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Weekend Retreat Testimonials

“As if that wasn’t enough, Geoff let us play some of his great banjos including 3 fantastic TB 3’s and an original Flathead.”

I wanted to post about my experience with Geoff Hohwald’s extended banjo weekend. What an incredible experience! I had been taking private lessons from a great teacher for over a year but wasn’t sure if I was ready to play in front of others. Geoff, Rick Taylor and David Ellis made the experience completely relaxed and enjoyable from the very beginning.

What followed was 3 1/2 days of opportunities to play(sometimes slowly when necessary) with other musicians playing the bass, guitar and mandolin. rick and David provided some great singing too. Geoff kept us laughing and relaxed with his great sense of humor the entire time. Each participant also got some valuable one on one time and I left with very specific suggestions to move my playing forward. Some of us even got a lesson in stand up bass-It’s harder than it looks. As if that wasn’t enough, Geoff let us play some of his great banjos including 3 fantastic TB 3’s and an original Flathead. But there’s more- David Peterson happened to be in the neighborhood and stopped by to play a set Saturday Night. Geoff even joined in and played a few songs on the banjo. What a great chance to meet and experience such a rare talent in person. I came into the weekend with no experience improvising or playing with others and left with the confidence to do both.

Chris L.

“The reason this was such a great learning opportunity is really the skills of the instructors. They are all accomplished musicians, so that’s a given. They are also great teachers in their own right and had the ability to work with…”

I want to share my recent experience at the Extended Weekend Music Retreat. Geoff Hohwald has posted about his plans for the Extended Weekend previously and my wife and I decided to attend the most recent incarnation of the workshop. Here’s why I would recommend it to anyone looking for a high touch opportunity to improve your overall playing.

The Retreat starts on Thursday afternoon in the mountains of north Georgia in Dahlonega. Our class consisted of five students and three teachers. This was great for multiple reasons. First, the low student to teacher ratio ensured lots of one on one instruction time. Second, the three teachers all brought great talent and teaching ability but also, each has a specific gift in one area that made the class so impactful. We started with some jamming to get the teachers up to speed on the various skill sets of the students and then broke into one on one sessions with each teacher taking a rotation of one on one instruction and some two student sessions. We then got back together as a group to work on what we had learned during the one on one sessions and then did one more rotation with the teachers. We broke for a meal and then closed the day with jamming and sore fingers.

Day two started in the morning and we followed a similar pattern with review and jamming followed by rotations with the various instructors. We had a nice break for lunch then back at it again in the afternoon, a break for dinner and another jam on Friday night. The highlight of Friday evening was a jam by the teachers after we students had worn it out. Day three followed a similar pattern and the nighttime jam included guest professional musicians from the surrounding area followed by the instructors and the guests playing some amazing music. We wrapped on Sunday with some questions and tune up ideas before breaking at noon. We were worn out in a good way and left with lots of specific items to work on that we had learned and practiced during the retreat.

The reason this was such a great learning opportunity is really the skills of the instructors. They are all accomplished musicians, so that’s a given. They are also great teachers in their own right and had the ability to work with what they were presented with as far as student skills. Rick Taylor is a master at helping groups get the feel for the music they are making. His touch with helping us listen to each other and make music instead of noise or multiple clashing banjo solos was key to applying what we had learned. David Ellis is a multi-instrumentalist in all aspects. During the retreat he played banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, dobro and could have played fiddle if necessary. He was also able to work with the dobro player that was part of the class as well as give each of us some new stuff to add to our repertoire expanding on what we already knew. Finally, Geoff Hohwald’s training that’s focused on getting the power out of the music and playing clean and in time rounded out the offering.

John B.

“…before the camp, the participants were able to discuss with Geoff what their goals and intentions for the camp were.”

Banjo camps and jam camps are a lot of fun and are very popular. I’ve been to several, some multiple times that would attend again, and have been to a couple just once and will not go back. I attended Geoff’s banjo camp last January and it is definitely one to which I will return.

While most of the camps have a similar format, I found Geoff’s to be significantly different in several ways. The first is the small size limit and intense one on one instruction that each participant receives. You are not going to get lost in the crowd which is easy to happen at the larger camps. Also before the camp, the participants were able to discuss with Geoff what their goals and intentions for the camp were. Based on this, when we got there, he had a list of objectives and skills prepared to be covered. We discussed these as a group and were able to modify our goals then or later during the camp.

Another significant difference with this camp is that, as we followed our objectives, we were able to put them into practice right away under Geoff’s direct supervision or that of another instructor, with plenty of playing to help cement the concepts. No one was left alone to figure something out and told to “…Just practice it when you get home.” A big advantage to such a small, one on one situation is the ability to talk about and discuss various aspects about playing, theory, or just what concerns you – your future goals and aspirations as a banjo player. No question or subject was too small or insignificant. I’ve not had this experience at any other camp. Discussion and verbal instruction, while intense, did not interfere with the playing we did…and we did a lot, with Geoff on the banjo or bass and the other instructor on mandolin or guitar. We had plenty of time to jam using what we had learned, playing the old standards or trying something new we had been practicing at home and wanted to try out. Most camps, I’ve noticed, advertise lots of jamming but usually leave it up to the individual to find or fit into a jam. Not here, the instructors played and participated with us and when the day ended at 5:30 PM, were willing to come back after dinner for more playing….!

In reflecting about my experience, it was outstanding – a total immersion in the banjo and banjo playing with little to no distraction – which was one of my goals. Almost more of a retreat rather than the traditional camp because of the level of intensity,focus, on my playing, and the enthusiasm I felt when it was over. This feeling was also emphasized by the location being in the hills of Dahlonega, Ga., north of Atlanta. A very delightful small college town with a rich history going back to the first major gold rush in the United States. By the way,Dahlonega has a good variety of outstanding restaurants- none of them “chain”.

I certainly look forward to returning in the future.

Gerald C.

“By far, the most important thing I took away was believing that I COULD learn to play the banjo.”

I attended one of Geoff’s On on One sessions in Dahlonega in May, and thought it would be good to share my experience. I’m a slow learner on the banjo, and I went in a little skeptical regarding how much info I could absorb in two days. I came away from the camp with three solid achievements:

1. A solid understanding of how to use the metronome to improve my timing and overall picking speed, as well as a well defined daily practice regimen. I now get up most mornings at 5am and spend an hour doing metronome drills, and the improvement in my playing has been dramatic.

2. An appreciation of the benefit from recording myself play. I picked up a simple 4 track recorder on Amazon, and although it’s still painful to hear myself, it is steadily less so. Geoff spends a good deal of time making sure you understand the basics of using a multi-track recorder.

3. By far, the most important thing I took away was believing that I COULD learn to play the banjo. Prior to the camp, I had become quite discouraged that I would ever be able to play.

Wayne S.

“Geoff’s explanations and demonstrations were a light bulb experience.”

I just got home from spending two days studying with Geoff Hohwald in Dahlonega Ga. First, Geoff is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. I know this two day format is not for everyone but it sure appealed to me. It is almost impossible for me to get away for a week long banjo camp or even a weekend camp. At first I was concerned that 10 hours would leave me mind numb but Geoff broke it up and kept things moving and enjoyable.He evaluated my ability level and wanted to know the areas I was specifically interested in. Then he got down to work. I wanted him to see if I had any bad habits and show me how to correct. I specifically wanted him to explain his thoughts on playing backup. We have many fine banjo players on the HO and backup seems to be no problem for them. Obviously they have put in many hundreds and even thousands of hours honing that skill. But to me it has remained somewhat of a mystery. Geoff’s explanations and demonstrations were a light bulb experience. I asked him to spend most of the time on it. I tried to record everything. He made sure I understood something before moving on. It was really a great experience. I hope to be able to do it again later. As a side note, I did not realize he now sells and trades banjos. I was able to trade him out of a new Huber VRB 3 true tone with the flying eagle inlay (Sweet) He is a great resource.

Barry B.

“The individual attention was absolutely great!”

I can’t say enough about how much Vernon and I enjoyed the extended weekend music camp. I learned so much from the small group sessions with Curtis Jones, David Ellis and you. The individual attention was absolutely great! Each of you has a slightly different approach to the learning process and I came away feeling both encouraged and challenged by all of you. I can’t wait to do it again! Group Jams with gentle, but constructive, pointers from the three of you were helpful to push me along in my learning and really increased my confidence level. I plan to include some of those ideas the next time we jam here in town. I also brought home many ideas to incorporate into my regular practice with the specific intent of increasing my speed and being able to improve (and be more creative with) the dynamics of my playing and singing.

I also really enjoyed the healthy delicious meals so carefully planned and beautifully presented by Jaye Crawford. I’ve been to many camps where I had to run out for fast food by myself or bring my own food. It was such a pleasure to sit at the “family” table with our teachers and other class participants and discuss what we had learned, laugh (and laugh more) and just get to know one another better. Jaye was very open to sharing information about her prepared meals and I was encouraged to come home and make some notes to try and repeat some of her healthy ideas.

I’d encourage any of our friends to come to your camp. I’m very motivated to push myself more because I know I can get better. My improvement was even obvious to me in just the short time we were there and I had more than one “AH-HA” moment when something that I’d been struggling with on my mandolin suddenly made sense to me. Thanks again and we’re certainly looking forward to next time!

Beverly P.

“Having three gifted instructors for only 6 students was a real treat for us.”

Thanks again for putting together a great extended weekend jam camp. Beverly and I are still working to process all of the material we learned over the weekend. Having three gifted instructors for only 6 students was a real treat for us. The amount of individual instruction we received on our instruments was exceptional. Curtis Jones’ patience and willingness to structure his lessons to our level of expertise was great. I am still reviewing all the videos we made of Curtis on both mandolin and guitar. We have enough material to work on for months. The book we got from Curtis was also was a great help in providing some structure to our practice sessions. David Ellis is an exceptional instructor and his knowledge and ability to play all the bluegrass instruments made him a great resource over the weekend. His explanation and videos of cross picking was one of the best I’ve seen. As always, your leadership in pulling together a camp like this is greatly appreciated. The jam camps are always fun, instructive and motivating. The House Concert with Dave Peterson and the instructors was a particular treat. It was thoroughly entertaining and gave us a nice break in the schedule. I hope you will consider including the house concert idea in future camps.

I really loved having the meals prepared for us over the weekend. Not only was it convenient, but the meals that Jaye Crawford prepared for us were spectacular. I will have to say that was the most delicious and healthy meals I’ve had in quite some time. Not only was the food delicious, but her presentation made it a work of art. The family style food setting also helped build a sense of comradely among the campers. Great idea.

Thanks again for a great weekend.

Vernon P.

“I have been working with Geoff for going on two years now. I work with him because I found him to be very approachable from day one.”

“I learned a great deal from my extended weekend with Geoff in Dahlonega. Great value for the money. Two instructors to five students allowed for very personal instruction. We worked on MY problem areas, especially my timing. I did not have to sit and watch someone better than me learn. I left with a very clearly laid out plan for how to work on what to make better progress. More importantly I learned, and came to believe how important playing in time is. We were unexpectedly joined on two nights by professional bluegrass musicians that added a great deal of additional enjoyment to the weekend. Their playing and casual conversations with us reinforced what Geoff had been teaching us. I have been working with Geoff for going on two years now. I work with him because I found him to be very approachable from day one. He takes a personal interest in seeing my learning progress. I was told by many folks these banjo camps tend to end up like trying to take a cool sip from a fire hose. They say they are too overwhelming. Fun, but overwhelming. I found this to not be my experience. I will be going back as my skills progress.”

Robert T., SW Florida

“Thanks for a great weekend with the very BEST teachers anywhere!!!”

Outstanding! Geoff and Rick took a group of people with widely varying abilities and were able to present a weeks instruction that met all of our needs and abilities-The personal attention was outstanding along with the extra time and effort they put out. It was G R E A T.


“Over the course of the two days we discussed a number of items that were techniques, but everything came back to timing – even the techniques.”

“Just over a week ago I attended a Geoff Hohwald “Two Day Banjo Immersion Camp” in Dahlonega, Georgia. I waited a week before writing this review because I wanted to internalize the experience. Sometimes we can come off an event like that elated, to later find that the act of being immersed in something causes a false euphoria. That was NOT the case here. After a week of reflection, I realize the experience is impacting my playing in the short term, and has made me even more determined to improve my playing in the long term.

Some specifics around the class: Geoff and Curtis Jones were our primary teachers. They spent two days with three students. In addition, David Peterson joined us for several hours one day, and then came back for an evening concert.

So, with this level of musicianship providing instruction, and an incredible student to teacher ratio, what did I learn?

Please don’t misunderstand – I took away a number of backup and break techniques to work on, some simple, some not. Some will take weeks to master, others months. But that wasn’t the best part of the class. The best part was being able to work with three teachers who understand the importance of timing, could actually play in perfect time, and with whom I could actually have the experience of playing in time. I go to jams, and I also play in a fledgling band, but typically the timing is all over the place. With Curtis, David and Geoff I was able to play better because I had a solid foundation to play over.

We started out the first day discussing and working on starting a song by counting off. Then we talked about metronome training. Curtis is a big believer in metronome training, but not just playing along with a metronome. He encouraged us to train with a metronome without an instrument to allow us to internalize the beat first before trying to play with it. He was able to tap his foot at 120 bpm without a metronome starting first. He knew where 120 was without it. I’ll be working on the exercise he gave us so I can internalize where the beat is.

Over the course of the two days we discussed a number of items that were techniques, but everything came back to timing – even the techniques. We were focused on moving our playing from “quantity” to “quality.” We can know a lot of songs, a lot of breaks, a lot of licks, and play them fast, but if the quality isn’t there, it’s a train wreck. Timing is the foundation, the railroad tracks we need to stay on – technique is the train. Because of my experience, I’ll be working on both. But my primary focus will be timing.

Whatever your skill level, if you’re interested in moving your playing forward, consider attending one of Geoff’s camps. I know you won’t be disappointed.”

John E.

One-On-One Testimonials

“Highly recommend his teaching if you want to improve your banjo playing…”

Last week’s  5 hour lesson with Geoff, was productive where we played the entire time which was a major improvement over the recent banjo Camp I attended which, on the first day, was lecture based listening to banjo stories and where we rarely played our banjo.

I look forward to continue working with Geoff during my travels to Georgia.

Highly recommend his teaching if you want to improve your banjo playing with others as he is very good at playing along with either his mandolin, guitar, or bass……

Rob S

“While his video and written instruction is great, there is nothing like sitting down with a Master Teacher who can identify weaknesses quickly and then provide focused, practical exercises to correct them.”

Geoff! Thanks for a great weekend with the very BEST teachers anywhere!!! …and for me, a lot of AHAH moments!! Also a nice blend with familiar old friends from Folk School. Tell Jaye I’m definitely converted as I lost 4 lbs over the weekend!! Yeh!! ..and such an excellent idea about the meals making it so easy for me. What a terrific little gal she is!! Hope to be seeing you and Rick this summer at Folk School (with my girls of course)!!….Jackie


John C. Folk Camp Testimonials

Fantastic in every way!

Joe T.

I very much enjoyed this class and the instructors as well as the actual instruction. I feel as if they definitely wanted to set us up to succeed even once the course is over.

Dianne C.

Outstanding. Good tempo and material.

Dale S.

Great teachers! Geoff and Rick. They made the class a lot of fun and I also learned to play the banjo so that I can now try some jams. This is my first class at the the Folk School and would return to take another class from them.

Jill K.

Super Class! Geoff and Rick did a great job with all of the different levels. I am leaving a better player because of this class.

Ann R.

This class was so much fun it should be against the law.

Stan H.

Geoff is a very talented musician and emphasized what would make us good musicians as well. …. practice, timing, and playing with each other.

Rosemary B.

This class represented a large range of experience. Geoff’s and Rick’s solution for marshaling the disparate musical abilities was “spot on” with basic rhythm drills and review of practicing skills. Everyone progressed.

Pamela S.

Highest praise for both Geoff Hohwald and Rick Taylor as well as the Folk School. My experience wildly exceeded my expectations

Ryan P.

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