21ST ANNUAL SPBGMA BANJO WORKSHOP

Sunday, February 4th, 2018
Directed by Jack Hatfield

Sheraton Music City, Nashville, Tennessee
Featuring

ALISON BROWN!

The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) event is a four-day indoor bluegrass festival/show/awards ceremony in Nashville. The SPBGMA show features round-the-clock jamming, top name performers, the highest-paying and most respected bluegrass band contest in the world, plus the SPBGMA Bluegrass Awards show on Sunday (the bluegrass equivalent of the CMA awards). SPBGMA draws the top amateur and semi-pro bands from all over the country, with non-stop jamming, various workshops and promoters' meetings, and vendors with everything a bluegrass fan could ever want. In MUSIC CITY yet! In addition to the workshop, the students and their families can attend the Grand Ole Opry, see the famous shops and clubs such as Ernest Tubb's Record Shop, Blue Bird Cafe and Linebaughs' on Broadway, and visit the world famous Station Inn to hear top bluegrass artists perform.

The SPBGMA workshops have featured names such as Eddie Adcock, Tom Adams, Ron Block, Charlie Cushman, Bill Keith, Bela Fleck, J.D. Crowe, Terry Baucom, Richard Bailey, Bill Evans, Charlie Cushman, Sammy Shelor, Scott Vestal, Greg Cahill, Ned Luberecki, Doug Dillard, Wayne Erbson, Ross Nickerson, Doug Dillard, Butch Robins, Bill Evans, Sonny Osborne, Scott Vestal, James McKinney, Alan Munde, Kristin Scott-Benson and Pete Wernick. Banjo builders/setup techs have included: Steve Huber, Mark Taylor, Frank Neat, Curtis McPeake, Geoff Stelling, Gary Price, Tony Wray, Bill Palmer, Snuffy Smith, Charlie Cushman, Arthur Hatfield, Mike Smith, and Tom Nechville. Banjo Newsletter contributors who have participated include: Janet Davis, Murphy Henry, Bill Evans, Ross Nickerson, Pete Kelly, Tom Adams, Ian Perry, Ira Gitlin, Andy Cushing, Jim Pankey, and Eddie Collins.

Full or half-day attendance is available. Students may attend all four sessions, OR attend only the morning or afternoon sessions. The morning sessions include Intermediate discussion with Jack Hatfield and the Late Intermediate/Advanced session with Larry McNeely. The afternoon sessions include a banjo setup presentation with Jaroslav Prucha and the Advanced discussion with Alison Brown. Morning-only attendees may return for the jam at 3:30.
From 9:00 -10:30 AM. Workshop Director, BNL and Mel Bay author Jack Hatfield will address intermediate and early advanced level topics including his Banjo Player's Rating System, Backup, and Introduction to Melodic Style. He will use examples from his Mel Bay book "Exercises for Three-Finger Banjo" and his upcoming book "Melodic Style Banjo ".

Jack has written several highly acclaimed banjo instruction books, published by his own company Hatfield Music and for Mel Bay Publications, the largest publisher of stringed instrument instruction books in the world. Jack has been a columnist for Banjo Newsletter since 1976. He wrote the Scruggs Corner column for five years, analyzing the style of the father of bluegrass banjo. The sixty tablatures and analytical comments he wrote while authoring this column still today constitute the largest and most accurate collection of transcriptions of Earl's recordings available anywhere. Jack then wrote the Beginner's Corner column for seven years, and for twelve years authored a column called Concepts and Systems, which de-mystified music theory, presented "alternative to bluegrass style" banjo techniques, discussed difficult and seldom-taught topics such as arranging and composition, and presented other "big-picture" concepts relating to music as applied to the five-string banjo.

Besides performing and selling banjo products though Hatfield Music, Jack teaches and directs various banjo workshops and camps all over the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland and Australia. Jack was on the staff of the very first major banjo camp, the Tennessee Banjo Academy in 1988, and was Bluegrass Director for all three of Banjo Newsletter's Maryland Banjo Academys. He was banjo director of Chuck Stearman's Nashville Academy of Traditional Music at the Opryland Hotel. For eighteen years he has been Director of the FebruarySPBGMA workshop in Nashville (SPBGMA = Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America). The workshop features top name performers, banjo craftsmen and setup specialists, and frequently Banjo Newsletter columnists.

From 10:30 - 12:00 Larry McNeely will discuss Late Intermediate and Advanced level topics tba.

Larry is an amazing banjo player, one of the first to introduce banjo to the general audiences on national television regularly on the Glen Campbell Goodtime hour. A talented session musician, Larry McNeely is best known for his work with Roy Acuff and Glen Campbell. A native of Lafayette, Indiana, he was born into a musical family, but didn't begin learning to play piano until he was 13. He then added guitar and banjo, and got his professional start at the age of 17 when he joined the Pinnacle Mountain Boys. In 1965, after moving to Nashville to work for the Sho-Bud Guitar Company (formed by Shot Jackson and Buddy Emmons), he met Acuff and joined his Smokey Mountain Boys. He remained with them through the decade's end and then moved to California, where he joined Glen Campbell's band after John Hartford left. He recorded his first solo album, Glen Campbell Presents Larry McNeely, in 1971. He remained with Campbell through 1974, then left the touring circuit to work as a session man. McNeely played on numerous albums (including work by the Carpenters and Roger Miller) as well as movie soundtracks and commercials, and in 1977 he recorded two albums for different labels. He went back to Nashville in 1984 to try the bluegrass scene, but soon returned to work with Acuff, with whom he played until Acuff's death in 1992. After that McNeely began working with Russ & Becky Jeffers and Smoky Mountain Sunshine. He recently moved back to Nashville from North Carolina where he has lived the last twenty odd years, but this very private musician has kept a low profile, mostly staying outside the music scene. It is a rare treat to get to hear him play, and will be even more exciting to hear his ideas on banjo playing.

At 12:00 noon there will an hour break. Attendees can eat lunch, browse the vendor area or jam in the workshop room. Banjos can be left in the workshop room where they will be attended.

Half-day Registrants: Those attending only the first half must leave by end of lunch break, and those attending only the second half may enter at any time during the lunch break.

From 1:00 - 2:00 renowned luthier and president of Prucha Banjo Company Jaroslav Prucha will discuss banjo setup and maintenence. Jarda will explain basic setup techniques, demonstrate setup procedures on student's banjos and provide a checklist for students to take home, as well as exposing common myths and sharing his insights on the player's role in banjo tone. Basic adjustments every banjo player should know will be demonstrated, such as changing strings, truss rod and tailpiece and head tension adjustment, and trouble shooting buzzes and "hard - to play" necks. Jaroslav will also discuss acoustics and the physics of how these various components affect banjo tone.

Jaroslav Prucha's obsession with bluegrass music began when he was still a small child on a boy scout camping trip in the woods. At the time, the Czechoslovakian government had banned all country and bluegrass music which was believed to be a symbol of Western culture that dealt with such dangerous topics as freedom, love and patriotism. Bluegrass was considered to be a type of subversive force which might have the power to bring people together. The five string banjo was the driving force of that music and was new and exotic to Czechoslovakians. Jaroslav heard banjo the first time on this camping trip. A band of traveling musicians joined the boy scouts around the fire where one of them played his four-string tenor banjo. Those first sounds instantly found a home in Jaroslav‘s heart and his life was changed forever.He felt driven to learn to play, but there were no banjos to be found in Czechoslovakia in those days.

Instead of giving up, Jaroslav decided to make one for himself. So in 1974, with no blueprints, no experience, and only a few photographe to help, his first five-string banjo was completed. Later, Jaroslav attended a concert of the "revolutionary" Czech bluegrass band The Greenhorns. There he saw another incredible sight - fingerpicks - which were also inaccessible! When he arrived home, he took an old tin can and cut the shape of the fingepicks out. They seemed perfect in every way. After his first banjo was sold, his enthusiasm was so high that he decided to make another, trying for a better look and sound. Thirty years later, he can see the culmination of his life's work in every instrument that leaves his workshop. He bought back that first banjo and still has it to remind him of how the story all began.

Jaroslav Prucha is a hard-driving banjo player as well as luthier and bases his sound on the Scruggs style of picking. His bluegrass band is HPSK, the unusual name being composed of the initials of the member's surnames. Information on his band can be found at www.sweb.cz/hpsk. Jaroslav is also a sports fanatic, playing squash every day and riding his new Harley Davidson.

In the last few years, PRUCHA BLUEGRASS INSTRUMENTS has expanded to become a family venture. To continue the dream, Jaroslav's son, Jan quickly showed himself to be a master craftsman. Being the perfectionist, he permits nothing to leave his bench unless it is absolutely flawless in every detail.

His addition in the shop has only served to build on the already outstanding reputation of the PRUCHA name. Jan's impeccable qualities as an artist have also found expression in his beatiful pastel and pencil drawings as well as his work on the banjos. His drawing have been so well received that he has been asked to show in a couple of American galleries. Jan is also an incredible athlete. He was champion of the Czech Republic for one year of the 400 meter sprint and was 3rd for two years.

Unique to banjo manufacturing, PRUCHA BLUEGRASS INSTRUMENTS is the only company to completely produce all the parts of their hardware for the banjo in its own workshop. When Jaroslav began to build his banjos, the metal banjo parts were not to be found so he had to make his own. As the years passed, he perfected the quality and production so much, that now PRUCHA banjo parts are used by every major banjo manufacturer around the world. If your instrument has a different company's name on the headstock, chances are that the metal parts are PRUCHA made.

PRUCHA BLUEGRASS INSTRUMENTS are endorsed by professional player in the Czech Republic as well as in US. Luboš Malina from the Druhá Tráva Band and Jiří Klement from the Vabank Unit band both play a PRUCHA banjo. Dalibor Cidlinský, Sváťa Kotas and Jarda Jahoda alo use PRUCHA instruments in their performances.

West coast based banjoist Peter Schwimmer plays one, Brendon Green from the Abram Brothers band plays on his Diamond Point banjo and Peter Wernick uses an "Elban". Bela Fleck owns two PRUCHA banjos and Richard Brown from the Lost Highway band picks on a custom banjo made to his own specs. Internationally acclaimed artist Alison Brown can be seen performing with a PRUCHA banjo as well.

No matter who is playing, however, the biggest endorsment must be made by the instrument itself. Before leaving the shop, each instrument is set up for the finest tone and ease of playing. If requested, any string action can be set to the customer's specific preference. The company goal is for musicians of all abilities to be satisfied with their playing experience. If your dream is to have an instrument of superior playability and tone, then you can rely on PRUCHA instruments to deliver, as proven again and again by the hundreds od satisfied customers over the last thirty years.

From 2:00 - 3:30 Alison Brown will be leading the advanced session. In case you are not familiar with this great talent...

Alison Brown doesn't play the banjo. Alison Brown plays music on the banjo. In the instrumental food chain, the five-string banjo is one of the more dominant beasts: loud, brash and very hard to tame. In 1945, Earl Scruggs made the biggest leap in harnessing its raw power, bringing a revolutionary precision of touch and depth of tone. Thousands of three-finger style banjo players have since made their marks, but none has cut such a path or moved so far along it as has Alison Brown. She’s acclaimed as one of today’s finest progressive banjo players, but you rarely find her in a conventional bluegrass setting. Instead, she’s known for leading an ensemble that successfully marries a broad array of roots-influenced music: folk, jazz, Celtic and Latin. With her new Compass project, The Song of the Banjo, the 2015 IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award and 2001 GRAMMY Award-winning musician/composer/producer/entrepreneur plants another flag in her ongoing journey of sonic exploration. As one might expect from a Harvard-educated MBA and co-founder of Compass Records, for 20 years old one of the most respected bluegrass, folk, Celtic and Americana labels, the title of Alison’s first album since 2009 was carefully considered. It comes from a poem by Rudyard Kipling, but she says the reason she chose it was that, “It points to the lyrical side of the banjo, which is the side I’m drawn to.” Although banjos typically play “tunes” or “breakdowns,” in Alison Brown’s hands, the banjo truly sings. Part of that is the result of the modifications she’s made to her signature model Prucha 5-string, muting the usual harsher overtones and extraneous noises, emphasizing the sweetness and melodicism. But mostly, it’s her unique musical vision. Brown never wastes a note, never launching into banjo tsunamis just because she can; stopping her precision three-finger roll to leave space for a lyric or other instrumental voice when appropriate. Don’t mistake it, there is plenty of jaw-dropping virtuosity on The Song of the Banjo, but it's always in service to the melody at hand. The great tenor saxophonist Lester Young had to know the lyrics before he played a song, even as an instrumental. Like him, Brown always plays the words as well as the melody. She and Compass co-founder, husband and bassist Garry West have assembled an all-star cast, including some of Nashville’s most adventurous session players, as well as special guests Indigo Girls, Keb’ Mo’, label mate Colin Hay, ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, legendary drummer Steve Gadd, fiddler Stuart Duncan, Dobro player Rob Ickes, upright bassist Todd Philips and, on guitar and bouzouki, Irish phenom John Doyle. Duncan and Brown came up together in the Southern California bluegrass scene, and Ickes was close behind them in the Northern part of the State, but (even though she can “lay the thumb to the five” with the best of them), Brown’s inner bluegrass girl wasn’t invited to this party. Of the 12 tracks on The Song of the Banjo, seven are Brown originals, including the melodic, pop-flavored title piece that opens the set, as well the gravity-defying piano/banjo duet, “Musette for the Last Fret.” Then there are her trademark compositions written in Cinemascope - grandly sweeping melodies like “A Long Way Gone” and the Celtic-tinged “Airish.” “The Moon in Molly’s Eyes” brings in bossa nova, with lush strings by Compass label mate Andrea Zonn. “Stuff Happens,” written by Brown and West, turned into an accidental tribute to Gadd’s old band of studio aces, Stuff, which set the bar for ‘70s pop-funk-blues fusion. “I imagined the tune to be a cross between “White Freightliner” and “Freedom Jazz Dance”, but when Steve kicked off the groove on our first run-through I couldn’t help but think about Cornell Dupree – always one of my favorite guitarists – and be reminded of Stuff.” Paul Simon drummer/guitarist Jim Oblon brings some NYC blues-inspired guitar to the celebration. Brown’s choices for cover songs are even more surprising, from her bouncy take on Orleans’ soft-rocker “Dance with Me” (featuring great interplay with Ickes) to Cyndi Lauper’s hauntingly beautiful “Time After Time” to 1980’s instrumental chart-topper “Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good,” featuring Shimabukuro’s tenor uke and the drumming of Gadd, a boyhood friend of Mangione. In Brown’s masterful hands, all three sound as if they were written for the banjo. “Time After Time” is particularly stunning. “It’s just lays so beautifully on the banjo,” she says, “and I figure if it was good enough for Miles Davis it’s good enough for me.” Brown’s unique cover versions work two very different kinds of magic, revitalizing these rock and pop classics while stripping away stereotypes of what a banjo can or can’t do. “Familiar music allows folks to understand an instrument that they may not be overly familiar with. The banjo is a complex instrument, with melodic ideas normally surrounded by rapid fire arpeggiated chords, but when you play a familiar tune it allows the audience to more clearly hear the voice of the instrument, and to understand how the playing style is integrated into, and around, the melody.” One of the album’s covers actually had a banjo on the original. Michael Martin Murphey’s “Carolina in the Pines” became a bluegrass standard in the ‘70s, but in Brown’s arrangement, the banjo riff goes to pianist Will Barrow, while her banjo evokes the cascading piano part. Another twist is that what had been a man’s song is beautifully sung by Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. Producers Brown and West keep those surprises coming, as Colin Hay wryly sings Dionne Warwick’s 1970 Bacharach/David hit, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” accompanied by Brown’s custom-built wood-bodied banjola. “Colin was in Nashville, having dinner at our house in fact, when somehow we got on the topic of Burt Bacharach. When we found out how much he loves Bacharach’s music – easily as much as we do – we asked him if he’d be interested in doing a song together. We went into the studio the next morning and had the track knocked out by lunchtime.” Keb’ Mo’s Americana-soul version of Marvin Gaye’s seminal “What’s Going On” is another unexpected pleasure. The bonus track, recorded after the album was finished and rush-released as a free-standing single to radio, will be available on the album’s Deluxe Edition. Along with Keb’s warm vocals, the song features instrumental sparks between Duncan and Brown, as well as an explosive piano solo by Joe Davidian. But it’s Brown’s understated backup and exploratory solo on low banjo that quietly steals the show. Brown is comfortable not constantly being the lead voice, not always being the star, preferring true ensembles. “When I arrange a song or write a piece of music, I really enjoy interweaving the different musical voices. That way you get more of a tapestry rather than a bunch of people backing up one sound.” For those who came of age in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Brown’s re-invention of these familiar songs makes them sound brand new. For younger listeners hearing them for the first time, her versions may well set the new standard. That’s all part of the alternative banjo universe that Alison Brown occupies so beautifully on The Song of the Banjo, reaching into the past as she looks to the future, creating an album for people who didn’t know how much they liked the banjo, while giving banjo fans new reasons to love the instrument. “It’s amazing to me how much the banjo changed in the 20th Century,” Brown says. “And here we are in the dawn of the 21st; who knows where it may go?” For one answer to that question, look no further than The Song of the Banjo. —Larry Nager

From 3:30 to 4:00 (or as long as they are willing) the workshop instructors will participate in an informal jam, taking requests and doing a wrap-up, answering questions and demonstrating techniques discussed in the previous sessions.

Click here to register now by credit card for Full Workshop $75.00 plus $5.00 credit card processing fee

Click here to register now by credit card for Morning Sessions with Jack Hatfield and Larry McNeely and faculty jam: $40.00 plus $5.00 credit card processing fee

Click here to register now by credit card for Afternoon Sessions with Jaroslav Prucha and Alison Brown and faculty jam: $40.00 plus $5.00 credit card processing fee

To download a registration form which you can print, fill out and return by mail, click here:

SPBGMA 2018 Registration Form

Morning session attendees should arrive no later than 8:30. If you have weekend SPBGMA tickets and are staying at the Sheraton, you will likely already have paid for parking. There are non-pay lots, however, they are several hundred yards away.

Suggested hotel if you are not staying at the Sheraton: Alexis Inn, a few blocks away. About $85 per night with full breakfast bar included. 615-889-4466

Driving directions to Sheraton Music City:

from I-40, just East of downtown Nashville, take Briley Parkway North (towards Opryland Hotel/Opry Mills).

Immediately take Elm Hill Pike exit, Merge right onto Elm Hill pike.

Go approximately two tenths of a mile, turn right on McGavok Pk.

Go approximately a quarter mile to Music City Sheraton on left.

Once inside, bear straight ahead just past the restaurant to the Belle Meade meeting room.

Call 865-428-8744 or email Jack Hatfield for more information.

The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) email or call 660-665-7172

Click here to return to the Hatfield Music website