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First-Ever All-Europe Jam Camp in Prague a Success In Any Language

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All-Europe Jam CampPete Wernick introduced his Bluegrass Jam Camp to Europe March 22-24, with twenty-four pickers from seven countries converging for three days on the Hotel Svornost in Prague, Czech Republic. Having taught camps throughout the U.S. since 1980, Wernick saw this first Jam Camp in Europe as a forward step for bluegrass teaching.

Germany, France, England, Italy, Denmark, and Canada were represented along with Prague locals, and Wernick admits that the camp presented a unique challenge. Would the diversity of languages slow the teaching, learning, and jamming? “No… thank goodness!” says Pete. “I could only teach in English, but I took care to speak slowly and simply, with pauses. I asked regularly whether my points were understood or needed to be repeated, and they all said they understood. That was a relief.”

What about singing in English? “One interesting fact of European bluegrass is that it seems everyone assumes that it should be sung in English, and they routinely learn songs in English. For instance, one guy, Radim from Prague, who had a difficult time speaking full sentences in English, had practiced Mountain Dew for weeks before the camp and ran through five verses while playing bass. Before he started, I asked him if he wanted the words on a music stand in front of him and he said no, that would only confuse him. He got a Jam Hero badge for his effort.”

A big event in all Pete’s camps is the presentation of Jam Hero badges. At this camp, the first went to Chris Kealy of Great Britain, for stepping up when the first jam group formed to lead Worried Man Blues. Kealy made sure his accomplishment was well-remembered throughout the camp.

Almost all campers stayed at the hotel, built in the 1930s and still a hub for entertainment and celebration events. The restaurant and pub rang with music and a convivial atmosphere for the weekend.

The camp also gave Wernick a chance to work with and certify two new Wernick Method teachers, Joff Lowson from Bristol, England, and Peter Ruby from Prague. “I’m glad to know the Wernick Method is now represented in these countries. Joff has already been asked to offer a jam class at a festival in June in Tamworth, England.”

Some student comments:

“This is such a great atmosphere. I haven’t been around so many great players in one place ever. I don’t think I stopped grinning the whole weekend.”

“I made a big and much-needed step forward over the weekend… more progress than any other workshop I’ve been to. I learned a lot about bluegrass at other workshops, but at the jam camp I actually played it in earnest. I even managed to take solos for the first time (which I had pretty much given up on before the camp).”

Wernick’s schedule in June includes performing and teaching at the Huck Finn Jubilee in California, the 40th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and The Lighthouse Bluegrass Festival in British Columbia. Wernick Method classes are being conducted this summer at festivals and in communities nationwide. A full listing of camps and all Wernick Method classes is found at BGjam.com.

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