Letters from Camp: Day 4

Jim Gabehart is journaling his time at the Pete Wernick Dr. Banjo Advanced Banjo Camp this week.

After a couple of eight-hour days in class, not including jamming and individual practice outside class, we were given the morning off to work on our own. We’ve been encouraged to pick out a song or solo that we want to learn or improve using the loop method (discussed in yesterday’s Letter From Camp) to iron out trouble spots.

We also have been encouraged to express creativity and develop individual style by composing original instrumentals. In response to his request that we perform any original compositions, I played Old Dog’s New Trick, a song I recorded on an all-instrumental project titled If Banjos Grew On Trees . . . I’d Pick A Few (a little corny, I know, but the banjo tree on the cover is pretty cool). Pete’s comments were very complimentary and especially meaningful coming from someone of his stature in the banjo community.

Of course, no one goes through the evaluation process unscathed, because we all have room to grow and part of what we’re here for is evaluation, critique, and suggestions for improvement. Critique has a nicer ring than criticism, but constructive criticism offered in the right spirit is something we could all use and few of us want.

Generally when we ask for someone’s opinion or evaluation what we really want is agreement with our own opinions and validation that we’re right, and I’m no different than anyone else in this regard, as Valerie would readily affirm. She’ll tell you I think I know everything, and even though I know I don’t, I forget that I don’t sometimes until someone — Valerie — reminds me.

I might mention that one of the many things I wanted to accomplish this week was to spend a little time nailing down solos on a couple of mandolin tunes our mandolin player, Brandon Shuping, has been wanting to incorporate in our repertroire, New Camptown Races and El Cumbanchero. Longtime fans of bluegrass and students of the music may remember Brandon’s father, Garland Shuping, who was a member of Jim & Jesse’s Virginia Boys, as well as the Bluegrass Alliance, before his untimely death.

Sometime this week, hopefully this afternoon, I’m going to make some time for a little sightseeing, probably a trip up into the Rocky Mountain National Park. Here are a few photos Valerie took when she and Jimmy visited the Chautauqua Park near Boulder. Hopefully, we’ll have more tomorrow.

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About the Author

James Gabehart

Jim has been playing the banjo, and other string instruments for nearly 40 years. Since joining the musicians union and becoming a performing musician at the age of 15, he won five West Virginia State Banjo Championships, as well as dozens of other competitions, and has taught hundreds of students. Jim was elected as Prosecuting Attorney for Lincoln County, WV in November 2012, and is an active touring performer with his wife and musical partner, Valerie. Learn more about their music at www.JimandValerieGabehart.com.