For the trip down to Massachusetts I’ve hooked up with Michel Gaudette, another Montrealer who will be attending the event. After a five-hour road trip, we arrive in Northampton on a fine June late afternoon, and make our way straight to Smith College.
First impressions? This place is just gorgeous! Obviously, the founders of Smith College were concerned with offering to their students a highly memorable experience of their college years, and attention to detail was their greatest talent. As a newcomer, it’s the sheer variety (and harmony) of architectural, landscape and natural/botanical offerings which overtake your senses, and put you in a state heightened anticipation.
Upon locating the dormitory where Django In June will be taking place, we meet with Andrew Lawrence, the camp director and organizer. Second fortuitous moment in the arrival process, as Andrew immediately makes us feel at home, and briefs us on the practicalities of our stay. As with many other camp attendants, we have our own private dorm room, and full access to the dorm areas where learning and jam sessions will be taking place, as well as a cafeteria card for meals.
After a quick meal downtown, we’re back in the Franklin King House dorm for a the camp orientation session – the formal learning session begin tomorrow morning. Andrew’s up in front, happy to see the great turnout, delivering an enthusiastic welcome speech to a packed living room. From his first words, it’s obvious to all that Andrew is the visionary behind this unique event, and that he deeply cares about bridging the gulf between a great, living musical tradition and new generations of passionate advocates for the genre in North America.
To prove to us he’s our man on the block, Andrew then does the staff roll call. Here’s who will be teaching and performing at the 2007 Django In June:
- StÃ©phane Wrembel (concert Friday night)
- Tim Kliphuis (concert Saturday night)
- Ted Gottsegen (concert Saturday night)
- Biel Ballester (concert Friday night)
- Dennis Chang
- Michael Horowitz
- Vladimir Mollov (concert Saturday night)
- John McGann
- Matt Glaser
- Jared Engel (concert Friday night)
- Wawau Adler (one masterclass later in the week + concert Saturday night)
- Kruno Spisic (one class Sunday morn + concert Saturday night)
So how will event proceed onward, on a day to day basis? As Andrew explains, the camp is for the most part structured around three daily learning sessions:
- 10:00am-11:30am improvisation
- 1:30pm-3:00pm rhythm
- 4:00pm-5:30pm – eclectic offerings (examples: a famous solo by Django on guitar, gypsy jazz for accordion, right hand technique for guitar soloists…)
Also on Friday and Saturday evening two concerts will take place – the main draw of Django In June. As for the lessons, they vary with each specific instructor, but the curriculum is overall organized around key skill-building areas and core repertoire. For example, two specific tunes are to be selected for study each day of the event, culled from a master repertoire of 11 standards.
The finale of our camp orientation session is a small improvised set, as performed by instructors Ted Gottsegen, Dennis Chang, StÃ©phane Wrembel on guitar, and another fine Montreal musician, Josianne Laberge on fiddle. After four up-tempo swingin’ numbers – punctuated by thunderous applause – the crowd breaks for some free time. Andrew has set up a billboard for our use and reference, where each participant is free to tag his or her name to the various Ã la carte seminar offerings of the camp, as each day presents itself.
Even though I’m somewhat tired from the trip, I’m quick to break out my acoustic axe to join a couple of jams, already underway in various corners of the dorm. I’m excited by all the offerings ahead, and already wondering how much sleep I’ll actually be getting on this vacation 😉