Notes from the Road – Sunshine State Acoustic Music Camp Friday, November 14, 2008 Last year I was honored to be invited by Charlie Groth to teach songwriting in his Sunshine State Acoustic Music Camp in St. Petersburg. For 19 years Charlie has organized and hosted this camp for folks of all ages to come and learn various aspects of the acoustic arts at a very nominal fee – it is a true labor of love, not a cash cow by any means. Charlie marshals together instructors in guitar, mandolin, fiddle, autoharp, dulcimer, banjo, harmonica and on and on. It is a wealth of opportunity for young and old, beginner to advanced. Two full days of classes (typically 2 hours in length to give actual time to cover something worthwhile) take place at the Boyd Hill Environmental Studies Area in south St. Pete. Apparently I didn’t screw up too bad last year, because Charlie asked me back this year. For this 19th edition of the SSAMC the date moved from its traditional October to the third weekend in November. That comes with two advantages – it avoids conflicts with October festival dates (Lake County for one) and it takes advantage of cooler weather, which is much appreciated by campers since there are no hook ups for RV’s here and the nights can be a bit hot and sticky in October. I got on the road Friday, camper in tow, and was on site by a little after 4 p.m. (Gas Hog Report: I bought gas just east of Tampa for $2.01!! I’m hoping to break the $2 barrier on the way home.) Lots of folks were already there – Joe and Katie Waller, Doug Purcell, Dan and Diana Ost (all the way from Austin!), Carl Wade (he was just setting up camp and then going back to get Barbara – you can’t rush the queen), Bill Perras (sans Eli – she’s still recovering from her surgery), Barry Brogan and more that I’m omitting due to forgetfulness. I got a great spot nestled in full shade under the oaks (with Joe Waller’s kind assistance) and within minutes was set up and ready to mingle. The camp is a little smaller this year, the state of the economy to blame. Nevertheless, it’s a healthy and energetic crowd. One of the things I like so much about this camp is the number of youngsters here – about 10% of the students are teens and pre-teens. These aren’t the “aw mom, why do have to go there with you crowd.” They are the full blown, way into the music, want to learn something and play music well into the night crowd! There is nothing more encouraging about the future of our culture than to see a segment of our youth truly interested in the traditional folk arts and SO talented. That positive energy and renewal exists no matter who is President and no matter the state of the world in general. Friday is just a get settled in, hear a little organizational speech by Charlie (Charlie, stick to the music old friend – speechifying ain’t your thang!) and then jam circles, song swaps, etc. Despite the later fall date it was still a bit warm and humid, though nothing like it world have been last month. Jim Davis, his brother and I slipped away after Charlie’s big speech to go grab a bite to eat. We ended up at Big Tim’s BBQ on US 19 only a couple of miles from the camp. Big Tim’s is a Pinellas County institution of more than 30 years. When I lived in this area we got take out from there at least once a month. Not in the best of neighborhoods, Tim’s is not big on ambience but the BBQ is first rate and on this occasion so was the company! Back at the camp I dropped in on the main jam up near the clubhouse building and played along for an hour or so before heading back to the camper to review my materials for the upcoming classes. Last year I put together an outline for the classes which is stolen (with credit of course) from various songwritng books and seminars I’ve enjoyed over the years. While I had intended to rework it in detail this year, other things took priority and in the end I “spruced up” last year’s edition, adding some info and thoughts that have come my way since last year. Ok, battery powered fan on, windows open, CONTACT!!! - ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Doug Doug Spears 36 Interlaken Road Orlando, Florida 32804 407-257-4242