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Closet Bluegrass Pickers Discover the Joys of Jamming

By Cheryl Winston
January 20, 2011 - 9:45 pm

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Peter Wernick

Peter Wernick

Winot, Co. — Wernick Method jam classes are springing up across the country and beyond, introducing aspiring musicians to the pleasures of playing bluegrass music with friends and neighbors. A fast-growing network of instructors trained and certified by Pete Wernick ("Dr. Banjo") is now using his time-tested method to help inexperienced players learn how to be part of a bluegrass jam.

As of mid-January, 15 teachers nationwide and in Australia have been certified and successful classes have been held in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Wyoming, and Maryland. More classes are currently scheduled for Virginia, Colorado, Massachusetts, Arizona, and Australia, with anticipated additional locations throughout 2011. Response has been strong, with an average of 16 students per class including a sellout in Wyoming with 26 students.

"Many people want to start playing bluegrass, and don't realize at first how easy it can be," says Pete, who pioneered the approach of developing jam skills both in a class setting and in coached small groups. "They think they need to learn how to solo first, but actually simple rhythm playing comes first, and opens the door to jamming. The first rung of the ladder is very close to the ground."

Pete says, "Almost everyone who picks up an instrument aims to be more than a good 'closet player,' and to play music in a group. But music teaching rarely covers jamming skills. People may go to a jam and find themselves frustrated as they're not properly prepared to join in. Our students are jamming on the first day, and by the end of the program they are fully able to jam on their own."

Having started jam teaching in the 1990's, Wernick has hosted over 50 camps and created three jamming DVDs. His certified teachers receive written and video training in the Wernick Method with personalized support, publicity and promotion, and assistance and oversight in scheduling, the registration process, and the evaluation process.

Bluegrass teachers wanting to learn more about the Wernick Bluegrass Method and how the certification process works can visit and click on the "Teachers" button. Students can click on "Classes" or the "Jamalot" page.


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Reader Comments

January 21, 2011 08:21 AM
I can't say enough good things about Pete Wernick. Never met him.
Saw him with Hot Rize in the 70's. But his reputation is wonderfully well known. Thoughtful. To consider things that to the insider seem second nature. I'm talking about jamming. It's not to be taken for granted. It's wonderfully thoughtful for Pete to be the biggest, most long running Champion the Bluegrass Jam. Thank you sir.
BTW if he reads this, Pete thank you for an old book called How to Work a Band. Don't know if i even got the name precisely right. But again thoughtfullness, comes to mind. Within the pages you can see how Hot Rize was no accident. The team, not just the pickers, thoughtfully considered every aspect of what ended up still being an enduring entity nobody wants to see end. Even if you never want to start or be in a band, buy it if you can find a copy. It was written in a time before computers, and how they conducted business was very, wonderfully low tech. And you know what? Low tech is cheap. And that's just what you need. And the considerations for every aspect of a professional presentation are enduring and everlasting. If you see a stadium show today, you'll see aspects of preparedness, and professionalism that still ring true, and are discussed in the book.But you'd never notice them with the untrained eye. I've gushed long enough. Thanks again, Mr. Wernick.
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