Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Tuesday April 21 2015

When it's been warm enough this spring to 'play' my banjo with my door open, my bumbling bum-dittying would thoroughly alarm Mufasa in the front pasture. His head would fly up, his ears pin-pricked in my direction, his nostrils flaring widely, and he'd snort that alarm call that some Arabians do so well, alerting the herd that something bad is brewing! Get ready to run away!

I'm embarrassed to say how long I've had my banjo and not learned to play it properly, so I won't say. This year, I decided, I am finally going to learn to really play it. I took my banjo out of its case and left it out, so I'd pick it up every time I walked past it. I started practicing (!!). I started chipping away at some of those songs in my many banjo music books that have piled up and collected dust over the years.

And then I stumbled across the first Old-Time Banjo Clawhammer Camp, in Weiser, Idaho, in April, on a weekend date I had open. You might have heard of Weiser as the home of the annual June National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest.

Why learn clawhammer banjo? Well, why not? I signed up for camp, fully prepared to be the worst player in class, and to enjoy the heck out of it anyway.

Ohmigod. It was one of the most amazing experiences, gathering with a group of around 15 banjo players of varying abilities and eclectic backgrounds for a weekend of learning from two extraordinary banjo (as well as several other instruments) players and instructors, Jason Homey and Scott Knickerbocker.

Music theory, hands-on drills, practice, evening concerts by musicians (one night joined by terrific fiddle player Dave Daley) exhibiting seemingly effortless virtuosity, followed by group jams - by Friday night, my brain had already exploded. And we went till Sunday! Sharing music with a group of like-minded people is magical. The great weekend ended with new friends, sore fingers and a load of material to work on.

Just to be on the safe side, though, and not scare the horse herd away, I'll continue to practice with my door closed.


  1. As the father of Scott Knickerbocker, I must confess to having introduced him to the banjo some 20 years ago, after which he soon passed me by in talent and dedication. Mufasa's reaction reminds me of our Welsh corgi some years back. If I so much as looked at my banjo case, he'd head for the basement.

  2. Sounds like fun. Interesting that the horses are paying attention to the music and sounding an alarm. When I play piano, our dog Daisy howls along, so loudly that I can't hear the notes sometimes! She does love her music.
    Thanks for posting our question on Ridecamp. I've been checking the replies and got some interesting possibilities to investigate.

  3. Sounds like a lot of fun! I'm sure you're not as bad as you think you are either. Don't pay attention to Mufasa, there's always one critic in the crowd.

  4. It sounds like a really fantastic weekend. Mufasa may not appreciate you, but I would bet he's just being "horsey" about it!

  5. What a lot of fun. That sounds like a great experience. Oddly enough when I play guitar (not well as I've only been playing a couple of years) one of my cats comes over and sits rapt in attention. At least he hasn't started joining in by yowling.