A Weekend Retreat

A wonderful, creative weekend!

As many of you are aware, last weekend I was at a guitar workshop for the entire time.  Even though I have only been playing for about 3 1/2 years, I wanted to see what the experience of focusing on guitar playing for an entire weekend would bring.  It was truly enjoyable, as well as educational!

The weekend started on Friday, as the five students gathered at a wonderful location near the coast of Massachusetts in Essex; after a wonderful dinner (the chef did a great job all weekend), we gathered for some informal jamming, playing an assortment of classics ranging from Tom Petty (what a loss) to the Beatles.  This was a great way to start and Janet, our teacher, talked about her plans for the weekend.

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Early Autumn

On Saturday, after a jog and breakfast, we started on songwriting skills with an excellent variety of exercises to get our minds engaged and open to writing lyrics.  With a bit of time spent on song structure and the narrative of songs, we created some rather interesting songs by writing a line at a time and passing the task on to the next person in line; this underscored the benefit of clarity in getting the idea across in each line.

The second part of the morning, included an exercise in co-writing, which was highly enjoyable.  In this exercise we first wrote the lyrics, after which we worked on the melody; melody is best worked on without the guitar by singing the song in an effort to find what sounds good.  Once we had the basic melody, we worked on the chords that would support the melody.  A great exercise, and even though our song is not likely to be a hit, I felt pretty good about my first song, and really excellent about the process and interaction.

In the afternoon, we focused on performance skills, which was in preparation for open mike in the evening.  Set structure, audience interaction, how to start that first song in your set and others were the topics of this session.  The level of this session was likely to be a bit too advanced for where I am in my guitar development, but still had a lot of valuable learning in it.

On Sunday, after another light jog and breakfast, we started on voice maintenance and development; as I’m one of those people who were told that they couldn’t sing as a kid (and told to mouth the words), this was very interesting and probably most useful of all sessions.  This led us to singing harmonies and playing together as an ensemble, in which we played different voicings on our guitar to create a more interesting palette within a song.  After a number of exercises, and lunch, we took what we learned to play and sing a number of songs together.  My favorite among these is Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Helplessly Hoping, in which our harmonies came together pretty nicely!

All in all, this was a great weekend!  If anything, I would have liked to have worked more on guitar playing skills, which is something that I will look at more closely with any future workshops.

Author: jansenphoto

A Fresh Perspective Photography is more than just a vehicle for capturing the world around me; it provides me with a palette and a set of brushes, with which I paint not only what I see, but also look to express the emotions that are evoked by the scene in front of me in that moment. Growing up in the Netherlands exposed me to a wide cross-section of visual arts that laid the foundation of my photographic view of all that surrounds me. Early influences were the Dutch Masters of the 17th century, to whom I was introduced by my grandfather during museum explorations; favorites among them are the scenes of quotidian life depicted by Jan Steen and Frans Hals and the vivid landscapes of Jacob van Ruisdael. My classical high school education was supplemented by the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, where I spent many a lunch hour exploring its great collection. Here I was introduced to surrealism with a particular love for the approach taken by Salvador Dali; Dali also rekindled my appreciation for the work of Hieronymus Bosch, who often showed the folly of us mortals. Universal Connections My approach to any photographic subject is to look for understanding first; in this I look to establish either a connection between the viewer and the subject or capture the connection of the subject with its surroundings. The captured image then aims to portray this connection from a perspective that is part of my personal interpretation. This interpretation is often a form of externalized introspection, which may alternately display the connection of isolated beings and items with their environment or highlight the whimsy of the profound world, in which we find ourselves. The universe is full of connections, many of which are waiting to be discovered; part of my journey as a photographer is to document these connections. Any assignment, be it an event, a product shoot or a portrait session is always approached through communication with the client; this is where the first connection is established. Ideas are exchanged and a collaborative plan of action forms, ultimately resulting in a set of images that aim to exceed the expectations of each client. And, lest we forget, it is important to have fun while practicing the serious business of photography!

13 thoughts on “A Weekend Retreat”

  1. I want to go on a retreat like this! A few years ago I took a guitar teaching workshop for school music teachers. It was an awesome experience, and I learned so much.

  2. Oh, Frank, this is great! I’m so glad you had an enjoyable time. Sounds like you learned a lot and also got clearer on what you’d like to focus on next time. How was it for you to sing? I’m glad you had that opportunity. All in all, it sounds like a successful retreat! And the jogging / good food is always a good experience, right? 🙂 Blessings, Debbie

    1. Singing was a wonderful experience, as I’m slowly learning to get more control over my voice and be more aware of how I sound. It’s a skill that I’m working on and will get better at.

  3. I am so jealousy oif your fabulous weekend of music Frank.I too was told I couldn’t really sing but being in the High School Choir gave me voice. I was also in the Combined High Schools choir with kids from all over the state. That is an experience I shall never forget. I still can’t sing 😀

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