By: Dr. Matt Warnock
For three days in July I had the pleasure of teaching at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s annual Guitar Weekend Workshop. The three-day event featured workshops and masterclasses taught by some of the finest guitar pedagogues from the Milwaukee and Chicago metro areas. The workshop was attended by students of all ages, experience levels, musical backgrounds and tastes from across the Milwaukee/Illinois region.
Housed in the WCM’s main building, a Victorian-style mansion located on the Milwaukee waterfront, the Conservatory is one of the most storied establishments in music education. Since its inception in 1899, the WCM has provided a world-class musical education to musicians of many styles and backgrounds for over 110 years. The Guitar Weekend Workshop was no exception.
The core group of guitar faculty was made up of classical guitarist Tom Clippert, fingerstyle and rock guitarist Matthew Schroeder, jazz guitarist Paul Silbergleit and yours truly on rock and blues. As well, each day featured several guest clinicians that presented one-hour workshops for the students in between their regularly scheduled curriculum.
The workshop setup is something that I haven’t experienced before, but one that I really thought worked well, especially when trying to teach a wide range of students in such a short time frame. Each student picked a major and minor concentration. Choices were rock/blues (Warnock), Fingerstyle (Schroeder), Jazz (Silbergleit) and Classical (Clippert).
By allowing students to choose two areas of study during the weekend, each participant was able to study the musical genre that they felt strongest at, as well as explore a new genre that they may not have touched on before. This is the same curriculum setup as many university programs use, but I haven’t seen it used in the context of a weekend workshop before. I have to say, the results were quite remarkable.
Between the opening night meeting on Friday, and the student concert on Sunday afternoon, I saw all of the students in my classes make marked leaps in their playing. Because they were being exposed to new styles of music and new approaches to teaching every day, the students were incorporating these new ideas into their playing in ways that they, or I, wouldn’t have imagined.
Rock players were slipping jazz licks into their playing, classical players were exploring interpretations directly from the rock world, fingerstyle players were experimenting with classical fingerings, and the list goes on. It was great to see this cross-germination happening as the players opened their ears, fingers and minds to new forms of music and tonal possibilities.
The WCM should be commended for putting on a great workshop, and none of it would’ve been possible without the organizational fervor of WCM guitar chair Matthew Schroeder. I’ve organized similar events in the past and I know what a labor of love it can be. So Matt, my hat goes off to you.
If you find yourself looking to get away next summer for a few days with your guitar, check out the WCM Guitar Weekend Workshop. Not only is the curriculum and faculty top notch, but the facilities are world-class and a treat to perform in. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.