Sunday, February 3rd 2019
Directed by Jack Hatfield

Sheraton Music City, Nashville, Tennessee


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, Alison Brown, Larry McNeely, 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 Advanced session with Rex McGee. The afternoon sessions include a banjo setup presentation with Jarda Prucha and the Intermediate-Advanced discussion with Marc Pruett.. 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 level topics including his seven-level banjo player rating system, backup, practice tips, playing in different keys, and if time allows, intro to improvisation. He will use examples from his "Backup Techniques on the Five-String Banjo", his Mel Bay book "Exercises for Three-Finger 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 Rex McGee will discuss Advanced level topics tba.

Rex McGee is known by 3-finger style banjo players all over the world as a vanguard innovator on an instrument of humble origins. His reputation as an accomplished performer extends to other instruments including fiddle and guitar. His performing acclaim is perhaps surpassed by his creative composing and sought after teaching skills. His career as a pharmacist spans back to 1993 and has served to conceal his talent from a wider public, limiting his touring and recorded output. He gathered musical friends together in early 2013 for a recording session and the release, Kripplekrunk , found a contingent of fans hoping to hear more.

Rex's release in 2000, 24 Creations for Solo Banjo, showcased bluegrass, baroque, atonal, jazz, Irish, rock and other less easily labeled styles and won the affection of adventurous banjo music fans worldwide. His playing and composing were featured on mandolinist Tony Williamson's grammy nominated Still Light of the Evening and Sessions At McBane Mill and also the award-winning World Music release by Footloose, Trip to the Moon in 2005. His travels of the US and Canada with flatpicking guitar legend Larry Keel and renowned newgrass vocalist John Cowan produced collaborations with Vassar Clements, Tony Rice, Pat Flynn and many other acoustic musical greats.

Rex McGee's roots in traditional music run deep. Born in Winston-Salem, NC and raised on the family farm near Sauratown Mountain, he had early formal training on the piano and fiddle. His father, Rex Sr., accompanied him on piano for weekly performances at the Pollirosa Opry. Grandfather Ralph McGee was a renowned fiddler and contemporary of Round Peak old-time icon Tommy Jarrell. Ralph learned to play from his father Will, a left-handed fiddler who in turn learned from his father on a fiddle made out of a gourd. Rex's grandfather Hamp Easter loaned him his first banjo at age 12 with the condition that he could keep it if he learned how to play it. Rex still has the banjo.

In addition to performances with the band Kripplekrunk, Rex continues to play solo shows and duo shows with his champion mandolinist brother Ralph. He fiddles with Celtic rock stars Brynmor, plays traditional and original folk tunes with contra dance group Footloose, and jazz/folk with vocalist Martha Bassett. He has experience producing original music production for motion picture feature films, tv commercials, and ballet. He also owns and promotes development of the Fiddle Tune Video Archive, an online collection of traditional fiddle tune demonstrations from the Southern, New England, Canadian and British Isles traditions. He was the subject of an extensive interview in 2016 of master banjo players produced by Radford University.

Rex now lives on the family farm where he grew up. He still loves quiet time with his banjo, something a little harder to find as he and his wife raise 5 children in a very, very musical house.

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. Forty 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. This year Jaroslav is celebrating his 40th year in business.

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. Lubo� Malina from the Druh� Tr�va Band and Jiř� Klement from the Vabank Unit band both play a PRUCHA banjo. Dalibor Cidlinsk�, Sv�ťa 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 Marc Pruitt will be leading the advanced session. In case you are not familiar with this great talent...

This Bluegrass Now article is a contribution from Cindy Faulkner, a writer and bluegrass fan from Raleigh, NC.

After Marc Pruett received a North Carolina Heritage Award recently, I had the pleasure of candidly chatting with him about bluegrass, playing the banjo, and some of his experiences and impressions along life’s way. As soon as he begins speaking, you know Marc is one of those people who is genuinely kind and makes conversation easy and enjoyable. (I love talking to people like that.) As soon as you hear him play the banjo, it is also evident he is a very talented musician. What a great combination!

Marc is the banjo player for Balsam Range . They were IBMA 2014 Entertainers of the Year. Balsam Range performed Moon Over Memphis at the 2016 North Carolina Heritage Awards where Marc was honored as one of eight recipients to receive the award from the NC Arts Council.

The same five guys have played together in Balsam Range for nine and a half years now, and in the music world, that speaks loudly! At the time of this interview they were in the middle of recording their sixth CD project.

When I asked Marc his thoughts on learning to play the banjo, he made some great points which anyone who plays or wants to play the instrument should appreciate. First, realize there are unlimited types (or degrees) of music one can play on a banjo, and potential is basically determined by level of interest. If one simply wants to be able to sit on the porch and play a few tunes in the evening, then learn those tunes and do that! "To play with equal proficiency takes the same effort," Marc says, and that front porch ability is very satisfying to many people. As he pointed out, people are limited by daily lifestyle and time, and it is important to set reasonable goals in learning an instrument. I find that advice very encouraging!

Marc got his first banjo when he was eleven years old. His mother gave him a few minutes each day after school to listen to the Cornbread Matinee on the radio, and he heard the music of Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys. He says the music of Earl's Breakdown jumped inside him, and his mom informed him that instrument was a banjo. Marc expressed his desire to have one, and he got it for Christmas. He studied the banjo with the help of local Haywood County musicians and was playing at Ghost Town in Maggie Valley by the age of fifteen. Marc paid his way through college with the money he earned at Ghost Town and with other bluegrass bands.

After college, Marc taught banjo at a music store in Asheville called Pic 'N' Grin, which he owned with his brother Matt. He sometimes taught up to ninety people a week, and he led the band every weekend at Bill Stanley's Barbeque and Bluegrass Restaurant in Asheville. He eventually played and recorded with Jimmy Martin and Ricky Skaggs, winning a Grammy with Skaggs. Currently, in addition to playing with Balsam Range, he is the Director of Sediment and Erosion Control for Haywood County. Busy man!

I asked Marc what was so impressive to him about the music of Scruggs, and he said it was the "artful presentation of the music" and how Flatt & Scruggs moved beyond the stereotypes of bluegrass at the time. Their sound gave bluegrass a quality and showed it as a true art form. "It was traditional music presented in a classy way. "Marc says his desire now is to take the music he plays, to the world, in a respectful, fun way that makes people think.

Marc and his wife, Anita, who write songs together and both have strong backgrounds in bluegrass, hope to do an album together soon. They treated the audience at the NC Heritage Awards to a folksy demonstration of their talent when they performed together.

My favorite takeaway from this interview is what he said he sometimes tells his kids. "It's good to stay upbeat if you can...two of the most important things they can possess in life are passion and compassion. Passion for what they do, and compassion for other people." That's great advice for us all.

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 $80.00 plus $5.00 credit card processing fee

Click here to register now by credit card for Morning Sessions with Jack Hatfield and Rex McGee and faculty jam: $45.00 plus $5.00 credit card processing fee

Click here to register now by credit card for Afternoon Sessions with Jaroslav Prucha and Marc Pruett and faculty jam: $45.00 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 2019 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