Banjo Worshops – Illawarra Folk School

by | 9 Jan, 2009

sammartinbluegrassJohn Taylor, the disgraced former President of the Board of Directors of the National Folk Festival – more on that later – advises that on Thursday 15 January 2009, he will be conducting two workshop sessions at the Illawarra Folk School.

John will be conducting a morning session on Bluegrass for Beginners, with the afternoon session on Intermediate Bluegrass Banjo.

John says; The Beginners session will concentrate on the basics of bluegrass, looking at timing, rhythm, kick offs for tunes and songs, endings, back up and basic soloing. There will be a focus on jamming etiquette – which is the key to everyone getting the chance to participate. I’ve taken a few pointers out of the sessions of this sort that I have seen at bluegrass events – such as Mike Kear’s Safety in Numbers jam, and the morning beginners jam in the Session Bar at the National Folk Festival. If nothing else what I want to come out of it are people with a lot more confidence to join in a session, not get overawed and make a contribution.

The Intermediate Banjo session is designed for those banjophonists who have got a few tunes and/or songs under their belt, have a few rolls and licks that they can pull off and are branching out into wider techniques. This session will look at more advanced arrangements for the standard tunes as well as getting into building a worked out break for a song or tune, with the idea being to wean people away from sole reliance on tablature and stepping into playing by ear.

The Illawarra Folk School is a fantastic concept, and I am really excited about being a part of it in 2009. I’ve been to the Illawarra Folk Festival a couple of times when it was sited at Jamberoo, and I am looking forward to seeing the new venue at Slacky Flat in Bulli. says John.

Why Disgraced?

In 2008, after 3 years as Board President, John stepped down – but 2008 was not without controversy. It can be reported that on opening night 2008 NFF Security, Production Managers and assorted hangers on responded to a noise complaint from the campgrounds behind the stadium, in an area known as The Swamp. Upon attending the incident they found Chris Jacobs, Kevin Parsell, Pete Hisco, Dave O’Neill (the NFF Artistic Director) and Taylor in a high octane session. OK, it was 1:00am and Chris was belting out Blue Yodel #4, but heck, there were about 40 others enjoying the blast. Very embarrassing but, what was amusing, said Taylor was the fact that that the complaint was about a group of youths, aged in their teens/early 20s, playing music on a ghetto blaster. We thought it quite a hoot, given that none of us is on the right side of 40