Women’s Banjo Camp

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Our camp is open to women banjo players at any level (except total newbie). You should be able to play a tune or two, and know how to make the vamp chords (G,C,D) in the "F" shape. We welcome women from age 12 on up, and we have scholarship money available for young women. If you have any questions, call Casey at 615-513-8620. Or email us at themurphymethod@gmail.com. Camp info and registration here.

Last year (2013) Casey and I held our first women's banjo camp here in Winchester, Va. It was a rousing success! We are planning our second Women's Banjo Camp July 18-20, 2014, and we invite all you women banjo players at any level to come join us for a weekend of picking, singing, jamming, hilarity, and, of course, bonding!

One of the BIG things that made the camp fabulous was actually a surprise. It was the SINGING! Since all of us were women, we put our "singing songs" into keys where we could actually sing the lead--and not just the tenor. As you know, most women do not sing in the "default" bluegrass keys of G and A. All we can do there is sing tenor. Which is fun, don't get me wrong, but not as much fun as being the boss of the song yourself! So we got out our capos and pitched our songs in the keys of B and C and the singing--often with THREE PART HARMONY--sounded GREAT! We encouraged all the women to join in and they did! Fun, fun, fun!

This fun with the singing turned into an impromptu workshop about harmony singing on Sunday morning. First Casey and I demonstrated  how to find the best key to sing a particular song in. Then we demonstrated how to find and sing the tenor part above and the baritone part below. Then we talked about "flipping" the parts--tenor and baritone below and also tenor and baritone above. I think everyone's brain was about to explode! This year, we plan to have separate levels for our harmony classes so that new harmony singers can learn the basics, while experienced harmony singers can try out different harmony "stacks." (And if you want to get ahead of the game, I highly recommend our Harmony Singing Made Easy DVD.)

The late-night jams, led by Kathy Hanson, were also a HUGE HIT. Casey and I stayed for the first hour to get things rolling (pun intended!) then we turned the proceedings over to Kathy who is a great jam leader, singer, and guitar player. She was aided and abetted by a number of women at the camp including Crissy on bass and Kristina on mandolin. (I understand a couple of men, Samuel Adams, and Jack Daniels might have made an appearance...but that could be a rumor....) The following mornings Casey and I were treated to numerous stories about how much fun the jams were.

Part of our reason for doing this camp is to make a real effort to get more women to attend banjo camps—any banjo camps, not just ours. We know there are tons of women out there learning to play the banjo, but they don’t often show up at camps. A few do, but not many. So we thought perhaps a women-only environment would seem less scary. If you’re going to fall on your face playing the banjo, somehow it seems easier to do amongst a group of women!

And with that thought in mind, let me close by borrowing from that great poem which is all over the Internet and tweaking it to suit banjo picking women. (I can't find any author except "Anonymous" who we know was a woman!)

When you have to walk that lonesome valley (i.e. pick a banjo tune at a jam), the women at this camp will be on the circle's edge, cheering you on, vamping with you, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf (i.e. playing with you until you can find your way back in) and waiting with large applause and "atta girl's" at the song's end!

And that's pretty powerful!

See you in July!

One thought on “Women’s Banjo Camp

  1. Kathy Jaeck

    Looking forward to it; can’t wait to see my late-night jam buddies again! And this year, I’ll even be able to play my banjo!

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