World Stick Seminar and Concert
Nov 13-17, 2003 - San Jose, CA

The "World Stick Seminar" as it became known started as a "European Invasion" seminar. Veteran Stickist Bob Culbertson of San Jose had the idea to host a seminar involving some of Europe's finest players. It eventually blossomed to include several US teachers and a total of over 50 students (from as far away as Italy), making it the largest gathering of Stick players anywhere in history. The teachers included Bob Culbertson (San Jose), Greg Howard (VA), Jim Lampi (UK), Virna Splendore (Italy), Steve Adelson (NY), Andre Pelat (France), Don Schiff (LA), Ron Baggerman (Holland) and myself (San Diego). Emmett Chapman drove up as well to be part of the main concert Sunday night and to teach a special clinic.
Th Nov 13, 2003 - travel day
I was happy to get to drive on this trip. Seven hours alone in the car is not necessarily my favorite thing, but traveling with gear is so much nicer when you can take whatever you want. Soo.. I loaded up my car with all kinds of stuff for myself and others to use and hit the road. I made the trip in one quick stop, and arrived at the "Showcase Music Institute" to find about half of the attendees slowly filtering in. A rather loud multi-Stick blues jam was happening in the main room so I hung around outside and met or caught up with several other players. For dinner we all walked to a nearby Indian food restaurant. The place was small enough we basically overtook it. It's been amazing to look around a room like the restaurant and see so many people I've known but haven't seen in awhile, or maybe read internet posts from but never met. It really feels like a huge family reunion here, but without any "crazy uncle" type. Well.... then again there IS Don Schiff. Hmmm...

Jim Bruno, a longtime friend of Bob Culbertson helped organize the seminar and actually owns the music school where the classes were held. The nine teachers ended up staying either at Bob's house or Jim's. For most of the weekend, Jim's house became home to myself, Don Schiff, Greg Howard, Virna Splendore, Emmett Chapman and his brother Dan and of course Jim himself who graciously chose to sleep upright in a chair every night. Greg, Don and I positioned ourselves on couches, and the rest got got bedrooms. Literally a giant Stick slumber party! (not that any of us got an abundance of sleep). Jim is a fun guy with lots of nick nacks around the house. He's also interested in martial arts and has a collection of related swords and other weapons. Virna quickly took advantage of the collection.

Virna prepares to teach

Fri Nov 14 - San Jose, CA
Friday morning started bright and early with an orientation meeting at 9am. Bob had made up class schedules for everyone based around the idea of the teachers staffing two large group rooms, and seven semi private small group rooms. He passed out schedules, and laid out the plans for things like lunch, where to put cases, etc. Lots of details come up with this many people present.

Stick players invade
Orientation meeting

Bob and Jim arranged to have food brought in each day for lunch. Great idea! It would have been chaotic to have everyone go out for lunch each day. Today's lunch was sandwiches from Costco. Good food in mass quantities. Excellent! Speaking of details, Greg actually flew out with his live gear but no rack for it. After trying in vain to borrow one, he wound up taping his rack gear into a large lump. Hmmm... maybe I can start cutting down on travel weight like this too!

Greg's new "rack"
Virna poses with her new amp and
a Bass Labs prototype Stick

Ron sets up for his class
Greg enjoys cables

After three blocks of classes today there was an informal private Stick Night at the school. Private in that there just wasn't room to invite the public. All of the teachers played some as well as local bands Laughing Stock and Sizemo, seminar participants Jim Kam, Vance Gloster, Steve Hahn, Michael K and Casey Arrialga and Emmett himself who had just arrived that evening. And I thought Stick Night 99 had a lot of performers!

Sat Nov 15 - San Jose, CA
We launched right into classes this morning. Already it feels like we're into a routine (a good one!). I was struck by how the halls of the Showcase Music Institute although far fewer in number feel a bit like the halls in the guitar department at my old alma matter Berklee. Stick University! (Stick-U? hmmm). After lunch today Bob had scheduled a big panel discussion where all of the teachers would spend 20 mins or so talking to the full group about their playing style. Since I'd brought more blinking lights and knobs than anyone else, Bob asked me to talk about looping and synth useage with the Stick. I brought along an "expanded" live rig for this purpose; 12 rack spaces worth of gear... eek! The panel was scheduled to go from 1-5, but went from 1-7 making all of us wonder just how long the concert would go on Sunday night!

One of my semi-private classes
Don and Andre between classes

Steve Hahn and Jim Lampi chat
Andre eats lunch

After the panel discussion, the teachers snuck away to a quiet dinner at a brew pub restaurant. It was fantastic looking around our large table and seeing again this group of people from all over the globe. It was just a wonderful feeling to see so many people gathered together that I've known and/or listened to or heard about for years. Stick players are wonderful people.

After dinner the whole group wound up back at Jim Bruno's and Jim pulled out some old video tapes of the "Stick Band." Emmett has a picture of the group in his book Free Hands, but I'd never known anything else about them. The band was based around Bob and Jim and although I guess they had a few different lineups, what we watched was a group with the two of them, a vocalist, a keyboard player and a drummer. Bob and Jim played a variety of instruments, but generally one or both were usually playing the Stick. It was a real trip down memory lane for Jim I think. Although it was more or less a pop/rock group the band was really trying a lot of different things. Their outfits placed them firmly in the 80s with the singer looking like a sort of black Boy George and Bob looking a bit like Freddie Mercury of Queen. I actually didn't recognize Bob at first. I've always known him as the Stick player who sits while he plays, uses no effects, and does lots of classical and celtic flavored music. Here he was a wild man! Playing shredding rock guitar solos on two guitars at once, tumbling all over the stage while spinning a frisbee shaped guitar on his hand and of course playing some wild Stick parts. Wow Bob, I never knew you had it in you!

Sun Nov 16 - San Jose, CA
Jim and others have been making morning coffee/muffin runs. I'm not a coffee drinker, so while for some (Greg!) it seems to be an addiction, I was just glad to have a muffin every morning. This morning at school we had two class periods and then broke for a special class led by Emmett. I didn't catch much of this unfortunately as once everyone was in the room with Emmett the rest of the "faculty" scrambled to start getting ready for the "World Stick Concert." It was scheduled to start at 6:30pm, and with us starting setup at about 3:00 that "should" have been possible, but as we got into it all kinds of technical problems came up. Greg Howard fell into his self inflicted role of technical liason/traffic controller and was more than a bit frustrated by some of the equipment issues and sound crew. I felt bad for him, knowing that routine a bit myself but tried just to stay out of the way. So... I wandered about and took LOTS of pictures.

Greg directs traffic at soundcheck

Don and Emmett set up

Greg, Ron, Andre, Bob and Virna try to finish set up

Emmett and Jim catch up before the show

Only part of the onstage pedal mess

The Audience waits patiently in the lobby
starring Barry Silverman as "Mr Merch"

Eventually we "missed" the 6:30 start time and with an increasing number of Stick players frantically trying to set up on-stage and even rehearse with a "house drummer" they'd never met, a crowd grew to body to body proportions in the lobby. My dad and his wife made it to the show which I was very happy about. They had to not only cancel some existing dinner and show plans they'd had, but had to drive about 3 hours each way to get there. I chatted with them briefly before the show but despite trying to be "out of Greg's way" I was also trying to be present and able to help him if he needed it so my family and I didn't chat long. I was very glad they made the trip though and finally got to see some people perform that they'd been hearing about from me for years.

The doors finally opened probably about 7pm and we were off and running. Jim Bruno played MC and introduced Emmett Chapman as the first performer to great response from the audience. After Emmett came Jim Lampi, Steve Adeleson, Virna Splendore (who also played with Steve and Ron) , Ron Baggerman and Bob Culbertson. To close the first set, Bob invited Jim Bruno up and together with Rick the house drummer they rand through an old Stick Band tune and got a great response from the crowd.

The audience find their seats

Backstage first set
Backstage second set (Don likes being backstage)

Greg Howard opened the second set by calling Stick Enterprises from his cell phone on stage. His idea was to have the audience shout "We Love you Yuta" (Emmett's wife) on their answering machine, but their daughter Grace actually picked up. Greg was very subtle with her not letting on what he was up to, but got her to hang up and let the answering machine pick up. On his second try though the fax machine picked up! Finally on the third try we got it right and collectively left the message.

After Greg came Frenchman Andre Pelat and then me. After so much amazing Stick music and especially some technically and musically wowing performances by Greg and Andre I wasn't sure what I could really add to the evening, so.. I pulled out one of my big "synth happy" pieces; Victor's Chase. I followed it with the more down to earth Waking the Day to try to give people a 15 min overview of what I do.

Don Schiff followed me to close out the show, but Jim Bruno after having concentrated like crazy to pronounce my name right, introduced Don as "Tom Sharp!" I think he even fumbled through a few more guesses like "Tom Shrimp" before Don finally reminded him of his name. Poor Don! It was funny though. Jim said later that he wondered why when He introduced "Tom Sharp" no one clapped.

The show wound up with all of us plugging in and improvising. Virna jumped into a quirky bass riff that ground the thing.. but it was a well cooked dish of sonic chaos. Emmett's brother Dan videotaped the show (and much of the weekend) and upon watching the tape of the jam later someone joked "wow, and we're the teachers!" Not sure what the audience made of it, but we had fun! Bob introduced all of us while we were playing and called Emmett on-stage for a bow. All in all a great way to formally end the weekend! After the load out, the teachers, Jim Bruno, Dan and Emmett all wound up back at Jim's house for a little socializing. Bob had cards for everyone with thank you notes for us and we took turns signing each others cards. A great idea, and a nice memento to have. In the morning I dropped Greg at the airport and started the long drive home.

I can't "wrap up" this page without thanking everyone involved in making this weekend happen. My thanks to Bob for inviting me, Jim Bruno for helping to make it happen, Emmett for starting something so amazing, all the teachers for their dedication and inspiration and of course the attendees without whom we wouldn't have been there! Thanks to one and all and I hope to see you "next time!"

Goofy group backstage

Who's this guy?
(photo by Virna. Yay Virna!)
Dan Chapman videos the show

After concert gathering at Jim Bruno's
Greg and Don are good friends
(with clever ideas on sleeping arrangements)