Pete Wernick, who originated Bluegrass Jam Camps at Merlefest in 1999, will celebrate in late April hosting his 15th annual camp there. Just a month earlier, March 22-24, he will introduce his jam camp to Europe, taking over Prague’s Hotel Svornost for three days to host pickers from over eight countries, England to Slovakia. Camp registration, half-full as of early February, is expected to sell out in advance.
In Prague Wernick will be assisted by his wife Joan, plus several European teachers whose training at the camp will qualify them as certified Wernick Method teachers, to host jam classes in their respective countries.
“This is a long-held dream coming true for me,” says Pete. “I knew that something different was needed in bluegrass teaching, and I’ve been trying to fill the need.” In 2010 the Wernick Method started certifying teachers to lead weekly classes in the skills necessary for bluegrass jamming. Students jam in small groups, leading songs and following each other as in typical bluegrass jams, but at reduced speeds. After over 100 such classes taught by over certified 50 teachers, the Wernick Method has momentum: Classes are now in 30 states, Australia, Canada, and Europe.
Wernick envisions jam classes “anywhere people are trying to learn how to play bluegrass — which is really, all over Planet Earth.” The only qualification for students is the ability to play four chords: G, C, D, and A (fiddlers and bass players must know two of the notes in each chord). With “the first rung of the ladder so close to the ground,” Pete says, “jamming is possible for anyone, and it lays a musical foundation. We call it ‘fun and fundamental’. Learning to jam leads to more involvement and developing the skills it takes to handle the deeper challenges of bluegrass. It also brings people into the bluegrass community, something I am truly proud of.”
Wernick’s jam camp schedule this year includes Boulder, CO (March), Wilkesboro, NC (April), Gettysburg, PA (May), and Qualicum Bay, BC, (June). The full listing of camps and all Wernick Method classes is found at BGjam.com.