For five days and five nights beginning August 2, guests at the Wagon Trail Resort were treated to the twangs of banjos and squeaks of fiddles coming from the campers of the second annual Door County Bluegrass Camp. Eager campers from all over the country came to the Door Peninsula with one goal: to immerse themselves in bluegrass.
In addition to learning the traditional tunes of the mountains, campers were taught bluegrass history, music theory, and a few bad banjo jokes. Through public performances, friends and family were able to experience first-hand students trying their hand at “chickin’ pickin’” and “rosin roastin.’”
“The idea for a bluegrass camp came from while I was teaching in Santa Barbara,” says the camp’s founder Lynn Gudmundsen. “I had a student who was having problems in school, and I tried to help him by getting him involved with music. Our current banjo instructor at camp, Chris Cairns, was also a teacher at the school. He and I started a bluegrass band to get the student involved.”
Upon arriving in Door County, Gudmundsen thought the locale would be an ideal setting for a bluegrass camp, getting other students hooked on the music as well.
“We had 25 people our first year and 24 this year,” said Gudmundsen. “The age of the campers range from nine to 71 and they come from all over the country – Wisconsin, Illinois, Georgia, California, and New Mexico.”
While 24 campers may seem like a small number compared to larger music camps, campers get a great deal of one-on-one time with the instructors and establish relationships with the other campers. Camp instructors for this year included Eric Lewis, Tommy Burroughs, Lynn Gudmundsen, Chris Cairns, Paul Sowinski and Karen Mal.
“My favorite part of the camp is seeing people come back from last year and also watching the improvements the campers make during the week,” says guitar instructor Eric Lewis. “The bonds that form between these campers seem to last forever, which is just incredible.”
A typical day at Bluegrass camp begins with two hours of group lessons taught by instrument, which include bass, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and guitar. Lunch and dinner give the campers brief chances to give their fingers a break – the rest of the time is devoted to lessons, special clinics on music theory and bluegrass history, and jamming. The day usually ends with an evening performance put on by the instructors and students. For those who don’t mind missing a few zzz’s, picking often occurs until the wee hours of the morning – before it starts all over again the next day.
“This camp is an excellent outlet for many people who would otherwise sit at home and learn from a book,” explains bass instructor Paul Sowinski. “Campers can pick the instructor’s brains, experiment with new styles, and laugh with the friends they made. The camp tickles a part of the brain that is otherwise dormant.”
So whether you are looking for more insight on your licks or just want to have a good ol’ time pickin’ the day away and jammin’ until the sun comes up, there is a good bet that you will find all of these things at next year’s Bluegrass Camp. If not, you will at least come home with some newfound friends – as well as a few bad banjo jokes.
For more information on the Door County Bluegrass Camp, call 920.839.2777 or visit http://www.violynn.com.
One of the younger world travelers of Door County, Sam Kahr is currently a senior at Gibraltar High School. He enjoys expressive conversations, debates on the pros and cons of capitalism and socialism, and passionfruit.