Letters from Camp

With the hope of proving the old saying wrong, and showing that an old dog can learn a new trick, I am about to leave the Mountain State of West Virginia to travel to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, to attend Pete Wernick’s advanced Banjo Camp. Subsidized by a scholarship provided by Stelling Banjo, and having been selected by Dr. Banjo for this honor, I am both excited and apprehensive about the journey I am about to undertake.

I try to project confidence in my ability and think that my willingness to accept instruction reflects security, rather than insecurity or arrogance. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m a little anxious about getting exposed as the out-of-date, over-the-hill has-been (or worse, never-was) by a bunch of young turks. In actuality, I don’t know anything about the other participants other than the fact that the other scholarship recipient is 18 (I believe I still remember what that was like).

At 50, I know I can’t play quite as fast as I once could, and I have to warm up before a show (which I never needed to do in my 20’s, and 30’s). I also know that I’ll never be what I could have been if I had devoted myself to music, as I did in my teens before deciding against making it my career. However, I’m equally certain that I can be better than I am, and I am determined to learn, grow, and improve as a musician.

As I expressed to Pete Wernick in my scholarship application, I learned the majority of what I know from books, listening to albums, and attending shows, but with the exception of one afternoon workshop with Bill Keith about 30 years ago, I have not had the opportunity to be “up close and personal” with someone of his stature and I am excited to have this opportunity.

With the hope that my experience may be of interest, and perhaps even informative, I plan to write “letters home” from camp throughout this coming week.

Stay tuned.

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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.