With the proliferation of summer music camps and workshops, I thought it might be useful to spell out some of the main differences and strengths of our Vermont experiences.
The first thing is that we keep our workshops to an intimate number, fifteen maximum. From attending various workshops myself, and as a teacher hungry to tailor the material to a specific group or individual, I know that our unique experiences give us unique understandings, strengths, and shortcomings.
Our Vermont workshops give individual attention in three ways: 1. private instruction; 2. masterclass-style interactions that place one player in the center of the room and opens up feedback to the group; and 3. creating space for individual voices/concerns/issues/questions due to the limited number of overall participants.
The values of private instruction are self-evident: the student has direct access to a mentor in a confidential setting that can make candid technical assessments easier to swallow, and invites remedies and suggestions that are tailor made to the student.
The "masterclass," (not thinking of the traditional "master" in this case, but rather conceiving of the community as the master) is a forum that is a powerful, healing and intriguing context for growing as a player and as a teacher. It's uncanny how input from a small group of new friends becomes a potent and positive experience when we're together in a creative and self-actualizing context like improvisation and creativity.
We begin nearly every Vermont workshop with an evening of free improvisation. This seems to set the stage for releasing pretense, as well as adopting values of mindful presence, listening, and response-ability (the ability to respond).
Of course, there's lots of detailed information too, but you're always within arms reach of someone who can clarify and demonstrate the intricacies of anything.
The relatively small numbers at our workshops make providing great food possible, and we believe that food plays an important role. While I always repeat, "you are what you eat," meaning your improvs will tend to reflect the values of your listening and practice, we take pains to provide the best locally sourced ingredients prepared by our ace chef, Liz Rogers. Conversations take a different turn when you're enjoying some of the best food to be had in Vermont - or anywhere.
I think there must be something about the air in Vermont too, people seem to be OK with who they are here, and are encouraged to go barefoot and lie in the grass.
The sense of community that is formed over the course of a few days consistently leads to life-long friendships and collaborations.
I like to think that our workshops are part of a corporate backlash in a way, we keep things personal, designed to unleash your music, to encourage your independent thinking, and to nourish your own musical communities with tools for new collaborations, sounds, and styles.