A Magical Journey to Summer Music Camps

If you'd like to treat yourself to a musical vacation this year, have a look at our survey of summer music camps.

| May/June 1985

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! You say Aunt Betsy gave you a guitar for Christmas but the darn thing is still sitting in its box waiting for you to learn to play it? You say you've been picking out tunes on your banjo for a couple of years but you just can't seem to get past the basics — and if you hear yourself play "Oh! Susanna" one more time you'll go bonkers? You say you're not a half bad fiddle player but you're having a hard time finding other fiddle players to be not half bad with?

Well then, I have some mighty good news for you: Summer's on its way, and that means it's almost time for summer music camps. No matter whether you're a beginner, an advanced player, or somewhere in between there's just no better way to polish your musical skills than to get together with folks who are in the same boat, while you all have a chance to learn from some of the best musician-teachers around.

In fact, as a reward to all you poor souls who've been blistering your fingers (and ears) trying to learn to play an instrument, I'm giving a magic whirlwind tour of some of the country's better-known music camps and festivals. You'd better hurry and pack a lunch! The bus leaves in five minutes!

Five Minutes Later ...

With the engine groaning and complaining, we pull away from the station. Before the driver can even get out of low gear, the merry passengers start unpacking their instruments. Shifting into second, the driver can see an amazing array of people and guitars, banjos, fiddles, harmonicas, mandolins, hammer dulcimers, and lap dulcimers reflected in his rearview mirror. One fellow even has a hamcan mandolin, and another is carrying a musical saw. Soon the sounds of grinding gears are replaced by strains of "Cripple Creek," "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," and "Amazing Grace." People are starting to get to know one another — in fact, it's getting downright chummy!

Suddenly, the bus screeches to a halt, and we all grab instruments and lunch bags and head for the door. We're here! But where is here?

As we disembark, we're overwhelmed by the beauty of Camp Rockmont, the site of the Swannanoa School of Music and Dance, to be held this year May 12 through 19. Located in the magnificent mountains of western North Carolina, the camp has a 20-acre lake, a dining lodge, cabins, and a gym for dancing, all on over 500 beautiful wooded acres. This year's staff will include the legendary Johnnie Gimble (of the Texas Playboys) teaching fiddle;  none other than Jethro Burns holding workshops on mandolin; Mike Seeger (of the New Lost City Ramblers) teaching old-time clawhammer banjo; and Suzanne Edmundson (of the Hot Mud Family) teaching singing and guitar. Plus, there'll be Malcolm Dalglish on hammer dulcimer, Don Pedi instructing lap dulcimer, and Carol Elizabeth Jones working with students on southern singing styles. And Fred Armstrong-Park, a nationally known dance caller, will be teaching southern squares, contras, and circles, while the Fourgone Conclusions will be teaching New England contras and couple dances, and members of the Green Grass Cloggers will be giving lessons in that Appalachian step dance.

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