Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy 2010
Sixth Annual

SMBA 2010 May 7th-9th at Wa-Floy Mountain Retreat near Gatlinburg, Tennessee

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  • Beginner to Advanced classes were taught by experienced professionals, including bluegrass, classical, minstrel, jazz, and various old-time styles. The teacher-student ratio this year was excellent...often there were as few as three or four students with a Ron Block or Ron Stewart or Jack Hicks or Leroy Troy teaching what was practically a private lesson. Every three-day camper got their choice of instructors for a one-on-one private lesson.

  • Many students and faculty arrived Thursday night to get acquainted.There was a cookout and jamming, and we just got acquainted. The student banjo contest Friday evening was won by Alan Tompkns. Alan won a Deering Goodtime II travel banjo valued at over seven hundred dollars. Other prizes included custom straps and leather items by Dave Schenck of Dogwood Designs, Mel Bay instructional products, and OME Banjo company apparel.

    The concert Saturday night was incredible, with a nice balance of old time, bluegrass and minstrel music. The staff band, jackie and Cindy Miller and John Miller, again drew praise from the faulty, many of whom commented that they pleasantly surprised at their high level of professionalism and general musicanship.

  • Sunday morning R.B and Bridget Powell moderated a Gospel jam, and their other slow jams throughout the weekend were well attended. Sunday morning we also had an onstage student jam, allowing everybody to perform through the PA system.

    SMBA chef Kevin Peck and his dad Art continued the tradition of authentic delicious Southern home cooking.The food was delicious, scoring an average of "10"out of a possible "10" on the exit surveys. Kevin and Art made EVERYTHING from scratch, even items many fine restaurants get pre-made or frozen, such as buttermilk biscuits and potato salad and Art's own "secret recipe" cole slaw. Breakfast included omelets made to order! Saturday's dinner rivaled anything that could have been ordered at Gatlinburg's finest restaurant, featuring London Broil and Southern style barbeque. BRAVO Kevin and Art!

    Former Opryland entertainer Russ Jeffers was again concert MC, and this year he brought his beautiful and talented wife Becky. They added a new dimension to the Saturday concert, reuniting with James McKinney as Smoky Mountain Sunshine, the group that delighted Opryland audiences for over 20 years. Sister Jane Hatfield ran the camp store and kept the camp office running like a finely-tuned banjo.

    Assistant Camp Director Betsy Burgin again organized the faculty concert and as always, worked behind the scenes keeping faculty on schedule and directing traffic, making sure everybody was where they were supposed to be, as well as dealing with the countless annoying little problems that come up, from maintenance and repair issues with the facility to making photocopies of handouts for the faculty to solving room assignment issues. Many campers commented on how smoothy things ran in general, and Betsy can be thanked for this.

    2010 SCHEDULE:


    8:00AM: Registration

    9:00AM: Orientation

    9:30 History of the Banjo Presentation: Marc Smith

    10:15 Classes begin

    12:30 Lunch

    1:30 PM Classes resume

    6:00 Dinner

    7:00 Student Banjo Contest

    8:00 Free time, Jamming



    . 7:00 AM Breakfast

    8:00 AM Classes begin

    12:45 Lunch

    1:30 Group Photo

    2:00 PM Classes resume

    6:30 PM Dinner

    8:00 PM Faculty Concert

    11:00 Free time, Jamming




    . 7:00 AM Breakfast

    8:00 AM Gospel jam, Classes begin

    9:00 Student onstage jam

    12:30 Lunch

    1:30 PM Classes resume

    4:30 PM Classes end, Farewell Jam



    Check out the SMBA T-Shirt!

    Help us promote the camp! Take flyers to concerts, bluegrass association meetings and jam sessions. Put a couple in your banjo case and hand out to other banjo players and invite them to attend next year.

    2010 SMBA faculty:

    Dave Ball, Ron Block, Jack Hatfield, Jack Hicks, John Lawless, James McKinney, Tom Nechville, Rick Sampson, Marc Smith, Ron Stewart, Leroy Troy!

    Dave Ball is a fine old time, brush and minstrel style banjo player. He is also a builder of fine banjos, with their roots mainly in the fine classic era banjo of the late 1800s. He plays for "The Mumbillies", a well known group in the East Tennessee area. Dave has a collection of old banjos that is so special the world's largest banjo exhibit "The Banjo - From Africa to America and Beyond" asked him to loan them several instruments. This exhibit was held last year at McClung Museum in Knoxville. Dave started playing banjo in 1970, when he took up three finger Scruggs style playing. Dave's grandfather and father both played in western Kentucky stringbands, so he had been around this kind of music his entire life. By the late 1970's, Dave was playing banjo seven nights a week in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and it was also about this time that he took up old time clawhammer style playing. Since those days, Dave has won many banjo competitions including multiple first place honors at the prestegious Mt. Airy North Carolina festival and was National Champion Old-Time Banjoist in 2001. Dave is also an accomplished banjo maker, specializing in fancy high-end custom openback and internal resonator banjos. Dave will perform concerts and talk about banjo history and building and teach old time and minstrel style classes.

    Ron Block has been the spiritual touchstone of Alison Krauss and Union Station for the past fifteen years, contributing sterling musicianship on banjo, guitar and vocals. Block’s first solo album, Faraway Land (Rounder, 2001), was met with great critical acclaim and raised the bar for Block as an artist for his Rounder Records follow-up, DoorWay. Boasting an all-star lineup featuring Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski, Jerry Douglas, Barry Bales, Adam Steffey, Stuart Duncan, Viktor Krauss, Suzanne and Sidney Cox, Andy Hubbard (Little Big Town) and Homer, Lisa, and Lori Forbes, among others, DoorWay is a set of intensely moving and personal songs that Block self-produced and wrote. Alison Krauss and Union Station have recorded 10 of Block’s songs since 1992, including the beautiful “In the Palm of Your Hand” from the Alison Krauss and the Cox Family album, I Know Who Holds Tomorrow and “A Living Prayer” from Lonely Runs Both Ways, which received a 2006 Gospel Music Association Dove award for Bluegrass Song of the Year. Block has also recorded with Susan Ashton, Vince Gill, the Cox Family, Clint Black, Bill Frisell, Fernando Ortega, Billy Dean, Michael Johnson, Dolly Parton, and most recently Brad Paisley. In addition to his production of DoorWay, Block is currently producing a new recording for Rounder by young mandolin wizard, Sierra Hull. His songs have also been recorded and performed by Rhonda Vincent (“You’re In My Heart”), Randy Travis (“Which Way Will You Choose”), Dan Tyminski (“Be Assured”), Michael W. Smith, the Cox Family and the Forbes Family, whose Block-produced In the Shadow of Your Wings is a classic of contemporary bluegrass gospel.

    . Jack Hatfield has been a writer for Banjo Newsletter for over 3 years and has written several acclaimed banjo instruction books published by his own company, and five banjo instuction books published by Mel Bay Publications. the largest publisher of stringed instrument music in the world. Jack was a finalist in the Tennessee Banjo Championship and the National Banjo Championship at Winfield, Kansas and has worked at several Pigeon Forge Theatres and attractions including Dollywood theme park and Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede. Jack has taught banjo workshops all over the USA and in England, Ireland, Scotland and recently in Australia. He is scheduled to teach in Alberta Canada, and Hamburg, Germany later in 2010.He was Bluegrass Director for all three of Banjo Newsletter's Maryland Banjo academys and has directed the BNL/ SPBGMA workshop in Nashville for fourteen years which has featured names like Richard Bailey, Ron Block, Bela Fleck, Alan Munde, Bill Keith, Sammy Shelor, Terry Baucom, Scott Vestal, Eddie Adcock, Bill Evans, Doug Dillard, Steve Huber, Curtis McPeake, James McKinney, Wayne Erbsen, Sonny Osborne, J.D.Crowe, Pete Wernick, Geoff Stelling, Gary Price, Tony Wray, Tom Nechville, Charlie Cushing and Frank Neat. Banjo Newsletter contributors featured at SPBGMA have included: Janet Davis, Ian Perry, Ira Gitlin, Murphy Henry, Eddie Collins, Ross Nickerson and Andy Cushing. Jack was on the faculty of the very FIRST banjo camp, the Tennessee Banjo Institute at Cedars of Lebanon state park near Nashville in 1988. He was Bluegrass Director for all three of BNL's Maryland Banjo Academys. The SMBA is now going into its seventh year. Jack is owner/operator of Hatfield Music, providing everything the banjo player needs from instructional materials to banjos to accessories. Jack was featured in Banjo Newsletter, July 2001.

    . Jack Hicks(onsite Fri-Sun) is best known for working with Bill Monroe in the early 1970's. He left the Nashville scene for the old home place in eastern Kentucky, but has recently formed a new band called Summertown Road. They were a big hit at the 2008 IBMA convention and have already booked a full schedule of show dates around the Southeast. Other band members are John Rigsby, Bo Isaac, and Randy Thomas. They are currently recording their first CD, entitled "Destination: Summertown Road" at Jack's Place, a studio owned and operated by Hicks. Nearly all of the material is original, and they have much more to come. For more information on Summertown Road, go to

    Jack's experiences as a Bluegrass Boy in the "hot" era of bluegrass will fascinate SMBA campers, and his picking will be a treat to hear after 30 years in virtual seclusion from the mainstream bluegrass scene.



    . John Lawless (onsite Fri-Sat) is president of AcuTab Publications. He has worked closely with dozens of top pros in rendering note-for-note transcriptions of great banjo recordings and has published many instructional books and DVDs in partnership with these great players. John has brought many fine products to the banjo market, most recently Shelor finger picks designed by Sammy Shelor. He was also closely involved with Steve Huber and was instrumental in helping Steve bring his products to the market, leading to the founding of the Huber banjo company. He is owner of AcuTab banjo listserve, the longest running bluegrass banjo listserve on the internet. John is a fine player as well, as evidenced by ten memorable original tunes on his solo CD "Five and Dime". He is director of his own banjo camps, notably the annual Roanoke Bluegrass Weekend, featuring the banjo artists he works with on his various publishing and recording projects and many others on all bluegrass instruments.In addition to all this, John is an excellent teacher. He has the unique advantage of bringing his associations with dozens of great banjo artists into the classroom. A class with John is like a class with an entire panel of top bluegrass banjo artists.






    . James McKinney(onsite Fri-Sun) is an amazing banjo player, one of the most technically precise and advanced players anywhere. He won the South U.S. Banjo Championship at age 15. In 1982 he won the National Banjo Championship at Winfield, Kansas, to top off dozens of first-place state and regional championships. He made the first of several appearances on the Grand Ole Opry at age 19 and worked at Opryland theme park as banjoist and musical arranger. James recorded with his Dallas band Danger in The Air in the late 1980s and moved to Nashville in 1990 to play full time with his talented wife Angela in the James and Angela McKinney Band. James currently does studio and touring work out of Nashville. In addition to being a Scruggs and Reno style expert, he is a dedicated banjo teacher. He has taught at many major banjo camps, the SPGBMA workshop, and Master workshops all over the USA. He is one of the foremost jazz and theory experts in the banjo world, having been mentored by renowned jazz educator David Baker and Mr. Ferrell (teacher of Chet Atkins and Jethro Burns). He has performed and/or recorded with the likes of Porter Wagoner, Barbara Mandrell, John Hartford, and Johnny Cash in addition to a long and close professional relationship with legendary fiddler Vassar Clements. His newest project is called "Mind Over Banjo". James was featured artist in Banjo Newsletter July 1982.


    Tom Nechville, of Nechville Musical Products, (onsite Fri-Sun) has been in business since 1989, manufacturing professional banjos and related accessories for the booming acoustic and electric string instrument market. He has gained a respected reputation among the nation's top builders as being a leader in innovation and design. His company owns patents on Nechville's unique Heli-mount banjo design and it has been enthusiastically accepted by the world's top players such as Bela Fleck and Alison Brown.

    Nechville Musical Products is always innovating to meet the changing needs of modern musicians. Replacing more than seventy parts of a traditional banjo, the Nechville Heli-Mount body tightens together much like a jar on a lid; greatly reducing the assembly time and improving the banjo's sound.

    Tom has spent years in development and in consultation with the world's top players researching and finding ways to meet the needs of professionals. His experience has led to the refinement of the electric banjo, which has re-directed a new world-wide spotlight on the banjo. Nechville instruments have appeared on MTV, the Olympics opening ceremonies, CMA Awards show, numerous cable and Direct TV specials and in major live Country, Rock, Jazz and Bluegrass concerts around the planet.

    Tom has worked with Alison Brown, Bela Fleck, Eddie Adcock, and others in development of his designs, and currently provides instruments for many of the world's top country, bluegrass, and jazz performers. Learn what's wrong with most banjos and see how Nechville has designed solutions to nearly every banjo problem. His patented designs such as the elegant helical head tensioning Helimount, adjustable neck attachment, beveled armrest, built-in capos, and compensated Enterprise bridges are stirring up the banjo world. Nechville is leading the "Banjo Revolution" into new territory with his unique designs for the electric and synthesizer banjos as well. Tom will have several instruments on display and will cover things like the benefits of radiused fingerboards, tunneled 5th strings, in-line tailpieces, and compensated bridges. Owners of traditional banjos as well as anyone interested in banjo will benefit from Nechville's set-up tips and theories for optimum banjo sound. In adition to teaching banjo setup/repair and theory, he will be displaying his full line of banjos. His book Dynamics of Banjo Sound will also be available.


    Rick Sampson (onsite Fri-Sun) is a gifted luthier and creator of the revolutionary Sampson banjo bridge, used by many top pros, notably as Alison Brown. Woodworking seems to be his first calling... his other business is designer and builder of Woodland Flutes. he also works with Nechville Musical Products, traveling with Tom's entourage to festivals and trade shows. Rick is a talented performer on the banjo, as SMBA attendees will find out. He is adept playing anything from Scruggs to fiddle tunes, in a fluid style that is always tasteful and musical. In addition to SMBA, Rick has appeared at the Tennessee Banjo Institute and Maryland Banjo Academy.




    . Marc Smith (onsite Fri-Sun) is a fine eclectic banjo player whose interests run the gamut of banjo history from the minstrel era to bluegrass. He plays old time, classical, brush style and minstrel style on authentic period instruments, as well as some fine bluegrass. Marc will perform a mini-concert, talk about banjo history and teach introductory classes in all these various styles. Marc has been playing the 5-string banjo since 1979 and teaching informally since the late 1990’s. Initially playing Scruggs-style, he quickly branched out into Clawhammer and Irish Tenor styles. A Banjo Newsletter reprint of “Spanish Fandango” from 1877 sparked an interest in historical banjo styles and attending the Tennessee Banjo Institute in 1992 fanned that spark into a flame. Since then, he has collected and studied banjos and banjo sheet-music from the 1850’s thru the 1920’s, learning the specific styles needed to play the music with historical accuracy and a feel for the period. Marc’s collection of 19th cent. Banjo sheet music is getting close to 1000 individual pieces with more being added every month. Marc has attended every Antietam Early Banjo Gathering (studying the banjo and its music 1830-1870) as well as being a long-standing member of the American Banjo Fraternity (Classic banjos and music 1870-1920) and is a member of a variety of internet groups which specialize in early banjos and the music that was played on them.


    Ron Stewart (onsite Sunday only due to performance obligations) is well on the road to becoming a legend in contemporarybluegrass music. Ron is banjo player for the new supergroup "The Boxcars" with Adam Steffey, John R. Bowman, Keith Garrett and Harold Nixon. He is already one of the most sought after multi-instrumental session players in the genre's history, and is in high demand as an engineer and producer. Stewart grew up in rural southern Indiana, an hour and a half from the famous Bill Monroe's Bean Blossom bluegrass festival, surrounded by a family that played bluegrass and oldtime country music and a community rich with musicians. In his thirty-three years of playing banjo, fiddle, guitar, bass, and mandolin, Ron has gone from fronting his family band for over ten years to working with a who's who of bluegrass, including Lynn Morris, Curly Seckler, a guest appearance at age nine on a live album with Lester Flatt, and, most recently, a six-year stint as fiddler for JD Crowe and The New South. Notably, Ron engineered much of and played fiddle on The New South's 2006 release, "Lefty's Old Guitar," which is nominated for a Grammy. Stewart has been seen filling in with a host of top bluegrass acts including the Lonesome River Band, Rhonda Vincent, the bluegrass supergroup Longview, Don Rigsby, the Bluegrass Album Band, Kenny and Amanda Smith, Blue Ridge, and many more. Chances are, if you have a bluegrass CD in your collection from the last ten years, Ron is probably on it. Ron was given IBMA's "Fiddle Player of the Year" award in 2000, and has been nominated every year since. In addition to his work with the Dan Tyminski Band, Ron is currently working on a new solo CD as a follow up to his 2001 Rounder release "Time Stands Still," which featured several Ron Stewart original songs and instrumentals. To quote Lynn Morris, "Ron Stewart has Flatt and Scruggs in his deepest roots, the feel of a Mississippi blues man in his soul, and the power of a lightning bolt in his touch."


    . Leroy Troy (onsite Fri-Sun) is famous for zaney antics and entertaining in the style of Uncle Dave Macon, a minstrel/old time performer famous in the 1930's and 1940's. Leroy has apprared and Tennessee Banjo Institute, Maryland Banjo Academy, previous SMBA's, on the Grand Ole Opry, at dozens of festivals, and on Hee HawTV show. He was recently featured on the CMT TV show "Outsider Inn" with Bobby Brown, Carney Wilson and Maureen McCormick.

    Leroy was only 2 years old when he got a toy fiddle for Christmas. Then at the age of 7 he discovered his parent's Flatt and Scruggs records. He wore that Foggy Mountain Breakdown record out and that started his fascination with the banjo. When Leroy Troy was 13 he found his first banjo on a junk truck at a flea market. He paid $7.00 for it. The frets where burnt off so he removed the fret board and made a fretless out of it.

    By 1980 Leroy Troy had developed a reputation as a good Old Time Banjo Picker and Singer minus the banjo tricks. Then when he was 17 he met an old timer named Cordell Kemp. Leroy was amazed with Cordell's banjo playing. Cordell had learned first hand from"Uncle Dave Macon" star of The Grand Ole Opry. Cordell showed Leroy some banjo licks and tricks! Cordell Kemp influenced young Leroy so much he wrote and recorded "Ballad of Cordell Kemp." Leroy practiced, refined and expanded those banjo tricks and it was not long before he dazzled a nationwide audience on the hit TV Show Hee Haw. It was on this show Leroy Troy honed his country humor with some help from the Hee Haw cast Grandpa Jones, Archie Campbell, Junior Samples, and Minnie Pearl. Leroy made regular appearances on Hee Haw the seasons of 1984 and 1985, playing his banjo and he also played the part of Billy Bob in the "Farmer's Daughter" skit along side of Linda Thompson and Kenny Price.

    Leroy Troy has been entertaining audiences since 1979 and continues to do so from New York to California, Maine to Florida and even Ireland and England. Be sure to check out his schedule and catch him at a festival near you!. He will be onsite Saturday doing concerts and teaching classes in Old Time and entertaining. .


    John Miller is a gifted guitarist and lead/tenor singer. John hails from Northern Virginia, but is an east East Tennessee native. He has worked recently with Herschel Sizemore and done some fill- in work with the Lonesome River Band. He has has also played with Jack Hatfield's True Blue Grass and does instrument repair work specializing in acoustic guitars.

    Jackie Miller is a virtuoso mandolin and fiddle player and sings great harmony vocals. Originally from Greenville TN, he now resides in Nashville, performing with the Ronnie reno and The Reno Tradition. He works for the Gibson company during the week, assembling and doing finish work on Gibson mandolins.

    Cindy Miller, wife of Jackie, will lend an apt hand on upright bass. (By the Way, Jackie and Cindy are not related to guitar player John Miller!)

    Master of Ceremonies for the concert Saturday night again will be Russ Jeffers. Russ and his wife Becky are from nearby Clinton, Tennessee, but lived in Nashville and performed at Opryland for over twenty years until the park was closed a few years ago. Russ is uniquely suited to be the SMBA Master of Ceremonies ~ more than one of the banjo players on the staff have worked with him in his band. Russ, the ultimate front man, will also teach a class on entertaining. Russ and Becky Jeffers are from Clinton, Tennessee, a small town just north of Knoxville near the foothills of the great Smoky Mountains. They attended the same high school and met in the local drug store in 1965 when both were teenagers. They married in 1967 and have a son David and a daughter, Christy. Small town beginnings have produced their share of hard-working successful people, and Russ and Becky are no exception. In 1971 after Russ was discharged from the United States Air Force, they decided to pursue their dream of music. With little else but a guitar, an up-right bass and two tiny children they moved to Nashville. Very few people move to "Music City" and live their dreams. This year they are celebrating their twenty-eighth year of entertaining and playing music. Russ and Becky performed over 15,000 shows at Opryland USA from 1974 - 1997 where they introduced "Bluegrass Music" to people from all over the world. Now they travel the world to bring their unique style of harmony, comedy and "down home" music. They have independently produced and marketed numerous recordings. They are living proof that in our wonderful country of America that with God's grace and a lot of hard work, you can live your dream. To paraphrase a popular commercial, they are indeed "The Professionals - The Old Fashioned Way - They Earned It!!

    The full inventory of Hatfield Music banjos will be on display: Deering, Deering Goodtime, Nechville, Gold Star, Gold Tone, Recording King and many used banjos. (See website, click on "home" link below then "used instruments".) Banjo manufacturer/innovator Tom Nechville will have many banjos on display including his newest models.

    Mini-concerts will be ongoing, featuring each faculty member. Combination mini-concerts such as Scruggs Jam, Fiddle Tunes jam and Jazz Jam will be performed by groups of two to four faculty members.

    How great was the last SMBA? Read the rave reviews and check out the photos from the 2008 SMBA!

    Contact Director Jack Hatfield at:

    Hatfield Productions
    325 Laurelwood Dr.
    Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

    CLICK HERE FOR SMBA 2010 REGISTRATION FORM Help us promote the camp! Click here for a SMBA 2010 flyer to print and post at music stores, teaching studios, concerts, and jam sessions. Put a couple in your banjo case and hand out to other banjo players!.

    Click here for photos.

    Click here for Driving Directions to Wa-Floy retreat.

    Click here for Yahoo driving directions to Wa-Floy retreat. Enter the destination address 3610 Parkway, Gatlinburg TN, 37738 WARNING: Yahoo often uses the shortest, as calculated by a computer, but not always the FASTEST or EASIEST route!

    SMBA logo image courtesy of Dan Levensen.