Letters from Camp: Day 5

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

We had another half-day session yesterday, starting at 9:15 a.m. and going to 1:30 p.m., leaving a nice opportunity to go sightseeing. Although there are many interesting places to see and things to do, I couldn’t imagine coming to to Boulder and not making the hour drive to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park — so we did.

The only comparable prior experience which comes to mind was a trip to Hawaii — in both cases, upon first encounter it was difficult to keep our eyes on the road and drive because of the breathtaking natural beauty. We didn’t encounter any elk or bighorn sheep. We did see some deer, but on any given day there are a dozen whitetail deer within 100 feet of our front porch in West Virginia.

We stopped off at the Stanley Hotel, a historic landmark, for dinner on our way back from the park (Jimmy and I had the “hunters meatloaf” made of elk, boar, and bison — it was delicious). Because of its history, luxury, and location near the entrance to the park, it has hosted many famous celebrities and served as the inspiration for Stephen King’s book (and the Jack Nicholson movie) The Shining, during a visit by King to the hotel. For the younger crowd, it was also a primary shooting location for the Jim Carrey movie, Dumb and Dumber.

During our camp session earlier in the day, Pete gave everyone an opportunity to submit a few topics that hadn’t been covered that would be of interest and he proceeded to go through a lot of these subjects. One of the things that he mentioned which caught me off guard was that because of the effect fret wear can have on tuning, he has his frets dressed, and replaced if needed, once a year on average.

I had always thought of fret wear as an issue relating to creating a “buzz” by causing the string to sink into a groove and touching the next fret due to being lower, and had not considered that the flattening of the fret caused by wear causes the scale to actually change. I immediately checked my frets and could see they are in need of work.

We are going to be putting on a show tomorrow, with each camper being responsible for contributing two songs each. The show, which will be open to the public, serves several purposes — an opportunity to try out things we’ve been working on; a chance to perform in front of Pete and get his feedback; the money raised from admission fees helps fund a scholarship for a future attendee; and last but not least, we all like to perform — FUN!

Lest anyone question how enjoyable a nine-banjo extravaganza might be, several of the attendees play multiple instruments and sing and I brought along my own singer-accompanist (Valerie). Also, the show will be put together with thought toward varying tempo, key, and style to avoid banjo burnout. I’m looking forward to hearing the variety of style and hearing everyone in performance mode.

I’m sending some photos with my letter home. Hope you enjoy them. Until 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.