Bristol Rhythm & Roots Jam Camp
The 2015 edition of our Bristol VA/TN Wernick-style jam camp was a big success by any measure. Twenty seven students, four teachers and our own camp cook held forth over the course of four days.
Jam Camp was truly a “One Room Schoolhouse,” and jammers’ skill sets were wide and varied. My wife and colleague Leigh did a masterful job of grouping jammers. While we are always prepared for true beginners, we were glad to find that everyone was at least jam worthy and several were pretty advanced.
We organized each day in advance, writing down the timeframe and activities with care. It didn’t always go exactly as written but the forethought served us well. Each morning we began a group jam with a couple of songs designed to widen the jammer’s perspective and teach a tidbit or two. There were always simultaneous activities going on with breakout sessions on various topics and instruments. And we maintained an “eternal jam” for those not otherwise occupied.
Our hosts at the Birthplace Of Country Music Museum were superb. We had access to kitchen facilities and even used the loading dock more than once. Thursday evening we got a special treat–we held our student jamboree performance in the museum’s state of the art theatre, an intimate and acoustic dream. The audience, mostly fellow students, also included families and even several museum members and passersby.
One of our small groups had the privilege of playing a live broadcast on WBCM Radio Bristol, the museum’s re-created, 1930s-looking, state-of-the-art inside, radio broadcast booth. I did an interview and the gang played Nine Pound Hammer and Will The Circle. The session was recorded and I’m eager to get a hold of a copy of the final edit. The entire class also performed their traditional two song gig on the “Mural Stage” downtown for a live audience of several hundred.
Leigh and I continued on after jam camp to do some guided jamming with festival goers on the street. An empty storefront served for instrument storage for us and festival pickers. We gave away hundreds of “Helpful Hints on Jamming” flyers and promoted future jam camps and classes. By facilitating street jamming we could show our appreciation for the museum’s and the BR&R Festival’s support. They’re instrumental in providing advertising, food, facilities, transportation, motel for teachers, weekend passes for students, and more.
We’re sad that we’ve outgrown our host campus at the Birthplace Of Country Music Museum. But next year, we will move to a bigger venue with some exciting possibilities. We’ve negotiated a nice deal at a retreat center with beautiful indoor/outdoor spaces, kitchens, meeting rooms and motel style rooms for students. It’s out in the country with lots of trees and green grass and beautiful views. With everything under one roof, we expect more informal jamming after the daily program, and we will keep our close connection to Bristol Rhythm and Roots, with another appearance Friday night on the Mural Stage.
We’re excited about next year’s camp. Only a week after the end of the 2015 Bristol Jam Camp, we’ve already had a bunch of signups, so if you are planning to come next year, don’t wait to sign up!