2015 Chapman Stick Workshop

July 16-18, 2015
Interlochen, MI

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In July of 2015, we held the 4th Interlochen Chapman Stick Workshop in association with the Interlochen College of Creative Arts. The biennial events began back in 2009 featuring instrument creator Emmett Chapman and have been wildly successful ever since featuring instruction in Chapman's "Free Hands" technique of playing fretted stringed instruments. In addition to the instruction, the setting plays a large part in providing an immersion experience for students of Chapman's method of play.

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 almost nine decades worth of alumni worldwide.
The 2015 event featured instruction from world class performers and teachers Greg Howard and Tom Griesgraber.

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Who Was There?

The faculty and students at this event were as follows:
Glenn Poorman - Novi, MI Greg Howard - Charlottesville, VA Tom Griesgraber - Encinitas, CA Steve Osburn - Ann Arbor, MI Steve Balogh - Canton, MI Art Durkee - Beloit, WI Pete Gilbert - Ann Arbor, MI Dave Johnson - Andover, MN Eric Knapp - Monona, WI Max Kramer - Chicago, IL Cory McCormick - Glendale, AZ Mark Nelham - Ilderton, ON Gene Perry - Temecula, CA Don Scott - Marlon, IA Lee Tarricone - Greenfield, IN Jim Todd - Troy, MI


It felt like everything for this event started early. We started planning early. Secured teachers early. Made announcements early. It was all a calculated move to try and draw a larger turnout. Unfortunately it didn't really appear to make any difference at all. In the months leading up to the event, slow registration and a large number of cancellations left us pretty light in the attendance department. Certainly that's good from the point of view of the student. It left me with a little last minute crankiness though. In the end though, the event itself was excelllent.

As is usually the case, I appealed to our traveling teachers to pad their stay a little bit to take in some of what Michigan has to offer. Both Greg and Tom opted to do just that. With the event itself not starting until Thursday, Tom flew into Detroit on a Monday morning red eye. Our plan was to battle jet lag at the house on Monday, visit the Motown Museum in Detroit on Tuesday, and then head north Tuesday afternoon. As it turned out, this was also the week that Bob Culbertson was flying into town for the Ann Arbor Art Fair. He was scheduled to arrive on Monday evening so we made last minute plans that he would stay at my place for just one evening and accompany Tom and I to the Museum on Tuesday morning.

The museum was excellent. As a native Detroiter, you'd think I would have been there many times. Truth be told though, this was my first. Tom, Bob, and I got to the museum a little after 10:00am and there were several people in line already which surprised me. We didn't actually get in until the 11:30am tour. The tour was amazing. In addition to the excellent stories of the early days of Motown, we checked out the attic where, using a speaker and microphone, they recorded the classic Motown reverb. Then of course, we ended up in Studio A which gave me chills. There was still on original Steinway piano in the studio along with an original drum kit and all of the recording gear. On the walls were photos of some very young artists recording in the very room we were standing in. Artists like Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinsons, Michael Jackson (just to name a few). This was where history was made just a few short blocks from where my mom was born and where my grand parents were living back when all of this was going down.

The three of us grabbed some lunch back at my place post museum and then it was time to part ways. Bob was heading over to Steve Oz's house to setup base for the week and prep for the art fair. Tom and I loaded up my vehicle and headed north. Originally Rasa was supposed to bring our two dogs along with a third that we were looking after with her on Thursday evening. Due to some issues I won't go into though, Tom and I had to bring Tucker up with us. So we had my vehicle loaded to the ceiling with gear and this two by two square cleared right behind the drivers seat to fit the pup. It was an easy drive though and four hours later, we were there. We grabbed some dinner at one of our favorite local spots and then retired back to the house to setup a practice space.

On Wednesday, Greg arrived in town along with Gene Perry. Gene had flown from California into Cleveland and Greg picked him up on his way from Charlottesville. They arrived shortly before dinner and we all had dinner in. Later in the evening, Art Durkee arrived at the house while Greg and Tom set out for Interlochen to check into their lodging for the remainder of the workshop. Gene and Art were both staying with me along with Cory McCormick and Steve Oz who were both to arrive on Thursday.


On Thursday, things officially kicked off. The schedule for the day read as follows:
Registration/Instrument Setup

Optional Campus Tour


Greg - Basic Free Hands Technique (Beginner)
Tom - Refining your timing (Advanced)

Ensemble Practice


Faculty Concert
As is usually the case, the later start on the first day meant that this would be the only day that we'd be able to wake up at our leisure. We wanted to get there just a little early though so I think we were all up around 9:00am and headed out to Interlochen at around 10:30am. As luck would have it, Art was sporting a rather large van which was big enough for every one plus gear. So ... Art became our driver for the weekend.

At around 11:00am, we arrived at Mallory-Towsley. The immediate plan was to meet up with Leslie Donaldson and make introductions. Since our last workshop in 2013, Leslie had taken over Matt Wiliford's duties as the director of the College of Creative Arts. I had met with Leslie several times over the last year and a half but the rest of our crew would be meeting her for the first time. She also had two new interns Garret and Crystal who were tasked with keeping our ship running smoothly for the weekend.

As is always the case, students started rolling in before the scheduled noon start. We used the time to talk logistics of where everything was going to happen and to start getting people setup. At noon, registration officially opened. This just meant that everybody could grab their packet and name tag. We also decided to use the same hour to allow anyone who wanted to have Greg look at their instrument and its setup. This was about the time where we all met Max Kramer. Max was our youngest player this year (17) and had come to us from Chicago. His girlfriend was taking guitar lessons from Matt Tate who is a Stick player and well known to all of us. While going through old instruments belonging to his father, Max had stumbled onto a very old Stick dating back to the late 70s. It was an original Ironwood 10-string model. Max was already a fine young bass player and showed the instrument to Matt. Matt gave him an introductory lesson and suggested he come to Interlochen. The whole thing made for a great story.

So with Greg doing setup work, Gene and I retreated to the Stone Hotel for a quick lunch. From there, it was back to the 1:00pm intro session. Here Leslie made her introductions and talked about campus logistics. From there I introduced the workshop itself and we went around the room finding out a little more about all of our participants. From there we broke into the first of our sessions.

We had four beginners in the group. Greg always likes to be the first to work with the beginners. He has a beginner workshop that he's really refined over the years and its a really great introduction for those guys. Tom took the rest of us into one of the classrooms and did an excellent workshop on timing. He'd actually taken one of his own looped pieces and notated it out into separate parts. Making it work with different players playing the different parts really required a lot of listening to each other to get the timing right. Tom hinted during this particular course that if we could get it sounding pretty good, we might be able to perform it as a group on Saturday.

From there we broke into the official ensemble practice. As in 2013, we set some time aside every day for the teachers to work on ensemble pieces with the group that those groups would get to perform in front of an audience on Saturday night. We started with Tom taking the beginner group and Greg taking the more advanced group. Greg pulled an old favorite out called "Madrone" that we'd performed as a group on Salt Spring Island back in 2003. He also pulled out a tune he himself had only recent started working on.

At 5:00pm we broke for dinner. The cafeteria had just opened up at this point leaving a pretty big lineup to get entrees. We all waited it out though and then ventured out to the deck outside of Kresge to take in our dinner on Green Lake.

At 7:30pm, we kicked off the faculty concert. I opened up with a short set of my own. After that, Tom and Greg each did two sets. At the end of Greg's first set, he and Gene Perry did a duet of Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street" with Gene singing. That was followed by a solo tune from Gene. All of the sets were exceptional and it was a really good kickoff event for the rest of the weekend.

After the concert, several of the people staying on campus retired over to the Hofbrau while Gene, Art, Cory, and I went back to our house. By this time Rasa had arrived with the other two dogs and she had a bonfire going on the deck. We sat up and chatted over some beers before eventually retiring for the night.


Glenn - Looping workshop

Greg - Bass navigation in 5ths (Advanced)
Tom - Fretboard harmony (Beginner)

Lunch/Practice Time

Greg - Right hand melody and fretboard navigation (Beginner)
Tom - Fretboard harmony (Advanced)

Greg - Got a solo? Don't just noodle, say something (Advanced)
Tom - Articulations: adding new life to the same old notes (Beginner)

Ensemble Practice


Social Gathering
Everyone was up and ready to go on Friday morning and we arrived on campus with time to spare. I set aside the first hour of each day for Oz and I do some short workshops. Oz hadn't arrived yet so I took Friday's time slot and did a looping discussion. From there we went back into our sessions with Greg and Tom.

Tom took the first beginner class and talked about fretboard harmony. Greg took the rest of us and launched into a brand new class of his own making regarding a new way of navigating 5ths bass. This was a logical next step in his own way of playing the instrument bringing arm movement and three handed playing to the bass side of the instrument.

From there we had a two hour lunch. I had purposely started scheduling longer lunches giving students time to either wander the campus or to find a quiet place to practice on their own. The gorgeous weather was still with us so we again were able to take in our lunch on Green Lake.

At 2:00pm, we kicked off our afternoon sessions with Greg and Tom switching places. Greg took the beginners off to work on the right hand and general navigation of the fretboard. Tom worked with the rest of the group talking about fretboard harmony and generally torturing the group with some heavy theory. Very good stuff.

We took a short break after that and our teachers switched places again. Tom moved back into the beginner group to work on articulations while Greg did a class on soloing stressing singing what you want to play so as to make your solos come from your head and not your hands.

At 5:00pm we did another hour of ensemble practice. Greg stayed with the more advanced group this time continuing the work we'd done the day before while Tom continued to work with the beginner group. At 6:00pm we broke for dinner and then prepared for our one night off.

Generally our night off will consist of either a bonfire on Good Harbor Beach or a gathering back at our house. Usually the weather is the deciding factor but this year, lake levels were up just about everywhere and during a scouting trip on Tuesday, Tom and I found that there was virtually no beach. So we opted for our house. When we arrived, Rasa and our friend Janice had already done a wonderful job of prepping for a party and that's just what we had. Everybody attending the workshop was there and we also were paid a visit from the former director of the College of Creative Arts Matt Wiliford. Steve Oz had arrived earlier in the day as well and he brought a 24-string Harpejji for everyone to try out. It was a really interesting instrument. Like any instrument, you'd need some time with it to really get a good feel but Oz was able to make some music with it already and everyone else had a go before the night was over.

By around 10:30pm, everyone who was going back to campus cleared out. The rest of us had another drink on the deck before retiring ourselves. It was a great evening.


Oz, Gene - Goals

Greg - Independence training: how to train your hands to function as autonomous entities (Beginner)
Tom - Articulations: adding new life to the same old notes (Advanced)

Lunch/Practice Time

Ensemble Practice (last run through)

Master Class



Student Recital
The move to get up and out of the house was a little slower all the way around on Saturday morning. We still managed to arrive pretty close to 9:00am though. For this mornings opening hour, Oz and Gene decided to team up and talk about the students opinions on the ups and downs of the workshop and also to let them talk about their goals for the coming year. It was a good discussion but what was supposed to be an hour turned into three and when we wrapped up, it was time for lunch.

We cut lunch down to an hour and then re-worked the afternoon schedule. Luckily I had slotted three hours for a master class planning for a much larger turnout and had scheduled a "wrap-up" for a half hour at the end. Considering that our morning session was essentially the wrapup, we were able to still schedule our last session post-lunch and still have time for a group practice and master class.

So at 1:00pm, we broke back into groups. Greg did an independence workshop with the beginners. Tom worked on articulations with the advanced group and also re-visited the timing workshop continuing to rehearse his tune "Fragments" for the student recital.

After a short break, we re-convened at 2:30pm for ensemble practice. Tom moved back over the beginner group while Greg worked some more with the two tunes the advanced group had been working on.

At around 4:00pm, we had our master class. Our solists for the master class were Pete Gilbert, Erick Knapp, Art Durkee, Gene Perry, and Steve Balogh. As always, the atmosphere was friendly and the discussions were fruitful. The performers who take part in these always find them very useful and this one was no exception.

At about 5:30pm, we broke for dinner having our last meal on Green Lake. We met back at Mallory-Towsley at 7:00pm to kick of the student recital. The order for the evening went as follows:

Gene Perry
Pete Gilbert
Art Durkee
Beginner Group Ensemble Pieces
Max Kramer
Eric Knapp
Steve Balogh
Advanced Group Ensemble Pieces

All of the performances went really well. The ensemble pieces were great. Tom did a fantastic job with the beginner group and even worked some circulation into their performance. Both Greg and Tom did pieces with the advanced group and those went very well. The soloists all did a great job as well. Art did something we don't often see introducing an original tune with Stick and vocals called "Shine". Max (one of our beginners) spent a little time that day with Steve Balogh's NS/Stick and apparently took a liking to it opting to play it in the recital. The rest of the performers continued to show improvement from previous years which is always good to see. After the advance group's ensemble pieces, the workshop officially came to a close.


Most everybody had planned on clearing out Saturday evening or early Sunday. Oz left for Ann Arbor right from Interlochen. Gene, Art, Cory, and I went back to the house. On Sunday morning, Cory left early and Greg moved from campus over to our place where he and Gene stayed until Monday. We spent a chunk of the afternoon doing one of Leelanau County's best activities. Wine tasting. The county boasts around 24 tasting rooms but one needs to pace in order to avoid getting loaded. So we limited to three and everyone made some purchases. After the wine tasting, Art set off for a long and scenic drive back to Wisconsin. Gene, Greg, Rasa and I spent the rest of the night chatting and even managed to get a walk on the beach. On Monday morning, everyone cleared out and I pretty much slept until Tuesday.


This was another fantastic event. In spite of a somewhat low turnout, the people that were here were able to get more attention and everyone left feeling very energized. In the end, that is what it's all about for me so I consider this a complete success.

This was our first year working with Leslie Donaldson as the director of the College of Creative Arts. From our first meeting right up until this week, she has worked with me every step of the way to make the workshop successful. Her interns Garret and Crystal were also on hand all weekend to make sure all of our needs were met. They all did a great job and I can't thank them enough.

Greg and Tom are both world class teachers. Greg simply never stands still as far as his teaching goes. He's constantly discovering new things on the Stick and is always bringing something different to the table. Tom has always done really great group workshops emphasizing things like timing and listening. He brings a wealth of experience with him from his days organizing his own workshops in San Diego, his time with Guitar Craft, and his time as a student at Berklee. The top players of the Stick are always so gracious with their time and energy and they are the reason that workshops like these can even happen in the first place. Huge thanks to Greg and Tom.

As I say every year though, our students are our bread and butter. The comeraderie that always develops among our students is a lesson to everyone and I always say that the students end up inspiring each other as much as the teachers do. I've made some great friends over the years with our repeat visitors and hope to do the same with the wonderful newcomers that came this year. Thanks to all of our participants.

I also have to continue to thank Rasa who always supports our efforts and is always willing and eager to open up our home to visiting students and teachers and who also keeps me grounded during the months leading up to these events. I'd never make it without her.

Of course, the last thanks goes out to Emmett, Yuta, and everyone else at Stick Enterprises for starting us down this road. What a ride!

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