Acoustic Blues and Slide Guitar Workshop Is a Winner
By Brian Kiernan
Guitar camps and workshops are gaining popularity, and for good reason. While most guitarists try to carve out a number of hours per week to practice and learn new material, most agree that daily life often presents more pressing priorities. Week-long seminars and camps can provide an excellent environment for players to remove themselves from their everyday responsibilities and dedicate quality time to a combination of small group lessons, one-on-one instruction and lots of jam sessions.
The Acoustic Blues and Slide Guitar workshop presented by Woody Mann and Bob Brozman in Vancouver, British Columbia under the auspices of International Guitar Seminars (IGS) is a fine example of the genre. Every instructor (including Handy Award-winner and Piedmont blues legend John Cephas, teaching the blues of Skip James) is a full-time professional performing and recording musician with proven teaching experience, and the small roster of 50 to 60 students engenders a community feeling that makes it possible to meet everyone in the program — plus it keeps the group classes smaller.
During the week the emphasis is on individual instruction. There are only two class periods each day, with five or six choices for each slot, and the instructors spend the rest of their time giving individual lessons on an appointment basis and conducting one-shot workshops on request.
The social component is an important part of the experience — after all, you’re spending a week with like-minded souls, so the camaraderie and new friendships are as much a part of what you take away as the music. IGS goes a step further with their on-line forum, enabling students to share their experiences, ask questions, continue friendships, schedule local jam sessions and even accomplish a bit of social work on a year-round basis.
Social work? Through its scholarship and work-study programs, IGS enables students to attend who may not otherwise be able to afford it. With generous contributions from the students and from manufacturers like National Guitars, John Pearse Strings, Highlander Pickups, Santa Cruz Guitars and Acoustic Guitar magazine, IGS is able to bring amateurs and professionals from around the world to its learning community. Conducting yearly camps on both coasts, they’ve brought a real international flavor to the experience — especially when talking about the blues.
The sense of community that pervades the week is another plus, as Bob Brozman points out: "International Guitar Seminars is our company, emphasizing that we like to include players from all over the world. My definition of blues, of course, is a bit broader than most — it includes Okinawan, Hawaiian and even West African music. Anywhere where people have had a hard time and used their music to overcome that hard time, that’s the blues.
"Also," Brozman continues, "and this may sound a bit hokey, but it has become more important for us to pass this music on to successive generations as we have had it generously given to us. As I get older, I find more satisfaction in doing things for other people rather than just trying to help my ‘fabulous career’ — the music business is too full of people focused on their careers. I have a foundation in the planning stages to help get fine instruments into the hands of deserving musicians in poor countries
"Just after our camp in Vancouver, I was at the Dobro Festival in Slovakia, a very poor country. There were some fabulous players there that we gave scholarships to IGS for next year. These guys have really crappy instruments and can’t even imagine spending what is probably two month’s income just for the plane ticket — forget the tuition and a decent guitar! Before I die, I want to start this foundation to help them out, and I feel like the IGS community has helped me push that goal closer to reality.
"Here’s a great story that illustrates what I mean: A full-time working British musician was in an accident that left him paralyzed. After some time, he was able to start playing again with very limited motion, using a slide on his index finger and laying the guitar across his lap in his wheelchair. I spent a bunch of time working with him, looking at how he could move, what he was physically capable of, and he got back into playing again.
"I bumped into him about a year later and he gave me his latest tape, telling me that after IGS he was able to start thinking of himself as a musician again, which in itself was very rewarding. His music was so emotional and touching, it became apparent that the next step was getting him a decent guitar. So I put the recording online on the IGS forum and attached a note telling his story, simply stating, "This guy really needs a Bear Creek Guitar. I’m in for $100 bucks — anyone else want to help out?" Within a few weeks, we had raised enough money to buy this guy the perfect instrument, and that says a lot about the community of people that make up IGS."
Indeed it does! For more info, go to http://www.woodymann.com/. Click on Guitar Seminars or Guitar Forum or call (646) 242-4471.
R&B Foundation Announces 12th Annual Pioneer Awards
Al Green received a Lifetime Achievement Award and Louis Jordan got the Legacy Award when the Rhythm & Blues Foundation presented its Pioneer Awards at the Apollo Theatre in New York City November 8th. The ceremony honors legendary artists whose lifelong contributions have been seminal in the development of rhythm & blues music.
Individual Artist honorees were Big Jay McNeely, Fontella Bass and DeeDee Sharp; the Emotions and Sly & the Family Stone were Group Artist honorees; and Allen Toussaint and Holland-Dozier-Holland were honored as Songwriter/Entrepreneurs.
Founded in 1988, the Rhythm & Blues Foundation provides emergency medical and other needed financial assistance to R&B music legends of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. The Foundation also promotes educational outreach and the historical and cultural preservation of rhythm & blues music through various grants and programs. The Foundation may be reached at (202) 588-5566.
Maxwell Street Hot Dog Stands Reopen and Blues Returns
Two historic hot dog stands from the old Maxwell Street area, Original Jim’s and Maxwell Street Express, formally reopened on Friday, November 2, 2001. The new stands are on S. Union Street, just south of Roosevelt Rd, between Roosevelt Rd and O’Brien.
These two hot dog stands, formerly at the corner of Maxwell Street and Halsted, about six blocks away, are owned by the original families that founded them, the Stefanovic and Lazerevski families (cousins). These families invented the Maxwell Street Polish sausage, a Chicago signature food, and were at the center of the old Maxwell Street Market.
Says Frank Scott Jr., "This is so sad but also sweet. We weep for the neighborhood — the people, businesses, and buildings — needlessly destroyed. And we celebrate that these businesses were able to hang on and relocate. These are the only two allowed to relocate. There is just a hangnail left of old Maxwell Street, like a sliver from the Cross of Jesus. It is so rare and precious. I hope people will come out and support us. There should be room for everyone."
Says Bluesman Jimmie Lee Robinson, "I see too much destruction in this world. Here in Chicago we are losing our precious old neighborhoods from insider political tricks."
Steve Balkin, Professor of Economics at Roosevelt University and Vice President of the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition, comments, "UIC, with its political deals, broken promises, and billion dollar budget, was able to beat up, bully, and destroy Maxwell Street. I know they were and still are proud of what they did. The original landmark hot dog stands were destroyed and these two new replacement stands were outcast but allowed to operate only because they were ordered as the settlement of a court case. There are two more businesses fighting to be allowed to stay in the neighborhood, Paul and Bill’s Tailor shop at 719 W. Maxwell and Reverend Johnson’s Blues Bus music store. And the artists and activists at 716 W. Maxwell Street are fighting in court for survival. We also hope UIC does not destroy the old Romanian synagogue (now Gethsemene Baptist Church) on Union by Liberty. UIC got everything it wanted. Can’t it finally stop this purge and let these last remnants stay?"
Balkin says further, "The Maxwell Street hot dog stands and the Blues on the street are important Chicago traditions. The fate of this tradition now lies with the people of Chicago. They have to vote with their dollars and feet to come regularly to buy food at these hot dog stands, and put money in the hands of the old timer Blues street musicians who still perform there."