Can you give some personal background information about yourself?
I am 60 years old. Married 37 years, father of two grown children. I’ve owned my own marketing company since 1990. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 9 years old. Performing in public for the past 7 years.
How did you find out about Fur Peace Ranch?
I read an article in the New York Times Magazine years ago and it peaked my interest because I had studied with Jorma briefly in the 1980s in New York City.
When was the first time that you attended the camp?
My first time there was in 2005.
How many times have you attended the camp?
I have been to FPR 21 times
What sorts of classes have you taken?
I have taken a broad range of classes from a variety of acoustic fingerstyle guitar players such as Woody Mann, Roy Bookbinder, Stefan Grossman, Jorma, Larry Campbell, Toby Walker.
What would you say is most unique thing about FPR?
There are two very distinguishing characteristics that seem to repeat themselves every time I visit:
The first is interacting with professional musicians as equals. You literally get to hang out with your guitar heroes! You find out that they are really no different than you are. We all share the same hopes and concerns about life in general. Once that barrier is shattered, you find out that many of the instructors, if not all of them, view themselves as students of guitar as well. Jorma said it best one time, when he said that he views himself as an average guitar player who just happens to have lots of experience. That kind of attitude is very disarming and makes for a very relaxed and fun learning environment.
The second characteristic is the incredible bond that forms with the fellow “campers.” No matter who they are, what their views are about politics or religion are, how advanced or novice their guitar playing is — all FPR campers share a kind of spiritual bond. Having a common interest in guitar helps foster that bond, but the source is something deeper. There is a warm feeling that comes over you the moment you are greeted on the very first day. By Saturday afternoon, everyone begins to feel as if they are on a retreat, as much as they are at a music camp. When things break up on Monday, lasting friendships have formed. I now have buddies from all over the country that I look forward to seeing when I return to FPR.
Have you noticed any changes within the camp after all of the times that you’ve attended?
One of the beautiful things about FPR is consistency. It is as if Vanessa, Jorma, John Hurlbut and the rest of the staff put their personal lives on hold for the weekend, and they make you the most important person in their world. As a result the experience is always the same. In marketing-speak, they manage their brand extremely well. Repeat campers know they can expect the exact same level of care, respect and fellowship each time. It really doesn’t get much better.
Was there one class/year in particular that you remember/cherish the most? When was it?
Speaking candidly, every time I visit is the best time. The visits have blended together over the years, but I can still remember the first class I took there in 2005 with Jorma. I marveled at his guitar knowledge and skills of course, but what really hit me was his demeanor. The guys in the class, myself included, were endlessly inquisitive about many things. Jorma demonstrated admirable patience and interest in wherever the group wanted the discussion to go. It was clear that he actually enjoyed spending time with us. It was inspiring to witness.
What have you taken away from attending FPR?
It would be hard for one not to come away from an FPR experience as a better player. What I didn’t count on was emerging from there a better person. That seems to happen a little bit each time I visit.
This story is part of a month-long multimedia series about the Athens music scene called “Sounds From the Hills: An Athens Music Project”