2nd Australian Banjo Conference

by | 13 Dec, 2009

2nd Australian Banjo Conference was held from 2nd to 6th Dec 2009.

The BandThe 2nd Australian Banjo Conference was held in an awe inspiring site in the town of Maleny called Tranquil Park. That so many banjo players could accumulate and descend upon a venue called Tranquil Park is in itself an irony lost to many. Nevertheless, around 40 pickers shared the resort with a few other groups of people over the course of the weekend.

Renowned USA banjo instructor banjo teacher Ross Nickerson was the principal instructor at last year’s banjo conference and on returning home, convinced other members of his band, Hungry Hill, that they too should make the long trek across the Pacific to be a part of the weekend. Thankfully for us they all agreed. Hungry Hill comprises Ross Nickerson on banjo, Nadine Landry on bass, Mark Thibeault on guitar and dobro, Bob Hamilton of mandolin and Jenny Lester on fiddle and guitar.

The StudyThe 2nd Australian Banjo Conference commenced on the Thursday evening with a magnificent concert at the Maleny Community Centre. The concert featured not only Hungry Hill but several local scratch bands and soloists all combined to make up an entertaining evening of variety.

By the start of the 2nd Australian Banjo Conference, Hungry Hill had generously appeared in concerts and workshops in Harrietvile, Yinnar, and Sydney. By the time they had arrived at Maleny they had already endeared themselves to many of us with their willingness to generously share their skills, and abilities.

The next morning saw a cacophony of banjo players assemble for their pre-conference briefing by the weekend’s director Peter Nahuysen. Peter and his fellow conference instructors had divided the group up by their self-nominated skill level and assigned them to various classes across the course of the weekend.

BradAcross the weekend four very capable instructors took some 50 people through intensive workshops, delivering tailored tuition at all levels of playing ability. Each of the days tuition and practice sessions culminated in an evening performance by each of the students, with Hungry Hill as their own support band. Some had never played in public before, let alone getting up on stage with bluegrass band. The evening concerts were the highlight of the weekend, entertaining, hilarious and very rewarding.

The banjo instructors for the weekend included Ross Nickerson from the USA and banjoteacher.com, two-time National Banjo Champion and full time music teacher Mr Gary Vann, the 2008 National Banjo Champion, Martin Louis and experienced player, teacher and banjo author Peter Nahuysen. Peter is also founder and maker of Bellbird Banjos, one of Australian finest banjos.

I am so proud to be associated with The Australian Banjo Conference and all the fantastic people who contributed to its success.  Although only our second one ever, the 2009 conference felt so comfortable and like a reunion of old friends, plus a whole lot of new ones added in for good measure. Our numbers nearly doubled from 2008 to a total of 56, which included 41 banjo players in 4 classes, 4 instructors, the fabulous members of Hungry Hill, a live-in guitarist and some wonderfully supportive husbands, wives and parents. What was really fantastic was the fact that 10 of our banjo pickers were female. More power to the ladies. We felt we had the balance just right between formal instruction, jamming, personal practice time, performance and of course the all important eating and socialising.

Our next conference is planned for the 3rd weekend in January 2011, (Thurs-Sun). We are planning once again to have Ross Nickerson and Hungry Hill as our very special guests. More details will be available in the New year on the Australian Bluegrass Blog and at ww.bellbirdbanjos.com

A huge thank you to Ross Nickerson, Gary Vann, Martin Louis, Stu Porter, Greg McGrath, the wonderful Tranquil Park staff and of course the fabulous, talented, generous members of the Canadian bluegrass supergroup, Hungry Hill.  Peter Nahuysen. Conference Convenor.

The LadiesThe Hungry Hill team also delivered their harmony workshop. The same workshop which saw Jenny Lester’s DVD (singing harmony) sell out immediatly after the workshop at this year’s Harrietville festival. There were many factors contributing to the overall success of the weekend, not the least of which was Hungry Hill‘s most generous contribution.

Many of us are already lobbying Bellbird Banjo’s Peter Nahysuen to bring Hungry Hill back for the 2010 conference.

The Australian Bluegrass Blog hosts a page dedicated to news and updates on the Australian Banjo Conference.