Since the new wave of Gypsy jazz recordings and instructional materials began to come available around the turn of the millennium, North American musicians with an interest in the style have made tremendous progress. We better understand the unique cultural contributions that Django Reinhardt, his Gypsy contemporaries and their heirs have made to our own jazz tradition. Many of us have now had the opportunity to hear world-class Gypsy jazz in a live setting and take a few workshops. Some of us have a local band or jam going. We've learned some of the GJ repertoire you won't find in The Real Book. Many guitarists have Selmacs, distinctive picks, and other gear that was scarcely seen on this side of the Atlantic even a decade ago.
All of this has come into being relatively quickly and all of it is good. But we North Americans are just getting started as individual students and as a nationwide community of Gypsy jazz players. Most of us have, at best, only occasional access to truly expert guidance in the elements that set this distinctively European/Gypsy genre apart from our own familiar jazz stylings. And most of us are seriously wanting for the musical camaraderie that, more than anything else, makes the hard work of learning worthwhile.
Since 2007, Django in June's full-immersion offering—Django Camp—has held out an unparalleled opportunity to take both your understanding and enjoyment of this music to the next level, in two ways:
First, we offer a gathering place for players from all over the continent and abroad. A place to meet face-to-face, learn from one another, and djam to our hearts' content. By centralizing all of Django Camp's activities in and around a single facility—namely, a cluster of dorms on the Smith campus—we have easy, constant access to one another for the better part of a week, all with the comfort of private dorm rooms and three squares a day provided.
Second, we offer the chance to study with real experts in a sustained, intimate setting. While a two-hour clinic is far, far better than no instruction at all, that format has its limitations. We want to offer you the opportunity to get more guidance from more artists/instructors at a better value than has ever been available in the US.
In 2014, Django Camp will get started after dinner on Tuesday, June 17th and wrap up the morning of Sunday the 22nd. We do welcome early arrivals starting Monday afternoon. Many of our artists arrive then and the extra day provides a great opportunity to warm up with some casual jam & hang time before things get busy. Wednesday through Saturday, the daytime is devoted to classes and jamming. Evening invariably involves more jamming, but may also include special offerings like...a guitar show, a wine tasting (guess whose idea that was), a film with live music and (last but assuredly not least) weekend concerts. Sunday morning is largely unstructured time for reflection on the week's activities, good-byes, last-minute questions and maybe one last jam session for the road.
Our home base for all this activity is a collection of posh dorms on the Smith College campus. That's not only where we sleep, but where all the classes and jamming happen, so you're never more than a few short steps away from where the "action" is. Chances are you're smack dab in the middle of it already. Meals are offered in one of the dining halls on campus, providing good, easy, affordable fare and a great opportunity for more informal time with fellow campers and staff. There is jamming before, in between, in the midst of, and afterwards.
About The Django Camp Instructional Program
Our instructional program is built around (but not limited to) a core repertoire of tunes that provide a foundation for jamming and learning across instruments and levels of experience. Whether our focus is improvisation, idiomatic licks, technique or accompaniment, our instructors may use these tunes to demonstrate and explore the topic at hand. Some of those songs are standards that we come back to year after year, while others change, offering you the opportunity to explore and develop new repertoire. Much of the older, standard repertoire (as well as less common material introduced in past years) is already up on this website on the Get Ready Musically pages. That's also where, over the 12 weeks before Camp, we'll be incrementally posting some of this year's new material for folks who want to get a head start. Django Camp registrants will be alerted to updates along the way.
We always leave some details regarding the instructional program flexible so we can adapt to the number, experience level and expressed interests of our registrants. As an example of what you can expect, though, have a look at the 2010 schedule. (Keeping in mind, of course that this year's teaching staff is different). Here are a few more things you can count on:
- At 9 in the morning there's an optional 50-minute morning warm up on a couple tunes from the core repertoire.
- There are three 90-minute class periods (at 10, 1:30 and 4 o'clock) the last of which is a facilitated jam session or special offering.
- In addition to formal instruction, our days are scheduled with plenty of time for informal guidance from the artists on our staff and the many experienced musicians who attend.
- Most guitarists follow a daily schedule that is pretty straightforward: one rhythm class, one lead class and one facilitated jam session per day.
- Guitar classes are organized into 3 or 4 level of ability, ranging from intro to expert.
- You choose with whom you would like to work from class to class, so you'll have the opportunity to either work with (or at least audit a class offered by) anyone listed on our guitar staff.
- We shoot for an overall student/teacher ratio of around 9/1. (Since we do not assign people to classes, however, actual attendance numbers vary to reflect your choices.)
- For other instruments, the class times and suggested daily repertoire are the same, but the structure of the content is looser (since, for example, violinists don't need a daily rhythm violin class.) For all instruments, the content of the classes is at the instructor's discretion.
- With three violinists on staff this year (one more than in recent years) we expect to be able to better cater to the needs of violinists at all levels.
- Bass, mandolin and accordion classes have, in recent years, tended to be even smaller than those mentioned for violin above. That said, students always have the option of attending classes for other instruments if that offers something appealing.
You'll find more details related to housing, food and this year's teaching staff by following the links at the top of this page. For your options relating to cost and registration swing by Django Camp Registration.
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Joseph Santry, O.D.