4/30/17 The Alabama Folk School

Folk-School2I was elated to be asked by the great Herb Trotman to be a part of the volunteer staff of the Alabama Folk School held week before last a beautiful Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama. The Folk School has been going on for ten years now. The have instruction in music and arts and crafts.

There were excellent instructors for the music portion, and the famous Alabama Gees Bend Quilters doing quilting classes. Folks from all over Alabama attended, as well as some folks from other parts of the country, and a few international students.

My longtime personal friend, Butch Robins, was the banjo instructor. Nate Lee (son of banjo maker Chuck Lee) was the Mandolin level II instructor, Robbie Podrug was the fiddle instructor, Kenny Smith was the guitar instructor, Stephen Mougin was the vocal instructor. Rounding out the instructors were Jason Bailey on Mandolin 1 and Skip on Bass. Students ranged from raw beginners to advanced. I have asked for a complete list of instructors so I would not omit anyone and be able top spell everyone’s name right, but I haven’t received it yet. It was a world class lineup of instructors.

We certainly all met a lot of new people, made a few new life-long friends, and had a great time sharing music.


Above is a photo of three traveling banjoists: Mississippi Chris Sharp, Butch Robins, and Jack Hood…an unlikely trio, but banjo lovers and brothers from an ancient tradition, enjoying the beauty and restful setting at Camp McDowell.

Camp McDowell is a beautiful place run by the Episcopal Archdiocese. The food was delightful, and the setting was refreshing, pastoral, and rejuvenating.

I sure had a good time with Butch, Herb, and Mike Caldwell. We banjo players are an odd lot, finding company with each other as we are snubbed by the mandolinists, as the mandolin is the instrument of coolness these days. Of course, I am kidding, as no one snubbed anyone. One of the problems with getting beginners to attend schools is that they think they’re not good enough and will be embarrassed. The pressure they put on themselves their own; it does not come externally. No one wkes up one morning to discover they are virtuosos on their chosen instrument. It takes years of work. The amount you get out of it is very similar to the amount you invest. Everyone roots for you.

I have been invited back for next year’s school. Below is a link to the school. I’d recommend attending if you play an instrument, are thinking of playing one, or want to improve you skills. One of the greatest benefits is the ability to play with and compare notes with your peers, discovering that there is no problem encountered that others have also not had. You are not alone.

Come and find a new musical home.


I have some videos that will follow, later.

©2017 Mississippi Chris Sharp

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