When I was at NashCamp two weeks ago, I didn’t hear anyone else mention that they were a banjo teacher. I’m sure several of the people there besides the faculty taught at various levels, but I got to thinking how a forum such as NashCamp is ideally suited not only for students of the banjo, but for teachers of the instrument as well. Here are some reasons I’ve jotted down as I’ve thought of them.
1 – Learn New Techniques. Get out of the rut of playing the same things by swapping some licks with other players. Then teach these to your students when you get back home.
2 – Keep Your Ear to the (Bluegrass) Ground. Want to know who’s doing what? Here’s a good resource in the faculty and other students.
3 – Recharge Your Batteries. This really worked for me! Just the fact of getting together, realizing that everyone in this room you’re in plays the banjo is refreshing. (well, okay, maybe Marcia the cook and her assistant doesn’t play the banjo, but that’s alright!). Also, as a teacher, it’s not good to feel yourself getting staid and dull; doing just the same thing over and over. True, a lot of teaching is just that, but getting chance to look at the same material in a different perspective will work wonders in how you view these mundane teaching tasks.
4 – It’s the Perfect Networking Resource. “That’s above my pay schedule…” you hear someone at work say. Well, not everything is above everyone’s pay schedule. Just find them; and in the banjo world, this is the place to do it.
5 – Make New Friends. Sort of the social equivalent of the point above, this is perhaps the best reason of all to go, whether as a student or as a teacher. I look forward to seeing all the new and old faces (hey, you know what I mean!) again.
6 – See How Other, More Highly Skilled Players Do It. And there will be some folks there that can runs circles around everyone else. Take a hint here and learn from them; you’ll be doing it soon, also. For instance, I got a tip or two on optimizing my right hand; I never would have been aware of anything that needed modifying had I not been here.
7 – No Man is an Island. To quote the famous 17th century preacher John Donne. I know I’ve often just figured out stuff by myself, but there comes a point of diminishing returns with such an approach. It pays, technically as well as socially, to mingle your ideas with others.
“No man is an island, entire of itself … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
John Donne (1572 – 1631)
8 – Increase Your Jamming Skills. This also helps get you out of a rut, and helps you pinpoint areas that need improvement, both for your own playing and for your students. For instance, I had gotten away from diligently using the capo, and this was apparent in jamming with others.
9 – Get Good Advise on Trouble Spots. This was also an important reason for me. Good suggestions on how to help students get over certain stumbling blocks was invaluable.