Mike Compton's Monroe Mandolin Camp Interview
By Mandolin Cafe
July 31, 2014 - 3:15 pm
Monroe Mandolin Cafe - Sept. 4-7, Fairview, Tenn.
While in Nashville at the Summer NAMM Show in Nashville we sat down with Mike Compton to learn more about the Monroe Mandolin Camp he's hosting September 4-7 at Camp Marymount in Fairview, Tennessee.
Formerly sponsored by the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky, the museum branched into more progressive styles of mandolin for their 2014 edition but encouraged Mike to launch his own camp dedicated to Monroe's style. Not to be assumed as a parting of ways between the two, Mike is once again the organizer for this year's Museum camp for mandolin players.
Launching a camp under new ownership, even one that is well established is a monumental task. As always, it was a pleasure to sit down with the man that John Hartford once said "knows more about Bill Monroe style mandolin than the Father of Bluegrass himself!"
— Scott Tichenor
Mandolin Cafe: Beside the change in location from Owensboro to a venue just outside of Nashville, how will the new Monroe Mandolin camp differ?
Mike Compton: A lot of people we've talked to have been relieved to know we are changing very little this first year. We didn't have a lot of advance notice about the Museum no longer hosting the Monroe style camp. When we did find out, it was with their blessing that we host it ourselves. Still, the change created a fair amount of concern among musicians and instructors that had attended in the past and wished to join us once again. We thought it best to stick with what worked before altering the schedule. Moving a camp is a huge undertaking so we've kept the format similar to prior years.
Mandolin Cafe: What's your general approach to teaching Monroe's style?
Mike Compton: The idea isn't for us to study and stamp out everything Monroe ever played. The idea is to try to help students understand what the style is about, not just to learn licks off of recordings. We're looking to give them ingredients, techniques and sounds that make up the style, to give them the chance of using that sound in their music in their own way. I don't want to stand up and give orders and be a disciplinarian. That's not the point. I'm saying "this is a really valid style, and it's a really cool way of expressing yourself. Here's how it works, here's how to make it sound. Go forth and multiply!"
Mandolin Cafe: According to your web site you're taking the camp instructors and some special guests into Nashville for a Benefit Concert.
Mike Compton: Our annual camp concert will be held at Carter Vintage Guitars, 625 8th Ave S in Nashville on September 6, 7:30 p.m. All proceeds from the event will go towards our 2015 Camp Youth Scholarship Fund. The concert will be available as a live telecast over the web via Concert Window. We'll be providing details on that in the near future on our web site. We're also working with one of Nashville's premier microbreweries to cater food and beverage for the evening. It should be a great time and the concert will be open to general public.
Paddy on the Turnpike
Mike Compton shares some techniques and insight into Bill Monroe's playing of Paddy on the Turnpike and ends with some information about the upcoming Monroe Mandolin Camp.
Mandolin Cafe: Now that the camp is yours to do with as you see fit what kind of changes might we expect in the future?
Mike Compton: In 2015 we'll be adding a track for Fiddle and Banjo students. For lack of a better description we're looking to make this into an "old school bluegrass camp," a specific type of bluegrass that's not progressive, that's not rock and roll, not jam-based, and more geared towards the traditional side.
We've received a lot of feedback from traditional bluegrass musicians wanting a camp that fit their style of music. They feel like they've been left out and there's no one representing their interests.
It wasn't like I was sitting around thinking of adding more instruments, but it makes sense. You know where I stand on the traditional side of music so when we heard "you need to do this because we don't have any other place to go," we decided to accept the challenge. We're looking forward to the expansion and see it as a positive change to have other key bluegrass instruments sharing the experience.
There are other changes contemplated for 2015 that I've always wanted to get into but it's probably best to not speculate right now. What I can promise is that any move we make will definitely match up with a more traditional style of the music.
Mandolin Cafe: While we have you, you're working on another Monroe project we'd like you to share with our readers.
Mike Compton: In the near future I'm starting an ambitious recording that will consist entirely of extremely rare and/or never-before-heard Monroe instrumental compositions. Most of these pieces have never been recorded, or if they were, they may have only appeared on an old live radio show. These are Monroe pieces I've been collecting most of my playing career and I'm anxious to see them take flight.
As far as supporting musicians I'll be working with some of my musical heroes in a band context, people comfortable within the confines of the style as I would like it interpreted. The goal here isn't to recreate the wheel, but rather to bring to life some incredible music that has been sitting idle and unknown. I want to get these gems out in front of people before they're lost forever.
The tunes stretch back to the 1940s up until the time shortly before he was no longer able to play. There are some weird pieces in there, some are more mainstream style, some triple fiddle sounds, and I may include a few duets or solo tracks. But other than one piece Joe Stuart wrote for Monroe in Monroe's style, it'll all be tunes composed by the man himself.
I'd also like to share that I'm also working on a new solo project that will be more in line with past recordings I've made. No shortage of interesting work for me these days!
Mandolin Cafe: Indeed. Mike, thanks for your time and good luck with this year's camp and your recording projects.
Mike Compton: Thank you. I look forward to seeing everyone at the camp in early September!
2014 Instructors, Luthiers, and Jam Leaders
- Mike Compton, Director
- David Davis, Instructor
- Skip Gorman, Instructor
- John Keith, Instructor
- Mark Royal, Adjunct Instructor
- Paul Duff, Luthier
- Will Kimble, Luthier
- Raymond Huffmaster, Rhythm Hoss
- Casey Campbell, Jam Boss
- Scott Simontacchi, Jam Boss
- Monroe Mandolin Camp web site
- Monroe Mandolin Camp on Facebook
- Monroe Mandolin Camp on Twitter
- Mike Compton
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