2021 Chapman Stick Workshop
July 7-10, 2021
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 a century's worth of alumni worldwide.The 2021 event featured instruction from world class performers and teachers Greg Howard, and Larry Tuttle.
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Who Was There?
Glenn Poorman - (Artistic Director) Novi, MI Greg Howard - (Teacher) Charlottesville, VA Larry Tuttle - (Teacher) Van Nuys, CA Art Durkee - (Teacher) Ypsilanti, MI Steve Balogh - Traverse City, MI Ben Conklin - Minneapolis, MN Cory McCormick - Glendale, AZ Steve Sawyer - Livonia, MI Harry Shifman - Glen Spey, NY Lee Tarricone - Greenfield, IN Win Westervelt - Anchorage, AK T.J. Usiyan - Cupertino, CA
Pre-EventThere was nothing normal or routine about this event or any other event scheduled to take place over the last two summers. With this being a biennial event, we were lucky that we weren't planning an event for the summer of 2020. After the 2019 workshop, Gary Gatzke took over as director of the Interlochen College of Creative Arts. I paid Gary a visit at the end of 2019 in order to introduce myself, talk about our event, and plant the seed for 2021. As everyone on the planet knows, Covid-19 happened in early 2020 and all plans came to a halt. In the summer of 2020, all activities at Interlochen were cancelled and the campus fell silent for the first time since they opened their doors in 1928. Interlochen slowly began to resume operations in the fall of 2020 opening the Arts Academy with restrictions. I touched base with Gary again and we opted to start planning for 2021 workshops under the assumption that it's easier to cancel something than it is to plan it last minute.
We picked our dates of July 7-10 (Wed-Sat) and I started thinking about teachers. I started by calling Greg Howard. With Greg on board, I had a few names in my hat that I wanted to use as a second teacher. Years ago I'd found out that Larry Tuttle was an alum of the Interlochen Arts Camp having played double bass in the World Youth Symphony back in 1971. I wasn't sure if Larry wanted to teach but I decided to fire off an email. When he saw where we were holding the workshop, it took him all of 30 seconds to reply to me an accept the invite. With my teachers on board, I fired off some "save the date" messages to make sure everyone knew we were still here and planning to move forward.
After doing fairly well toward the end of summer, the state of Michigan took a turn for the worse as the winter season set in and Covid cases started raging again. We stayed with our plan to keep assuming we'd be ok by summer but it was getting hard to stay optimistic. Closed borders were promising to keep our Canadian players away. Political garbage was starting to infiltrate even our little corner of the world which was something I had zero patience for in the context of our workshop.
Even with all that though, we had some early sign-ups and I was beginning to feel pretty good that we'd be able to have our workshop. After the early surge though, sign-ups let up and we went long stretches with no activity. We were hovering right around our go/no-go number and stayed there for quite some time with cancellations offsetting any new sign-ups. By the time we were in the last week, we actually ended up below our break-even number but opted to move ahead anyway. Truth be told, this is an ideal situation if your one of the students as it means some good focused one-on-one attention from the teachers.
Workshop week crept up quickly. Steve Oz got hold of me the week before and had to pull out for this year. I had already lined up Art Durkee to do a short course like he'd done in 2019. With Oz out, I needed to come up with a talk of my own to fill his spot.
Tuesday came which, as usual, was the day our teachers were arriving. Larry was scheduled to arrive by air at the Cherry Capital Airport. The plan was that we'd find a place to have dinner, Greg would meet us there, and then Greg would drive Larry to campus where they would check-in. The first complication was finding a place to eat. A lot of places were closed early in the week due to staffing shortages. We went to a place that's become somewhat of a favorite of ours that doubles as both a restaurant and curling club. Larry, Rasa, and I were just about to sit down when complication number two came up. Greg opted to stop and check-in before dinner and found the Stone Hotel completely empty. Interlochen had changed where staff would stay and how to check in and neglected to pass that information along. So Greg was trying to figure out where to go and I was having no luck reaching anyone by phone. Greg finally found someone who pointed him to the right place and eventually made it to the restaurant. We had a great dinner and then parted ways. Shortly after Rasa and I got back to the house, Greg called again. He and Larry had made it back to campus and everyone Greg had spoken to for his check-in were gone leaving Larry without a room. Again I tried to reach someone by phone but then Greg called back and said he'd found a key they'd left out for Larry. With that, we were all settled for the night.
WednesdayThe schedule for Wednesday read as follows:
1:00-2:00I arrived at Interlochen around 11:30am on Wednesday to find Brittany and Melanie (Gary's interns for this year) all setup and ready for registration. I pulled around the side to unload my vehicle and over the course of the next couple of hours, people started to trickle in. Our total count for this year was eight plus teachers making twelve total.
Instrument Setup/Tech Talk
The schedule planned for an hour of introductions followed by two hours of setup and gear talks. With a smaller group than usual, we blurred those two together. We started off by getting everyone's story on the Stick, how they got started, and how they got to Interlochen. From there we talked setup. Mostly the discussion resolved around adjustments of the double truss rod. The move from a single to a double truss was certainly great for the instrument but makes adjustments just a little more tricky. While Greg has repeated his instructions for this adjustment a few times, even our repeat students always appreciated the refresher and clarification. Myself included! This was also where Win pulled out the "Tool of Truth" (as we named it) which was a long metal ruler he'd cut notches in for the frets that you could use to measure the straightness of your fretboard. It seemed to work really well and we were all suitably impressed.
At 5:00 we broke for dinner. Due to Covid restrictions, meals were to be done differently this year. Meals would still be served from the line in the Stone Hotel just as always. This year however, adults would have to grab their meals to go and eat elsewhere (rooms, outdoors, back at our building). In addition, different groups would have a 30 minute window assigned to them where they would be able to go in and get dinner. Our dinner window was 6:30 to 7:00. Normally the Stick group likes to eat outside by the lake so the grab and go style dinner didn't seem like a stretch. Unfortunately our first day was unseasonably cold and steadily raining. So several of us ended up driving to the Stone Hotel to get our meals and then bringing them back to Mallory-Towsley to eat in the small kitchen area. Others went off campus to get meals (The Hofbrau or Bud's). All good!
Our faculty concert began at 7:30pm. Again due to Covid restrictions, no concerts were open to the public. With that, our instructors would be performing for the workshop students and for the building staff. With the smaller group, Greg and Larry setup on the floor in front of the stage making the whole scene more intimate. They proceeded to trade off doing two pieces each and then coming together at the end to do a duo of the Police tune "Walking on the Moon". It was a great night and both performers were fabulous. It had been a really long time since I'd heard Larry perform so that was a real treat. As always, it was great to hear Greg play. At this concert, I found myself keenly aware of his attention to his overall sound/tone. That would come up for me again a couple of times over the next week.
We wrapped up the concert at around 9:00pm and I headed back to the house. For the first time since moving these workshops to Interlochen, I had nobody staying with us at the house. It made for a somewhat dull drive home and I missed the post-workshop chatting that usually goes on. I popped open a beer when I got home and filled Rasa in on our day.
ThursdayThe schedule for Thursday read as follow:
9:00-10:00I was up and out by 8:00am on Thursday morning. The plan for Thursday was to open up with an hour session from me. I'd gone back and forth a few different topics but opted to go for the looping workshop for a couple of reasons. First, it was a topic that had come up recently in an interview I'd done on the "Tap in Time" podcast and also in a feature Greg did on the Stick Enterprises website. Second, I conferred with Art Durkee and he felt that it was a topic that fit in with his plans for Friday morning. So off we went.
Glenn Poorman - Group Discussion
Greg - Basic "Free Hands" technique (Beginner)
Larry - Soloing over motors, patterns, and grooves (Advanced)
Greg - True unison in 4ths and 5ths(Advanced)
Larry - Left-hand chords and patterns (Beginner)
Greg - Two-Handed bass (Beginner)
Larry - Stumbling blocks, pitfalls, and traps (Advanced)
Open Mic, Mallory-Towsley Great Room
After a short break at 10:00am, our featured teachers took over with Greg doing his usual basic "Free Hands" course and Larry taking the more advanced students. The beginning group was usually small this year with 2-3 players in each of the beginner courses. They enjoyed the focus of attention though and seemed to get quite a lot out of it.
We broke for lunch at noon. Our 30 minute window to grab and go from the cafeteria was 1:00-1:30 so there was plenty of time to wander and/or practice (the latter of which I opted for). The weather outside was still coolish and semi-rainy so we were still driving over for food and eating indoors. The forecast called for a big change on Friday though so we didn't mind too much.
We re-grouped at 2:00pm and went right into the afternoon sessions. Greg and Larry switched groups for the first session and then after a short break at 3:20, switched back. This first afternoon session was a pretty solid three hours of instruction and these guys packed in a lot of material. It was becoming clear that adding Larry to our group of teachers was an excellent move. Greg, as always, managed to bring new material to the workshop as well as he continues to refine his technique. A really great afternoon.
At 5:00pm, we broke up into two ensemble groups. The idea was to split everyone up evenly and to make sure both groups had all skill levels represented. Each teacher would take a group and then we would spend some time at the end of both Thursday and Friday working up something to perform as a group. Those performances would close out the workshop on Saturday. Greg's group moved into the Great Room while Larry moved into 106/107 and that was how we closed out the instruction for Thursday. Shortly after 6:00pm, we broke for dinner.
Again we scattered. Some went off campus to get food while some (myself included) did grab and go at the Stone Hotel and came back to Mallory-Towsley to eat. Just like the lunch hour, the weather was still a bit questionable although we were already seeing signs of improvement.
After dinner came the open mic. In the past, we've moved off campus for this usually at the Karlin Inn just south of campus. Due to Covid restrictions and also our proximity to the July 4th holiday, an off campus performance space was nearly impossible to come by this year so we opted to stay in the Mallory-Towsley Great Room. What we did then was to setup in a big circle with everyone plugging into their own gear and we just went around playing up until around 9:00pm. This was great fun. It was a very low key and informal setting. I played MC (as much as we needed one) and both opened and closed the evening's performances. In between we saw performances from Art Durkee, Cory McCormick, Steve Balogh, Harry Shifman, Lee Tarricone, Ben Conklin, and Win Westervelt. We wrapped up the evening shortly after 9:00pm and called it a night.
FridayThe schedule for Friday read as follows:
9:00-10:00I slept in just a bit on Friday. Today was Art's turn to take the 9:00am session and there was no setup required on my part so I left the house closer to 8:20(ish). Art did a really great workshop talking about modular composition. This included covering some of the theory behind gamelan music and some more modern music by Steve Reich along with a lot of examples that fall in between. I enjoyed this quite a bit and understood why Art felt starting with a looping workshop on Thursday was a good idea.
Art Durkee - Group Discussion
Greg - Practice vectors for speed and dexterity (Advanced)
Larry - Getting a good tone out of the Stick (Beginner)
Greg - Intro to improvisation (Beginner)
Larry - Arranging and adapting music for the Stick (Advanced)
Greg - Bach to basics (Advanced)
Larry - Killer grooves (Beginner)
We took a short break at 10:00am and then moved into our second full day of instruction. Greg started the day with the more advanced group today while Larry took the small beginner group in the Great Room. We picked up right where we left off on Thursday soaking in the material.
We broke for lunch again at noon. Mother nature opted to agree with us today though providing an absolutely glorious day to spend some time outdoors. Larry was keen on visiting the Scholarshop to pick up some swag so he, T.J., and I set out on foot toward the Osterlin Mall. We met up with Art at the shop and did some shopping. The shop's contents cover everything from souvenirs to student needs and Larry commented how cool it was to find t-shirts, sheet music, snacks, and bow rosin all under the same roof. We all picked up some trinkets and headed over for our grab and go lunch. Today, however, we were able to grab lunch and head down to the tables by the lake and enjoy our first outdoor meal of the week on Green Lake. After lunch, we all kind of wandered our separate ways and made it a very slow walk/journey back to our building for the afternoon session.
At 2:00pm, we moved into our last full afternoon of instruction. Today Greg would start the afternoon with the beginner group. Larry did a great workshop on adapting music for the Stick and talked about getting hold of piano reductions using the Sousa "Washington Post March" as an example. This was worth mentioning as I'd seen Larry perform this piece when I met him back in 2000 and was blown away at the ambition behind even attempting it in the first place. After a short break around 3:20pm, Greg and Larry switched groups and Greg wrapped up doing a whole workshop on playing Bach on Stick. Really great stuff.
At 5:00pm we broke into our ensemble groups again to continue practicing for our Saturday performance. After that came a night off and socializing. Rasa had been preparing to have everyone over to the house and had put together enough snacks to feed everyone dinner so we pretty much moved from Interlochen over to our house right away. I headed home shortly after 6:00pm and asked people to give me about an hour before following.
The evening was great fun. Our friend Janice came over to the house to help out. She's also a piano teacher and has done piano workshops at Interlochen in the past so I know she likes hanging out with the Interlochen crew. Everybody came over this year and it was a great evening. We had the bonfire going out on the porch and there was plenty of food and drink to go around. The friday night gathering is always a highlight and we had a great time. We started wrapping up around 10:30pm or so and everyone was pretty much cleared out shortly after 11:00pm. Rasa and I did some cleanup and then called it a night ourselves.
SaturdayThe schedule for Saturday read as follows:
10:00-11:30As usual, Saturday offerred up the opportunity for everyone to sleep an extra hour. I was out of the house at around 9:15 and back at Interlochen well before our 10:00am start. The entirety of Saturday would take place with the whole group together in the Great Room. We started off with a long unstructured discussion. Greg started the morning and spent some time talking about tone and EQ. This was really cool and something that a lot of players don't pay nearly enough attention to. From there we got into questions and discussion about approaches to music, gigging, etc.
Discussion, Q&A session
Group picture, Break
Bob's weekly Zoom w/ Emmett
We broke at 11:30am and did our outdoor group photo. Brittany was in charge of collecting cameras and shooting the photos. She got us through it pretty fast and did a great job capturing our group. From there we moved back to the Great Room. I hooked my computer up to the big screen and started working on getting into a Zoom room with Bob.
Since shortly after Covid started in 2020, Bob Culbertson started hosting a weekly Zoom get together. He started off hosting them himself but later started getting a lot of guests to come on. For this week, his special guest was Emmett himself. Bob had contacted me a few weeks prior and we decided our Interlochen crew would call into this week's Zoom and project Emmett (along with all the rest of the participants) on the big screen. It was an illuminating hour. Most of the talk was about the history of the instrument and about instrument building. Emmett fielded questions from callers as well as our participants and was a fountain of information. Unfortunately, our lunch window meant we had a hard stop at 1:00 so when the top of the our came around, we said goodbye to Emmett, to the rest of Bob's callers, and we headed out for our last lunch.
Once again the weather was fantastic. Blue skies and mild temperatures made for another wonderful walk to the Stone. Once again, a group of us did our grab and go and headed for the outdoor tables on Duck Lake just outside of Kresge. This would be our last lunch of the workshop so we soaked up the lakefront.
We all re-grouped back at the Great Room at 2:00pm for our last session. We started the afternoon doing a master class with a handful of students performing pieces and getting improvement tips from Greg and Larry. Once everyone did their pieces, we did our ensemble tunes. Greg's group did an original that we'd worked up from scratch and we nailed it. Larry's group followed with a great rendition of "Superstition" with everyone in the room grooving. To wrap up, the whole group got together and did an impromptu rendition of "Little Wing". Great fun!! This took us right up to about 4:30pm. From there then, we all started packing up and officially pronounced the event over.
Post-EventUsually I have a few paragraphs of post-event antics to write about. People staying with us one more night along with breakfasts out on Sunday and an extra day of touring the area. All things being different this year though, most everyone simply cleared out after we wrapped up on Saturday. Rasa and I had nobody at the house (as I'd stated before). Greg hit the road and started heading back to Charlottesville early. Larry decided he wanted to hang out on the Interlochen Campus and soak up as much as he could before heading out on Sunday (which I completely get). So I headed back to Leelanau on my own. In the evening, Rasa and I headed out to the Bluebird for dinner and some beers and then we wrapped up the evening around a bonfire with friends.
WrapupSo many questions about this event from the very beginning until the very end. I hate to dwell on the Covid aspect as this was something the entire world had to deal with. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I'd considered putting this off an extra year on several occasions. There were difficulties around the ever changing guidelines coming out of Interlochen (not a complaint, came with the territory). When restrictions did start to relax, our proximity to the July 4th holiday as well as the Traverse City Cherry festival gave us fits with potential off campus performance venues and also off campus lodging for our participants. You'd think after twelve years that there wouln't be new lessons to learn but ... you'd be wrong.
So aside from all that, the workshop was a rousing success. We had a great crew and they really enjoyed the extra attention that you get from a smaller than usual student body. We missed out on a couple of the off campus events that we usually have but the on campus open mic was a really great night and we even saw some performances from a couple of guys who originally had planned on only being spectators. All these things made for yet another unique event.
Thanks has to start with Greg and Larry. Greg continues to prove himself to be one of the best teachers out there and always provides extra help with logistics and such. Larry is someone I've been wanting to get here for quite some time and everyone was really happy with his teaching and playing. Just a great addition all the way around.
I also want to throw out a thanks to Art Durkee for bringing his background to some new and interesting workshops. Also a thanks to Lee Tarricone who swooped in at the last minute to help out with some lodging complications.
As always I have to throw out a thank you to my wife Rasa. It's not a secret that she started off 2021 with a cancer diagnosis and we spent the first half of the year dealing with treatments. We weren't sure about keeping our Friday night tradition but she insisted and did a wonderful job once again playing host. I also have to throw out a thanks for our friend Janice Derian who came over to the house to help out as well.
The biggest thanks this year goes out to everyone who signed up to attend. In a really messed up year, you guys decided to seize the day and signup early hoping for the best and, hopefully, you went home feeling like you got it. I know I did.
To wrap up, I want to thank Bob Culbertson for seeing fit to get hold of me and suggest the Zoom call and Emmett, Yuta, and everyone at Stick Enterprises for continuing to do what you do.