“I have been waiting to start playing real bluegrass with people for quite a while, and now I can.”
“One of the best musical experiences of my life. The camp gave me knowledge, experience and laughs for a lifetime.”
“I do not believe I have ever been to any type of class where the instructor made learning so easy and so much fun.”
“An incredible experience… a depth of knowledge on the subject beyond just technique, including the history, etiquette, and flavor of the genre.”
“This is so much more fun than sitting on the couch playing alone.”
“I have never had so much valuable information and real teaching in such a short period of time.”
“I have been waiting to start playing real bluegrass with people for quite a while, and now I can.”
“There was a lot packed into those few days… the excitement of learning to jam with others, making real live honest-to-bluegrass music, and getting to know some really wonderful and supportive people.”
“I feel that it is the beginning of a whole new world for me.”
“It was a beautiful thing to see Pete’s clear pleasure at a group of learners singing harmony for the first time, or a musician taking their first out-of-the-closet solo.”
“Pete Wernick, a.k.a. Dr. Banjo, is a fine musician and a fine teacher, able to keep forty people interested and on track while staying very relaxed. Chris and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, we learned a lot from our time there, and we plan on returning next year.”
— Rick Saenz (2003 MerleFest Jamcamper)
“I came to jam camp new on my instrument (mandolin), and intimidated. By the end I was pretty comfortable. I started checking out different jams in my area, and now often go to at least 2 a week. The more I play, the better I get, and the more fun I have. I’ve made great new friends”— Marion, MA
“You have had a major impact in my life. Our social network now is mostly musicians, wonderful people my wife and I would have never met if I hadn’t gotten out of the closet and attended your Jam Camp in 2006.”— Jim, NC
“The information that I learned will help set me on the path that I am looking for. I learned more than I have in three years at fiddle camp.”— Lynn, CO
“The jam camp I attended was a true treasure. It changed my life for the better. I was able tonight to walk in, ‘cold tukey’, and sit in with the featured band at a Bluegrass society meeting. Before your workshop I had never even tried to play in public.”— Richard, KY
“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, NC
“Pete Wernick is a master teacher with decades of experience in promoting and advancing bluegrass education at all levels. His methods seriously address the fact that most pickers quit while still at a beginning level due to the use of ineffective materials and methods. His approach quicky leads one to becoming an independent and successful learner.
Pete’s camps could be thought of as bluegrass “boot camps” because they are skill based, experience based and intensive. The camps involve a lot of challenging and enjoyable group work.”— Don, CO
“I had such a positive experience and I really feel inspired now to get out there with my instrument. You and Joan are really providing new possibilities for everyone who attends.”— Kevin
“Jam camps made such a positive impact on my music life. I just can’t thank you enough.”— Robin, TX
“That experience really opened my closet door!”— Jim, PA
“I’m jamming! Thank you so much for what you have given me.”— Dave, PA
“I went into the camp with virtually no experience playing with others and came out three and a half days later understanding that the only way to play and enjoy this music is to do it with others… I have never had so much valuable information and real teaching in such a short period of time at any stage of my education.”— (Dr.) Rodger, KY
“I had a great time at the jam camp. I wanted to say how much your camp has made blue grass more open to me. Whatever it was, something clicked.
When I got back, I went to both my blue grass jams. I took breaks almost every song at both jams. I’m thrilled that I played more breaks than I ever had before.
Without that world of bluegrass opening up for me at your camp, even extra instruction on the fiddle would not have made much difference, because it’s the emotion and heart that is at work now, not just fiddle techniques, and that is going to make all the difference.”— Beth, PA
“Participated in Pete & Joan Jam Camp as beginning guitar player and now jam regularly and even lead sing and play in a novice band as a result of the experience and Pete’s encouragement.”— Jim, IL
“The Jam Camp was a fantastic learning experience and, coupled with the ROMP Festival and activities, made for a perfect week of great music and camaraderie.”— Chuck, KY
“I have really gotten a slingshot start after your camp. I still have a long way to go but I absolutely “get it” now, thanks to your camp. I’m starting a monthly jam in Hendersonville. All because of Jam Camp!”— Barry, NC
“Re the therapeutic value of your camp: When I arrived on Friday morning, I had at least 10 really important things to worry about. And I didn’t give them another thought until 6:00 PM Sunday on the way home. Thanks very much for that!”— Dave, CO
“Not only do you provide valuable and clear instruction on how jamming works … but you have a way of telling stories and explaining the history of bluegrass in a way that leaves us all excited about being a ‘member’ and wanting more!! Also, having the camp prior to a festival ensures us all that we will have folks to jam with for the next three or four days, and for me THAT is invaluable!”— Jeanne, PA
“I appreciated the direct interest you showed in not only me, but each of the other students, your style of making things understandable for the layman and your process of breaking each component into logical steps. You tore each person down in their weak areas and then built them up again in a way that promoted self-confidence to tackle that lacking trait.
Most teachers just teach the overall class and never take that extra effort to connect with the individual.”— Mark, CO
“A few of us had an opportunity to perform in public this past weekend. It was an amazing experience and I know I could have never done it without your encouragement and guidance.”— Ken, CO
“A wonderful camp experience…it was just what I had hoped for and just what I needed. Your honest and well thought out teaching style coupled with your experience and playing ability made the time a very important investment in my music.”— Mark, KY
“I still have euphoria and sore fingers from the Jam Camp. My confidence has been bolstered. The opportunity to play in the groups was just fantastic. Picking out melodies and having to play ‘group solos’ was perfect. Playing the solo along with everyone else eliminated all anxiety.”— Fred, KY
“Thank you for the life changing experience of Jam Camp, it has made all the difference for me. It provided a giant boost for me in getting with other pickers and understanding the rules, goals, and culture of bluegrass jamming.”— Shane, IL
“Thanks for a great learning experience at the jam camp. I haven’t used written music since I’ve been back. The discussion topics you spoke on, along with your instructional section on your website are a treasure chest of information.”— Jeannie, NC
“Great jam camp experience! I totally enjoyed it and it served me well by getting me over my jam fear. I always wanted to go to a bluegrass jam but was too intimidated to go. Now I know how they work, how to fit in and I have a great selection of songs I will learn to get started.”— Elliott, AZ
“I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed jam camp & how much I appreciated your efforts to meet the needs of all the campers. You went to great lengths to help all of us get into jamming. It’s impressive that you even included a section on performance anxiety or stage fright. From my experience, most accomplished musicians don’t offer novices much in that area except to tough it out. Your suggestions were quite sound.”— John, NC
“Besides having a blast and making new friends, my playing has improved dramatically. Some things you taught us didn’t sink into my playing immediately, but over the past couple months have really come in handy. I’m having a great time and my playing is improving daily.”— Kevin, CO
“I have been meaning to write to you to tell you how much I learned and how encouraged I was by attending your jam camp. The experience changed my whole outlook on playing and singing. After one of the jams, you told me I was a good singer. I had not sung a note since high school until I attended your camp, and high school was very a long time ago. Your words of encouragement meant a great deal to me and ever since I’ve been singing at every opportunity. I am now the lead singer in a group we formed after the camp. Music has become a much larger part of my life.”— Jim, IL
“It was obvious that you put a great deal of thought into planning the session. I was impressed. Your teaching style was relaxed yet still focused. You created a welcoming and supportive environment – especially important to beginners, and the folks who attended were wonderful. But most importantly it kindled in me a real passion to get out there with others and jam. This is so much more fun than sitting on the couch playing alone. I am now in search of jamming opportunities in my area.”— Patrick, NY
“Speaking on behalf of my family, the jam camp was one of our more memorable experiences. All agreed the experience was a transforming one that has left a lasting impression. Pete has figured out how to motivate and encourage his students in a way that will echo from one generation to the next. Our family continues to play together and this remains one of my greater pleasures.”— Ted, NY
“I’ve been playing (guitar) a lot since the last MerleFest jamcamp. Your “Bluegrass Jamming” video has made all the difference. I have even been brave enough to join Sunday parking lot jam sessions. That’s what it’s all about.”— J.M. (NC, 04)
“Unreal! Went fantastic, had a total of about 23 musicians, had a couple drop-ins just like a jam. Our purpose was to show a jam and we got it. Room filled and pretty much stayed that way. Most fun you can have with your clothes on! Audience went nuts for the jam.
Pete, thank you so much for helping to open this chapter of our lives. I tend to be a good organizer of events, but the camp gave me the incentive to grab hold of this area. I don’t know how long it might have taken for me to test these waters, but I am in them and the water is fine.”— Bill, (RI, 04)
It’s been three weeks, but I’m still on a high from your Bluegrass Jam Camp in Gettysburg. To put it mildly — it was absolutely fantastic! My banjo playing has improved immeasurably since Camp — even my wife has noticed. I am now actively looking for other jammers.
In class you mentioned to find folks in area to jam, to start jams up etc. Well, I might have gone a bit overboard, but I talked a local restaurant into hosting a bluegrass jam. Today was the first one, we had close to 80 people turn out, including 7 from Jam Camp. Great success.”
“Thank you very much for coming to California and teaching the Jam Camp! I was definitely a closet picker. But thanks to you I am happily out of the closet playing with others at church and school already! Joan, you really helped me to feel good about singing! I have never been able to sing on key before! It was great to be able to work with you and see that it is possible!
Before the camp, I was always very nervous to play around others. Since camp, I have played 2 times already, once in front of 120 kids and along side a great guitar player and the other time in a folk group of 15 musicians in front of the Sunday congregation at church. Both times I played with confidence and without fear! It was great!”— K.G. (CA, 05)
“Today I spoke with the manager and assistant manager of my apartment complex about starting a slow bluegrass jam. Both were enthusiastic and encouraging. The monthly newsletter will be distributed to all apartments and will carry an announcement about bringing the instruments out of the closet. Attending Jam Camp has given me the courage and the enthusiasm to start this.”— B.D.
“I gave Bridget Allen a diamond ring in the middle of a music jam at her Christmas party on Dec. 22. The jam was going on during the party with several guests participating. I was able to get Bridget up front for a few minutes to sing Christmas carols, and we paused for a presentation. The Christmas bag with the box was passed among our children and then to me. I said a few words and presented it. She was quite surprised. We then put a guitar in her lap, and she and I played and sang, “Your Are My Sunshine” with the guests joining in. I think that will be our song since that event. I appreciate the news shared via the emails. The ability of Jamie to write such interesting reportage should be shared with a much larger audience as I too believe she has literary talent. The jam scene in central Pennsylvania is growing. Pete’s information about closet players is becoming a prophesy. There are so many of us, and often we are so close. We are often saying “I didn’t know this person played.” We are everywhere, and in this area there are so many jams that I cannot possibly attend a third of them. My son, David, has started to play a fiddle, and Saturday night I walked in to a jam in Mill Creek, one of two jams within 300 yards of each other, and I was pleasantly startled by seeing him playing in the jam. I think he is hooked. Best wished to all Jamcampers for the new year. Keep the dialogue coming in the emails.”— R.P. (12/30/02)
“I am still walking on air since the workshop. I want to thank you both again for such an outstanding experience as a participant in the workshop. I learned so much and gained so much confidence with my bass-playing. I found myself in a jam with some rather experienced players Saturday morning and though they played pretty fast, I was able to muddle along OK. And it was great to meet these local people. You bet I’ll be staying in touch with the “chick band” members. Maybe we’ll be in a band workshop in the future!
I also wanted to say that I bought your duet CD and have been listening to it nonstop. It is a wonderful album. Joan, your voice is fabulous–what an inspiration.
All in all, I can’t thank you enough for offering this workshop. It has inspired me so much. I look forward to many weekends filled with music.”— S.V. (Brookdale camp 03)
“Jam Camp 2002 was my “initiation” to jamming. I’d taken guitar lessons for a few months, and had been trying to teach myself the basics on the fiddle (with lots of help from my dad, who can play just about anything that has strings!). During camp, it was a struggle the first day, just to get my instruments out of their case – I was terrified to play in front of anyone! By the end of the week, I was having such a great time that I’d forgotten about the fear of making a mistake! Everyone was VERY patient and encouraging, telling how they felt the first time they tried jamming, and helping me learn at my own pace….without their support, I would never have made it to that “first rung of the ladder,” (as Pete describes it).
After camp, I started jamming on Sat. nights at our local Ridgeway Opry – it’s mostly open mic, except for a couple of short sets by the house band (The Possoms & The Blossoms), and a longer set by a featured band about once a month. Well, it happened that the fiddler with the Possums was having some health problems, and while he was recovering they asked if I’d like to pinch hit for a couple of months. They also needed someone on harmony vocals, so I jumped at the chance. We played at a nearby festival (actually got to open for Country Current – no pressure there!), a coffeehouse, and some private parties, as well as the regular Sat. gig at the Opry. There’s no way to tell you what I learned and how much I enjoyed those two short months. It was another example of something I would have never experienced without Jam Camp!”— G.F.
“What a week I had…learned a lot and jammed a lot and gained new self-confidence armed with Pete’s time-tested bag of tricks and techniques. Open mics, here I come!”— S.H. 02
“Last year was my first year at Jam Camp. I drove down from NY listening to bluegrass songs and trying to cram as many as I could into my poor brain. I was SO nervous. I was sure I wouldn’t play well enough or sing well enough for this group. Either that, or I would commit some horrible breach of jam etiquette. Let me tell you, however, I hadn’t been in the first jam for more than two minutes when I knew that everything was going to be OK. I was in heaven! This is the most appreciative, affirming, laid-back and fun group you’ll ever meet!! And, we produced some darn good music together!!!”— S.S.
(later, after being asked to join a good group:)
“I want you to know that the experiences I had last year at Jam Camp helped get me to this place. I was a good singer and an adequate guitarist before Jam Camp, but I am much better now. I attribute a lot of that to the encouragement and affirmation I received at Camp, from both you and the other participants. In addition, that brief moment on stage and being so well received by the audience, was a turning point for me. There’s nothing like cheers and applause, I guess.
I know I’ve told you before how much Jam Camp meant to me, but I want to tell you again in the context of this development. I’m flying high…still can’t believe my incredible good fortune. Here’s to another great year!”— S.S.
“I was so awed and inspired by the almost evangelical spirit of Dr. and Nurse Banjo that I returned to my home and organized a jam group. Everyone is invited to the Folly Beach Bluegrass Society Jam Night at The Pelican every Thursday night at 7:30. Our first jam was a raging success.”— Jamie 02
Dear Pete and Joan,
I’m back here in Arlington, VA struggling to readjust to the routines of my “normal” life, but I couldn’t let any more time slip past without dropping you a line to express my most sincere gratitude for all the work you both put in to make the jam camp experience the best it could be for myself and all the campers. I enjoyed so many personal milestones and creative highs during the week, that when my friends ask me “how did it go” or “what did you do” I hardly know where to start. Obviously, none of it would have been possible without you. I’m really in awe of the generosity of spirit you showed this week in your commitment to spreading the joy of making music. It was a beautiful thing to see your clear pleasure at group of adult learners singing harmony for the first time, or a musician taking their first out-of-the-closet solo. On the more personal level I very much appreciate the kindness and support you both gave to me over the course of the camp. You’ve touched me in a way that won’t soon fade away. Needless to say, I’m definitely on the bus now.— R.H.
Dear Fellow Jam Campers,
I have enjoyed reading the correspondence among the jamcampers. This morning I spent a good bit of time listening to the tapes I made last week–of smaller jam groups, of Pete’s individual instructions to us banjo players, of Pete’s and Joan’s singing with the whole group backing them up. The quality of the taping is not great at all, but as I listened and played along, I felt as if I were right back there again. There was a lot packed into those few days. As I review it all, it is amazing. The week was a great experience in lots of ways…learning to jam with others, the excitement of hearing us all playing together, making real live honest to bluegrass music, and getting to know some really wonderful and supportive people. I think what I appreciate most of all is the genuineness of Pete and Joan. In addition to their being amazing musicians, they are just the most gracious and approachable people. The atmosphere of community and learning they afforded us was complemented by Beth’s work with our groups and Andy’s very gracious hospitality on Wednesday night. It was just a really incredible week. Thanks for your letting me be part of the Jam Camp with you. And thanks to Pete and Joan for all that they do for us music lovers. I hope I will be able to participate in Jam Camp again.Sincerely,
“I attended MerleFest Jamcamp in 2000 and still look back on those days as my “breakthrough” in jamming…a step across a threshold that has now lead to the main way that I spend my freetime. I now jam at least once and sometimes twice a week! The very first successful actually “rolling along” jam that Pete had me into made me cry because to be able to jam was something I had deeply wanted for a very long time. THANK YOU SO MUCH PETE!! It only gets better, more satisfying and more FUN!”— C.S.
“It sounds like overstatement, but Jam Camp has been a life-changing experience for me. The Baitshop Boys and all the fun we’ve had together simply wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t caught the fever at that first camp. It must be very rewarding for you to see that others in the group are having the same experience.”— T.S. NC 99-03
“My wife gets so excited when she can learn some of these tunes after such a short time playing.
Some of you may remember my oldest daughter playing one song with us at the Holiday Inn jam. Now my youngest has the bluegrass bug. She will be 6 this week and she wants a bass.”— B.M. (NC, 03)
“I got more from the first day of Jam Camp than I expected for the duration.”— F.S. (NY, 03)
“Last April I was fortunate enough to attend the Pete Wernick Jam Camp at MerleFest, one of the best music experiences a person could have. Picking from early morning (before 9 am) until late evening (after 1 am). The last day we opened for Doc Watson at MerleFest itself. The majority of campers were from Pennsylvania (Downingtown, Paoli, Lancaster, Pittsburgh, etc) and we all had a wonderful time. I just learned that Pete will be doing a Jam Camp at Gettysburg starting on August 18. Not all the info is available yet but mark your Calendars now and plan to attend. Pete and his wife Joan are great people and after just a few hours, they feel like lifelong friends. The Jam Camp experience is a great confidence builder and I made many new friends when I attended at MerleFest.”— B.D. (Bass Player)