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About From Women's Hearts and Hands Guitar Camp
How It Began
Why Only Women?
Why Mendocino?
Soul Food
About Our Curriculum

Holistic Vision
Teaching Method
For Beginners...!
How Big Is Camp?
Inspired Directors
Our Roots
From Women's Hearts and Hands Guitar Camp was originally, and remains, an act of love. We decided to host the camps because we loved the vision of a festival for women who love guitar, and we simply couldn't resist creating one. In January 2001, we offered the first session of From Women's Hearts and Hands Guitar Camp. Our decision to produce the camp was not based upon economics, market demand, or even any reason to believe that anyone would want to attend. In fact, when we contacted Acoustic Guitar and Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine to discuss advertising, both magazines told us that women comprise only five percent of their readership. These statistics sounded discouraging, but we would have produced the camp even if they'd told us that only one percent of their readers are women. We love playing guitar. We delight in sisterhood. We couldn't resist the project of helping to create a community of women guitar players. Love is not rational!

Why Only Women?
Sisterhood is powerful! When women see other women whose relationship with guitar is at the center of their lives, they are seeing a radically under-publicized reality. Of course, many women love to play guitar, and take their playing seriously. But the media inundate us with images of male guitar icons, while showing us few highly accomplished female players. When we see other women who are serious players, the vision affirms our belief in the legitimacy of our own serious relationship with the guitar.

You might wonder why seeing other women players affirms us as players. We think the answer is that we draw much of our identity -- and our feeling about our identity -- from the possibilities presented by our culture. Of course, a woman might take her playing seriously even if she never saw another woman player. Still, we believe that she would feel AFFIRMED and SUPPORTED in her identity as a player -- a part of humanity rather than a freak -- if she could know of other women players, and know that her culture cherishes them.

And sisterhood is powerful in still another way. Women have a way of supporting one another that is very different from the way that most men support women. Women's support is sisterly, compassionate, encouraging, appreciative, egalitarian and loving. When no men are present, women can revel in that sisterly kind of nurturance and support. Sisterhood has almost infinite transformative capacity. It makes us better guitar players. It helps us find our way through the rough patches in our lives. It helps us become more loving, wiser people.

Why Mendocino?
We chose Mendocino as the camp site because we want From Women's Hearts and Hands Guitar Camp to nurture the souls of the women who attend. We relate to our campers as whole persons -- not just as customers, and not even just as guitar players. We want to pamper them and surround them with all kinds of beauty, so that they will be nourished at the deepest levels of their hearts and souls. We feel honored by the fact that our campers trust us with their time and guitar education, and we want to give them every good thing that we can. Mendocino is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places that we know. We hope that the peace and beauty of this place will feed the hearts and souls of women who attend From Women's Hearts and Hands Guitar Camp.

Soul Food
For these reasons, we feel that the camp cuisine is an essential element of the camp experience -- not just a frill, or a utilitarian necessity. We want to provide food that  nurtures campers' spirits -- wholesome, beautiful food prepared lovingly and consciously. Our desire to offer "soul food" is the same desire that motivates us to locate the camp in one of the most beautiful places that we know -- we relate to our campers as whole persons, as cherished guests. We feel so honored by their trust in us. Some even travel all the way across the country! We honor that trust and we really do care. Providing the highest quality food is one way we express our care.

Our caterers are professional, artistic, loving and knowledgeable. They prepare the camp food with love and skill, and meals and they even sing to the food during the cooking process.

About Our Curriculum
We create a unique curriculum for every camp. Our Registration Form requests information about campers' musical interests and levels of experience, and we do our best to make our curriculum responsive to the experience levels and musical tastes of the women who register.

We think that the most unique aspects of our curriculum are these:
For each camp, we develop an "integrated" curriculum. "Integrated" means that we offer classes that prepare campers to play in duets and trios. For example, at our upcoming camp, we will offer an Intermediate Fingerstyle class in which we teach a solo blues by Jerry Reed ("Blue Finger"). We also plan to offer a separate class in Chord Theory that uses the "Blue Finger" comp chords (different from, but complementary to, the "Blue Finger" fingerstyle solo) to demonstrate principles of chord spelling, multiple voicings, and naming and playing extensions and alterations. Campers who complete the Chord Theory class will gain not only a deeper understanding of chords, but a progression that they can play with campers who took the Intermediate Fingerstyle Solo "Blue Finger" class. In this way, we hope to foster duet and ensemble playing among campers -- and "Blue Finger" makes a really cool duet! Similarly, we make it a point -- during the Bossa, Celtic, Chord Theory or Blues class -- to teach a progression that matches the key upon which students in the Lead/Improv class have focused. This enables the improvisers to jam with campers who have learned tunes, theory and chords in a variety of styles. We try to offer several classes that prepare campers to play together applying the different parts or principles that they learned in classes, and in this way "integrate" our curriculum.

Holistic Understanding of Guitar
 In addition to integration, we try to create a curriculum that helps campers see a more holistic vision of the guitar. A beginner knows first position chords, but doesn't understand that the G7 chord is a triad with a dominant seventh extension, that the four notes comprising the G7 chord bear a special relationship with one another, that the guitar offers many voicings for a G7 chord, and that there are principles to help determine which voicing is most appropriate within a progression. In order to help campers understand, we offer a broad variety of classes -- everything from Celtic Fingerstyle Instrumentals to Delta Blues Songs to Chord Theory to Rhythm & Grooves. We discuss in advance some of the principles common to the tunes that we'll be teaching, and think about how we can best help campers make the connections among chords, notes and theory. Teachers agree to discuss specific principles in every class, in the hope that students will see the application of specific principles from a variety of perspectives. In this way, students gain an understanding that integrates playing, theory and fretboard notes.

Beginners Are Welcome!
During each class period, we make sure that there is at least one class suitable for beginners, one for intermediates and one for more advanced players. We feel committed to offering beginners as a full a curriculum as we offer the other players. Toward this end, we provide a "Beginners' Track"  that guides newer players through the camp weekend, and offers instruction in a variety of fundamental skills.

Teaching Method
Upon arriving, each camper receives a folder containing the camp schedule, some blank manuscript paper and a few notices. During camp, the folder fills up with page after page of music, theory notes and song pages distributed in the classes. By camp's end, everyone has a folder full of beautiful music to practice.

If we're preparing a "repertoire" class -- one in which we're teaching a specific piece of music -- we prepare the best score that we can. We usually include both tablature and musical notation, and, if applicable, chord diagrams with full chord names. We also include fingerings in the tablature or notation, to help students remember when they continue working on the piece at home. We identify the difficult parts, and think about how to present them so that they will be most accessible.

In teaching a fingerstyle piece, we guide our class through the score two or three measures at a time. We show the fingerings and play the section, then ask them to play the same section -- repeatedly, slowly, together. In this manner, we work our way through the entire piece. No one has to feel intimidated, because no one has to play alone. The method seems to provide a decent balance of demonstration and practice.

One of the most difficult aspects of teaching a group repertoire or technique class is the fact that the class includes students at different levels. We always ask ourselves, "What kind of piece will be accessible to the least experienced players, but also challenging and interesting to  the more experienced players?" Our answers to this question often determine which tunes we choose to teach .

If we're preparing a "theory" class -- Chord Theory, for example -- we prepare charts and diagrams, visual portraits of the ideas we want to convey. We make an outline that carries the discussion from beginning to end, and touches upon the points that we consider important. We work out some examples in advance, so that students will understand how the theoretical points relate to the beautiful music that we love. We get very excited about theory, and we love to discuss it. Indeed, we spend hours arguing about the most precise and accurate names for various chords -- and that's some of our best fun!

Why Only A Weekend, Rather Than A Week?
We are still experimenting with the format of our camp. Sometimes, we think it would be better if we could produce a week-long camp. We believe that we could offer more in-depth instruction if each class unfolded over five days, rather than just two. Campers would have more time to practice, write songs, become friends, and more opportunities to perform. On the other hand, more women can manage to get away for a long weekend than for a week. We have learned how to make the extended weekend educational, fun, delicious and loving -- although it is quite a blast of stimulation to receive all at once! We encourage campers to work for many months with the handouts given in the camp classes in order to absorb the intensive burst of new knowledge.

How Big Is Camp?
We like to keep the camp small (30 or fewer campers) rather than trying to attract a larger group. Everyone seems to enjoy the smaller scale and the intimacy it fosters. The problem with the small camp is that we are unable to take advantage of economies of scale, and we make very little money!

Still, we are committed to doing work that feels right in our hearts, and so, economic considerations notwithstanding, we probably will keep the camp small. But this is a live question for us -- how to earn decent compensation, yet maintain the intimacy.

You Inspire Us!
The camps always inspire us to become better players. We often leave camp inspired to work more intensively than ever on learning new tunes and new ways around the fretboard.

If you love guitar as we do, you can't help but feel a deep resonance with other women who feel the same way. We always feel very moved as we recognize our own deep love of guitar in the hearts of other women.

We hope that you'll explore our website, and get a feel for From Women's Hearts and Hands Guitar Camp. If you have any questions, we'd be happy to answer your emails or phone calls (Kay: 707/869-9642, answering machine sounds like robot; or Harmony: 415/663-8793). We look forward to meeting you and exploring together the mysteries of guitar, music and beauty.

Kay Eskenazi and Harmony Grisman
From Women's Hearts and Hands Guitar Camp

February 2003



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