Well, now it’s officially official. I made my plane reservations for Portland so I guess I’m really going! (Not that there was ever any doubt. It just seems more concrete now!)
Thanks to prodding from two mail order students and friends, Patty Spencer and Claire Levine, I will be teaching a banjo workshop in Portland (that’s Portland West, not Portland East!) January 27-29, 2012. The workshop is open to all comers but you will certainly get more out of it if you can play a few songs and do some vamping.
As always, I will adjust the teaching to fit the crowd, but you can guarantee that we will be doing A LOT OF PLAYING. We will play slow and we will play fast (if there are students who want to play fast). We will be working primarily with the vast Murphy Method repertory of songs and tunes, so hopefully most of the students will know the same material. (Note to potential attendees: No need to brush up on Blackberry Blossom! We will not be playing that! Even from the Murphy Method list, I doubt that we will be playing Salt Creek, certainly not as a group! Why not? The chords are too hard!)
Other things we may cover (no guarantees!) are: using the capo, basic improvising, jamming, playing in C without a capo, playing in ¾ time, and maybe one of those fancy Scruggs backup licks Casey teaches on her Fancy Scruggs Backup DVD.
One thing the students at the recent Winchester Banjo Camp seemed to enjoy (I use the term lightly!) was playing a solo in front of the others. There was no pressure to do this, but almost everyone participated. And this seemed to be the one area that everyone mentioned having trouble with: playing in front of others. Well, a Murphy Method banjo workshop is about the safest, most supportive atmosphere you will find for taking that Leap of Faith. And as I told everyone, you don’t get the Gold Star for playing it perfectly, you get the Gold Star for PLAYING THROUGH YOUR MISTAKES and keeping the timing going. But actually, at a Murphy Method camp, you get the Gold Star just for trying. Because I know that it takes tremendous courage for an adult to put themselves on the line like that. Every person who played was scared to death. But they did it anyhow! Brave souls! I hope they gained some confidence in their playing and learned that making a mistake was not the end of the world.
In fact, our motto for that weekend could have been: Nobody’s listening, nobody cares! Which sounds harsh and is, of course, an exaggeration, but what I mean is that people who are “listening” are likely thinking of something else at the very instant you make a mistake, so they literally don’t hear it. And if their ears do catch a mistake, they forget in the next millisecond. Because, again, they are likely thinking, “Wow! I wish I could do that. I wish I had that much courage.” Or, “Oh, my gosh. It’s my turn next. I hope I can do that well!”
I’ve told the story before that when I first started playing banjo regularly on stage (at the ripe old age, I thought, of 22!), I was playing in Red’s Charleston, S.C. band, Low Country. Which usually played in bars. At first, like you, I thought everyone was listening attentively to my playing and could hear every mistake. But then, I realized they were all drinking heavily and basically heard nothing except a wall of music. So I decided I would have a beer or two (not more than that) and then I “heard” more like they did, and was less focused on my mistakes. Nobody was listening (to me) and nobody cared (if I made a mistake). No, I’m not recommending you drink before you play, I’m just trying to make the point that I’ve been there.
My partner in crime, Casey, is handling all the financial and logistical details for the Portland workshop, so if you have questions, please direct them to her at 615-513-8620 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see you out there in Portland West! I’ll be bringing plenty of Murphy Method merch so you can look it over and load up. No shipping charges!
And if you’re wondering where the phrase “Portland East and Portland West” came from, here ‘tis. That great song, Eight More Miles To Louisville. Thank you Louis Marshall “Grandpa” Jones!
I’ve traveled over this country wide
Seeking fortune fair
Up and down the two coast lines
I’ve traveled everywhere
From Portland East to Portland West
And back across the line
I’m going back to the place I love
That old hometown of mine.
Eight more miles and Louisville
Will come into my view
Eight more miles to Louisville
I’ll never more be blue
I knew someday that I’d come back
I knew it from the start
Eight more miles to Louisville
The hometown of my heart.