemble Practice
Group A (Adelson): Mallory-Towsley Classroom 106/107
Group B (Culbertson): Mallory Towsley Great Room

Dinner Break

Chapman Stick Workshop Faculty Concert: Mallory-Towsley Great Room
A 1:00PM start followed by a 1:30PM campus tour meant a liesurely morning for me. I was able to go for a run and then slowly pack up all my gear and head out pretty close to noon. I arrived at Interlochen around 12:30 and people were already trickling in. Immediately I saw some familiar faces and as usual, it was great to see everybody and catch up.

At 2:30PM we all gathered in the Mallory-Towsley Great Room and officially kicked off the workshop. The first hour was our usual introductory session. Both Matt and I talked about the workshop and campus logistics. Then we went around the room and had everyone introduce themselves and talk a little about what brought them here. We appeared to have a really good group this year and also had our very first husband and wife students in Debi and Joe Viau. So now between Debi and Joe along with Gary and Jocelyn Garner (who attended twice back in the Ann Arbor days), we've had both a husband and wife as well as a father and daughter here in Michigan.

After the introductions, Steve and Bob opted to start the workshop with a panel discussion and Q&A session. This would allow them to get a feel for where everyone was at and what they wanted to learn. At this time, Steve Osburn and I had already decided that we would take our three newcomers who were borrowing Sticks to another room and do some introductory work with them. Steve Oz was running a bit late and hadn't arrived yet. I took our three (Thom Jayne, Debi Viau, and Joe Viau) into one of the classrooms. Right away we hit a bit of a snag. Bob had brought two of the three extra Sticks we needed but he neglected to pack any shoulder straps with them. I scurried and grabbed the straps off my own Grand and Alto instruments. I was just finishing hooking the Sticks up when Oz rolled in making his timing just perfect. We immediately went to work showing our students how the Stick works, how it's hooked up, how it should be worn, and some very simple playing rudiments. After about an hour, we returned the three to the Great Room where they were able to join the panel discussion. As we approached 5:00PM, Steve, Bob, and I realized we hadn't really alotted enough setup time for our evening concert so we opted to put off the ensemble rehearsals and simply continue the panel discussion until 5:30 and then break for dinner. Steve and Bob decided to have the group play a little to wrap up the day at which point I returned to the classroom with Debi and Joe to talk a bit more about some basic techniques. At around 5:30PM, we wrapped up and broke for dinner.

It's never entirely clear what kind of weather you're going to get in Michigan and any time you're visiting Interlochen, you always hope for dry and mild just because the campus and surrounding area is so beautiful. Mealtime is one of those times of the day where you get to take advantage and when the weather is nice, we generally forgo the indoor cafeteria seating and head out by the lake. Our Thursday weather was about as good as you could ask for and the forecast promised the same for Friday and Saturday. On Thursday evening, several of our group headed outdoors to eat while others opted for the cafeteria. Either way, it's a chance to mix with many of the young campers and if you're outdoors, you're likely to hear some rehearsals going on as well. As luck would have it, there were full symphony rehearsals going on in Kresge for just about every meal we had.

At 7:30PM, the first concert of the weekend kicked off. This year we opted to hold any student performances until the end giving them time to get comfortable and maybe use some of what they learned. So Thursday we held the faculty concert which consisted of me, Steve, and Bob. I opened with a short set of my original tunes. I had recently been converting my rig over to a full computer-based setup and was eager to get the first performance under my belt. Of course, I started things off with a massive trainwreck that forced a do-over. After that, things went pretty well. The rest of the evening belonged to Steve and Bob. I had scheduled them to perform in that order but, as I'd hoped, they decided to mix things up. They started by doing a bit of a round-robin style performance where Steve did some tunes, then Bob, then Steve again, and then Bob again. During one of Steve's tunes, he had Tim Longfellow come up and accompany him on the piano and it was stellar. Definitely one of the evening's highlights. To wrap up, they both got on stage and did some tunes together.

After the concert wrapped up, Steve Oz and I headed back to my house. We were both pretty tired at that point but we stayed up for a bit to have a beer or two and we actually ended up playing some guitar before turning in for the night.


Full group discussion (Poorman,Osburn): Mallory-Towsley Great Room

Workshop Session
Less Experienced (Culbertson): Mallory-Towsley Great Room
More Experienced (Adelson): Mallory-Towsley Classroom 106/107

Lunch Break

Less Experienced (Adelson): Mallory-Towsley Great Room
More Experienced (Culbertson): Mallory-Towsley Classroom 106/107

Ensemble Practice
Group A (Adelson): Mallory-Towsley Classroom 106/107
Group B (Culbertson): Mallory Towsley Great Room

Dinner Break

Optional Beach Bonfire
Oz and I were up around 7:45AM on Friday and on the road by 8:30AM. It takes almost exactly 30 minutes to make the trip from my place to Interlochen and there is no such thing as traffic in Cedar, Michigan. At least not until today. We made the first part of the trip behind a semi doing about 30mph under the speed limit and then had to stop and wait for a flag man where they were cutting some trees. Needless to say we rolled in a tad late but not too bad.

So this year I opted to give our main teachers an extra hour to sleep in or explore the campus and made the first hour a general session that Oz and I would lead. Today belong to Oz. We all gathered in the Great Room and Oz led the group through some good finger exercises on the Stick. Then he showed some of the basic techniques involved in an original tune of his own called "Galactic Campfire" and wrapped up by promising the group a tab of it before the weekend was out.

From there, Bob and Steve took over and we broke the group into a more experience and less experienced half and broke into two separate rooms with Bob taking the less experienced first and Steve taking the experts. After the morning session, we broke for lunch. As would be the case all weekend, we made our usual trip over to the Stone Center Cafeteria, grabbed a meal, and ate outside at the tables overlooking Green Lake. Paradise!

This year we opted to do something a little different and have two groups each perform an ensemble piece at the Saturday concert. My original thought was to keep the less experienced and more experienced groups intact for logistical reasons but both Bob and Steve thought it would be better if each group had the full range of skills represented. So right after lunch we gathered everyone in the Great Room and the two of them pieced their groups together. Right after that we resumed the workshop sessions with Steve and Bob changing rooms and swapping groups for the afternoon.

At around 4:30PM, we had the ensemble groups (chosen at lunch) get together with their respective leaders and start working on their Saturday evening pieces. Things began coming together remarkably fast. Especially considering we had some people who'd never picked up a Stick before. In just an hour or so, Steve and Bob had everybody making music.

Around 5:45PM or so, we broke for dinner. A few people opted to forgo the cafeteria food and go into town for a solid meal. The rest of us stuck with the Stone Center and after that, it was beach time.

I'd been promising a beach fire during our Interlochen workshops every since the first one in 2009 and every time, mother nature has gotten in the way and we ended up at our house. Apparently the third time is a charm as our weather couldn't have been any better. So Steve Oz and I stopped back at the house, grabbed some drinks, grabbed some beach chairs, and then set out to Good Harbor Beach grabbing some firewood along the way. Several of our students opted to stay behind for a variety of reasons (practice, concerts, hang with family) and we ended up with a group of eight on the beach. The conditions were absolutely perfect. With just a bit of a chill in the air, we got our fire rolling and stayed well past the sunset. Finally!


Full group discussion (Poorman,Osburn): Mallory-Towsley Classroon 106/107

Workshop Session
Less Experienced (Culbertson): Mallory-Towsley Great Room
More Experienced (Adelson): Mallory-Towsley Classroom 106/107

Lunch Break

Less Experienced (Adelson): Mallory-Towsley Great Room
More Experienced (Culbertson): Mallory-Towsley Classroom 106/107

Ensemble Practice (last run through)
Group A (Adelson): Mallory-Towsley Classroom 106/107
Group B (Culbertson): Mallory Towsley Great Room

Master Class (Adelson, Culbertson): Mallory-Towsley Classroom 106/107

Dinner Break

Chapman Stick Workshop Student Recital: Mallory-Towsley Great Room
Once again Oz and I were up around 7:45AM and out of the house by 8:30AM. This time we avoided the "traffic" and arrived dead on time. Today's first session was mine and I planned on having a gear talk. While I was setting up, Oz passed out the charts he'd promised the day before for his "Galactic Campfire" tune and played it one more time. From there I took over and we talked amplification, effects, and computers. My main goal wasn't to preach any particular brands but to simply talk about what kinds of things work better for Stick and what to look for. During the last part of the session, I projected my laptop to the big screen and talked a little about all digital setups.

At 10:00AM, we were back into the workshop sessions with Bob again taking the less experienced group and Steve taking the experts. By this time you could tell that the students were getting more comfortable and both teachers were moving faster. At noon, we broke for lunch but before we left, we spent some time trying out a new Railboard that Emmett was kind enough to send along. We also stepped out into the sunshine to shoot the customary group picture. Since Matt Wiliford was the only person around aside from the workshop participants and we generally\ like to have Matt in the photo, he found a couple of young stage hands from the adjoining Phoenix Theater to take several shots.

From there we once again set out to the Stone Center Cafeteria to grab lunch and then out to the shores of Green Lake. Once again the weather was absolutely perfect. Right after lunch our first agenda item was to call Emmett. Matt setup a speaker phone in the classroom and we made our first attempt at 1:30PM. There was no answer on the other end though so we postponed the call and moved into the afternoon session which consisted of another workshop with Steve and Bob once again swapping rooms and groups.

At 3:30PM, the plan was to have one last ensemble practice. During the time leading up to that, Emmett had called me to let me know he was back at the shop so before the next session, we all gathered again for the call. This has become somewhat of a tradition for us and it gave everybody a chance to say hello and for the group to have some dialog directly with Emmett. After the call, everyone broke into their ensemble groups and had one last run through before the evening concert.

Our last session of the day came in the form of a master class at around 4:00PM. This is something that is well known to any formally trained musician but something we haven't generally done at our Stick workshops. The evening concert for Saturday was a student recital and, in addition to the ensemble groups, there were five players who signed up to perform solo pieces. The idea of the master class was to give each of those performers a chance to play one of their pieces for the group along with the teachers and then take some time to get advice from the teachers on how they could improve the performance. These can be a little nerve wracking for the performer but the participants almost always find it very useful.

At around 5:45PM, we broke for dinner. Again, a handful of people opted to head into town but several of us headed back to the Stone Center and the lake. After that it was concert time.

I told the master class participants that they had unknowingly provided me with an order of performers when they started volunteering to play for Steve and Bob. So the evenings itinerary looked as follows:
Mike Kemp
Eric Knapp
Tim Longfellow
Pete Gilbert
Steve Balogh
Ensemble Team Bob
Ensemble Team Steve
Short performance from Steve and Bob
We managed to kick things off just a few minutes after 7:30PM. Each of the five played their tunes and everybody did really well. It was apparent that the performers had taken the master class comments to heart. Mike Kemp was also one of the few performers I've seen at a workshop whose two tunes both included vocals. He's not the first but it doesn't happen often and is always worth note. After the five finished up, we took a short break to move amps around and then the ensemble groups performed. Both groups were fantastic. It was really remarkable what Steve, Bob, and the participants were able to accomplish in a very short period of time. The original plan was for the evening to wrap up at this point but several students had requested a little more playing from Steve and Bob so they each played a couple more tunes. Another highlight happened when Bob called Thom Jayne up on stage with him. Thom was one of our beginner students but he also has quite a bit of experience performing on guitar and on the Didgeridoo. As luck would have it, he'd brought one of his Didgeridoos along with him and played it on one of Bob's tunes. After each performing two tunes, Steve and Bob got together one last time and wrapped up the evening with two duo pieces. Just like that, the evening and the workshop came to a close. From there we packed up and I headed back to the house.


Originally I'd planned on keep Bob and Steve in Leelanau County until Monday and getting some much needed rest and sight seeing. Unfortunately with Rasa at home nursing a recovering pup, we opted to head south to Novi on Sunday morning. Instead of flying out of Traverse City, Bob would be driving down with us and spending the latter half of the following week performing at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Steve was due to depart from Metro Airport on Monday evening. I closed up the house and picked the two of them up at Interlochen at around 11:00AM. After checking them out or their cabins and grabbing some coffee, we packed the car up and headed south.

We joined Rasa back in Novi late Sunday afternoon and sat outside for the evening chatting and enjoying a home cooked meal. On Monday we got up and made our way over to Guitar Center where Steve and I browsed while Bob made some purchases for the upcoming Art Fair. Later in the day, Bob and I dropped Steve at the airport and said our goodbyes. Bob grabbed a rental vehicle for the rest of the week and we retreated back to our house amidst a torrential downpour. In addition to the rain, the heat and humidity had set in as well and we were just beginning to realize how fortunate we'd been to have such mild weather during the workshop. The next morning, Bob set out to finish his week in Ann Arbor and I re-entered the real world.


The Interlochen workshops have become such a shot in the arm for me. Right now I am visiting every year as either the director of the Stick Workshop or as a student at the guitar workshop. Each role is very different but I enjoy them equally and simply never tire of being on that campus. From what I can tell, most if not all of our Stick students are feeling the same way.

As has been the case since we met back in 2008, Matt Wiliford has been a great friend to the Stick community and really makes these events happen while Kristin Shroeger continues to be the glue that really keeps everything running smoothly. They both continue to be very enthusiastic about these workshops and I simply cannot thank them enough for all they do.

Bob and Steve both continue to amaze me with their teaching abilities and their ability to inspire Stick students of all skill levels. They are not only generous with their teaching time but they both appear to still enjoy the teaching part of their lives very much. Certainly without the big name teachers agreeing to work with the rest of us, these workshops are non-starters so a big thanks to Steve and Bob.

Again, our student body are simply the part that really make the event. We have a long standing group of repeat visitors to the Michigan events and I am coming to look at you all as family. We also continue to have newcomers who manage to inspire the rest of us right out of the gate. Thanks to all who participated.

Again I save one of the last thanks for Rasa who, even though she couldn't attend this year, still continues to support us by opening our home and our lives to the visiting musicians as well as keeping me grounded during the planning months. The very last thanks goes to Emmett, Yuta, and everyone else at Stick Enterprises for making this musical journey possible in the first place.

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