What is it?
Jim Penson's Bluegrass Jam Camp for beginners is designed to help those who are new to bluegrass to get involved as early as possible in playing with other people.
Bluegrass music differs
from most other music forms in that is it largely participatory. Most people
who are interested in the music also participate in playing it. Most folks
that get involved in it want to start playing with others but fear that they
aren't "good enough". In fact, learning a particular instrument, be it the
banjo, guitar, mandolin, etc. is usually what gets people involved, but they
soon find out that most of the music played at festivals and concerts are
songs that are sung. Typically, an instrumentalist will go off by himself
and learn a dozen or so instrumentals, get to where he thinks he's
ready to play with others, go to a jam, and come home later disappointed
that he didn't know most of the songs played.
In our jam camp, the focus is on taking people who are new to jamming,
regardless of their level of skill on the instrument, and getting them going
in a jam.
This camp is not instrument specific. Bring your banjo, guitar, dobro, mandolin, fiddle or bass. This is not about learning how to play your instrument so much as it is about learning how to apply what you already know into a jam format.
The basic format of the camp is to emulate the setting of a bluegrass jam simplified and slowed down to some degree. The critical elements in being able to jam all have to do with timing, tuning, and song knowledge:
In our group, we focus on these elements in a setting that allows players to participate to the level of their comfort. One of the major elements of jam camp is creating an environment that is comfortable for all students and that allows them to experiment. It is a "test lab" of sorts.