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I'm at the National Guitar Workshop in Los Angeles this week. It's held at the Loyola Marymount campus from this Sunday through Friday. I always wanted to attend the Seattle camp when I was a kid, but it conflicted with my favorite annual family trip every summer. This year I was offered a job as RA for the week. (I was in a combo at SDSU directed by Nate Jarrell; he's been involved with NGW for years.) I took it, knowing I'd be able to sit in on classes and meet a ton of musicians. There are about 100 students, half kids, half adults, mostly dudes.
Yesterday's check in was crazy, and left me no time to write this post. Orientation started with a warmup band, featuring faculty on guitars and drums, and one of my three fellow RAs on bass. Rules were laid down with a stern delivery, and the teachers were introduced: Toby Ahrens, Reggie Chavez, Blake Colie, Tom Dempsey, David Ellis, Baba Elefante, Jody Fisher, Adrian Galysh, Todd Johnson, Dave Martone, Martha Masters, Jared Meeker, Neil Nagaoka, Cameron Peace, Nick Tocco. The featured guest artists, each giving an afternoon clinic, are Paul Gilbert, William Kanengiser, Pat Martino, and Duke Robillard. I am PUMPED to see Pat Martino.
After orientation, students met with their classes, some of which include beginning or intermediate books for their styles. Alfred Publishing provides most of the course books and a nice spread of learning materials in our custom NGW campus office.
First Faculty Concert
The first concert of the week was given in the evening, featuring members of the faculty, including a few pieces played by the program's director, Steven Novacek. Reggie's band played a few blues tunes next. Cameron Peace played rhythm for him and took a couple solos, and I think he was my favorite guitarist of the night. He sounded like a more advanced version of myself, playing the kinds of things I want to develop. He started with a standard blues-rock context and went way outside with jazz-influenced altered motifs. The tension and resolution in his lines were striking and far beyond the movement implied by a simple blues progression.
Next up was Jody Fisher, playing his ergonomic, headstock-less guitar. He was probably the most technically advanced player, but with a completely clean tone. He played one tune solo and one with a bassist, making extensive use of his unique harmonic picking. He'd play or finger a chord and pluck through its octave harmonics with thumb and ring finger, using index and middle to touch the harmonic nodes, 12 frets higher than each fingered chord tone. That allows him to hit many harmonics rapidly or two simultaneously. He played mostly fingerstyle, a lot of chord melodies, but could also shred with a pick as well as anyone I've heard.
Dave Martone played next, showing off his own virtuosic chops in the more common hard rock context. He sang a more guitar-oriented version of "Devil Went Down to Georgia" and wowed everyone but the cringing mothers in the audience. Tom Dempsey played a phenomenal set with a jazz combo, displaying complete mastery of chords everywhere and in every context. Jared Meeker finished the night with the widest variety from a single player: a classical/flamenco solo piece with looping, a bluesy rock tune, and a Jamaican jazz tune.
After the concert, I joined the other RAs in ensuring all the kids made it to their rooms. The evening was uneventful, which was nice, but not ideal. I hear it's best to have a serious incident on the first night in which someone gets kicked out. Then the rest are less likely to raise hell during the rest of the week. While we waited for the kids to sleep, I sat in the hall and jammed on various jazz and Zeppelin tunes on unplugged electrics with another RA. That was cool.