The three-day camp in West Olive to offer ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ guitar, mandolin, fiddle instruction for adults and youths from award-winning musicians, plus a concert starring Matt Flinner, Don Julin, Fauxgrass.
West Michigan entrepreneur and musician Jason Wheeler has played mandolin and guitar for nearly 20 years.
And over the past decade, he’s attended numerous music camps across the country, growing to love the impromptu, late-night jam sessions with other attendees, all doing what they love most.
Now, he’s getting ready to jam again and offer that same opportunity for instruction to budding fellow musicians in West Michigan.
Wheeler, mandolinist for progressive bluegrass band Fauxgrass, this week announced that registration is now open for the first-ever Great Lakes Music Camp, a three-day acoustic music camp in early October that will also feature a benefit concert at Camp Blodgett in West Olive (south of Grand Haven).
The Oct. 6-8 camp, with registration available at greatlakesmusic.org, will feature some of the most talented acoustic instructors in the country, and will host workshops, lessons, hosted jams, staff concerts and benefit concerts, allowing attendees to pursue their skills playing the instrument they love. The camp also will feature a large benefit concert on Oct. 7 featuring performances from The Matt Flinner Trio, Don Julin and Fauxgrass.
Wheeler, executive director of the Great Lakes Music Camp, said the weekend will features guitar, mandolin and fiddle instructors and facilitators who are stars in their own right: Some have won Grammys and toured the world, dedicating their lives to their craft.
SITTING IN WITH ‘MUSICAL HEROES’ IN A COMFORTABLE LAKESHORE SETTING
“When I saw the caliber of those folks, it kind of started to dawn on me that yeah, this thing has legs,” Wheeler said. “And hopefully, I’m able to demonstrate a value to the community through the level of instruction that’s going to be there. I mean, this really is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit with some musical heroes, and get insights that you can’t get from private lessons, or off YouTube videos.”
Wheeler said he wants participants to feel comfortable when they walk into the camp.
“There is always a level of uncertainty or intimidation that takes place,” he said. “I want to try to remove that barrier, as quickly as possible, for campers when they show up. I think the setting is a big part of that. The tension or anxiety you might feel when you’re walking into a college campus is a lot higher than when you are walking onto a beach. We are trying to create an atmosphere – an environment – where people feel comfortable just being themselves, learning.”
Small class and group sizes are also the aim at the Great Lakes Music Camp, which will help even more in making the campers feel at ease, and comfortable with the instructors. The camp currently aims to sign up 30 students for its first year, so space is limited.
“When you’re in a small-group setting like this, you’re going to be able to ask questions without raising your hand, and waiting your turn,” Wheeler said. “You’re going to be able to interact with the instructors. You’re going to be literally sitting knee-to-knee with these guys. And that really helps take the lessons these guys give out, and help ingrain them into your own playing. I hope that by having similar classes, we’re creating a welcoming, friendly, informal atmosphere.”
RAISING MONEY FOR IMPORTANT CAUSES, LINING UP TOP-NOTCH INSTRUCTORS
Wheeler said the Great Lakes Music Camp has partnered with local nonprofit Grand River Water Festival.
“We have been working to marry these two things – using music as a vehicle to raise money and awareness for causes that are important to our mission, and how we can better serve West Michigan,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler has worked hard over the last two or three years to dial in on what a music camp might look like in Michigan. Holding it along the lakeshore fit the bill perfectly.
Registration has begun for the camp, which will feature renowned players and instructors such as Darol Anger (fiddle), Matt Flinner (mandolin), Don Julin (mandolin) and Kenny Smith (guitar), along with many others. Check out the full list online here.
There’s also an option for those who are just interested in the concert and Saturday activities. Get information and register online at greatlakesmusic.org.
The weekend camp, which has classes planned around beginner, intermediate, and advanced skill levels of players, aims to welcome nearly any age of participant and from those in all walks of life.
“The common thread is going to be having a passion for learning on your instrument,” Wheeler said. “More than skill level, the common factor will be that drive, that desire, to learn and develop their skills. There is going to be something for everyone there. We all are going to be there, as a group, trying to learn together… supporting each other in each other’s musical journey.”
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC