In a few days, I’ll be heading south of the (Canadian) border, for a week-long vacation in Northampton, Massachussetts.

Why Northampton? What’s so special about the place?

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were allegedly spawned there.
  • One of my all-time favorite movies – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – was filmed (in part) in Northampton.
  • According to Wikipedia, some of the more illustrious members of the community were signers of the Declaration of Independence (though haven’t found out who, yet).
  • Perhaps a repayment of karmic debt for the witch trials hosted all over New England way back when in the 18th century, the town is also home to Smith College, one of the leading liberal arts colleges for women in the United States (where I’ll be lodging for the duration of my stay, in a residence).
  • There’s an Easthampton that’s southwest of Northampton, and a Southampton that’s further south of Easthampton.
  • Sci-fi writer Kurt Vonnegut stayed in “Paradise City” (Northampton’s nickname) for a while.
  • And much, much more…

My reason for going is, of course, musically-related. I’m going to Northampton to attend the Django In June music camp, a one-of-a-kind week-long gypsy jazz music seminar! From the DIJ homepage:

Django in June is really two events in one. For the general public, we’ll host concerts on both Friday and Saturday nights at the lovely Helen Hills Hills Chapel. These shows offer the opportunity to enjoy world-class Gypsy jazz artists in a live, intimate setting — without the additional expense and bother of a flight to Europe! If you already know which concert(s) you would like to attend and you just need tickets … You are also invited to a dinner showcase on Wednesday evening featuring our own Swing Caravan at the Sierra Grille in downtown Northampton.

For musicians, (including players of guitar, violin, mandolin, accordion and bass), we offer a variety of opportunities to learn and share. This year, for the first time, musicians will have the option of attending Django Camp — the first such music camp in the US devoted entirely to Gypsy jazz — which will run from Tuesday evening through Sunday noon. For those who would rather just drop in on the weekend for jamming, a la carte clinics and performances as we’ve done in the past, that will still be an option and we’d love to see you.

Though there will be many gypsy jazz luminaries present at the camp, I’m especially thrilled to know I’ll be able to meet Andrew Lawrence, the organizer and coordinator of the event. He’s the brains, heart and soul behind the Community Guitar Program in Northampton and environs.

Basically, the Community Guitar Program is a new type of educational offering to musicians in any local setting, using a group-learning instructional model developed by Andrew over a period of many years. The history page on the CGP site describes the genesis of his instructional model, and details the challenges and opportunities specific to the group learning format for musicians. During my stay in Northampton, I’ll see if Andrew’s got time for a recorded Q&A session, enough that I can distill into an amateurmusicians.net podcast upon my return to Montreal.

So there you have it. I’m pretty much all set to go. Depending on how loaded the schedule will be, I’ll try to keep a log of my Django In June experience as it happens. Otherwise, you’ll get the full summary when I’m back.

Until then… Viva le Django!

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