Folk Notes

Walker Creek Sampler

October 15, 2018

By Bill Amatneek – As a teen, I attended a summer music camp. We played in duos, quartets, choirs and orchestras, attended classes in composition, singing, ear training, conducting, and music theory, and took one-on-one lessons. We even sang art songs, including the 1826 Franz Schubert hit that begins “Who Is Silvia? What is she?” I participated in an ear-broadening, skill-sharpening range of ensembles. That summer was a music revelation.

If you’d like to move your abilities forward, a music camp is an ideal place to do it, and an ideal environment to do it in. You’ll learn about music and musicianship, and sharpen your ears and playing. You’ll get to hang with other, similarly motivated players, and form relationships that may last the rest of your life. The better you play, the better the folks you’ll work with, and the more you’ll enjoy playing.

The Autumn session of Walker Creek Music Camp takes place from November 1-4 at Walker Creek Ranch, outside Petaluma ( The emphasis is on bluegrass, old time, and country with reverberations of swing, Celtic, and Cajun. The 3-day course I’ll be teaching at the camp, “The String Bass from Bluegrass to New Grass and New Acoustic Music,” is fully subscribed and is closed to further sign-ups.

I will also be leading a one-hour elective class, “Talkin’ about Tee & the DGQ.” I played with Tony Rice in the original David Grisman Quintet, a highly successful acoustic ensemble, over the course of three years. Tony was a well of musical knowledge. He knew the guitar – the woods, the construction, the frets, the bracing – as well as strings, flat pick, capo and case, tuning, performing, focusing, listening, and practicing. I’ll be passing on what I learned from him, including illuminating his statement: “I can tell how well a man plays by how he opens his case.”

Another successful acoustic music group I played with was Peter, Paul & Mary. The DGQ and PP&M had traits and practices in common. I’ll share my thoughts on the musical and extra-musical elements of exceptional acoustic bands: personnel, rehearsals, gig-behavior, dress code, mics, sound, sound person and sound checks, choosing your road instrument, taking the stage, commanding the audience, and more. Tony, the DGQ, and PP&M’s lessons will benefit all instrumentalists and all groups. You’ll learn how to boost your musicianship, and what your band can do to improve and succeed.

I never cozied up to art songs. They’re a tad too old-timey for me. But because of learning that ol’ Schubert tune, whenever I see singer-guitarist Sylvia Herold, I greet her with “Who is Silvia?” And she responds, “What is she?”

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