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Pete Wernick’s MerleFest Bluegrass Camp

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Pete Wernick’s Intermediate/Advanced Bluegrass Camp in Boomer, NC (just prior to MerleFest)

September 13-16, 2021

Monday – Thursday prior to MerleFest at the beautiful and spacious grounds of the Camp Harrison YMCA at Herring Ridge, 10 miles outside of Wilkesboro, NC.

To maximize safety at this camp, virtually all the teaching will be outdoors, with participants spaced. Close harmony singing will be masked. Outdoor dining will be available for all meals. All participants to date have been vaccinated, including three recently vaccinated. Merlefest is now “full vaccination or recent negative test required.”

Each student must submit either proof of COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test dated no earlier than 72 hours prior to start of camp.

All Wernick Method classes will be conducted either outdoors or in very well-ventilated indoor spaces.

In 2021 we will again present two concurrent camps:

Intermediate-Advanced Bluegrass Jam Camp

is for experienced jammers directed by Pete Wernick (limited to 50 students).

Basic Bluegrass Jam Camp

is for novice through early intermediate jammers; a Wernick Method Jam Camp hosted by Gilbert Nelson.

Both camps will run Monday-Thursday 9:15am-5:00 daily, in separate but close-by locations at Camp Harrison. The participants in the two camps will not be sharing accommodations or meals due to differing safety restrictions. Outdoor social contact between participants of the two camps will be permitted with masks and distancing.

Not sure which camp is right for you?

Intermediate-Advanced Bluegrass Jam Camp

This camp can be likened to high school/college for bluegrass.


Participants must:

  • Be experienced at bluegrass jamming including following guitar chord changes
  • Be able to play comfortably in the keys of G and D, and use the chord number system
  • Be able to sing in pitch and lead songs (“good voice” not required)
  • Be willing / able to fake instrumental solos on most songs in G or D (except basses and rhythm-only guitars).

If you’re not sure if you qualify, write Pete regarding your skills in these areas.

Basic Bluegrass Jam Camp

(for novices-early intermediates) is a Wernick Method Jam Camp directed by Gilbert Nelson. To qualify: be able to change smoothly between 4 chords, G, C, D, A.

The Basic Jam Camp is comparable to elementary and middle school for bluegrass, with classroom-style instruction on jam skills and lots of time jamming in coached small groups, with instruction on instrument skills, by instrument.

If you don’t qualify for the Intermediate-Advanced camp, this camp is the one for you.

Total Tuition = $425

  • 50% of deposit is refundable for cancellations more than one month in advance
  • Have questions? Contact Pete at: pete@drbanjo.com

To get the discount, pay the $100 deposit by credit card and ALSO send a check for $310 by July 31 made payable to Dr. Banjo at 7930 Oxford Road, Niwot, CO 80503.

Deposit of $100 holds your spot. $325 will be due at camp, check or cash.


We expect to offer scholarships for some or all of tuition and possible housing allowance, according to financial need. Grants depend on contributions to the Boomer Bluegrass Scholarship Fund. To donate or apply, write to Pete. Applicants should give their age, instrument(s) played, and experience and goals in bluegrass, and a short statement of their financial need. Special consideration given to combat veterans. Application deadline: August 1, 2021. Notifications will go out the following week.

Instructional Content

Pete will be assisted by outstanding multi-instrumentalists and experienced teachers including Joan Wernick, Scott Freeman, Steve Lewis, and Keith Yoder.

New or Inexperienced Jammers

  • Learn more about the Basic Jam Camp
  • If you don’t qualify for the Intermediate-Advanced camp, this camp is the one for you.

Intermediate-Advanced Jammers

  • Able to play comfortably in G or D, take simple solos on the fly, willing/able to sing and lead songs.
  • You will be coached in skill-matched groups.
  • Harmony singing, backup instruction, creating good solos, rehearsed or on-the-fly.

Organized Bands

“Band lab”, band cohesion, rehearsal guidance, stagecraft including working with sound systems, band decision-making and organization.

Click any photo to enlarge.

See more photos from MerleFest Jam Camps!

Comments from recent campers:

“I have been waiting to start playing real bluegrass with people for quite a while, and now I can.”

“Breaking up into individual groups of 5 persons each, with little to no doubling of instruments, and having coaches participate. By far, this was the most valuable aspect for me.”

“ I and others look forward all year for the next camp. It is a high light in our year. We again get to connect with the great music friends we have made. We again get to see the teachers we have come to know, The positive feedback and encouragement is invaluable.”

“An incredible experience… a depth of knowledge on the subject beyond just technique, including the history, etiquette, and flavor of the genre.”

“Instructors were professional taskmasters that knew what they were doing. Everyone gave me valuable insight and were approachable and offered additional help if I wanted it”

“Closing with the show on the Cabin Stage was a highlight that I will never forget.”

“We were always jamming and always working towards jamming. I thought the performance on the last evening would be the focus, but it was really just another tool to emphasize jamming.”

“I liked having Pete’s camp limited to more experienced players, but it was also nice to have Gilbert’s camp running concurrently so that we could still see friends in the other camp.”

See more comments!

Tentative Schedule

The schedule shown here is based on recent years’ schedules and is sure to incorporate some changes.

Time Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
7:30 Camp Harrison is closed until 4:00pm. Breakfast; early bird jams welcome, start whenever, end at 9
9:00 Camp assembly – orientation, announcements, all play Wristbands and directions distributed to all going to MerleFest that afternoon.
9:30 All play the 2 songs planned for Cabin Stage
10:00 Instrument classes
11:00 Jam Groups Rehearsal for soloists (only) for Cabin Stage / Others jam
12:30 Lunch Lunch and gather belongings to leave
1:30 All rehearse for Cabin Stage
2:00 Singing (harmony trios or repertoire group sings)
3:00 “Electives” — TBA including “learn bass”, history, performance coaching, improvising and more Sound checks for student bands, and jamming, practicing. All leave for parking lots in Wilkesboro to be shuttled to festival
3:30 All campers must vacate Camp Harrison by 4:00pm
4:00 Camp Harrison Check-In
(Tuition balances paid now or pre-class Monday, check or cash only — no credit cards)
Jam Groups
5:00 Fiddle tune jam
6:00 Dinner
7:00 Informal jamming Basic Camp performing groups plus Basic Camp teacher band; followed by open mic (all welcome) Level 2 Camp student groups and teacher band
  • All Wernick Method classes/camps will be conducted either outdoors or in very well-ventilated indoor spaces.
  • Safe 6′ distancing at all times
  • Temperature screening of all participants upon arrival, followed by all washing hands
  • Prior disinfecting of common surfaces (doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, etc.)
  • Student materials (all paper) will not touched, except by just-washed hands, for at least 24 hours before distribution.
  • Anything handed from one participant to another (such as a borrowed tuner or capo) will be disinfected before transfer.
  • With these measures taken, we expect that all can relax and enjoy the class!

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