we’re not in kansas anymore


Sometimes we encounter an experience or a person or an unforeseen circumstance that seems almost ordinary except for a certain sparkle that shimmers just beneath the observable surface.  In the moment, you feel appreciative, but when you walk away, your whole world explodes, like Dorothy whisked from black and white into the full-blown color of Oz.

I got a chance to attend a guitar camp this summer that was hosted by Tommy Emmanuel, along with three other world-class acoustic guitar gurus,  John Knowles, Jim Nichols, and Joe Robinson.  It was a full-tilt week of guitar classes, performances, spontaneous jams, and other rockin’ collaborations.  It was indescribably mind-blowing!

A hundred or so participants attended from around the country, and a few from Europe, Canada, South America, and even New Jersey!  We were there to hone our skills as guitar players, musicians, song-writers, and performers.  From the love of our craft, springs an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, direction, technique, refinement, creativity, and camaraderie.  Most of us spend hours on a daily basis, alone, working out those rough sports, creating new material, trying to get our fingers to move in intricate patterns, banging our heads against the wall, I mean, plying into time and space the stuff that plays in our heads — a passion that perhaps not too many people really get — so when a bunch of us get to hang for a week, in a beautiful setting, we feel like we’ve arrived at Shangri-La!

When we sat down in that room, on that first day, all of us practically salivating in anticipation of a feast that would engage every conceivable sense we possessed, I knew something magical was hovering in the offing, already pulling us into itself, like a perfect storm.  I was not to be disappointed.

That week we basked in the unique gifts brought by each instructor: forging a path with his unique style, personality, methods, stories, and experiences of early courtship with the guitar.  We followed with happy alacrity – enthralled and perhaps surprised that our heroes were not inaccessible, or even much different from us (give or take a few hundred licks).  They led us forward, respecting each individual caliber of skill level and pursuit of our craft, with great humility.

Many of us slept only a few hours each night because there was jamming to be galvanized, conversations to be conjured, techniques to be shared, questions to be heightened by more questions, and amazements to be expressed.

Words do little to corral the complete wonder and bliss that permeated what could have been mistaken for a pleasant week of vacationing with a hundred strangers, in the heart of the Catskills.

By the end of the week we were exhausted, smiling, lingering, hugging . . . it was hard to leave that Brigadoon —  that enchanted place where Music was the last name of our new family, and no one was made to feel any better or less than anyone else.

Back in Nashville, I kissed my guitar and thanked her for being a vehicle for me to ride through an amazing journey.  But now I had to release my impossible hold on the fast-fading effervescence of magic.  Glassy-eyed, I gazed out my kitchen door, into my back yard.  But before my ordinary world ensconced my senses, I heard a voice say, “You’re not the same person. Your life has been transformed.”

It was me, pronouncing an edict from somewhere outside my brain, perhaps from my soul.  After a moment’s ponderance, I came out of my miasma.  “Yea!”  I answered.  “I used to be a fledgling, trying to make it in the music world.  Now I can fly!”

Huge THANKS to all the wonderful people who attended — all the new faces and beautiful souls I met; and to Tommy, John, Joe, and Jim, who gave from their hearts; and to the staffers at Full Moon Resort, who never tired of serving us with smiles!  Photos courtesy of Sean Grinstead and Michael Bloom Photography, except the last one by Dave Hill.   And special shout out to Kirby, who was the sweetest roomie ever!  Not only can she burn that rosewood, she also has a dog that can talk.  Uhuh — and she was on the David Letterman Show to prove it.  Go ahead, watch this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZxIaTdC5MU