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Updates

March 2017

I'm going to be announcing a big round of Spring classes soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to let you all know about a couple special class opportunities coming up quickly. In March and April, I am going to offer two classes: Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar: Basics and Beyond (which I haven't been able to offer in quite some time), and Fundamentals of Ear Training and Music Theory (a brand new class which combines two of my favorite related topics). Both classes will be meeting on Thursday evenings in N. Cambridge on the following dates: Mar. 16, 23 & 30, Apr. 6 & 20. Please see below for complete details of both classes, and as always, let me know if you have any questions whatsoever.

UPCOMING JAMS

MONDAYS from 7 - 9 pm in N. Cambridge: 2-hour Intermediate Jam (CJS 1 of 6)
  -  please note: CJS subscribers do not need to rsvp (unless they cannot attend)
  -  most Mondays from 7 until 9 pm (for all bluegrass instruments) in N. Cambridge
  -  repertoire: Old Joe Clark, Red Haired Boy, Nine Pound Hammer, I am a Pilgrim,
     Whiskey Before Breakfast, Wayfaring Stranger, Cherokee Shuffle,
     Little Maggie, and Clinch Mountain Backstep
  -  average tempos: starting at 90 cpm (slow)
  -  upcoming Confirmed Jams on Mar. 6, 13, 20 & 27 and Apr. 3 & 10
  -  CJS subscriber cost is $120 for 6 jams ($20 per 2-hour jam)
  -  per-jam "drop-in" cost for non-subscribers is $25 per 2-hour jam

TUESDAYS from 6 - 7:30 pm at the Cantab: Weekly Vocal Tune Jam
  -  please note: no rsvp needed if you plan to join us for this jam
  -  every Tuesday at the Cantab Lounge in Central Sq. in Cambridge
  -  see below for "Song of the Week" details
  -  otherwise no instrumentals, very fast vocal tunes, or difficult songs
  -  the Cantab is located at 738 Mass. Ave. in Central Square in Cambridge, MA 02139
  -  held upstairs at the Cantab immediately before bluegrass night
  -  this jam is open to the public and there is a $10 requested pass-the-hat donation
  -  more details at http://cantab-lounge.com/public_html/cantab_calendar.html

WEDNESDAYS from 7 - 9 pm in N. Cambridge: 2-Hour Fast Jam (CJS 3 of 6)
  -  please note: CJS subscribers do not need to rsvp (unless they cannot attend)
  -  every Wednesday from 7 until 9 pm (for all bluegrass instruments) in N. Cambridge
  -  repertoire: Whiskey Before Breakfast, Wayfaring Stranger, I am a Pilgrim,
     Nine Pound Hammer, Cherokee Shuffle, Clinch Mountain Backstep,
     Little Maggie, and possibly Red Haired Boy (time permitting)
  -  average tempos starting at roughly 100 cpm (slow)
  -  upcoming Confirmed Jams on Mar. 8, 15, 22 & 29
  -  CJS subscriber cost is $120 for 6 jams ($20 per 2-hour jam)
  -  per-jam "drop-in" cost for non-subscribers is $25 per 2-hour jam

WEDNESDAYS from 9 - 10 pm in N. Cambridge: Songs Beyond Jam (CJS 3 of 6)
  -  please note: CJS subscribers do not need to rsvp (unless they cannot attend)
  -  every Wednesday from 9 until 10 pm (for all bluegrass instruments) in N. Cambridge
  -  next week's repertoire as chosen by Mark Th. will include:
     Bill Cheatham (in A), Big Sciota (in G), Billy in the Lowground (in C),
     and possibly St. Anne's Reel in D (time permitting)
  -  average tempos starting at roughly 95 cpm (slow)
  -  upcoming Confirmed Jams on Mar. 8, 15, 22 & 29
  -  CJS subscriber cost is $60 for 6 jams ($10 per hour-long jam)
  -  per-jam "drop-in" cost for non-subscribers is $15 per hour-long jam
  -  unless you are also attending the 2-Hour Fast Jam, in which case it's $10

 

SUNDAY, March 19th from 6-8 pm in Carlisle: 2-Hour Family Jam (CJS 3 of 4)
  -  please note: you must rsvp if you'd like to join us for this jam
  -  for all bluegrass instruments (please note the longer duration)
  -  repertoire: Old Joe Clark, I am a Pilgrim, Red Haired Boy,
     Nine Pound Hammer, and Whiskey Before Breakfast
  -  average tempos starting at roughly 70 cpm (slow)
  -  upcoming Confirmed Jams on Mar. 19 & 26
  -  CJS subscriber cost is $100 for 4 jams ($25 per 2-hour jam)
  -  please note: the "drop-in" price for these jams is $30 per jam
  -  jams held at a private home in Carlisle, MA 01741


SONG OF THE WEEK

Once again next Tuesday we will be featuring a new Song of the Week at the Weekly Vocal Tune Jam at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, MA. This time around the Song of the Week will be No Hiding Place Down Here in the key of G; you can see the Nashville Bluegrass Band perform this song with Doc Watson here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkvoAZtsWEY

We might play the Song of the Week from recent jams too, so I have included a list below, but please note, that we will likely only play one or two songs from this list each week. We never know what songs we're going to play at the Weekly Vocal Tune Jam, so you'll have to come out to the Cantab Lounge to find out!

Recent Song of the Week List:
(please note: we will likely only play one or two songs from this list each week)

Say Darlin' Say (in G) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msPVpfsye2k
Moonshiner (in D) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1ffOWyIOWQ
Cold Rain and Snow (in G) - https://youtu.be/s1UZsH7rubI?t=50s
If Wishes Were Horses (in A) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JUR_Lw-n-M
Things in Life (in E) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mxbiu2AuX0Y
White House Blues (in B) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8rk5rTxOBk
My Saro Jane (in G) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWl9iVnxxSY
Ain't No Ash Will Burn (in D) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmdm8E5uWlk
Come On Up To The House (in A) - www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzapgZI5SEc

UPCOMING CONFIRMED JAM SERIES

Here are the basic details of the Confirmed Jam Series (and please let me know if you have any additional questions):

(1) a Confirmed Jam Series (CJS) is a set of jams that will definitely meet barring something out of my control (like snow or the Earls of Leicester)
(2) you don't have to be a CJS "subscriber" to attend any of my jams
(3) you can start attending as a "subscriber" or "non-subscriber" at any time (you don't have to wait for the current CJS to end before joining us)
(4) you're invited to sign up in advance (as soon as right now) for the next CJS
(5) once you subscribe, you're expected to attend every jam in the CJS
(6) AND you must let me know asap if you cannot attend any jam
(7) BUT you won't have to pay for missing any jams if you let me know the date(s) of the jam(s) you'll miss at the beginning of the CJS
(8) AND if you miss a confirmed jam without letting me know in advance, you can attend any other confirmed jam on a DIFFERENT night within the next two months

And here are the specific details of the upcoming Confirmed Jam Series (remember, it's never too late to join us):

MONDAYS from 7 - 9 pm: 2-Hour Intermediate Jam (for ALL instruments)
  -  six (6) consecutive Mondays in N. Cambridge
  -  Confirmed Jam Sessions on Mar. 6, 13, 20 & 27 and Apr. 3 & 10
  -  if you cannot attend any of these, please let me know as soon as possible
  -  repertoire: Old Joe Clark, Red Haired Boy, Nine Pound Hammer,
     I am a Pilgrim, Whiskey Before Breakfast, Wayfaring Stranger,
     Cherokee Shuffle, Little Maggie, and Clinch Mountain Backstep
  -  average tempos starting at roughly 80 cpm (slow)
  -  CJS subscriber cost is $120 for 6 jams ($20 per 2-hour jam)
  -  per-jam "drop-in" cost for non-subscribers is $25 per 2-hour jam

SUNDAYS from 6 - 8 pm in Carlisle: 2-Hour Family Jam (for ALL instruments)
  -  four (4) Sundays at a private home in Carlisle, MA 01741
  -  Confirmed Jam Sessions on Feb. 26 and Mar. 5, 19 & 26
  -  please note: there will be no Confirmed Jam on March 12th
  -  if you cannot attend any of these, please let me know as soon as possible
  -  repertoire: Old Joe Clark, Red Haired Boy, Nine Pound Hammer,
     I am a Pilgrim, and Whiskey Before Breakfast
  -  average tempos: starting at 70 cpm (slow)
  -  CJS subscriber cost is $100 for 4 jams ($25 per 2-hour jam)
  -  per-jam "drop-in" cost for non-subscribers is $30 per 2-hour jam

UPCOMING CLASSES

Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar: Basics and Beyond
  -  for those who want to improve their bluegrass rhythm playing
  -  five 90-minute classes held on Thursdays from 7 until 8:30 pm
  -  class meets on Mar. 16, 23 & 30, Apr. 6 & 20
  -  classes held in N. Cambridge on the Arlington border
  -  includes a corresponding book and companion CD
  -  $135 for BBU members ($145 for non-members)*
*This course includes a year-long BBU membership (a $15 value for only $10), therefore you should not sign up for BBU membership prior to enrolling.

The Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar: Basics and Beyond class is intended for those who want to improve their bluegrass rhythm playing and have played at least a little guitar before (you should be able to switch between common open chords such as G, C, and D). In this course, we'll learn a wide variety bluegrass rhythm guitar skills: basic and complex, as well as traditional and modern. We'll cover bluegrass-specific chords, runs between chords, various G runs, and much more. The primary goal is to provide you with the skills needed to play solid bluegrass rhythm and participate in bluegrass jams. You don't need to have previous experience playing (or even listening to) bluegrass, or playing with a pick, and you don't need to be able to read music. Students should bring a playable acoustic guitar (ideally with steel strings), a pick, and an electronic tuner. Students are welcome to bring a recording device, however, it's not necessary as I will be recording each class and sharing the recordings between classes.

Fundamentals of Ear Training and Music Theory
  -  for those who want to develop a deeper understanding of music
  -  five 90-minute classes held on Thursdays from 8:30 until 10 pm
  -  class meets on Mar. 16, 23 & 30, Apr. 6 & 20
  -  classes held in N. Cambridge on the Arlington border
  -  includes handouts and possibly corresponding MP3s
  -  $135 for BBU members ($145 for non-members)*
*This course includes a year-long BBU membership (a $15 value for only $10), therefore you should not sign up for BBU membership prior to enrolling.

The Fundamentals of Ear Training and Music Theory class is intended for those who want to develop a deeper understanding of the music they are listening to. Have you marveled at those musicians who can just "pick up a tune" on the fly, and play a melody-based solo seemingly instantaneously? Have you ever wondered what some people are talking about when they say things like "it goes to the flat seven", "that's a modal song", or "that's a secondary dominant"? In my opinion, having a great ear for melodies or a thorough understanding of music theory is actually not essential to becoming a talented bluegrass musician, but it certainly can help speed you along the journey. While some people may be born with a strong ear for melodies, fortunately for the rest of us, ear training includes a set of skills that you can learn and practice just like learning chords or leads. And music theory can help you recognize the patterns common in music (and therefore hear them easier), and allow you to communicate better with other musicians.

The Fundamentals of Ear Training and Music Theory class is open to all instruments, both rhythm players (backup) and lead players (soloing). The class is open to all levels, but is geared towards those who have trouble finding a melody either on their instrument or with their voice. We will start by focusing on the basics of ear training, including hearing chord changes, hearing intervals, hearing melodies in real time, and transcribing solos by slowing down recordings. We will also focus on the fundamentals of music theory and how to apply them directly to bluegrass jams. We will discuss keys, chords, and notes, including the "Nashville Number System", and review some of the most useful scales and modes which help us play songs that are major, minor, bluesy, or modal. We will also examine common features of melody and harmony that should help you out in your next jam.

Students should bring a playable instrument as well as pick(s), capo (where applicable), and electronic tuner. There are no prerequisite songs, and you don’t need to be able to play leads on your instrument, read music, or sing. Some prior experience with bluegrass jamming will be helpful but definitely is not necessary. Students are welcome to record the class, however, it's not necessary as I will be recording each class and sharing the recordings between classes.

UPCOMING PERFORMANCES

Maine Acoustic Festival's Faculty Performance on Saturday, April 1st at 7:30 pm  --  The Maine Acoustic Festival (maineacousticfestival.com) is a statewide student music festival dedicated to honoring, sustaining, and developing the unique roots music traditions that have enriched America. The five faculty members, Lauren Rioux, Steve Muise, Brendan Taaffe, Hanz Araki-Campbell, and me, will be performing in our primary style of music: Old Time, Franco-American, Irish, traditional American harmony, and of course, Bluegrass. The Faculty Performance will be held at the First Parish Congregational Church, 116 Main St., Yarmouth, ME 04096. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students/seniors, and children under 12 free. And don't miss the Student Showcase on Sunday, April 2nd at 4 pm at Hannaford Hall at the University of Southern Maine, 88 Bedford St., Portland, ME 04101.

Laura Orshaw & The New Velvet Band at Club Passim's Down Home Up Here Bluegrass Festival on Saturday, April 15th at 8 pm  --  Laura's New Velvet Band (in which I play guitar and sing harmony) will be playing on Saturday, April 15th at Club Passim's Down Home Up Here Bluegrass Festival. This two-day event takes place from 4 until 11 pmon both Saturday, April 15th and Sunday, April 16th, with fourteen bands performing this year. Tickets are only $15 for an entire evening of music ($10 for Club Passim members and students), and you can get more details at http://passim.org/club/down-home-here-bluegrass-festival-7. Club Passim is located in Harvard Sq. in Cambridge and if you've never been to Passim before, you should be aware that parking in Harvard Sq. can be difficult, but Passim validates parking and the venue is literally one block from the Red Line.

UPCOMING CAMPS

Guitar and Mandolin Camp North in Charlton, MA from April 7th through 9th  --  I am very excited to be returning to this camp that last year was expanded to include guitarists, and this year is also including Dobro instruction. My role has been increasing and this year I have responsibilities helping to organize the jams and beginner tracks. The camp will be held in Charlton, MA (near Sturbridge, just an hour west of Boston) over the weekend of April 7th - 9th. The camps have been reinvigorated by new leadership (they are now both non-profit) and a large and talented line-up of teachers, and feature classes, concerts and jamming throughout the weekend. The camp includes a wide variety of styles of music (with a focus on bluegrass). They offer Master Classes with individual feedback, four Beginners' Tracks, and just about everything in between. Please visit their website (http://musiccampsnorth.com/2017-guitar-mandolin-camp-north/), and let me know if you have any questions. The Early-Bird Discount expires February 28th, and the BBU Member discount expires March 15th. If you sign up, please let them know that you heard about it from me!

Banjo Camp North in Charlton, MA from May 19th through 21st  --  I am also excited to be returning to teach as a faculty member at Banjo Camp North in Charlton, MA (near Sturbridge, just an hour west of Boston) over the weekend of May 19th - 21st. As with Guitar and Mandolin Camp North, this year I have responsibilities helping to organize the jams and beginner tracks. The camps have been reinvigorated by new leadership (they are now both non-profit) and a large and talented line-up of teachers, and feature classes, concerts and jamming throughout the weekend. The camp includes a wide variety of styles of music (with a focus on bluegrass and old-time music). They offer Master Classes with individual feedback, four Beginners' Tracks, and just about everything in between. Please visit their website (http://musiccampsnorth.com/2017-banjo-camp-north/), and let me know if you have any questions. The Early-Bird Discount expires February 28th, and the BBU Member discount expires April 21st. If you sign up, please let them know that you heard about it from me!

Ashokan Guitar Camp in Olivebridge, NY from July 10th through 14th  --  I cannot begin to describe how much of an honor it is to have been invited to teach at the guitar camp at The Ashokan Center. The many camps at Ashokan have been among the most significant within our community and beyond. These camps are led by Molly Mason and Jay Ungar, the latter of which named his most famous tune after the camps: Ashokan Farewell, which was heard as the musical centerpiece of Ken Burns’ PBS series The Civil War. The Ashokan Guitar Camp is a truly wide-ranging affair, where I will be the primary bluegrass instructor, but the other teachers (Jefferson Hamer, Sylvia Herold, Larry Baione, Del Rey, Flynn Cohen, Molly Mason, and Peter Davis) are truly top notch. Please visit the camp website (http://ashokan.org/guitar-camp/) for complete details.

Fiddle Hell Massachusetts in Westford, MA from November 3rd through 5th  --  I am also looking forward to my first year teaching at Fiddle Hell Massachusetts. Despite the name, Fiddle Hell is much closer to heaven for nearly 450 fiddlers, mandolinists, and the odd guitarist, banjo player, etc. Fiddle Hell features over 250 instructor-led workshops and jam sessions that cover a wide range of styles of music all appropriate for fiddlers. I couldn't begin to list all the instructors (it's over 50), or all the styles of music covered (over 30), so you'll have to check out their website (http://reinerfamilyband.com/introduction) and visit last year's pages for an idea of what to expect. It's difficult to imagine how massive such an event must be, but everybody loves the new location in Westford, and the event has only grown since moving there a few years ago.

Cantab Jam Details

Weekly Vocal Tune Jam - Tuesdays from 6 until 7:30 pm at the Cantab Lounge
(1) the jam meets every Tuesday from 6 until 7:30, no rsvp required
(2) unlike my other jams, we don't know what songs we'll be playing each week
(3) we don't play instrumentals, very fast vocal tunes, or obscure/difficult songs
(4) you don't need to be able to sing, but it's more fun if you can
(5) improvising solos is also not required, but it's more fun if you can
(6) the best preparation is to learn a common bluegrass song to sing with us
(7) the Cantab Lounge is one block from the Red Line, or try these "secret" parking spots:

There are six parking spaces very near the Cantab that are almost always free if you can get there at exactly 5:55 pm. These six parking spaces are all loading zones (that means tow zones) up until 6 pm, but if you arrive at 5:55 they are almost always empty. You can then sit in your car for a couple minutes, after which the parking spaces become non-tow zones and are free. There are two of these spots directly in front of the Cantab and the 7-11 on the corner, but don't park in the handicapped spot unless you have the placard! And there are four more of these loading-zone-until-6-pm spots directly across Mass. Ave. from the Cantab in front Pill Hardware down to the 1369 Coffee House.

The Weekly Vocal Tune Jam at the Cantab had been limited to easier songs (that is, no very fast vocal tunes, or songs with very complicated chord changes), but with the new "Song of the Week" system gives everybody attending the jam almost a week to work on a more difficult song for next week's jam. These songs will be chosen on a weekly basis by people at the jam, or by e-mailing me directly if you know you can attend next week's jam.

 

Other Jam Details
 
My "teacher-directed" jams are open to all instruments, both rhythm and lead players. You can attend even if you don't know all of the tunes, as I will have mp3s and copies of tab, chords, and lyrics for most of these tunes; however, I only have tabs for mandolin, guitar, and bass at this time. Space is limited in the jam sessions, and top priority will be given to those folks who have signed up for the Confirmed Jam Series. Students are encouraged to enroll in courses that correspond to jams, and the next highest priority will be given to those who are attending the corresponding classes immediately before or after the jams. Otherwise, students are invited to RSVP to jams on a first come, first served basis at the regular cost (which depends on jam length and location). Please e-mail me at tonywatt@gmail.com if you're interested or have any questions.
North Cambridge Location
Lessons, jams, classes, etc. are usually held in north Cambridge, about a half mile from where Rt. 2 hits Cambridge at the Alewife T station. This location is one block from the intersection of Rt. 16 and Mass. Ave., near the Cambridge/Arlington border. There is plenty of meter-free, permit-free parking on Mass. Ave., but please be advised that traffic can be very heavy around the intersection of Mass. Ave. and Rt. 16, so please allow for extra time to get here. The location is also only a 10-minute walk from Alewife and 15 minutes from Davis Sq., but if you are going to take public transportation, please let me know so I can recommend how best to get here.

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Please just send me an e-mail at tonywatt@gmail.com and let me know where you live and what you're interested in hearing about (such as performances, classes, jams, etc.)

Thanks so much!