Saturday, February 17, 2007

Here we go!

I've never done this before, so we'll just see how this all works out. I intend to post regularly here so folks can see what we do here at The Bluegrass Shack in New Athens, Illinois.

If you don't know about New Athens, here is a little bit of information. It is a very small town in southern Illinois. There are no fast food restaurants, but several nice family style restaurants and a few bar & grills. We even have a pizza place, but there's no delivery service here. The only stoplight in New Athens is out on the main highway. The town sits right on the Kaskaskia River, so there's a marina just one mile from our shop. You can eat at the marina, or you can rent a boat and go fishing. Every year, the marina celebrates the new year with a jump into the river. (Not for me!)

Now, onto our shop. The Bluegrass Shack is a music store that specializes in acoustic, namely bluegrass, music. We also deal with band instruments, and we have a complete repair shop. We do not work on electric instruments, but we do keep a few of these in stock for "other" folks. We carry lots of vintage, used and new instruments. There are more than 100 fiddles/violins hanging on the wall in the shop, most of which are vintage. We are the only Illniois dealer for Stelling banjos, of which only three a week are made. Geoff Stelling ( personally inspects and sets up every banjo that leaves his workshop. We also carry Gold Tone ( banjos and many more. You just never know what you'll find here because we're always buying and trading. You'll even find some vintage Martin guitars here!

The Bluegrass Shack hosts regular jam sessions. These are every other Tuesday night starting at 7:30 p.m. For a listing of the next jam, visit We try to keep that up-to-date and also post video clips of jam sessions. On average, we have 20-30 jammers here. Everyone gets a turn to pick or lead a song if they want to. Some folks come to sing, some just to listen, and others do it all! Skill levels run the gamut from rank beginner to seasoned professionals. Everyone is welcome and there is no cost.

If you don't play an instrument but would like to learn, we also have six experienced teachers here to help you learn to play banjo, guitar, dulcimer, fiddle, upright bass, mandolin or band instruments. The good news about learning to play a musical instrument is that it is never too late to learn. My oldest banjo student is Al. Al is 77 years old and is learning to play 5-string banjo (Scruggs, 3-finger style). He's doing great! He's been at it for about 6 months now and knows how to pick 5-6 songs, but he can play backup to many more. My youngest student is Audrey, who is 2 years old. Audrey is learning fiddle.

Contrary to what you might have heard, most people are not born with musical talent. Oh yes, there are those that are, but many are not. This does not mean you cannot learn! I've been teaching for almost 30 years, and believe me, most of the folks who come to see me weren't born with oodles of natural talent. They develop it through practice and perseverence. I've taught people with missing fingers or fingertips, fingers that don't bend, arthritic fingers, and physically and mentally challenged folks. Everyone can learn to play if they have the desire. Success is found in determination and desire, NOT natural talent. My hope is that everyone who has ever wanted to learn to play something will actually go out and do it! It's so much fun!

Over the next few days, weeks, months and years, I'm going to post all kinds of information about learning instruments, instrument repairs, jam sessions, interesting musical information, etc. I hope you'll find this a place that you enjoy coming to!

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