Four-day Bluegrass and Banjo camp kicks off today, June 6

One of the multiple music classes held during the 2023, Idaho Bluegrass and Banjo Camp, was led by singer/songwriter Chris Jones, Grande Prairie, AB.
Nancy Grindstaff
 June has become nearly a full month of music in the Weiser area, and the grounds around Slocum Hall and the Snake River Heritage Center came alive today, June 6, with the fourth annual Idaho Bluegrass and Banjo Camp, sponsored by the Idaho Bluegrass Association (IBA).
 According to IBA President Mike Murray, around 80 students are registered for the four-day immersion into the bluegrass genre, some who are new to their instruments, and others who’ve played for years. Murray said the students are primarily from the northwest, but one is coming all the way from France.
 “Last year there were quite a large number from the eastern U.S.,” he said. “I think some people see this, see the list of instructors, and they are willing to fly in to go to it. It’s reasonably priced, and Weiser is kind of a well-known place because of the Fiddle Contest.”
 The instructors are, indeed, all world-class professionals, which is a draw for student attendance. The 2024 camp includes a “band in residence,” Nashville-based Missy Raines and Allegheny. Raines is a multi-award winning bass player, and will be instructing bass classes. 
 “All of the instructors, they are as good as it gets,” Murray added. “It’s been why this camp is so successful.
 “What we have been able to do since the Fiddle Contest’s headquarters moved into Slocum Hall, we’ve had quite a few IBA members that have completed a lot of work there, in terms of remodeling and refurbishing, and making the rooms useful,” he said. “It’s been a good relationship, and we’ve had a really close relationship with Sandy Cooper (former NOTFC executive director).
 “But just the set up for the Bluegrass and Banjo Camp, we’re utilizing a couple of rooms in the high school, rooms in Slocum Hall, and some spaces in the Snake River Heritage Center,” Murray said. “We couldn’t do that if it weren’t for the Fiddle Contest and its history. They are very interrelated, and obviously old-time fiddle music is closely connected with bluegrass.”
 Saturday, June 8, will conclude with a pair of concerts in the SRHC auditorium, the students performing at 4  p.m.  The 11 world-class instructors will be on stage from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., and the public is welcome to attend both. IBA is suggesting a $10 donation at the door, which will go to The Idaho Bluegrass and Banjo Camp, a nonprofit organization.
 Murray talked about the reach of the IBA across the Treasure Valley and the state. “Bluegrass is kind of a traditional music and one of the things we try to emphasize is young folks and getting them involved,” he said. 
 IBA posts a calendar of events on its website, filled with regularly scheduled jamming opportunities for players of all levels.
 “It’s interesting, besides young folks, we see a lot of older folks who are near retirement who are just picking up instruments for the first time,” Murray said. “Bluegrass is a fairly structured type of music, where you can get together and learn songs pretty quickly.
 “We’ll get 20 or 30 people at the beginners’ jams on a weekly basis,” he said. 
 The Association now sponsors a couple of annual events, Wintergrass in February, and just added SpringGrass this past Memorial Day, with nine local bands playing at Green Acres, a truck food park along the Boise River.
 “We probably had 2,000 people there, with lots of young families, and lots of young kids,” he said. “The fun thing is, particularly later in the day, we had a lot of teenagers right up standing next to the stage to get closer to the music. I think we are seeing a resurgence of interest, and I’ll give Billy Strings credit for a lot of that, you know.
 “I know some people think of him as more of newgrass music, which is fine because bluegrass doesn’t have to be defined strictly as traditional music,” Murray added. “I think he has given a lot of resurgence to a lot of young folks in this form of music. My opinion is that it’s doing pretty well with the young crowd.”


Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

Connect with Us