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Casey Henry

I was trolling around on YouTube yesterday and I found a couple videos from past shows that we haven't yet posted here. The first one is from Kaufman Kamp in June 2010. It features myself and Tim May playing "I Am A Pilgrim" with Pat Flynn. I actually really like my break on the song, which was totally off-the-cuff, so I thought I would share it.

This second video is from the American Revival Tour in November 2009. I'm sitting in with Uncle Earl on what was typically the final number in their set. We do the breaks to the song in an old-timey way, that is, fiddle and banjo playing at the same time. Therefore it's not so much that I like my break on this song, but I do like my outfit!

Murphy in PajamasGreetings from Kaufman Kamp! I am sitting here in the kitchen of the suite Casey and I are sharing at Maryville College watching Casey pour her morning orange juice. And as you can see, I’m still in my pajamas!

Today will be the fourth teaching day at camp and I am happy to report that all my classes have gone swimmingly. (Does anybody say “swimmingly” anymore? For all you Y genners that means “great.”) At Kauf Kamp each teacher sees all the levels of students, not just one section. So I will see the Beginners, Intermediates (two sections), and Advanced students twice each for two, two-hour-long teaching periods.

You can get a lot done in two hours so the Beginners (whom I have seen twice already) have learned the low and high breaks to "Boil Them Cabbage Down" (from the Misfits DVD) and have learned to vamp to it and come in and out of their breaks and add an ending lick. We performed for Casey’s Banjo and Mandolin 101 class yesterday (folks who have never played banjo or mandolin before but want to learn) and my folks did, well, swimmingly! I was so proud of them! And Casey’s students played for us, too, picking out a fine version of "Skip to My Lou" (from the Beginning Mandolin DVD).

I’ve been taking both Intermediate classes through "Blue Ridge Cabin Home", first a high break (from Easy Songs) and then a, more or less, improvised break (from, duh, Improvising!). Of course, my view of improvising—which is to play licks against chords with no melody at first—goes counter to everything the other teachers at the camp are telling them, but so it goes and what else is new. I think and hope they all left the class realizing that they, too, can improvise. As I said to them as they were leaving class, “This isn’t brain surgery.” To which one guy promptly replied, “It’s harder!” Good one!

The Advanced Class is being treated to a massive dose of “how Earl done it” beginning with "Bluegrass Breakdown" (from the Rawhide DVD). I had told them in the material in my section of the Kamp Book to “leave your melodic licks at home” but apparently some of them hadn’t read the fine print. They were gently told to “play that break again and leave out the melodic crap and put in something Earl would play.” Today we will look at Rudy Lyle’s fantastic break to Rawhide (from the DVD of the same name). The tune is done is the key of C and we will examine it both capoed (at the 5th fret) and uncapoed a la Craig Smith and Casey Henry. (I recorded it capoed myself being somewhat unadventurous at the time and more concerned with “how Rudy done it.”)

And in just an hour or so I will be explaining the mysteries of Learning To Hear Chord Changes (from the DVD of the same name) to a room full of students who possibly think I have a magic formula to dispense. Alas, no! I will be showing them that it’s just guess work at the beginning, trial and error, hunt and peck. But I will be assuring them that it will get easier.

So I will close now and go fix my oatmeal and read some in my current book, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas by Elaine Pagels. As the Cowardly Lion said, “Fascinatin’” And to all you students who couldn’t be here—especially Zac, Susan, and Luke—we miss you! Maybe next year!

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

We're in the middle of Week 2 here at Kaufman Kamp and I'm really feeling why they call it "hump day." Three more days of instruction to go and all of us here are just about at the point where our brains fill up and you can't stuff any more new information in! So, once again, instead of words, I'm posting pictures. These are the Week 2 group shots.


Front Row - Andrew Collins, Gary Davis, Kathy Chiavola, Ned Luberecki, Joanna Jones, Casey Henry

Second Row - Sharon Gilchrist, Keith Yoder, Alan Munde, Murphy Henry, Roland White

Third Row - Radim Zenkl, Tyler Grant, Sally Jones, Chris Jones, Pat Flynn, Tim May

Fourth Row - Mitch Corbin, Carlo Aonzo, Emory Lester, Mark Cosgrove

Back Row - Steve Kaufman, Kathy Barwick, Dick Daniels, Tommy Jordan, Beppe Gambetta


And these are all the campers. I think there are nearly 500 of them.

Because our posts tend to be very text heavy, I decided to give you a break and just post a picture today. This is the instructor photo from last week's camp session. (Click to enlarge.)


Front Row Left to Right: Jeff Jenkins, Keith Yoder, Casey Henry, Joe Collins, Mary Flower

Second Row: Adam Masters, Jim Panky, Barbara Lamb, Russ Barenberg, Robert Shafer

Back Row: Steve Kaufman, Ivan Rosenberg, Pat Kirtley, Stephen Bennett, Richard Smith

Not Shown: Marcy Marxer, Rusty Holloway, Clint Mullican, Johnny Bellar and Adam Granger

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

I write you from the campus of Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn., where I am teaching fiddle and guitar at Kaufman Kamp. I have the very beginning class for both instruments (simultaneously!) and, despite my reservations about teaching two instruments at once, it is working out rather well. This is our class:

Fiddle/Guitar 101: Roxanne, Casey, Jack, Deb, Louvenia

Fiddle/Guitar 101: Roxanne, Casey, Jack, Deb, Louvenia. I didn't realize until seeing this picture that I'm taller than all my students. Thanks to the multi-talented Donna Dixon for being our photographer.

We picked up one more student this afternoon, after the picture was taken (sorry Jim!). We started out the first morning of class learning a G scale. Now, traditionally on fiddle most people start out with the A scale. But my reasoning was that, since this is primarily a bluegrass camp, and the default key for bluegrass is G, that my fiddles should at least be able to chop along in the most common key right away. In trying to figure out how to manage two instruments in the same class I hit upon the idea of doing “Frère Jacques” as the first tune. Everyone knows the melody already and it only has ONE chord. So my sole guitar student could just grab a G chord and hang on.

It went so well that in the afternoon we learned some two-finger chop chords and alternated between playing lead and playing rhythm. Two of my students showed up at the next morning’s slow jam, at which we played everything in the key of G, so I felt good about teaching them G first.

The next day I started with a challenge. While my single guitar player and I had a guitar-specific workshop, the three fiddles tried to pick out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” by themselves, by ear. They did SO GREAT!!! I had told them the starting note and that all the notes they needed were in the G scale we had learned. They not only got “Twinkle,” they then added the shuffle bow stroke to it! They had started in on “Amazing Grace” when we guitars came back. I was incredibly impressed. All three of the women play other instruments (bass, hammer dulcimer) so they are already familiar with this music, and they’re used to using their ears to figure out what to play. Those very important facts contributed to them picking out “Twinkle” so quickly.

In the rest of Tuesday morning’s class we learned the A scale (for fiddles it’s a whole different scale, for the guitar we just put on a capo and played the G scale) and then “Boil Them Cabbage Down” with the shuffle bow stroke and pick stroke. They did so well I showed them how to do an easy double stop by playing the open E string along with the A string (the string all the melody notes are on).

After lunch we picked up a second guitar student, who jumped ship from the beginner group. I was worried he’d have a hard time since he’d missed what we did in the first three classes, but he gamely jumped right in (luckily he could already play his scale, and that helped immensely).

We took on our biggest challenge so far: “Cripple Creek”. It was the longest tune we’d done, and the most complicated. But by taking it three or four (or sometimes two) notes at a time, by the end of class we sure enough had it down. I was careful to explain to them that since we’re learning by ear, when they went to sleep tonight the tune would seep out of their head and wouldn’t be there in the morning. That’s part of the process. But we’d do extensive review, so by the end of today’s classes, “Cripple Creek” would be back. Oh, sure, it will go away again tonight when they sleep, but you know what, Thursday we’ll review it, too, so by the end of camp it will be stuck in there good and tight.

So, I’m off to lead this morning’s slow jam. Today’s key is A, so we’ll play everything in A, which opens the field to play “Cripple Creek” and “Old Joe Clark.” Also, since it’s two frets higher, my singing will sound less like a sick bullfrog and more like a healthy bullfrog (just kidding!). But I am looking forward to the C day, since that’s actually my key!

And while we're all about the YouTube clips this morning, here's one more. This is from week 1 at Kaufman Kamp. Casey Henry with Adam Masters (fiddle), Cindy Studdard (banjo) and Mark Cosgrove (guitar) doing "Banjo Pickin' Girl".

From Kaufman Kamp 2009: Here is a hilarious clip of Kathy Chiavola and Don Stiernberg singing one of her big hits, accompanied by Beppe Gambetta (guitar), Dave Harvey (fiddle) and Casey Henry and Jens Kruger (banjos):

Casey HenryHere are a couple of shots from Kaufman Kamp.

Casey Henry and Bill Evans. Great minds think alike!

Casey Henry and Bill Evans. Great minds think alike!

Casey Henry on stage at Kaufman Kamp Week 1. (L-R Adam Masters, Casey, Mark Cosgrove, Cindy Studdard)

Casey Henry on stage at Kaufman Kamp Week 1. (L-R Adam Masters, Casey, Mark Cosgrove, Cindy Studdard)

There will be more to come, I'm sure!

Casey HenryHello from muggy Maryville, Tennessee! I'm teaching this week at Kaufman Kamp and have stolen a moment in between watching the evening concert and overseeing the post-concert open-mic to write a few words here. Bossman Steve Kaufman always keeps me hoppin' during my time at Kamp. This week I'm teaching fiddle, a little clogging, assisting with the clawhammer banjo class, leading slow jams and keeping an eye on the aforementioned late-night open mic.

Every night various instructors perform a concert for the students and the locals who are brave enough to infiltrate camp for a few hours. Tonight, as always, was just great. The picture below is from Keith Yoder's performance. He asked legendary bluegrass fiddler Bobby Hicks to play "Big Mon" with him. Now, Bobby was the fiddler on Bill Monroe's original cut of the tune, back in the 1950s, and you just don't get to see that every day. Mark Cosgrove, who played guitar on the tune, said he just about hyperventillated at getting to play "Big Mon" with Bobby.

Bobby Hicks, Adam Masters, Steve Kaufman, Keith Yoder, Mark Cosgrove (hidden: Bob Rostollan on bass)

Bobby Hicks, Adam Masters, Steve Kaufman, Keith Yoder, Mark Cosgrove (hidden: Bob Rostollan on bass)

Clawhammer banjo teacher Evie Ladin took the stage next, for a captivating twenty minutes performed completely solo. She dances, she sings, she plays the banjo. She even hambones (though I think a less regional term for it is body percussion). Evie plays with a California-based old-time group called the Stairwell Sisters.

Evie Ladin kicking up her heels.

Evie Ladin kicking up her heels.

...and playing the banjo. Though not at the same time!

...and playing the banjo. Though not at the same time!

My portion of the concert comes tomorrow night, and I'll report back on how that goes. In the meantime I've got a slow jam to lead, fiddle, mandolin, and banjo to teach and a very few hours to sleep!

Casey HenryI like to think that The Murphy Method has a hand in spreading banjo around the world. Recently I got to play a part in literally sending a banjo around the world, and it was really fun.

Every year at Kaufman Kamp they give away instruments as door prizes. This year Deering Banjos donated one of their Boston banjos to be a prize. On the last night of camp, Steve Kaufman picks the winners by drawing numbers out of a jar. He rummages around for a while, pulls out the one that feels right, and slowly, suspensefully, reads the number. This year, who jumped up with the winning ticket but one of my very own students: Ginny Foard.

Now, Ginny already has a really good banjo and didn't really have a use for the Deering. As I watched her carry it from the stage I had the germ of an idea for what she could do with the banjo, but I kept it to myself.

I met Ginny last year at Kamp and she started taking lessons shortly thereafter. This year we both met a camper who had come over from Ireland, Mark McCluney. He's a beginning player but has lots of guts. He was determined to make the most of his camp experience, having scrimped and saved to cover his airfare plus camp tuition. He would gamely take a break on any song, rolling along in the chords, and never missed an opportunity to jam.

Back at home after camp, I saw Ginny for her weekly lesson and she said she'd had the idea of sending the Deering to Mark in Ireland. I told I thought that was exactly the right thing to do with it and that I'd had that very idea about thirty seconds after she won it. His banjo was a beginner's model---just fine to start on, but his abilities were about to out-strip it.

The next week she brought me the banjo and I took it up to Robin Smith in Hendersonville, who builds my Casey Henry signature model banjos, and got him to pack it properly. A broken banjo would be a very bad gift. I took it to the post office and received a dour look from the clerk when I said I wanted to ship this huge package to Northern Ireland. Filling out the customs form gave me pause. If you want it to be a surprise, you can't write what is actually in the package because that would spoil it. Yet you don't want to get caught in a lie. I figured that when he saw the box the jig would be up anyway, so I wrote "banjo in case" in the "contents" field. And away the banjo went, across the wide blue Atlantic. ...continue reading