2017 Chapman Stick Workshop
July 12-15, 2017
From the writeup of the 2009 event (the first at Interlochen):
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 2017 event featured instruction from world class performers and teachers Greg Howard and Bob Culbertson.
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Who Was There?
Glenn Poorman - Novi, MI Greg Howard - Charlottesville, VA Bob Culbertson - Sebastopol, CA Steve Osburn - Ann Arbor, MI Steve Balogh - Canton, MI Victor Bruhn - Brush Prairie, WA Art Durkee - Beloit, WI Gary Emanuel - Toronto, ON Jason Friedland - Philadelphia, PA Rob Gellner - Guelph, ON Pete Gilbert - Ann Arbor, MI Bill Hall - Saginaw, MI Dave Johnson - Andover, MN Phil Kneeland - Hill City, MN Cory McCormick - Glendale, AZ Jim Meyer - Vancouver, BC Tom Powers - Tomahawk, WI Harry Silver - Elmhurst, NY Steve Sink - Fraser, MI Claire Steger - Malden, MA Lee Tarricone - Greenfield, IN Jim Todd - Troy, MI Garret Waite - Pewaukee, WI
Pre-EventNo matter what, it always feels like the start of these events creeps up extremely fast and I always feel like I'm unprepared when they start. I think that's just my nature with these things though as they always seem to turn out. I did manage to avoid one of my mainstays this year and that was the panic one or two months out when I'm convinced we won't get enough people. There was a lot of chatter early on when this workshop was first announced and I had a feeling turnout would be good. We actually appeared to be hitting pretty good numbers shortly after the first of the year which made for a panic free May and June. So thanks to all the early registrants for that!
In the midst of planning my trip to the north country, the company I work for announced that they would be shutting down for the week of July 4th. This changed things up as it allowed me to head north on the 29th of June and stay for almost three weeks. This was a nice way to mentally prepare for the workshop but it also meant I had to make sure and get everything packed up and transported a little earlier than I had planned. Not a big deal but I did have one small emergency. Once I was safely tucked into the north woods, one of my expression/volume pedals broke while I was practicing. The Ernie Ball pedals just seem to make the best pedals for controlling my MIDI foot controller but it drives me crazy that they break. I wasn't sure what to do as our little cottage in the woods doesn't have a US mailbox. I was able to get a FedEx delivery in pretty short order though thanks to Dave from Sweetwater and was back on my feet with time to spare.
On Tuesday the 11th of July, I officially kicked into workshop mode as people began to arrive and I made my first airport run. As usual, Bob Culbertson was scheduled to perform at the Ann Arbor Art Fair beginning the week after our workshop. He booked a flight from California to Traverse City and then booked to travel home via Detroit after the fair. In addition to Bob, Jim Meyer was flying in from Vancouver to attend the workshop and he was planning on staying with me. As it turned out, both Jim and Bob were on the same flight in from Minneapolis so I managed to snag them both on the same trip. We headed back to the house from there where we met up with Art Durkee who would also be staying with me. The four of us headed for dinner at The Bluebird in Leland and there we met up with Greg Howard and Claire Steger. Greg was driving in and stopped at Interlochen on the way to pick up Claire who'd flown to Detroit from Boston and rented a car for the trip up to Interlochen.
Dinner was excellent. It was great to catch up with some old friends and great to meet Claire. After dinner we all went walking down in the Leland Marina and hung out by the water. From there we headed back to my house. Greg packed Bob into his car and along with Claire headed back to Interlochen so that they could check in. Jim, Art, and I remained at the house chatting around a nice bonfire until we eventually ran out of steam and turned in.
WednesdayFor 2017 we added one extra day. This was something I'd considered in the past but always just assumed most people wouldn't want to have to take an extra day off. In 2015 however, we asked people about changes they'd like to see and unanimously the group asked for an extra day. With that, we officially kicked off on Wednesday but we also made it a somewhat low key day starting at 1:00pm. That meant that me and the others staying with me were able to sleep in and take our time getting out of the house. The first day is always a gear load-in day though so we were on the road to Interlochen by 11:15am.
The schedule for Wednesday read as follows:
1:00-2:00We arrived at Mallory-Towsley by noon. We began to load in and I ran in to meet the staff. Leslie Dondaldson was still the ICCA director but her duties have broadened this year and Betsy Braun was hired to manage our day to day activities and she'd been my primary point of contact leading up to the event. Betsy and I met up inside and she introduced me to her assistants Crystal and Morgan who would be helping us out this year. Crystal helped us out in 2015 and Morgan was a relative newcomer (to our program anyway).
Instrument Setup/Tech Talk
Just like every year, students began rolling in well before the 1:00 opening. A handful of return students stopped to say hello and this year saw a nice influx of newcomers so I made my way around introducing myself. By the time we were getting pretty close to 2:00pm, just about everyone was there. Then a car pulled up, a gentleman with an NS/Stick case hopped out, kissed his family goodbye, and walked in. We still had one missing on our roster so I assumed it was him when, in fact, we had our very first walk-in ever. Gary Emanuel traveled from Toronto to take part as part of an extended trip he was taking with his family. We grabbed some people from the office to get him registered right there on the spot and we were up to 19 total students.
At 2:00pm, Betsy officially opened our workshop talking about the program, the campus, and logistics. She turned it over to me. I gave a little background on our program and then we went around the room introducing ourselves and giving the group a little background. With as many students as we had, this took the entire hour.
For the rest of the day, we alloted two hours to talk gear and to talk Stick setup. Greg ran this part of the workshop. He talked setup and talked tone having students volunteer to have their instruments and/or setups checked out.
At 5:00pm we broke for dinner. Various groups started wandering toward the Stone Hotel just as we always had. We were surprised to find out that quite a bit of remodeling had taken place since the last time we were there and much of the cafeteria was new. They'd also done quite a bit of work on the exterior decks next to Kresge overlooking Green Lake. Unfortunately we were unable to partake in the outdoor seating as Trace Adkins was playing that night and was sound checking. I'm still not sure what that had to do with us having dinner by the lake but the entire area was closed off. Somehow Steve Oz managed to elude security. We saw him sitting in the ideal spot and just as we were about to join him, they swooped in and cut us off so it was back to the cafeteria.
The first concert took place at 7:30pm which was a faculty concert performed by Greg and Bob. Bob and I pretty much downed our dinner and walked back to Mallory-Towsley to help get setup for a sound check. In addition to his Stick, Bob was also traveling with a Didgeridoo and a Shruti Box. The addition of these acoustic instruments made for a somewhat more interesting sound check but the sound guys seemed to enjoy working with the setup. Greg rolled in around 7:00pm and was able to get in his sound check just in time for the curtain to go up (so to speak). I was nominated to MC the event so I made a few introductions and then let Greg and Bob take over. The two of them had decided that they would trade two songs a piece for the duration of the evening. That is exactly what they did and the concert was phenomenal. It's always nice to let these guys kick things off and really motivate everyone else to get into some serious Stick playing/learning for the weekend.
After the concert, a handful of students headed over to the Hofbrau for some drinks while the contingent staying with me headed back to the house. In addition to Jim and Art, Cory McCormick arrived on Wednesday and would be staying with me as well as Steve Oz. So we all headed back and stayed up for a while chatting while Steve Oz and I traded back and forth playing my acoustic guitar. I occasionally forget what a wonderful guitar player Steve is. That was a treat!
ThursdayThursday and Friday turned out to be our two "long" days. In hindsight, I really packed a lot into both days.
9:00-10:00The plan was to leave our house absolutely no later than 8:15am so a smattering of alarms began to sound anywhere from 7:00am to 7:45am. All in all we did pretty well. We were all fed and on our way before 8:15am. The 9:00am session was a full group session. We all packed into the combo room 106/107 and Oz did a good talk on finger exercises and exercises moving around the fretboard. It felt like a good primer for the rest of the day.
Steve Oz - Finger Exercises
Greg - Basic Free Hands Technique (Beginner)
Bob - Independence and Interdependence (Advanced)
Greg - The Bass/Chord Groove Machine (Advanced)
Bob - Getting a Good Sound (Beginner)
Greg - Beginner Blues (Beginner)
Bob - Ear Training and Pattern Recognition (Advanced)
Open Mic, The Karlin Inn
After a short break at 10:00ish, the Greg/Bob sessions began. At this point we broke our student body into a novice/intermediate group and an intermediate/advanced group. Greg always likes to start with the beginners and so that's how we started while Bob took the more seasoned players to talk about independence and interdependence. At noon we broke for a two hour lunch.
This year instead of a full week's meal ticket, Interlochen was stressing purchasing individual meals as you need them. Several people took that as an opportunity to seek alternatives since, let's face it, the Stone Cafeteria is ... well ... a cafeteria. It's not bad by any stretch but nobody is going to head home praising the food. So each day there was a group piling into automobiles and heading to Bud's in town. Many of us still opted for the cafeteria though and since the Trace Adkins sound check debacle was behind us, we were able to dine out on the deck overlooking Green Lake.
The break was nice and long. Several students ended up back at Mallory-Towsley practicing which is pretty much what I'd anticipated with the long break. Time to noodle with what you learned that day. At 2:00, the first of two afternoon sessions was underway with Bob and Greg switching groups. We threw in a short break at 3:20 for people to step outside and breath for a moment. Then our two teachers swapped groups again and went into the third Greg/Bob session.
By the time we were getting close to 5:00pm, people were looking visibly fried. We still had an ensemble practice on the schedule though. I briefly entertained the idea of pulling this out of the schedule just to give people a break but the teachers wanted to do it and the few players I mentioned it to seemed to like the idea of performing in a group at the end of the workshop. So a short break was had followed by an additional hour of ensemble.
For the ensembles, we didn't want to do a beginner group and a more advanced group. The thought was it would be more fun to have mixed skill levels in both groups. So we had a quick meeting where Greg said he'd be working up a couple of Beatles tunes and Bob said he'd be going Keltic. With that, people more or less just picked what they'd rather play and our groups were split up that way.
With the ensemble rehearsal wrapping at 6:00pm, we basically had 45 minutes until the Stone Cafeteria closed. This caused a bit of a panic but since we were heading for the Karlin Inn for the evening's entertainment, several opted to wait and eat there. The rest managed to get dinner at Stone in under the wire.
So ... the Karlin Inn. This was an idea I essentially stole from Matt Schroeder and Tom Clippert who run the excellent Fingerstyle Guitar Workshop. In previous years, we scheduled a "student recital" in the Mallory-Towsley Great Room. This was a fairly formal and rigid kind of affair with concert seating, a program, guests, quiet, sssshhhh, etc. All good stuff but it can be a little daunting for the novice and a lot of those novice players opt out. The idea of going to a place like the Karlin Inn and doing an "open mic" is that the whole atmosphere is much more relaxed. There's noise. We can grab food, snacks, and even drinks. Most importantly, you can just play and it's a great judgement free zone.
A small group of us arrived at the Karlin Inn around 6:45pm and began to setup my rig as our main sound system. The staff there appeared very excited about us being there and the owner Sandy remembered when I'd played Stick there during one of the guitar workshops. We ordered some food right away and managed to take our time setting up. Steve Oz was our MC for the night and he kicked things off right at 8:00pm with some really nice original tunes. From there we ran through our list of people who wanted to play. I was pleased with how many students opted to play and was equally pleased that we had three different players opt to do some singing as well (Jason Friedland, Tom Powers, and Art Durkee). One of the highlights was Garret Waite. Garret was a guitar major at Berklee and picked up a Stick for the very first time that day. He's asked if he could play guitar at the open mic and I told him we'd love to hear it. He ended up actually playing one tune on each instrument leaving us to wonder if anyone had ever actually gone from picking the instrument up for the first time to performing in the span of just a few hours.
Jim Meyer and I wrapped up the evening. Jim ran a couple of tunes and I was pleased to get to hear one of mine "The Manifest". I knew Jim performed the tune but I'd never had the pleasure of hearing it live. A first for me and a real honor. I wrapped up with a couple of tunes and from there we packed up and said goodbye to the Karlin Inn. When I went to pay my evening's tab on the way out I'd found that Sandy picked it up so I'm thinking that she was very happy with the evening as well.
By this time it was around 10:30pm. Oz had some teaching duties in Ann Arbor over the weekend that he couldn't miss so at this point we said our goodbyes and he headed south. The rest of the Cedar crew piled into vehicles and headed for the house. By this time, Rasa had arrived at the house and was there waiting for us when we got home. We all caught up with her for a while and then turned in.
FridayThe schedule for Friday began virtually identical to the schedule for Thursday. After the mad scramble to find dinner before the evening's activities, I decided that some adjustments needed to be made so I shortened lunch to an hour and a half and then subtraced 30 minutes from all the start and stop times for the rest of the day.
9:00-10:00Again we were all up in good fashion and managed to get on the road by 8:15am. It was my turn to take the 9:00am session. I'd labored for several days over what I wanted to talk about and ended up going to tips on playing Stick in a band, staying out of your bandmates way, and getting creative with bass lines. This was a fun workshop. I hooked my phone up to my rig and played some old Coup Detroit tunes and talked about where some of the basslines came from. We wrapped up with some two-handed bass exercises and the entirety of the group playing the bassline from "Money".
Glenn - Stick with a Band
Greg - Say Something With Your Solos (Advanced)
Bob - "A Day In The Life" (Beginner)
Greg - Pentatonic, Diatonic, and Chromatic Movement (Beginner)
Bob - Kitchen Sink! (Advanced)
Greg - Tips on Playing Written Music (Advanced)
Bob - The Endless Master Pattern (Beginner)
At 10:15am, Greg and Bob took over and we did our full days schedule of three full sessions with the lunch break at noon. The sessions were all fantastic. I really thought that by the time we got to the ensemble practices that people would be falling over. Especially considering how fried everyone looked the day before. We all must have picked up some extra juice from the open mic though as everyone appeared ready to continue. At 4:30 we all broke back into our ensemble groups and ran our rehearsal for the next day. At 5:30, we broked for dinner.
The plan for the evening was a social gathering at my house in Cedar. Years prior I'd always promised a beach bonfire and in all but one instance, the weather made that a non-starter. At some point we just stopped even suggesting it as the house provides some things you can't get at the beach. Mainly ... refrigerators and bathrooms. So ... gathering at my house.
We had a good turnout. There is always a small group that opt to do some touristy things with their night off which I usually encourage. Most of the students came out though and, as always, it was a great time. We had a big fire going out on the deck. Rasa had put together an amazing spread of snacks and everyone brought their own drinks. Our friends Dan and Janice came by. Janice, who does a piano and a theory workshop at Interlochen, was celebrating a birthday so there was singing and cake. We were pretty much cleared out by around midnight and then collapsed for one last alarm guided sleep.
SaturdayThe Saturday schedule was much lighter all the way around and bought us an extra hour of sleep which we all appreciated.
10:00-11:30We were on the road by about 9:30am and arrived at Interlochen right at 10:00am. The idea was that the entire group would get together in the Great Room and we would combine a jam session with a discussion of the goods and bads of the weekend. We opened with a Greg Howard led jam just to shake the dust off. After that we had a fairly free-for-all format discussion. All in all I felt like everyone was pretty happy with the weekend. There were several really good suggesions on things we could do a little differently, add, or even subtract. In general, everyone felt the fatigue of the loaded Thursday and Friday schedule and there were some good suggestions too about more mixing of the groups. Very constructive all the way around and a lot to think about.
Discussion, Group Jam
Concert at the Filling Station
At 11:30am we broke and gathered outside for the "group shot" which is, of course, a must for any Stick workshop. We gathered a small number of cameras and turned them over to Crystal and Morgan who were kind of enough to be our photographers. It definitely felt like they'd done enough of these as they did great work with no direction from us at all. From there we broke for our last lunch.
The 1:00pm session began with performing our group pieces. The two groups hadn't had any exposure back and forth so we only had an idea of what the other was doing. I'd been with Greg's group so we opened the performance and did a couple of Beatles tunes that I thought pulled together exceptionally well. Bob's group followed up with some Keltic material which was also quite good. He even incorporated some percussive slapping that came off really well.
The group performances gave way to the master class. These are always incredibly helpful. Even if you're not the one playing. We had about a half dozen people who signed up an played a piece for some good constructive criticism. Right around the 4:00pm mark, we called it.
After some last minute remarks and many goodbyes, we packed up Mallory-Towsley and wrapped up the "official" part of the 2017 Stick Workshop. We still had the evenings activities at the Filling Station though.
The Filling Station was another new event this year. The attendence at our Interlochen public performances is generally pretty low and I wanted to give our traveling teachers a somewhat better audience this year so the idea was to find them a gig in Traverse City proper. Just about any place in the month of July would be full and provide a good sized audience. I enlisted help from several sources back in late 2016 and made several contacts but most of the places I contacted either weren't interested or said there were interested but then wouldn't return any of my calls or emails (a particulary favorite tactic). Finally Matt Wiliford suggested the Filling Station and put me in touch with Todd whose family owns the place. The Filling Station is on an old passenger train platform right in town. It's a microbrewery with really good beers and equally good pizza. I checked it out before our event and was pleased to see that the place is pretty much full of people all summer. It was perfect.
Jim and I met Greg and Bob down there around 6:30pm and started setting up. Todd was there doing sound. He had a really nice setup and we opted to basically use the house system for everything and use our own rigs mainly for monitoring. With Bob's added acoustic instruments we ran a bit over with our setup but by 8:30, we were off and running.
The weather was absolutely perfect. A little breezy but nice. I opened up with a short set and really enjoyed the vibe of the place. From there, Jim Meyer followed up with a set. He mixed some originals along with a Tom Griesgraber cover and was excellent. We left the bulk of the evening for Greg and Bob to split and split they did. Both these guys delivered some real dynamic performances and they both seemed to really enjoy the venue. The sun went down but the platform just got more lively after that. We ran pretty close to 11:00pm and then we wrapped.
Now the eveng was really over which was just a little sad but at the same time I looked forward to a solid sleep. We packed up and said our goodbyes. The Cedar crew went back to the house and this time we took Bob back with us. Once we were back, we didn't make it that long before the crash.
Post-EventRasa and I both took Monday off leaving Sunday wide open. We all slept in and slept hard. Once we all started stumbling out of bed on Sunday, we opted to do a late breakfast out at the Early Bird in Leland. We contacted Claire who was planning on doing some traveling in Michigan before heading home and she drove up to meet the rest of us (that being me, Rasa, Cory, Jim, Art, and Bob). We had a fantastic breakfast and followed that up with another nice walk around the Leland Marina. After breakfast both Cory and Art packed up and hit the road. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. We all did a hike along with the three dogs up to the top of Sugarloaf. After that, Bob, Claire, and Rasa went to South Beach in Leland to hang out and hunt for stones while Jim and I relaxed at the house. In the evening, we went back to the Bluebird for dinner and wrapped up the evening out on Good Harbor beach around 11:30pm. Rumors were flying that the northern lights would be out that night so we went down to catch a glimpse. We only caught the faintest of glows but being on the beach is never a waste. Not to mention the stars you can see on a clear night in Leelanau County are simply unreal. Rumor has it that there was finally a good aurora showing around 2:30 or so but we only made it until a little after midnight. At that point, we said goodbye to Claire and went back to the house to turn in.
Monday was basically a packup and get out day. Rasa took the dogs and headed home. Bob, Jim, and I did the same an hour or so later. Bob's plan was to drive south with me and start prepping for the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Jim had a flight out of Traverse City around 4:00 or 5:00pm. We loaded my car to the top and slowly made our way through Traverse City to the airport. We said goodbye to Jim there leaving Bob and I as the two lone survivors heading south.
Back in civilization (and traffic ... ugh). We were home around 4:00 and I thought it was going to take as long to drive the last two miles as it did the previous 200. We made it though. We unloaded everything at my house and then went over to get Bob a rental car he could use for the remainder of the week. Unfortunately the car rental place mesesed up his reservation so we had to wait until Tuesday morning. We grabbed Rasa and had a nice dinner out and then retired for the night.
On Tuesday, I dropped Bob at the car rental place on my way to work. This time his car was just about ready so at that point, I said goodbye to Bob and headed for my office returning to the real world with a bit of a jolt!
WrapupAnother wonderful event. Honestly, we've never had a bad one but this one certainly had some standout moments. The addition of the open mic and the Traverse City gig were both exceptional. This was also one of the better attended events which always helps and it was a great group of people.
This year saw Betsy Braun take over the day to day overseeing of our event from the planning down to the execution. Betsy was very helpful and was always available at a moments notice during the months leading up to the workshop. Her assistants Crystal and Morgan were on hand at all times once we arrived to make sure everything ran smoothly. I can't thank the three of them enough along with Leslie Donaldson who keeps these events possible.
Greg and Bob both continue to prove themselves as world class instructors. Greg is constantly refining his lessons and his ability to run an ongoing workshop is really unparalleled. Bob has a complete mastery of this instrument like noone else and is always one of the more easy going guys you'll ever meet. As a team these guys have historically drawn the most players to these workshops and that proved out once again this year. I'm really honored that they continue to provide their time and expertice to these workshops. Many many thanks!
Adding off campus events this year meant calling in some help from off campus venues. Sandy at the Karlin Inn already has a history with the College of Creative Arts hosting several open mic nights for the guitar workshop. She and her staff were very enthusiastic about getting the Stick players in there and they weren't disappointed. Todd at the Filling Station really provided the ideal setting for the final concert of the weekend and he did a great job running the sound for us. It's really great to meet people like Sandy and Todd during our travels who are so eager to give us performance time and space.
Finding gigs in Traverse City in the summer isn't easy. It's the height of tourist season and if you're not squared away shortly after the first of the year, it's likely that you'll miss out. After a couple of leads fell through, Matt Wiliford hooked me up with Todd at the Filling Station. I commented to several people that even after being away from Interlochen for several years now, Matt is still looking out for us. I keep thinking back to the day I wandered into his office in 2008 looking to simply rent space for a Stick seminar. It was actually Matt that pushed making the Stick part of the ICCA curriculum and after some hesitation on my part, I finally agreed and it turned out to be the beginning of something amazing. I will forever be grateful to Matt for knocking some sense into me and getting this thing off the ground.
As I do every year, I have to thank my wife Rasa who is always a huge part of supporting this event and all of our efforts over the course of any given year. She is always willing and eager to open our home to traveling teachers and students and is always the most gracious of hostesses.
In the end though, it's always the people who come to play and to learn. The Stick players I've run across at these events are some of the most creative and inspiring people I've met and continue to impress with what they do. At the end of the day they get as much from each other as they do from the teachers. Plus they're always a fun group just to hang out with. Thanks to all our participants. I had a great time.
As is always the case, the last thanks goes to Emmett, Yuta, and everyone at Stick Enterprises. You had a vision. The rest of us are willing and happy passengers.