Camp Bluegrass

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Camp Bluegrass

by Stephen Pitalo

For 36 years, Camp Bluegrass’s six-day residential camp has served bluegrass musicians worldwide on the beautiful campus of South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. From July 17 – 23, this year’s camp carries on the tradition of perfecting individual skills in guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, vocal, songwriting, dobro, and fiddle. The camp also addresses personal musical concerns and offers special sound reinforcement workshops and traditional slow jam sessions.

Students attend classes in the college’s Commercial Music building and enjoy the nightly faculty performances in the million-dollar Tom T. Hall performance facility. The new modern housing center offers comfortable accommodations for guests.

The week includes instrumental, vocal, and band workshops, small group lessons, directed jam sessions, a student showcase concert, and nightly faculty concerts. Attendees study solo and ensemble singing styles, songwriting, the history of bluegrass music, sound reinforcement, and music theory for pickers.

“In addition, we provide opportunities for performance in group settings and special topic presentations,” said Alan Munde, founder and co-director of Camp Bluegrass. “This year, we are offering three short presentations titled Women in Bluegrass.”

The basic idea for a summer several-day workshop came from John Hartin, the Chairman of the Creative Arts of South Plains College. 

The Workshops

The first summer workshop began in 1987 with class instruction by the various band members of Country Gazette, a group that camp founder Alan Munde played in for many years.

Chairman Hartin, fellow faculty members Joe Carr (who passed away in 2014), Paula Carr, and Alan Munde developed the original concept and the support needed to initiate the idea. They organized each year’s lineup of instructions, class topics, schedule, promotion, coordination with the school physical plant supervisors, and all the nuts and bolts that connect these moving parts. Munde and Paula Carr now helm the camp’s leadership roles.

The school postponed camp Bluegrass for 2021 and 2022 for COVID concerns, Munde explained. “We will resume this year. Paula Carr and I have continued with the support of the Administration of South Plains College. Without the school’s support, we could not have survived the pandemic.”

Munde said the camp was a natural outgrowth of the Commercial Music Program at South Plains College, a stringed instrument-focused program.

“We pride ourselves in the quality and professional achievements of our faculty, which includes Becky Buller, Ned Luberecki, Bill Evans, Tim May, Dan Boner, Lauren Price Napier, Jimmy Heffernan, Elliott Rogers, and more,” explained Munde.

Additionally, despite the mid-July camp, the region’s 3,500-foot elevation provides comfortable morning and evening temperatures.