Serious Music Students?

Raise Your Hand

If You Are A Serious Music Student

I regularly teach community education music classes through the Palm Beach County School system.  The classes at Palm Beach Gardens High School are primarily for beginning students, many who have had a limited or no background in music.

2014 Adult Beginning Guitar Class

2014 Adult Beginning Guitar Class

At the first class, I usually ask my class to raise their hands if they are serious music students.  Each student always enthusiastically raises their hand.  I then, ask the question again but this time emphasizing the word “Serious”.  I explain to the class that to be successful at playing music, one must have patience and be dedicated to practicing each and every day.  A student should practice an hour a day to develop finger strength and follow their instructors advice regarding the instructional materials.

Community education classes offer a unique opportunity for a student to learn an instrument at an unquestionable cost savings.  A typical half hour lesson in this area of the country is $32-36.  The community education class, which last for seven to eight weeks at an hour per session costs a total of $28-$36 (not including materials).  I sometimes joke that the school should charge $500 and refund all but the $28-36, based on perfect attendance.  That would create a financial incentive to attend each and every class.

Above is a picture of the latest class of students who started a six week beginning guitar class.  Keep in mind that they insisted they were going to be serious guitar students.  Yet, if you refer to the picture below, you will see our final smaller group of students who were dedicated enough to at least complete the course.  Hopefully they will continue in their pursuit of becoming competent musicians.

The magnificent 7

The Magnificent 7

I truly believe that at first, students have very good intentions when starting to learn an instrument.  In their own mind, they are very serious about learning.  Yet, playing a musical instrument is not simple.  If it was simple, than becoming a musician wouldn’t be special.  As I mentioned above, learning about music requires patience and dedication.  For adults, it means accepting the fact that you are once again in grade school and have to place your ego aside and accept your early limitations.  However, hard work will pay great dividends.  Just read the comments below from those who have made it happen.

I extend my congratulations to these seven students who completed the class.  For every class I teach, a handful will step up and become good musicians over time.  Hopefully, their enthusiasm will stay with them throughout the many years ahead.  I wish them luck.

Posted in Classes & Workshops, Other, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Jingle Jammin’

It’s Not Too Early …

To Learn Holiday Tunes

That time of year is right around the corner.  The Christmas holidays are fast approaching and while you may be asking why I am writing about it so early, it is not too soon for music students to start brushing up on those holiday tunes.

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Just this past week, I spent time in the studio recording my original arrangement for “We Three Kings”.  I arrange and recorded all three parts for guitar, mandolin and banjo.  It will be released at www.frementor.com in a week or two.  Best of all, it will be part of an album entitled “Jingle Jam 3″ produced at the music studio in which I teach.  Most of the studio’s music teachers participate in this project on an annual basis.

Last night at my beginning guitar class, I asked everyone if they could name a song that everyone else in class would know.  It took them awhile before they all agreed on one particular song that we could address and learn to play.  I explained to them some of the best tunes to learn to play are Christmas tunes.  Even those who do not celebrate Christmas would easily recognize a song like Jingle Bells or Silent Night.  Next, I explained that if the melody line is already on your mind, learning the piece will be less cumbersome. This is one reason why holiday songs are good songs to learn, especially for the beginner.

Fretmentor's Class

Fretmentor’s Performance Class

There are other reasons to learn Christmas tunes.  If you play standard country, rock and roll or blues, you will soon realize that some of the songs are quite basic and may in fact, only involve three or four different chords and some are in the same Key.  While this may also be true for some basic Christmas tunes, there are many (such as Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire or O Holy Night and more)  that have quite sophisticated chord structure.  Learning to play such arrangements makes you a better student when it comes to mastering chord structure on your instrument.

Available At www.fretmentor.com

Available At www.fretmentor.com

Fretmentor has arranged a 12 song holiday collection for guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle.  What is nice about this collection is that each tune has tablature and standard musical notation for each of these instruments.  That is perfect if you want to play songs together in a small group or band.  Some come along with recordings and rhythm tracks.  Lyrics are also included.  You can purchase the collection through the fretmentor website (www.frementor.com) or by contacting us via email; david (insert @ symbol) fretmentor.com.

So it is definitely not too early to brush up on learning holiday songs.  Don’t be surprised if at the next holiday party, someone asks you whether or not you know some Christmas tunes.  Start practicing today and you may have some ready for the upcoming holiday party.

Posted in Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar, Mandolin, Music Technique | Tagged | 1 Comment

Matchbox Blues

Matchcovers & Music

Cavern Club Matchbox

A Matchbox from the infamous Cavern Club, where the Beatles (formerly the Quarrymen) first became popular

What is the Connection?

Over the past number of months, I have been busy working on a new blues instructional program for fretted instruments.  One of the songs incorporated in my lesson plan is “Matchbox Blues”, which was written and recorded by Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1927.  Many of you may not know who Blind Lemon Jefferson was but everybody from Carl Perkins, The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Johnny Cash and more have recorded a similar version of his song (although in some cases titled “Matchbox”).

A Beatles Matchcover from Liverpool

A Beatles Matchcover from Liverpool

I am fascinated with the history of music and how it was promoted and advertised, long before today’s media extravaganza.  Which leads me to the point of this Blog and another one of my interests and hobbies; Matchcover Collecting.

Most people have picked up a pack of matches at a restaurant or tavern which they have visited. I did so myself throughout the years and threw them in a bag.   Years later I learned just how interesting older covers can be when I acquired a collection from a friend who’s father (a matchcover collector) died. It was then, that I became a true matchcover collector.

A matchcover collector is known as a “phillumenist”.  Each collector has preferred categories such as World War II navy ships, pin up girls (referred to as girlies), railroads, cars and transportation, disney, soda or beers, featured covers with printing on the matches, hotels, to name just a few.  The time frame of “old” does not mean the 1960s or 1970s but as early as the 1930s and if you are lucky, covers dating even earlier than 1930.

Fretmentor.com has a gallery of music related matchcovers, with more to be added in the future.  You can take a look at these covers by clicking this link:

www.fretmentor.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=54:advertising-a-music&catid=34:music-history-101&Itemid=17

Do You Wish To Participate?

John Lennon Memorial Matchcover

John Lennon Memorial Matchcover

I am looking forward to adding more music related covers from not only my personal collection but from other collectors and non-collectors as well.  I not only encourage, but invite you to send me any scans of music-related matchcovers to david (insert @ symbol) fretmentor.com. I will add your cover or covers to this digital collection. You can also share your story of the cover in the comment section below.

If you want to learn more about this wonderful hobby which combines history with collecting, you can follow one of the following clubs or resources:

1. Rathkamp Matchcover Collector Society

2. Sierra Diablo Matchcover Club

3. The Matchcover Vault

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Slowhand Still Up To Speed

Eric Clapton - "50 Years Further Down The Road" Tour

Eric Clapton – “50 Years Further Down The Road” Tour

The latest feature for Fretmentor’s Blog is to hear about the experience of other music lovers, students and performers .  Today,  I have invited a guest (Andy Baumann) to contribute his review of the Eric Clapton concert he attended recently.  At Fretmentor’s Blog, I look forward to other contributions and musical articles of interest.  Please contact me to see how you can contribute such articles

 

Eric Clapton

“50 Years Further Down The Road” Tour

Eric Clapton performing in Hollywood, Florida

Eric Clapton performing in Hollywood, Florida, March 30, 2013.

Slowhand celebrated his 68th birthday on Saturday March, 30, 2013, before a sold-out crowd at the Seminole Hard Rock Live.  This was the second of two shows at the Hard Rock, and the venue was great, featuring really good acoustics and more than two hours of Eric Clapton doing what he does best.  Honestly, he hasn’t lost a step.  The show featured classic Cream and Derek and the Dominos tunes, some of Clapton’s own staples, some really great covers (including an outstanding cover of the Squeeze’s “Tempted” and finished with a heavy dose of awe-inspiring blues guitar.

The heart of the set really came after a blistering version of “Badge” when the band shifted gears to a series of acoustic favorites played in the “unplugged” style of the early 90′s including “Lay Down Sally” and “Layla” as well as the classics “Tears in Heaven” and “Wonderful Tonight.”

The show then turned to serious blues guitar, capped by Clapton’s cover of “Cocaine.”

“Sunshine of My Love” anchored the Encore and the show concluded with the Joe Cocker tune “High Time We Went.”  I would have liked to hear “After Midnight”, but we can’t have everything!

The Set List:

Hello Old Friend, My Father’s Eyes, Tell the Truth (Derek and the Dominos song), Gotta Get Over Black Cat Bone (Albert Collins cover), Got to Get Better in a Little While (Derek and the Dominos song),  Tempted (Squeeze cover),  Badge (Cream song),  Driftin’ (Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers cover),  Lay Down Sally,  Tears in Heaven Layla (Derek and the Dominos song), Wonderful Tonight,  How Long (Ace cover),  Stones in My Passway (Robert Johnson cover),  Love in Vain (Robert Johnson cover),  Little Queen of Spades (Robert Johnson cover), and Cocaine (J. J. Cale cover).

An Encore included: Sunshine of My Love (Cream song), High Time We Went (Joe Cocker cover)

Andy with his official Eric Clapton 2013 Tour T-shirt.

Andy with his official Eric Clapton 2013 Tour T-shirt.

Clapton has stated publicly that he will stop touring at age 70 – so with only two years to go, this was probably my last chance to catch him (it’s been almost 15 years since the last time I saw him live.  However, I’m hoping for some kind of “Out of Retirement” Tour or something along those lines.  With any luck, after 50 years, there’s may still a little more road left for him  Happy birthday Slowhand – you haven’t lost a step!

Andy Baumann is a local attorney in West Palm Beach and avid music lover.  Andy started learning the acoustic guitar about 4 years ago and has since branched out into electric guitar as well.  U2, Guns and Roses, Eric Clapton, the Eagles and the Rolling Stones are his favorite groups.

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First Time’s A Charm

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Live Performance at the Carousel Concert-A-Thon in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

A recent feature for Fretmentor’s Blog is to hear about the experience of other music lovers, students and performers .  Today,  I have invited a guest (Doug Cone) to contribute a story on his experience performing music for the time in a public outdoor setting.  At Fretmentor’s Blog, I look forward to other contributions and musical articles of interest.  Please contact me to see how you can contribute such articles

Doug’s Tune

On November, 2009, I bought a Mandolin while in Galax, VA. I did not have a clue how to play it, but was determined to try (or use it as wall candy, if I was unsuccessful). I discovered Fretmentor a month later, and have been taking lessons and attending Blues and Bluegrass classes ever since.

Doug Cone performing live

Doug Cone performing live

The first time ever, that I played before an audience was with a group at the Ed Healy Rehab and Nursing facility in West Palm Beach. It was extremely moving to see the audience’s appreciation. Practically everybody was in a wheelchair, but they were all smiling or singing or moving to the music. The residents were so uplifting that I still am not sure who got the most out of it; them or us. So, I was all in, when Fretmentor invited members of our Wednesday night class to join him at the Concert-A-Thon benefit in Palm Beach Gardens, on February 23, 2013. The event was intended to raise money for music scholarships for kids.

There were two stages and multiple music groups playing throughout the day. At first, I was a little nervous. This was a bigger, more public venue, and I remember hoping that enough members from our class would show up, to drown out my mistakes. However, once we started, I was not nervous at all. Part of the reason was that I was so focused on the members of our group (all of whom were familiar faces from class), that I really didn’t have time to notice the crowd.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear a smattering of applause after each of our songs. It was a lot of fun. Not only was it great practice, but it was special seeing other people enjoy what we do. I would recommend this experience to anyone.

Note: Doug Cone grew up in Palm Beach County, graduated from F.S.U. with a double major in Business and Psychology, and attended law school for one year. He has been in real estate and mortgage finance for 40 years and is currently president of a small real estate investment company. “ I had practically no experience with “playing” a musical instrument until I bought my mandolin and started taking lessons from Fretmentor. It is a great venue for learning music, and making friends.”

Posted in Guest Columns, Other, Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Music Festival Jammin’

chickblog1A new feature for Fretmentor’s Blog is to hear about the experience of other music lovers, students and performers .  Today,  I have invited a guest (Chick Veenstra) to contribute a story about his attendance at his first music festival.  At Fretmentor’s Blog, I look forward to other contributions and musical articles of interest.  Please contact me to see how you can contribute such articles.

A Recipe for Fun!

  • Take 50 acres of cut cow pasture complete with patties.
  • At two intersections in the middle of nowhere, put up a big circus tent
  • Add 4-500 pickers and fans
  • Mix in 10 bands and open jams over 3 days

…and you have Yee Haw Junction—Good music, good people, and a lot of fun.

chickblog2As a first time attendee I was a bit apprehensive about the jam part, but a Bret, a fellow musician and friend, was also present and took me under his wing. I found the jams were friendly, and encouraging. The first night I struggled with hearing the chord changes, but by the end of the night things were getting easier. The second night was similar to the first one, but progress was made. By the third night, on slower songs, I found my self hearing and anticipating the chord changes and was able to play a reasonable back up.

On Sunday morning there was a Bluegrass Gospel Sing and Jam. There were some twenty pickers and about the same number of people in the audience. A booklet with words and chords for the songs was handed out for the musicians to use. It took me a while to get used to changing chords on words and not having measures to know how long a given chord would be played. I was surprised that I was not nervous in front of the crowd since I was concentrating on the music (Now if I could only do that in class!).

chickblog3All of the bands were good, each one with a unique style and sound. There was a variety of music; bluegrass, country, Gospel, original works, and one band even threw in some classical. The only down side was when a RV, three down from me, burned up on Saturday morning. No one was hurt, but the weekend was ruined for some.

I would recommend that everyone attend a festival. You will have a wonderful time and will have a better appreciation for what Fretmentor has offers when trying to teach us about playing with others.

Note: Chick Veenstra is a retiree from the lumber and building material business and lives in Wellington, Florida.  He started learning the banjo about two years ago. Says Chick “I have always liked bluegrass and the sound of the banjo so I decided to give the banjo a try. I am taking lessons from Fretmentor and attending his Wednesday night Bluegrass class in Jupiter, Florida”. Yee Haw Junction was Chick’s first Bluegrass Festival.

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Road To Nechville

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Have you ever been to Nechville?

I bet you didn’t know it’s located in Minnesota.  Nechville, however, is not a Town but a wonderful toy store for the banjo enthusiast like me.  Since 1989, Nechville has been manufacturing professional banjos for both the acoustic and electric banjo markets.  There are a number of well known musicians who own and play a Nechville banjo,  including two of my favorites; Bela Fleck and Alison Brown.

IMG_5170I recently purchased a custom made banjo from my friends Tom Nechville and his sales associate Al Price.  The banjo I ordered was a custom made Nechville Meteor electric banjo. The custom options I selected for my banjo included a neck and body made out of a distinctive and exotic Cocobolo wood.  The wood grain (as pictured in the neck and body) is from one piece of wood.  Since I wanted a banjo that was unique and not some off the shelf model, I invested in a custom inlay pattern known as the Starizon pattern.  The inlay on this banjo was a nice compliment to the premium wood selected for the neck.  As for the dual pickup system, I added the active EMG81 magnetic pickup to the standard  Piezo pickup system.    While Nechville offers a unique option known as a tunneled 5th string, I guess I am a purist and am so use to the 5th string peg on the banjo that I elected not to add this option to the instrument.

IMG_5173The banjo took 90 days to produce and it was well worth the wait.  Tom Nechville, Al Price and the Nechville craftsmen (Dave Hill and Jeremiah Lindstrom) did a wonderful job in communicating about the production and shipment of this banjo.

The Nechville Meteor Electric banjo makes a nice addition to my collection of banjos.

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The Gift of Music

Rehabilitation Center Performance

Fretmentor Bluegrass Class Members Performing At A Rehabilitation Center in West Palm Beach, Florida

A new feature for Fretmentor’s Blog is to hear about the experience of other music lovers, students and performers .  Today,  I have invited a guest (Silvia White) to contribute a story on her recent experiences playing music for a special group of elderly residents who welcomed and appreciated their gift of music.  At Fretmentor’s Blog, I look forward to other contributions and musical articles of interest.  Please contact me to see how you can contribute such articles.

When I retired from teaching I started taking guitar lessons from FRETMENTOR.  My mom was delighted at my new “venture” in life as I had quit playing the piano long ago against her wishes and my dad’s.  She kept asking me when was I going to play at her assisted living facility.  My reply was always: “never….I’ll never be “that good”.  Each Christmas I would ask her what she wanted us to give her and she would always reply that she just wanted my husband and I to play music for them….she was relentless…so I finally gave/caved in.
Performing At Assisted Living Facility

Silvia & Sam White Performing At An Assisted Living Facility In Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Our first “performance” was three years ago.  I made up booklets of songs that my mom had requested us to play with all the lyrics and each person got a book so they could sing along and make it more festive.  Boy, was it a hit….my nerves stopped as soon as we played the first song and all the residents started singing as loud as they could.  My “non-expertise” was not  noticed.  Music just brought all the residents  alive!  There was this one gentleman in a wheel chair that hadn’t stood up for a long time and when we got to the patriotic songs and played and sang Anchors Aweigh, the Navy tune,  he stood up and saluted us, (his wife told us he had been in the Navy during the Korean War)….I still get tears when I think of him.

Now each time we go to visit my mom and they see us they want to know when the party is!  Needless to say we always oblige!  This is such a rewarding experience that now each time we get to play for others in need of a little enjoyment we jump to it.  A few weeks ago 8 of us from our Bluegrass Class performed for about an hour at a local rehabilitation center.  It was the first time most of them had experienced this and they came out with the same feelings…..what a way to give back!   Music brings us memories of different times in our lives, it brings us joy and for a little while it helps us forget our troubles.
We are so grateful to my mom for having insisted that we play at her place.  We give a little of our time to help others enjoy this life a little more but what we receive from them is 100 times over.  Thanks MOM!
NOTE:  Silvia White took piano lessons in elementary school.  She is a graduate of LSU where she majored in Education.  She taught secondary education for 35 years and upon retiring she started taking guitar lessons from Fretmentor.  She followed her guitar lessons with mandolin lessons from the same instructor and is also learning how to play the fiddle.  You will see her every Wednesday night at the Bluegrass Class offered by Fretmentor in Jupiter, Florida.
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Six More Strings Silenced

Guitar Legend Doc Watson Passes Away


Not everyone gets to claim the title of being a living national treasure.  Yet, Doc Watson was a true American artist who made significant contributions to the development of bluegrass and folk music.  Sadly, our living national treasure passed away at the age of 89.

Arthel “Doc” Watson was born March 3, 1923, in Deep Gap, North Carolina.  He lost his eyesight before his first birthday due to an eye infection.  Despite his disability, Doc would became a master of both finger-picking and flat-picking style guitar playing.  He also had a rich baritone voice and sang his songs with passion.

Doc Watson made a name for himself at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival and in fact, was enthusiastically received by the crowd that came to listen to him perform that day.  He later would join forces with his son Merle, performing as a father son duo.  Tragically, in 1985, Merle died in a tractor accident.  Merlefest, a premier music festival is held each year in Merle’s honor.

Although he was well known for his acoustic guitar, Doc’s musical background actually started with a harmonica, a banjo, and later an electric guitar.  He was a master at turning fiddle tunes into great guitar instrumentals.  Watson is a multi-Grammy award winner, as well as the recipient of a lifetime achievement award and the National Medal of the Arts.

I will always have fond memories of listening to Doc Watsons’ recordings on the “Will The Circle Be Unbroken album (United Artists, UAS 9801)” or by watching the “Three Pickers”, a 2004 Grammy Nominated Best Traditional Folk album and live Television performance.  Sadly, two of three pickers have both passed only two months apart. Another six strings have gone silent.

RIP Doc March 3, 1923 – May 29, 2012

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Earl & Doug – Gone But Not Forgotten

Within a couple of months, we said goodbye to two of the great banjo players in the world.  Earl Scruggs, the father of three finger picking, and Doug Dillard, one of the great melodic banjo players and an artist who popularized bluegrass as well as country rock music, have passed on.  These two banjo icons provided a childhood of memories for me as well as others.

It is hard to dispute the legendary status of Earl Scruggs.  It can be argued that no one musician has had more of an individual impact on how an instrument would be played or on the banjoists who have since played it.  Born January 6, 1924 in Flint Hill, North Carolina, Earl would become the father of three finger picking style bluegrass banjo.  While other three finger players existed prior to Earl, no one has come close to mastering his style.  There is not enough space to write about the accomplishments of Earl Scruggs.  On March 28, 2012, every banjo player must have had a tear in their eye when they heard of Earl’s passing.  He influenced many and his music will provide a life time of memories.

Doug Dillard Performing on Stage in 1984

To those not as familiar with banjo players, Doug Dillard may not be as recognizable as the great Earl Scruggs but he too was a great artist.  Born March 6, 1937 in Salem, Missouri, Doug Dillard was a truly gifted banjo player.    He and his brother Rodney settled in Los Angeles and was signed with Elektra Records, a folk-rock label, with their debut album entitled “Back Porch Bluegrass”.  They were an opening act for the Byrds (a band that Doug later would join as part of their European tour) and departed from strict bluegrass traditions by electrifying their instruments. Doug died on May 16, 2012.

Every banjo player includes a Flatt and Scruggs tune as part of their set list.  It is as if every banjo player owes Earl the respect of playing his music.  A banjo player knows that they will never be able to play the tune the way Earl played it, yet they give it their best effort.  As for Doug Dillard, one of my favorite songs I play on the banjo is “Doug’s Tune” and it is a regular part of my repertoire.  I still have an album of Doug Dillard with the late great John Hartford.  The album was entitled “Dillard Hartford Dillard” and I wore the grooves off it.

Both Earl and Doug had something in common.  They both brought the sound of the banjo to the masses in their television and video appearances.  Hardly anyone fails to recognize the Theme to the Beverly Hillbillies, the popular TV show of the 60s and 70s.  Earl brought the banjo to both the TV and the movie screen.  If you ever watched the movie Bonnie & Clyde, you will remember the car chase scenes with Earl’s Foggy Mountain Breakdown playing in the background.  Also, childhood memories are restored to many who will recognize Doug Dillard as the banjo player of the Darlings on the Andy Griffith Show.

Please feel free to share your memories and experiences with these two gifted artists by posting below.  Earl and Doug may be gone but the gift of music they left will be treasured for many years to come.  Goodbye Earl and Doug.  We’ll miss you.

Posted in Banjo, History | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Keb Mo – A Night of Blues

Keb Mo performing with his National resonator guitar

Some recording artists know how to give you your money’s worth.  I think it cliche’ to say that the concert I just attended was the best I have ever seen.  After all, I have seen quite a few and you always seem to like the latest.  With that being said, on February 2nd, 2012, I did get my moneys worth from Keb Mo.  He performed continuously for a good two hours or so at the Lyric Theatre, in Stuart, Florida.

Keb Mo, the artist formerly known as Kevin Moore, is a three-time Grammy Award winner. He is a singer, songwriter and blues guitarist but his style reaches a variety of genres from soul, jazz, pop and rhythm and blues.  Whether or not he is playing his National resonator guitar, picking a Gibson acoustic guitar, or playing his Red Custom Stratocaster, his style is both diverse and unique.

Ticket Stub From Keb Mo's Concert

On this particular evening, Keb played an excellent mixture of tunes from his repertoire, which stretches from 1994 and his debut album “Keb Mo”.  Although its hard to pick the best of his selections on this particular night, some of my favorites included the songs “Shave Yo’ Legs”, “Government Cheese”, “Perpetual Blues Machine”, “Am I Wrong”, and “Gimme Watch Got”. Yet, I especially enjoyed his entire band taking turns singing “The Door”.

I would have loved to meet Keb after the show.  We tried but the body guards closed the door on this idea.  Some patrons got through but they had a special pass.  Maybe next time Keb.  You can see my gallery of photos of Keb and his band at www.fretmentor.com. or on Fretmentor’s mobile app for the iPad and iPhone.

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Day 1 – Fretmentor’s Workshop 2012

Jim Hurst, Dave Jakubiak, Byron Berline & Alan Munde

The first day of Fretmentor’s 3rd Annual Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar and Mandolin Workshop, featuring Alan Munde, Jim Hurst and Byron Berline, was a memorable one.  Approximately 50 attendees arrived from as far as England, New York, Georgia and various communities from Florida.

Three Great Pickers

Morning and afternoon instructional classes were held throughout the day.  In addition to a healthy lunch being served, all in attendance enjoyed snacks, drinks and the best cheesecake on the planet. During a break, students formed their own outside bluegrass jams.  Finally, the evening ended with an exclusive concert held by three gifted performers and instructors.  To see Alan, Byron and Jim perform was a special treat for each and every person in attendance. Also, Elliott Rogers, guest guitarist from the Alan Munde Gazette, performed a couple of tunes with the Alan and Byron.  To say that it was a special time is an understatement.

Tomorrow is another day.  This weekend will soon pass but the memories of a truly unique musical event will remain with us for some time.

Posted in Banjo, Classes & Workshops, Concerts & Festivals, Fiddle, Fretmentor News, Guitar, Mandolin, News & Events | Leave a comment

Pickin With Alan Munde

Alan Munde & David Jakubiak

You know life is good when you get the chance to play music with one of the all-time great banjo players in the world.  That is what we did today not far from the Atlantic Ocean.

Alan Munde, the legendary banjo player arrived for an appearance at the 3rd Annual Fretmentor Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar and Mandolin Workshop.  Joining Alan on the trip was Elliott Rogers, a member of the Alan Munde Gazette.

Alan Munde & Elliott Rogers

Our first course of business was to take a short trip to the Atlantic Ocean.  There, we took some photos for an upcoming article I will be writing for the Fretboard Journal.  After stopping for dinner, we continued picking some bluegrass at my house.

This is just a prelude to what is going to be one special weekend workshop with Alan Munde, Byron Berline and Jim Hurst.

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Fretmentor’s 3rd Annual Workshop – A Bucket List Item

Alan Munde, Byron Berline & Jim Hurst

Fretmentor’s Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar, & Mandolin Workshop

Lake Worth,  Florida

Alan Munde

Almost everyone has a bucket list and I guess you can add my first meeting with Alan Munde, Byron Berline and Jim Hurst as an item on my list.  They will join me and approximately 50+ attendees at Fretmentor’s 3rd Annual Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar and Mandolin Workshop, to be held in Lake Worth, Florida, on January 28-29, 2012.  This workshop has been planned for the past six months and includes morning and afternoon instructional classes by these three great artists.  On Saturday, an exclusive concert for registered attendees and their paid guests will also be held.

Various sponsors have donated items for raffle drawings that will also be given away at this event (see the online brochure and sponsor list at www.fretmentor.com).  I appreciate all the support that has been provided by these sponsors.

Byron Berline

Rather than try to cover this topic in one Blog, I am pledging to do my best in offering my thoughts on the one of a kind event throughout the week.  It is an honor to have such legendary artists as Alan and Byron who I have followed since the age of 10.  At the same time, I believe more and more people are going to soon learn what a special guitarist and vocalist that we have in Jim Hurst.  Attendees who are learning about these individuals for the first time, as well as those familiar with these artists are in for a special treat.

Jim Hurst

So the count down towards Fretmentor’s 3rd Annual Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar and Mandolin Workshop begins,  as we anticipate the arrival of Alan, Byron and Jim to South Florida.  Can’t imagine a better way to remove an item from your bucket list than by coming to Florida to enjoy some music, especially if you are braving the cold and the snow up north at this time of the year.

Fretmentor.com welcomes the artists, the attendees and their guests to this wonderful event.

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A Moment With Bela

Bela Fleck .. An Innovator on the Banjo

Bela Fleck

I had the pleasure of seeing Bela Fleck and the Flecktones perform on October 13, 2011 at the Lyric Theatre in Stuart, Florida.  Joining Bela on stage were Victor Wooten on bass, “Future Man” on percussion, and Howard Levy on piano and harmonica.  It was the first time Howard Levy was reunited with the Flecktones in 20 years.

My first experience seeing Bela Fleck perform was back in the 1970s, when he played with the New Grass Revival as the warm up band for John Hartford.  At that time, Bela was just making a name for himself.  Since then, I had seen Bela Fleck and the Flecktones perform in downtown West Palm Beach at the annual Sunfest event.  It was only a couple of years ago that I had front row seats to see Bela perform with Stanley Clark.  That moment dissipated with a hurricane, as the event was canceled.  Just our luck.  How often can you get front row tickets to any concert?

On this particular night we sat in the top balcony and I can honestly say that they were some of the best seats we had in a long time.  First, because we sat in the front row and center.  A perfect location for me to photograph the entire band from my seat.  You can see the gallery of photos by going to www.fretmentor.com.

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones

The setting was intimate.  The Lyric is a small venue but not too small.  It is located in a quaint downtown area not far from the Atlantic Ocean.  When you enter, you feel you are there to see a movie.  The crowd gathered in the lobby and once the lights flashed on and off, the concert was ready to begin.

All of the Flecktones gave the audience their money’s worth.  They performed most, if not all, of their tracks from their latest album “Rocket Science” and they ensured that each of the four performers would be featured at some time throughout the night.  They also played the Hippo tune, which is a crowd favorite.  Based on the reaction of the crowd, the audience was mesmerized with the talents of Bela Fleck, Futureman, Victor Wooten, and Howard Levy.

Me & Bela Fleck

Afterward, I had the chance to personally meet with Bela Fleck and the band.  A small crowd gathered around the band, as they sat on the edge of the stage to greet their fans.  An opportunity to meet these performers up close and personal is one of the primary reasons why a small venue concert can equate to the greatest of value.  It was one special night for a music fan such as myself.

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