ROBINWOOD MUSIC RETREATS
News about the Robinwood Guitar Retreats, since folks have been asking:
We were on a real nice upward trajectory our first couple of years, and then the pandemic came along and changed so many things in all our lives. We kept rescheduling and having to cancel, we realized that many of our attendees and potential attendees were still uncertain about group events even after things opened back up, and on top of all that, the retreat center who hosted the retreats has changed their policies, now requiring a minimum of 25 participants for any event held there. I don’t blame them for that, especially after two years of pandemic, and I’d probably do the same thing if I were in their position, but it does mean that if and when we restart Robinwood, it’ll have to be in a different location, possibly an entirely different model.
So for the time being, Robinwood is in a state of suspended animation while we ponder different possibilities and weigh our options. All of which is to say, there won’t be a Robinwood Guitar Retreat in the fall of 2022. If all goes well we’ll start it back up in some form in 2023, and you’ll hear all about it here when we do. (And we’re open to any suggestions as to where to hold it and what form you’d like to see it take – get in touch if you’d like to offer ideas!)
Robin Bullock has been hailed as “one of the best folk instrumentalists in the business” by Sing Out! Magazine, a “Celtic guitar god” by the Baltimore City Paper, and one of the 100 Greatest Acoustic Guitarists by DigitalDreamDoor.com. His many honors include Editor’s Pick and Player’s Choice Awards from Acoustic Guitar Magazine, the Association for Independent Music’s prestigious INDIE Award (with the world-music trio Helicon), multiple Washington Area Music Association WAMMIE Awards, a Governor’s Award from the Maryland State Arts Council and a bronze medal at the National Mandolin Championship in Winfield, Kansas. An experienced and articulate instructor, he has served on the faculties of Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Kamps in Tennessee, Common Ground On The Hill in Maryland, the March Mandolin Festival in New Hampshire and the Swannanoa Gathering in North Carolina (where he was honored in 2016 with a Master Music Maker Award for lifetime achievement in musicianship and teaching), taught privately at House of Musical Traditions in Washington DC, and led countless festival workshops from California to Pennsylvania and from Ontario to Georgia. Robin has seventeen solo and collaborative CDs to his credit and maintains a busy international touring schedule, performing solo, in Celtic duos with guitarist Steve Baughman and four-time National Scottish Harp Champion Sue Richards, and as sideman with Grammy Award-winning folk icon Tom Paxton, including four of Tom’s “Together at Last” tours with fellow Grammy winner Janis Ian.
Click on a question below to view the answer.
I have never been to a music camp before. What can I expect will go on during the classes?
The group sessions are the centerpiece of the weekend, but there’s also plenty of free time built into the schedule, for whatever you want to use it for: hanging out and relaxing, practicing on your own, getting together with me for individual attention if you like, jamming with your fellow campers or whatever. And fun musical stuff every evening.
We do three two-and-half-hour group sessions over the weekend, two on Saturday and one on Sunday (with breaks as needed!), and one final follow-up session Sunday afternoon – plenty of time for going deep as a group into all the topics we want to explore: improving technique, getting better tone, developing one’s ear and musical instincts, creating interesting arrangements, and whatever else we choose to tackle. I come in with material prepared based on my past experience leading group workshops, but I’m also ready and willing to go off in other directions depending on what folks want and need.
(And just to be clear: we’re using the word “camp” here, but Robinwood is actually a comfy retreat in a comfy retreat center, with nice hotel-style private rooms in the same building as the group sessions and the dining hall, and the food’s excellent – no roughing it here!)
I think I may have picked up some bad habits in my playing through the years which might be keeping me at a plateau. Will you be commenting on the students’ playing habits and how to improve and get beyond bad habits?
Absolutely! So much of what we do playing any instrument is physical, and it’s so easy to fall into awkward or counterproductive physical habits without knowing it. I’ll be sharing a lot of insights I’ve gained over the years watching and learning from many of my own musical heroes and studying (and hopefully improving) my own habits. Not to blow my own horn, but I find I can almost always make a significant difference in a student’s ease of playing, just from watching and coaching a little, and increasing their own awareness.
I have been playing on and off for many years but only in standard tuning. Will I be totally lost once we get into a new tuning, and if so, how do you help a newbie to new tunings feel comfortable?
For me, the point of altered tunings is not to make things harder, but to make things easier. To be honest, much of the music I use altered tunings for is fairly simple harmonically and conceptually, folk tunes and such (and in that simplicity, of course, lies great power), and the tuning does a lot of the work for us, making the guitar sound bigger and fuller with a minimum of left-hand work. So usually, with a few real simple open chord shapes we’re off and running. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to get amazing sounds you’ve never heard from your instrument before.
I have always loved your playing and want to sound more like you. Will you be showing us your secrets during the workshop?
I’ll be happy to show you anything you’d like to know about how I sound the way I sound – I don’t believe in keeping any secrets or holding anything back – but what interests me more than showing you how to sound like me, is showing you how to find your own sound, your own musical voice. If you can use what I learned along my own journey as examples and jumping-off points, that’s great and you’re welcome to it all, but ultimately it’s about finding who you are musically. To me that’s the goal of a teacher/student relationship.
I am not a big group person and kind of shy. Would it be OK if I do not socialize with others all that much? Or the opposite: will this be an opportunity to socialize and get to know other musicians and make new friendships?
You’re completely welcome to do as little or as much socializing as you like. Everybody last year was wonderfully friendly and welcoming and it was a big warm fuzzy good-vibe-fest all weekend, with lots of new friendships being made, and I imagine it’ll keep being like that. If you need alone time, though, that’s perfectly fine, and there are miles of hiking trails through the woods as well as plenty of quiet corners throughout Shepherd’s Spring Retreat Center to chill in whenever you need it.
Comments from Robinwooders:
“My sincere thanks for an incredible time of rest, relaxation, and learning this past weekend. Every facet was so well planned out and executed, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of folks to share the experience with. Perfect in every respect!”
“Great location, great experience, great food & accommodations — I am looking forward to 2019 already!”
“Hanging out with all you fingerstyle folks and the various tunings was both interesting and challenging, asking the old noodle to think in a new direction is always fun. The place was brilliant and the music fun and engaging.”