“…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.