2018 Special Presentations

  • Original Blue Grass Boys
  • The Lore of the Loar
  • Ecology of Tonewoods: The Roots of the Ancient Tones
  • Ancient Tones: American Modal Music
  • Monroe’s Time in Asheville
  • Musicians and Their Bodies
  • Luthier Diagnosis Center
  • Fireside Coffee Chats

Original Blue Grass Boys

billmonroebusBill Monroe is famous around the world for creating his own personal musical language, the music that eventually became known as “bluegrass.” As it grew over the decades bluegrass music took on many nuances, and we believe one of the largest contributing factors to those changes can be attributed to Monroe’s band, The Blue Grass Boys.

The Blue Grass Boys numbered nearly 150 members from the band’s beginnings in 1938 until Bill’s last performance in 1996. Many distinguished names are included in the ranks of men (and women) known as “Blue Grass Boys.” They’re some of the most talented and influential individuals to play the genre. Bluegrass may have been conceived by Bill Monroe, but without the creative input and support of the Blue Grass Boys he would not have been able to achieve the body of work he left for us.

We are excited to present to you several of Bill Monroe’s greatest—and enduring—sidemen. They are Byron Berline, Bob Black, Bobby Hicks (tentative), Mike Bub, Mark Hembree.

You don’t want to miss this special all-camp presentation. This is a group of not only great musicians, but also conscientious historians of the music. Look forward to insights into the inner workings of the band and how they strove to support Monroe’s vision, as well as their contributing renditions of the music they played with Bill. There are sure to be plenty of anecdotes about road life as well.

The Mandolins of Bill Monroe: The Lore of the Loar

Presented by Tom Isenhour. Bringing a 1923 F5 cut from the same tree as Monroe’s, as well as other instruments Monroe played, Tom Isenhour is going to talk about why Monroe chose the Loar F5 as his instrument, and particularly, Lloyd Loar’s signature model instrument and history. Come with your questions, and to experience up close and personal, these historic instruments!

Ecology of Tonewoods: The Roots of the Ancient Tones

Presented by Eco-Musicologist, Bill Hamilton. In his description of Bluegrass music, Bill Monroe once spoke of his use of “ancient tones,” or the sounds of pipe and fiddle music that originated in the British Isles and made their way to the hills and hollows of Appalachia and the American southeast.  But what happens if we consider how the tone and feel of the High Lonesome Sound also has roots in natural history that can be attributed to the native ecology of the United States?  Join eco-musicologist Bill Hamilton in the investigation and discovery of how ecological growing conditions and specific tree species commonly found in the forested communities of the Northeast United States contributed to the tonality, emergence and continued development of an American music genre.  Between an interpretive woods walk on which you will learn to read the landscape and identify notable tree species and interactive exhibits through which you will handle and observe the properties of different samples of tonewood, we invite you to develop a new appreciation for the meaning of roots music.

Bill Hamilton grew up playing violin and has played the mandolin since 2000.  With nearly twenty years of experience as a classroom science educator, ecologist and backcountry trip leader, he hopes to share his blended passion for the natural world and string band music.

Ancient Tones: What American Modal Music Really Is and How It Works.

Presented by Jody Stecher.  The melodic patterns and “between the frets” pitches in bluegrass and traditional southern music align not only with the old “modal” music of Scotland and Ireland, but with the musical systems of India, Persia, and the Ottoman Empire. Jody’s presentation will include a Guided Tour of some glorious old recordings of the microtonal modal music of the American South.

Monroe’s time in Asheville prior to auditioning at WSM-650 AM

Presented by Evan Reilly during our fireside coffee chats.  Several years back, Evan helped Tom Ewing research a period of time while Bill lived in Asheville, NC, prior to his famed auditioning at WSM-650AM.  Come sit for a brief overview of this historical time based on  information pulled from the Asheville Library microfiche archives amongst other resource materials.  Originally presented with Tom Isenhour during Bill Monroe’s 100th birthday celebration in Owensboro, KY.

Musicians and Their Bodies (Tentative)

A musicians body is subject to stressors such as the weight of an instrument, repetitive motion, improper body alignment and poor posture, often affecting and diminishing peak performance.

We will bring in an expert physiotherapist to talk about the care and maintenance of our body, how to prevent injury, and what to do if you do have an injury.  Rather than carrying around gallons of ‘nu-skin’, this presentation will give you the expert tips on how to both prevent, and manage incidental boo-boos (yes, that is the technical term!)

Luthier Diagnosis Center

Our world-class luthiers, Paul Duff (aka, the Duff-meister) and Will Kimble, will have their shop set up for all of your instrument need:  fret jobs, set ups and tune ups, and a multitude of other services.  We will also have a guest luthier showcasing instruments during camp!

Fireside Coffee Chats

Hosted by none other than Raymond Huffmaster.  Grab a cup of coffee or tea and come listen to stories of Monroe, life on the road with Monroe, and much more, from folks who lived it!

2017 Special Presentations

  • Triple Fiddle Panel
    A roundtable presentation and discussion on the art-form of triple fiddling, Monroe-style, with Buddy Spicher, Glen Duncan, Brian Christianson.
  • Clogging
    This dance which originated in Wales and England, and evolved in the Appalachians was part of Bill Monroe’s shows. You’ll get the rhythm out of your hands and into your heels and toes. Led by Grand Ol’ Opry clogger, Marcia Campbell. An afternoon you won’t forget!
  • The Roots of the Ancient Tones
    Bill Monroe spoke of his use of “ancient tones,” or the sounds of pipe and fiddle music, that originated in the British Isles, and made their way to the hills and hollows of Appalachia and the American southeast.

    Explore the unique sound of old time and bluegrass music through an ecological lens. Discover how ecological growing conditions, and specific tree species commonly found in the forested communities of the Northeast United States, contributed to the tonality, emergence and continued development of an American music genre. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the meaning of “roots” music.

    -Bill Hamilton grew up playing classical violin and has played the mandolin since 2000. He teaches physical and environmental science at the Meadowbrook School of Weston in Weston, MA, and has eight years of experience as an educator, ecologist and backcountry trip leader.

2 New Tracks: Old-Time Mandolin & Traditional Bluegrass Banjo

Starting in 2016, we’ve decided to offer two special tracks in conjunction with the mandolin camp.

It is no secret to anyone that has studied the music of Bill Monroe that he was a huge fan of oldtime fiddle music. In fact, Bill originally wanted to be a fiddler himself but there was nothing left for him to play but the mandolin. I know we’re all thankful for that. However, Bill carried the sound of the fiddle in his soul and transformed it into mandolin music. He injected the pulse of the bow into the pick and brought rhythm and melody together in an unstoppable voice.

We’ve added a special Old-Time Mandolin Track this year that will focus on the musical generation that influenced Monroe and the creation of his mandolin style. Fiddler and mandolinist Adam Tanner will be your guide. Adam is an enthusiastic and accomplished practitioner of old-time fiddling as well as traditional bluegrass, and he is a published author on the subject of transferring fiddle rhythms to the mandolin. Adam is recognized by all those who have sat in his classes as a master teacher and communicator.

Participants are welcome to choose any class they want to attend by any instructor (in the mandolin grouping). One is not required to sign up for a track. We used the word ‘track’ to announce a wonderful new addition to camp.

There will also be offered a Traditional Bluegrass Banjo Track that will feature the influence Monroe’s music had on the banjo, the ‘5th Child’ of Bluegrass.

The banjo is essential to the bluegrass ensemble and there were a number of highly skilled musicians that made huge contributions to the sound of the music. The MonManCamp’16 Banjo Track will not only cover some of Bill’s instrumental tunes for the banjo over the years, but also how the banjo contributed as a backup instrument in the classic bluegrass ensemble of guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass and banjo.

We are proud to present to you this year’s banjo instructor, Alan O’Bryant, banjo great from Reedsville, North Carolina. Alan has been a long-standing band member and friend to the Monroes and really knows his craft when it comes to playing bluegrass banjo. Alan is an excellent and experienced teacher as well. Alan will be coaching intermediate and advanced students only. This is NOT a beginner course, but an intensive look at the inner workings of traditional bluegrass banjo. What constitutes an “intermediate” banjo player is that they can tune the instrument, they are proficient in right and left hand technique (know basic rolls for three fingers, etc.), have a repertoire of a couple of dozen tunes, and can play in several keys.

The Traditional Bluegrass Banjo Track will be limited to an intimate size with a maximum of 15 students. Don’t miss this great opportunity!

Any questions about either of these tracks, please contact us at monroemandolincamp@gmail.com