The Chicago Blues Camp is currently registering campers for its 2018 run. Instead of canoeing, hiking, and arts & crafts, Chicago Blues Campers are immersed in learning and playing guitar, bass, and harmonica, the Chicago way.
Founder, and Camp Director, Brett Champlin, promises there’s nothing else like Chicago Blues Camp anywhere. From June 3rd, through June 8th, campers age 21 and over attend classes in either intermediate or advanced blues guitar, blues bass, or blues harp. Classes are taught by actual working Chicago musicians. These masters of their craft include Billy Flynn, Eddie Taylor Jr., Harlan Terson, Bob Stroger, Jimmy Burns, Rockin’ Johnny Burgin, Martin Lang, and Matthew Skoller. But that’s just the beginning.
The week-long camp includes 32 hours of group instruction, where campers learn classic Chicago blues songs, but there is much more. 12+ hours of jam sessions, presentations on blues history, culture and development, workshops in specific topics, outings to famous Chicago blues clubs, lodging for 5 days and 5 nights, and all meals are included in the price.
For an additional enrollment fee, attendees can stay for the 2018 Chicago Blues Festival. This add-on package includes 3 additional nights lodging, within walking distance of the festival, concierge service, maps, and tips. (Campers attending from outside the continental US have this package added to their experience for free).
Instructors and campers both rave about the experience. Blues guitar instructor, Rockin’ Johnny Burgin told us, “I feel like the combination of classes with experiences listening and sitting in at the blues clubs is a real-deal experience. I wish I had something like this when I was starting out!”
“I teach full time at the Old Town School Of Folk Music, primarily as a bass instructor,” said Harlan Terson. “While it’s a great place to work, the blues camp gives me more of an opportunity to share my specific experience of 40+ years in the Chicago blues community.”
“I was fortunate to come along at a time when the creators of this music were still around,” Terson added. “I was able to see many of them first hand, and even play with some of them. They were welcoming and encouraging, and this is an opportunity to pay that forward. I participated in the camp last year, and was pleased to see how all of the students shared in the experience, and I saw a lot of camaraderie, mutual support, and encouragement. I look forward to participating again this year.”
Mike Enloe, a Chicago Blues Camp attendee from the US Virgin Islands, told us, “First, let me say that I have only good memories of a very good experience. The instructors, clinicians, and speakers were dynamite. I will single out Billy Flynn, our guitar instructor, as he was the keystone to such a great learning experience and fun week.”
“I should mention the immersion aspect of the camp,” he continued. “As a fairly new blues guitar player, I didn’t really appreciate the full depth of the Chicago side of blues. After a week of history lectures, tour of Chess Records, endless stories (‘when I was playing with Muddy….’), and learning from the classic playbook, I felt like I had lived and breathed Chicago blues. I’ll never lose that connection.”
Speaking about his first night at camp, Enloe said, “After arriving early, I called Brett to ask him how I should spend my first night. He directed me to look out the window of the dorm to spot Buddy Guy’s Legends club. 15 minutes later I was having a beer, listening to killer blues, and then watched Buddy make his way to the stage for an unscheduled performance! So, yeah, I’ve got my tickets, and am ready to travel a couple thousand miles for another best week ever!”
*Feature Image: Billy Flynn at Greenbelt Cultural Center, October 2012. Photo: Low-Reen’s Live Blues courtesy of Chicago Blues Camp