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MerleFest Bluegrass Camp

April 24, 2023 April 27, 2023

for Intermediate/Advanced (“Level 2” ) jammers

Boomer, NC just prior to MerleFest

Camp Harrison, 7901 South NC Highway 18, Boomer NC 28606 (10 miles south of Wilkesboro)

Monday – Thursday 9:15-5pm each day

Tuition: $485

Includes lunches, snacks, and Camp Harrison student fee. $15 off through Feb 1. $100 deposit holds your spot; 50% refundable for cancellations more than one month in advance. You will be sent the full set of of student materials as soon as you register.

Other meals and on-site bunkhouse, RV, and camping options are arranged directly with Camp Harrison; use this form to request on-site lodging and additional meals: MS Word or PDF

In 2023 we will again present two concurrent camps:

Qualifications Level 2 (this camp) Basic-Early-Intermediate Camp,
Level 1-1.5, directed by Gilbert Nelson
Overall Ample experience with bluegrass jamming; able to solo in more than one key; able to follow guitar chord changes; willing/able to lead songs; experienced using the basic chord number system and jam etiquette Ability to change chords smoothly between G, C, D, A (or the notes that work on bass and fiddle)
Tempos Ranging over 100 beats/minute (if not sure you can handle that speed for soloing, please check) 60-95 beats/minute
Singing Ability to sing generally melodies accurately is expected. Harmony singing is taught daily to those who can learn and usually “hold” a harmony part Please try! Song leading is especially valued
Soloing Willing/able to fake passable solos in more than one key (exceptions: bass players and rhythm-only guitar players). Melody-based solos are the standard, so we try for that; ability to find melody notes by ear is expected. Minimal “placeholder” soloing taught, and acceptable; more advanced soloing taught but not required

Please carefully assess your qualifications to determine which camp is most suitable. If you’re not sure, write to Pete regarding your skills in these areas. We reserve the right to re-assign students between camps as needed.

Activities Level 2 (this camp) Basic/Early-Intermediate Camp,
Level 1-1.5
Performing Performance opportunity (expected but optional); some performance coaching; extra coaching available for bands No performing expected
Night Activities Open to participate in open mic and karaoke Attendance welcome at all nighttime activities
Hours, Meals, and Lodging Both camps will run Monday-Thursday 9:15am-5:00 daily, in separate but close-by locations at Camp Harrison. Both camps’ students will have meals together and may arrange onsite accommodations together.
  • Level 2 students should use this form to request on-site lodging and additional meals and submit to Camp Harrison: MS Word or PDF;
  • Level 1-1.5 students should contact Leigh Nelson at jamtowngrass@yahoo.com.

Instructional Content

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

New or Inexperienced Jammers

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

Intermediate-Advanced Jammers

  • Daily instrument classes geared to intermediate/advanced players.
  • 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.


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: April 1, 2023. Notifications will go out the following week.

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

Neither COVID19 vaccinations nor testing are required for this camp.

Until further notice, all Wernick Method classes will be conducted either outdoors or in very well-ventilated indoor spaces.

This camp is full! There may be cancellations, so join the wailtist.

Each student must submit either proof of full COVID19 vaccination (including booster) or a negative COVID test. Instructions are provided upon registration.

Until further notice, all Wernick Method classes will be conducted either outdoors or in very well-ventilated indoor spaces.

— or —

For a $15 discount, pay the $100 deposit by credit card and send a check for $310 by Dec 24 (full payment) to Dr. Banjo, 7930 Oxford Road, Niwot, CO 80503.

Deposit of $100 via credit card holds your spot. $325 (check or cash) balance due at camp. Register by Feb 24 for $10 off balance payment ($315).

Deposit of $100 via credit card holds your spot. $325 (check or cash) balance due at camp.

7901 South NC Highway 18
Boomer, NC 28606 United States
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Tuition: $485

Includes lunches, snacks, and Camp Harrison student fee. $15 off through Feb 1. $100 deposit holds your spot; 50% refundable for cancellations more than one month in advance.

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