Held March 23-25, 2012 in Oceanside and Carlsbad, CA
Recap by Tom Griesgraber (March 26, 2012)

The Southern California Stick Seminar took place this past weekend in Oceanside and Carlsbad, CA, and was a great success by all accounts! Bob Culbertson and I have been chatting about having him down here for years now, and I was glad we could finally coordinate that. All told, twenty participants came from such diverse locals as Las Vegas, Santa Cruz, Oakland, Paris, Arizona, Mexico City, New York and the ever so exotic Oceanside, CA. MiraCosta College which has played host to several seminars in the past was once again our main locale, but with a new twist this time. Since the last seminar several years ago, the college has built a fantastic new music building as well as a multi-million dollar concert hall. We were fortunate to be able to coordinate a weekend to use both facilities. In addition, I was also able to line up a performance at the nearby Museum of Making Music which we used for an "open mic" style performance on Friday night. So, our events started on Friday night, with five of our attendees braving the spotlight and sharing their talents with us: Leo Gosselin, Gregory Smith, JRJ, Mad Monk and Gene Perry. Bob and I also played very short sets as well to round things out and the whole event was very well attended by the local community. It was great as always to see how much diversity is possible with the Stick and how every player really brings their own style to it!

Leo Gosselin at the Museum of Making Music
JRJ performs at the Museum

Saturday morning, I was at the school bright and early to do some final setups with equipment before folks started showing up. Bob got things rolling, teaching the whole group a great warmup and independence exercise before we split people into different rooms and ran through a litany of topics from harmony and fretboard layout to expression, playing position, independence and more.

Class #1: Bob teaches an independence exercise

On Saturday afternoon, Emmett Chapman joined the group and gave a presentation of playing techniques, and a brand new Stick model prototype that he's been working on in secrect for years now. This was the first unveiling, and sadly I was too busy dialing in the sound for it to snap a photo. But.. I'm sure you'll be seeing much much more about it in the not too distant future. While Emmett's class was going on, Bob and I started setting up in the MiraCosta College Concert hall for the evening performance and were joined by Ryan Moran, my Agent 22 cohort and Emmett's brother Dan Chapman who came to film the proceedings. With only a little time between teaching and the show, I asked Bob to play caterer and he took my car and found some amazing Thai food we shared backstage along with Bob's family and the Chapmans..

A quick dinner with the Chapmans (far side) and the Culbertsons (this side)

Our main concert event began with a stellar solo performance by Bob. My only regret in organizing events like these is that I wind up still running around being the organizer during the performances and don't get to see more than a few quick moments of them. Bob's handwork is always amazing to check out though. Following Bob, Emmett Chapman gave one of his best performances I've heard in awhile. As always it featured a great deal of improvisation and surprising twists. Then it was time for a set from Agent 22 featuring yours truly and Ryan Moran. Typically Ryan always plays drum set live for our shows though he's also proficient in a host of other percussion instruments. Because the concert hall was built more for classical music and its sound is very reflective, we tried something we've never really done and Ryan built a "kit" out of an African djembe and Udu, an Irish bodran, an Australian didjeridoo, and a small kick drum. He also had a "station" of Indian tablas which we've tried to use live before but found hard to amplify in noisy settings. The MiraCosta hall worked amazingly well though and it was great to play through our music with so much variety happening in percussion world.

(concert photos by Ted Banks)
Bob starts off "Stick Night"
Emmett explores new harmonic galaxies

Agent 22
tabla time with Rymo

Truly a classic Tom pose

We opted to orgainze the evening's perforances in "round robin" style meaning short sets from each performer, but multiple sets. After Bob's second set, Emmett asked if Ryan and I would join him. Truly a thrill! Emmett's idea was that he would start playing by himself, alone on stage and then a few mintues in, I would enter unanounced and join him. I loved the idea, but did wonder if anyone might think I was just being incredibly rude walking onstage while Emmett was playing ;-) A few minutes into our duo, Ryan joined us, once again with no pause in the music. This was really special for me. I can honestly say that while I've had an opportunity to play improvised pieces with many many musicians over the years, there is really something special about playing with Emmett. His ear for music is incredible. With most musicians, if you are improvising chord progressions for example, you might have to keep things relatively simple or even a bit predictable so that they can follow the ideas. With Emmett, I've come to realize I can play absolutely anything, and his ear will recognize it so quickly that he can contribute something to the moment that sounds as if he knew in advance what I was going to do. There was even a moment where I played one strange and perhaps techincally "wrong" note (or at least unintentional ;-) and sure enough... Emmett made it sound correct!

Following our improv with Emmett, Ryan and I took advantage of the room and did an old Agent 22 piece that we rarely play. The original recording featured tablas, which we usually can't bring to most shows but once again sounded fantastic in the hall. Then for the "grand finale," Bob joined us for a many noted jam on Dylan's All Along The Watchtower. Bob's fingers are so versatile and fluid that it was amazing to hear the flurries of notes he's capable of. I'm looking forward to the next time our paths cross and we get to play together!

Emmett with surprise guests Tom and Ryan
Agent 22, with 12 additional strings!

Thanks to all and good night!

Sunday was devoted to the classes with Bob and myself alternating between doing semi-private lessons and group demonstrations. It was also the highly anticipated "gear demo" day which found me fielding questions on everything from Stick pickups to synthesizers, mic cables, tuners and even fielding requests from our advanced group for funny stories from the road! (Ha!.... maybe there's a whole new way to approach promoting future seminars there!)

Many many thanks go out again to MiraCosta College, especially Jim, Kathy and Matt who were so helpful in pulling this together, as well as the Museum of Making music and their amazingly dilligent staff. And of course my thanks go out to Bob and Emmett for joining me and all the attendees. We thoroughly enjoyed spending the time with you, and of course you're the ones who make it possible. Hope to cross paths again soon!

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