I wanted to let you know how helpful your Bluegrass Banjo book has been to me over the years and how beneficial your BNL columns are. You really seem to have the knack for understanding the difficulties that beginners have and how to help them improve.
— Tom M. WV
I don’t do lots of fiction; I do report what I notice and what I learn. You have, as I see it, two advantages to offer: you know your stuff and how to impart it to others. I know your videos well and several of my students have enrolled in your banjo camps and you get an A+ from me.
— Julio Boysenberry, CA
Your work has helped so many people follow a music dream. Thank you for your leadership all these years.
— Carol and Ray F., PA
I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know how much I enjoyed and benefited from the beginners banjo camp. You gave us so much great helpful information, one cannot help but improve.
You are a world class banjo player but I feel you are even a better banjo instructor. Your evaluations are most accurate, you are most patient (with us very amateur beginners), you criticize tactfully but you always seem to find something within the situation to give a positive encouragement. I truly admire that trait in your teaching. Your production of all your DVD’s only illustrate your desire to help others become better musicians.
— Stuart F., CO Basic Banjo Camp
I am forever grateful to Pete for what he does. He impacted my life and my playing as no one else could.
— Wes L., FL Advanced Banjo Camp
I have been to many banjo clinics, bluegrass camps, etc. over the years and I still consider you the best teacher in the business. I still remember many lessons and good times from the two banjo camps I attended.
— Paul K. NC
As a banjo teacher myself for many years I emphasized playing by ear and improvising, and tried to create the least daunting path to where the music really lives. Results showed me that this works. That’s why I got so excited about what Pete is doing. He embraces these same principles, but has developed them into an amazingly direct and effective system, creating a solid infrastructure in which beginning and intermediate players can find their own path of least resistance. And while most banjo teachers influence a few dozen students, Pete is reaching thousands at his jam camps and banjo camps, and hundreds of thousands with his instruction books and videos.
I’m sure that Pete Wernick’s curriculum for banjo and bluegrass is the most effective, in that it results in the lowest drop-out rate for beginners. Less obviously, but maybe more importantly, I also feel that it is producing not just more players, but better players: musicians who don’t play by rote memory, with better timing, who are sensitive, creative, and mutually supportive.
When I rediscovered his website last summer I sent him an email, in which I said “…when I read your responses in Ask Dr. Banjo, I’m tempted to stand up and shout Hooray!” I sensed a bit of a blush in his response, but my praise was understated. The future of the banjo and bluegrass couldn’t be in better hands.
— Rick Shubb, CA
I truly am happy that I have been able to attend your camps and never expected to be in this position to enjoy playing so much.
— Jim M., CO
Dear Jam Campers,
Pete has been many places making friends and spreading the gospel of learning bluegrass, and at the IBMA, he was in the reviews in a very positive light.
Some jam campers were at the Augusta Bluegrass Week the last week of July, 2007 and thoroughly enjoyed Pete’s leading role in the programs. He was the instructor for the advanced banjo class. The feedback on that class made me wish that I was qualified to be in it. I am not. Most enjoyable was Pete’s sense of humor on stage for two performances during the week. Mixing stand-up, impromptu comedy with renditions of his original compositions was a highlight of the concerts.
He introduced his new Flexigrass album, What The… and if you do not have it, I suggest that you own it to see a new possibility with creative musicians. Pete was the artist of note that was featured on Friday afternoon. He spoke on the topics we have heard, jamming, instruction, getting groups together, singing, etc.
He was also a force in the late night jams and when the music became way out in the wee hours of Friday morning at the Ice House, Pete was in the middle of the fun. These jams with top of the line musicians are a marvel. Pete also was initiated as an Augusta Instructor by attempting to catch popcorn in his mouth dropped from two floors above in the Ice House. Catching falling popcorn was difficult, until the whole bag was dumped on his upturned countenance. He was a good sport. We also noticed that the college store was selling flowered shirts just like Pete wears.
I just read the November Banjo Newsletter with the news from the IBMA Convention in Nashville. Again those listening to Flexigrass were impressed and were not threatened that something different was presented to the bluegrass community. Very positive comments were shared by Casey Henry in a review of the IBMA week. Also a review of the album in a separate article praises the creative combinations in Flexigrass. So Pete is very visible at the top of the bluegrass scene, doing impressive work, and he still has time for us who are just learning to enjoy bluegrass.
We are grateful,
— R. B. Powell, PA
I’d just like to add my thoughts to the topic. I think that we jam campers have a unique opportunity in working with Pete. Think about it, how many times do you have the chance to work with a master musician? not only that, but with his banjo instruction books and videos and his bluegrass songbook (for my money the best use of tab notation to quickly convey the melody) he’s “written the book” on bluegrass instruction! As a teacher, I learn a lot about the art of teaching at these workshops, as a musician I am challenged and inspired. I feel like we’re part of an exciting movement spreading the gospel of jamming or community building through music. What a great scene to be a part of!
— Kevin S. CO
I Believe This Site Is a Life Saver , I Send It to all My Friends
— Lee B., NY
Pete is a fabulous teacher. He’s very personable, patient and encouraging, and he ensures each student gets individual attention. He is keen to work with banjo players at whatever level they happen to be at, and to instill in them the skills to move them to the next level of musicianship. His approach is focused on enabling his students to play with other musicians: to give beginners the skills and confidence to participate in jams and to help more seasoned players to tastefully complement the music in their bands or jam groups. He encourages his students to jam both within and outside of his classes, and this makes for a fun, rewarding atmosphere where students can apply what they’ve learned.
Besides teaching how to play bluegrass banjo, he brings to his classes a wealth of folklore about the banjo, about bluegrass music and about bluegrass pioneers and innovators. From years of experience as a performer, author, teacher and as long-time President of the International Bluegrass Music Association, he knows pretty much everyone who is anyone in the bluegrass world.
— Nestor D., Alberta, Canada
I really like the “Especially for teachers.” I’m trying to get the word out about your this, so other beginners won’t have to go through what I went through.
Thanks for a great site!
— Danny, TX
You’re a great teacher and a big influence on me.
— Lluís Gomez, Spain Advanced Banjo Camp 2004
I was one of the teachers who attended the teachers’ workshop at the Joe Val festival in Framingham, MA last year. I have to tell you that your playing banjo workshop was the highlight of the festival for me. I decided I’d just have to get a five string banjo and learn to play it, and by the beginning of April I had got one and started learning to play, practicing every chance I got. By the summer I had been to a couple of slow Jams. I’ve been leading the classroom kids in traditional songs, using my banjo, and have also been composing songs for our use in the classroom– some chorus and multi verse songs on topics the kids suggest.
This weekend was the Joe Val festival again, which I attended again, but this time as an “advanced beginner” banjo player.[8 months later:]
I just received word that we’ve received a grant to outfit a small “Acoustic String Band Jam” project in our middle school. We’ll be receiving 3 banjos, 2 mandolins, 2 guitars and an acoustic bass within the next couple of weeks. I have at least three students who already have their own banjos and a new but growing guitar program here, so I hope to be able to give a good report on our progress in exploring American roots music through the String Band Jam later this year.
— Bob C., MA
I did the same as most of you did, got a banjo and wanted to play a tune straight away. I did. I learnt Banjo In The Hollow. However, that was all I could play. I couldn’t play with anybody else because nobody wanted to play Banjo In The Hollow for hours at a time. A few years later, long after I had given up on bluegrass, I went to a banjo festival in Scotland. There was a beginners banjo class on the Saturday morning and within half an hour he had about twenty of us all playing Tom Dooley and having a great time. If only I’d had a teacher like that. The only other teacher I’ve seen who does that is Pete Wernick. The sad part for me is that I bought Pete’s video very soon after I got the banjo. I watched it and thought, this isn’t for me. I want to play Cripple Creek and Foggy Mountain Breakdown, I don’t want to strum along with people. How I wish I had.
— Sandra D., U K on bgnrBanjo list
I really want to thank you and Joan for all you are doing to encourage people to participate and get involved in making music. It has certainly made my life fuller and I have accomplished far more than I ever thought possible when I started trying an instrument.
— Michael L., PA
I wanted to take a few minutes from my marathon practice session today to write and thank you for the wonderful help you gave all of us last week (Augusta Heritage Bluegrass Program 2007). I recorded all of the lessons and have been listening to them during my daily commute, and it is incredible how much I learned, but more importantly how much more I am going to learn over the next months and years with the tools you provided. Thanks to good luck and good planning I am pretty close to being able to retire from my day job and I plan to make music a much bigger part of my life, so your tips on how to approach learning from a professional viewpoint were very useful and inspiring.
But even beyond that, what most impressed my about the classes was your approach to us as students. You were very patient and attentive to all questions, able to see past the specific question to underlying issues, and then patiently take the time with the student to get him/her on the right track. That’s a gift only the best teachers (of anything) have. I really appreciated that you were caring, generous, considerate, but also insisted on things being done right.
You are also very entertaining and funny, which was also great.
Already my sound is much better and I am listening to myself much more critically (in a good way). We have our biggest gig of the year coming up in a couple of weeks and I am planning to nail my part. You know, by getting it right 10 times in a row, esp. the first time. I really get the idea of going from fear to pleasant anticipation.
Anyway, thanks so much – your class was a real breakthrough for me, and I’m sure it has been for many others. I hope our paths cross again in the not too distant future.
— Ed B., VA
I want to thank you on behalf of fledgling banjo pickers everywhere for what you do. Pete, I have just about every DVD and book on banjo playing out there, and I do learn something from each of them, but you have the ability to make me think I can play anything (with practice, practice, practice, of course)! Your teaching style is second to none and I thoroughly enjoy coming home and picking with your jamming DVDs, though I haven’t progressed beyond the slow-jam, I listen to the intermediate one all of the time. I have become a huge fan of Hot Rize, and I also am really impressed with Flexigrass.
If I am ever in the area when you are conducting one of your camps, you can bet I’ll be there.
Once again, thanks so much for taking the time to write. You reinforced the image you project on your DVD’s and have motivated me to play some more! (Notice “play” sounds like so much more fun than “practice”!)
— Jay F., Okinawa
Just wanted to thank you again for the stimulating sessions you put together for the SPBGMA workshop in Nashville last Friday.
Speaking as someone who tries to learn without the benefit of a teacher, I want to compliment you on your insightful style of teaching us “how to fish’ rather than just giving us the fish. It’s easy to get hooked on all the tablature that’s out there today, but it can postpone indefinitely the real “woodshedding” we all need to go through in order to truly “make music”. Your appreciation of that fact, coupled with your genuine encouragement and realistic instruction, makes the journey much more credible and a lot less intimidating.
— Mike C., TN
For the last week or so, I have been “glued” to your website; reading everything you have on there. I think your philosophy of how new students should be taught 110% right. I love music and I love the sound of the Banjo…too bad I didn’t have a teacher like you when I was younger. Even now, you have put me into the right frame-of-mind to start playing again. Thanks for being there.
— Phil M., TX
My playing has improved dramatically. Your instruction and video tapes are the reason things are coming together. Yesterday was the first time I played on TV. I played a lot of the backup licks I learned from you. There is another element that is probably most important to me and that is your encouragement. All of your students raved about what a wonderful teacher and person you are. Your caring made us all try that much harder.
— Louis C., LA
Our band is moving right along. We have a rapidly developing schedule for the summer. I owe everything I play to you Pete. Without attending your Basic Skills Camp, I never would be playing at the level I am now, nor would I be so disciplined in practice. It is simply amazing what spending a week with you can accomplish. Like learning a new language, complete immersion with a worthy guide (yourself) is the most effective learning tool I’ve found.
— Kevin D., CO
…very glad to find such a sensible, well written description to learning and playing banjo
— Bob Cooper, AZ
I’ve gotten more out of it than I could have imagined. My practice techniques have changed, my goals have changed, and I’m excited again.
— Holly G., CO Basic Banjo Camp
In the middle of our practice session Friday night my mando player screams out in the middle of a song “thank you Pete Wernick.” I asked him what’s up and he said, “I don’t know what Pete did to you but your sound and the way you play is much better”. So thank you Pete. We have taken our first festival gig in May in the North Ga. mountains.
— Terry F., GA Intermediate Banjo Camp
I took your advice about pro-actively seeking pickers. I went to one of the largest Jams around and kept the banjo in its case and did nothing but network. You were right! There is one jam just down the street that meets every Tuesday. That generated another jam on Friday only two blocks away. Pickers are now coming out of the woodwork! Thanks for the tip and best of luck to you.
— Wayne L., TX
My students are out jamming after lesson #2. Thank you, Pete Wernick, for this idea. As soon as they have an understanding of chords (the three shapes and ability to move between them) they’re playing with others. Even without being able to play one single tune they can have a blast and are learning how to pay attention to what they are doing while noticing what others are doing.
— Julio Boysenberry, CA
Thank you so very much for an incredibly useful website. Your tips for teaching students have been an enormous help! most sincerely,
— Curt A., OR
…wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your article about teaching beginning banjo students. I teach a beginner’s class here in Denver. After reading your article, I decided to restructure the class and shift the focus from learning a lot of exercises to keeping it simple and teaching them to jam on some fairly easy two and three chord songs. At the beginning of my second class, I announced that we were going to have a jam session, and all of my students sort of freaked out. None of them felt they were ready to jam, but after our first round of “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain” everyone in the room was grinning from ear to ear. It reminded me of the excitment and joy that I got out of the banjo when I first began, and I felt like I was able to share that for the first time. What a thrill!!
— Scott B., CO
What got me started on the banjo again was your article in Banjo Newsletter. Your comments were so right on about what teachers do!! So I got inspired again, bought your tape and off I go.
— Dale B., IL
I’ve been involved at the highest levels of rowing and it’s not often that a top level oarsman becomes a very good coach. You are one of the best teachers or coaches I’ve encountered and are as good a banjo player as I have heard. You’ve shown me what I can strive for and that I can have a blast even if I’m never that good. One thing that comes through in all of your sessions is the passion that you have for the banjo, bluegrass music, and teaching. The most important thing that your students come away with is a bit of that passion… I know I did.
— Dave P., MA Intermediate Banjo Camp
The banjo camp was responsible for helping me break out of tablature dependence, and which gave me the encouragement to work out melodies on my own, as well as removing some of the fear of playing around others.
— Bruce B., CO
I highly recommend studying with Pete. I did a Pete Wernick banjo camp about five years ago, and I walked away not knowing exactly what I had learned. It took a while to soak in, and after a couple of years this is what I realized I got out of the camp: Pete shows you how bluegrass banjo works. There is something for every banjo player in Pete’s classes. He is a professional musician through and through, and just that alone is worth being around.
— Jake Schepps, CO