If you haven't, I heartily recommend it. I just completed a 3 and 1/2 day weekend at the California Bluegrass Association's Winter Camp near Petaluma, CA. Here are just a few of the things I experienced over the course of the weekend:
- Three half-day group mandolin lessons with John Reischman (playing his Loar most of the time - and no, I didn't ask him if I could play it). There were about eight students - lots of time for questions and personal attention.
- A 15 minute 1-on-1 lesson from John during his office hours, including advice on my mandolin setup, tips for improvising and showing me some great embellishments to one of the songs we learned in class.
- Two afternoon elective workshops on different aspects of mandolin playing, taught by John Reischman and Caleb Klauder.
- Met Peter Rowan in person, got his autograph, and he heard me perform an original tune during the student concert and gave me a nice compliment on the song and my delivery.
- Had a nice long conversation with Bill Evans over dinner, during which he offered to do a house concert at my home this summer.
- Met several bluegrass players from my community and found out about a twice a month slow jam near where I live.
- Totally lucked out when I picked the right practice room to take a nap one afternoon before dinner. Four of the instructors and their teaching assistants walked in to use the room for a jam session about 5 minutes after I closed my eyes. Among them was Mike Witcher, and not a mandolin player among the group!! They invited me to join and I wound up jamming with them for nearly an hour and took a couple of solos (that were completely pedestrian compared to what these pros were playing, but hey - I jammed with Mike Witcher!).
- Said hi to Roland White and shook his hand - and he remembered me from his class last year! (Roland taught the beginner mandolin section at Winter Camp last year.)
- Got to see group performances that included various combinations of Peter Rowan, John Reischman, Roland White, Bill Evans, Mike Witcher, Keith Little, Caleb Klauder, Jim Nunally, and all these amazing musicians.
- Met many, many nice folks, learned new tunes and skills, had a blast, and played my mandolin and guitar all weekend long.
Those are just a few of the highlights. And I am certain that every other camper ended the weekend with a similar list of their own highlights. If you've never attended a camp before, give it a try! I am planning to return to CBA Winter Camp every year as long as they continue to offer it.