We are fortunate to live close to Kansas City where the 30th anniversary of the International Folk Alliance music conference is going on this week. Associated with that conference is the annual music camp in the Sheraton Hotel, which is just an easy walk through the skywalk from the Westin Crown Center Hotel and parking garage.

The music camp is Friday, Saturday and Sunday with three sessions each day. You need to go online to peruse the long list of classes that are available and check out the pricing which varies depending on whether you are registered for the conference or whether you are taking just one class or several classes over several days.

Here is a brief summary of those classes and probably with an emphasis on classes that I might take. Friday morning starts out with 10 classes which include acoustic lead guitar, intro to autoharp, lead bluegrass singing, harmonica, intro to chorded melody for ukulele, fiddle expression and tone coloring, and others. How to choose just one?

The first session Friday afternoon includes how to play behind a singer, old-time fiddle bowing techniques, West African drumming with a djembe, Irish dance music, Celtic folk singing, songwriting, flamenco guitar techniques, mandolin right-hand techniques, upright bass, Irish penny whistle, and more.

The second session Friday afternoon includes blues guitar styles, songwriting from the heart, Irish drumming, Tex-Mex music by Los Texmaniacs, creating your own fiddle variations, pedal steel guitar, and others. You can bet that I will be in the room with probably lots of others with Los Texmaniacs. 

When they performed here two years ago, you could not find a place to stand in the room and when they played at the KC Folk Festival, they had a hard time getting people to leave the auditorium. It would be worth the price of admission just to be here for this one class. These guys are crazy good and no one sits during one of their sessions. You have never heard the accordion played like this. It is German, Polish and Mexican music blended at its best.

Saturday morning includes country rhythm guitar, improvisation on the fiddle, Middle Eastern and North African drumming, dobro, intro to Uilean pipes, intro to Middle Eastern music, and others.

First Saturday afternoon sessions include bottleneck slide guitar, improvisation on the guitar for fiddle tunes, Celtic folk dancing, exploring Tex-Mex music, swing ukulele, open tuning for guitar, song critiques, and others. I am going to have a problem choosing between the Texmaniacs again and the class on swing ukulele.

Second Saturday afternoon sessions include clawhammer guitar, intro to mandocello, improvisation and writing songs for finger-style blues, beginners salsa dance, Cuban tres guitar techniques, bluegrass fiddle, creating a vocal harmony arrangement, and others.

Sunday morning includes several guitar classes, ukulele, fiddling and banjo. Sunday first afternoon session includes more guitar, intro to Indian music, sitar and tabla, tin whistle, blues fiddle, singing, and more. The last Sunday session includes country lead soloing, Afro-Cuban drumming, dobro, old-time mandolin and honky tonk fiddle.

I skipped over some classes. There are plenty more from which to choose. My biggest problem is that there is more than one class per session that I would like to attend. You will pay a bit more for classes if you are not registered for the conference, but the price is still good, especially since you will not easily find some of these subjects locally any other time. Go online and check out the music camp list. I hope to see you there.

Matt Nowak is a retired natural resources specialist and lives in Lansing.