All - I just wanted to post an update after attending this event last weekend. This was by far the best workshop weekend I have ever attended. I attended as a volunteer staff member - basically a jam slave for the weekend, so I can't speak directly to the quality of the instruction, but I saw a lot of tired, smiling faces all weekend, and I think everyone got their money's worth!
The workshop was held in a large rental cabin beside a creek in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. Some attendees stayed in the cabin, others rented nearby cabins, and others found their own lodging nearby (lots of small hotels, cabins, and campgrounds in the area.) The food was excellent and plentiful - a local BBQ master provided grilled meats and veggie burgers on Friday night and a feast of smoked pork and chicken on Saturday night. Breakfast and lunches were good, too! The cabin had plenty of jam areas, including the great room, a game room, several porches (one with a fireplace), an outdoor fire pit, and my domain for the weekend - the large kitchen parlor.
The staff included some well known and not-so-well-known-but-should-be instructors: Frank Lee - clawhammer banjo legend and founder of the Freight Hoppers, his band-mates Allie Burbrink, Merritt Smith, and Andrea Smith (all multi-instrumentalists and outstanding musicians); Andy Edmonds (who has totally cloned Benton Flippen's fiddling - I was totally blown away! also a great banjo player), David and Ivy Sheppard of the South Carolina Broadcasters (great all-around musicians but I was most impressed with their duet singing), and Michael Ismerio - known for his on-line and in person fiddle instruction. In addition to the group workshops, private sessions with many of the instructors were available for one-on-one instruction.
I think the things that made this weekend so special were:
- Limited attendance - there was a limit of 20 folks (and it was full). This made for lots of personal attention from the instructors, and I knew everyone's name by the end of the weekend.
- One-on-one instruction. There is nothing like it. As I was walking around, I saw several "aha" moments happen.
- Location. It was just a beautiful setting and a very nice facility. The weather also cooperated, which is always a plus!
- Good food. The food was excellent and provided by local folks who know the organizers personally, and some are even musicians who participated at least part of the weekend. By the end of the weekend, I knew their names, too!
- Superb organization. Frank and Allie paid attention to the little details, such as providing everyone with a welcome bag, complete with a Frank Lee designed T-shirt and other goodies.
- The attendees. Everyone had a great attitude, and there was a nice mix of beginners and experienced players. I had a blast playing with everyone.
I'm trying to talk them into doing another one this fall - I'll keep you posted.