A series of Jim Reilly's interviews with players, fans, and the people
behind the scenes of the Chapman Stick.
A Tale of Many Seminars
January 30, 2003
Jim introduces Greg Howard
at the Cellar Jazz Club in
Spring seems to have come a little early in Kamloops. It's only the end of
January but already the snow has melted, I haven't worn my heavy jacket for
days and I'm thinking about moving my boots from beside the front door to
underneath the stairs.
In Kamloops, spring means warm days, the end of the hockey season, trips to
the lakes. Good times. For us Stick players spring has come to signify
something else: seminars.
Over the last couple of years these Stick seminars have taken on a life of
their own. I'm very happy and proud to say that I've been involved in several
and look forward to being involved in many more.
Already events are confirmed in
More will follow I'm sure.
Who better to give us the low down on these seminars than 'The Other Jim?'
While I don't think Jim Meyer has the record for the most seminars, Scott
Schurr in Portland probably has him beat, Jim certainly has racked up the
most frequent flyer miles getting to them. Travelling from his home in
Vancouver B.C., Jim has attended events in Michigan, Kamloops, Seattle,
Vancouver and now Germany.
Jim also holds the distinction of being both a participant and an organizer.
Last year his seminar in Vancouver was a great success. In April he plans to
out do himself with the Stick Retreat on Salt Spring Island near Vancouver.
I spoke with Jim as he was busy unpacking from his trip to Germany.
Jim Reilly: Let's start with Germany. What prompted you to hop on a
plane and go to Germany for a Stick seminar?
Jim Meyer: A couple of things. I was working on a project that was
scheduled to end in early November. It was really good timing to get away so
I was trying to make a vacation out of it. The last few Stick seminars I've
been at have been just incredibly helpful for me, so I'm always interested
in going whenever I can and the timing was right.
So I started to get organized for that, signed up for the conference and the
project got extended so the trip ended up getting cut short. It ended up
really just going to Germany for the seminar with a day-and-a-half of browsing
around. But it was excellent, it was an excellent place to do that sort of
thing: in a little music school, in a tiny little town in the southern part
JR: Take me through the seminar itself. What were some of the
JM: There were 20 Stick players there. The one in Michigan sort of set
the standard size-wise but 20 Stick players is still a lot of Stick players.
It was at a music school. I think sometimes the location can put you in the
right mood. The school boasts about 295 students of any instrument you can
think of in this tiny little town. It's this really dedicated community for
All the Stick players, as always, were pretty good guys. It's always a real
Right away we got divided up into two groups. Jim (Lampi) went with one group,
Ron (Baggerman) went with the other and in a couple of hours we switched.
It's a real advantage to have two instructors that have different
perspectives. When it's compressed into only two days that helps to really
get a lot out of it.
JR: I don't think you have the record for most seminars, I think Scott
Schurr in Portland has you beat, but I think you've amassed the most frequent
flyer mileage. So take me through the history of your Stick seminars. When was
JM: I went to the first two seminars here in Vancouver in '96 and '97.
That was when I was really very raw and had to force myself to go. I really
didn't know anything about The Stick.
JR: What was your Stick history before the first one?
JM: I purchased a used Stick from a guy up in Mission (near Vancouver).
I was always curious about it, having seen Crimson in the Discipline/Three of
a Perfect Pair era. A roommate in college had a Kittyhawk album that we use
to listen to from time to time, so I new a little bit about the instrument
since the late '70s.
Seeing Tony (Levin) with Crimson and Peter Gabriel really focused my attention
on the bass side, seeing as I was a bass player for a while. It must have
been about '90 or '91 that I picked up The Stick. I noodled with it a bit, I
had a friend who had a Stick and from time to time we would talk about it and
try to come up with things. But I really didn't make that much progress.
The first couple of seminars in the mid-'90s were just showing me the
possibilities. I was really just a raw beginner. I certainly got a lot out of
them but I didn't just devote a lot of time to it until about two-and-a-half
years ago when I thought, "Hey, let's take another approach on this." I had
always been battling with left hand being bass, that seemed comfortable and
an easy transition, but the right hand I keep think as guitar and I'm just
not a guitar player. I don't approach music that way so it was a barrier for
Then one day about two-and-a-half years ago it struck me that Stick is more
like piano. Piano is something I have a bit of experience with so just
thinking that way got me motivated to play again and things started to come
a bit easier with the right hand.
Then there was the Kamloops seminar.
JR: Was that the next one after Vancouver?
JM: No, I went to one of Louis Hesselt-van-Dinter's in Seattle. It was fairly small, I think about six or eight Stick players and Steve Adelson.
JR: So you went Vancouver, Seattle, Kamloops then the one you organized in Vancouver?
JM: Almost. Right after Kamloops I totally got the fever. We performed
"In C" as a group in the Art Gallery and I remember sitting between Glenn
Poorman and Jason Brock and it was the most fun I had had playing music in an
awfully long time. It really felt great and I just caught the fever.
I talked with Glenn about his seminar coming up in Michigan and had signed up,
cashed in my frequent flyer points then September 11th happened. I was
scheduled to leave two days after that and there just weren't flights. I was
really committed to going and thought I should go anyhow because everyone was
saying to try and stick with what you use to do but there just weren't any
So I was ready to go, I had the fever and I was looking for the next thing
and that's when you and I got the March seminar going in Vancouver. If you
can't go there you may as well bring them here.
JR: Bring the mountain to Mohammad?
JM: That's right.
JR: So we had that, then Detroit and now Germany this year.
JM: That's right.
JR: How many different instructors have you had?
JM: Greg was in Vancouver both years, one year was the indescribable
Don Schiff. In Seattle was just Steve Adelson. Kamloops was Greg again, Greg
and yourself in Vancouver. Bob and Greg in Michigan and it was really nice to
hook up with Ron Baggerman and Jim Lampi in Germany.
JR: Take me through each one of those people and give me a quick
description of their teaching styles, what each of them brings to the table.
JM: Don Schiff had such a powerful sound whenever he'd play a bass
part it would be something special. I'll always remember Don's humour. Even
now on Stickwire his personality comes out when he plays and when he speaks.
He was just a really fun guy to learn from.
Steve Adelson was the first guy I actually got a bit of a jazz lesson from.
My background is not jazz at all and obviously Steve's is. So it was really
nice getting that different perspective. We had a common interest in that I
was a huge Pat Metheny fan and Steve was as well. So when he played a little
Pat Metheny at the seminar it really captured me and took me in a direction
I wouldn't have gone in by myself.
Bob Culbertson in Michigan: I had never really thought very hard about
classical music on a Stick. I'm not sure why because once I made the
connection with the piano it seemed quite reasonable. I remember at one point
wonder if they had a Hanon for The Stick or could you transcribe Bach's
two-part inventions onto The Stick but not really very seriously. Then I saw
Bob playing the classical stuff and some of the flamenco stuff and again I
was off in another totally different direction that made me think that this
instrument is whatever you want it to be. And of course Bob's solid music
theory foundation is another thing I have so much to learn about. There where
a couple of 'light bulb going off episodes' during Bob's part of the seminar.
In Germany, Jim Lampi plays the most multi-culturally influenced rhythms. When
Ron and Jim played on the Saturday night in a pub they had a drummer and a
percussionist sit in with them. Jim would turn to him and sing a little
rhythm and then it would be 'ready...go.' I remember talking to the
percussionist afterwards and him saying that he really had a lot of trouble
keeping up with Jim. His rhythms were Middle Eastern, Brazilian, all thrown
Ron's booklet is perhaps the most organized thing I've seen handed out at a
Stick seminar. It's a whole bunch of single page exercises. Some are two
hands on the left side, chords, basic octave things, a variety of technique
type exercises where the fingerings are really important. That was really
And then I think Greg is the best teacher that I've experienced in the Stick
world. First of all, his heart is just in the right place. He really wants
people to move this instrument forward. He wants everyone to become better
players. He wants other people to be getting the word out. As an instructor,
sometimes he'll say something I may have heard before but he'll say it a way
that just makes sense to me. That could be a music theory thing, it could be
a technique thing, it could be why you plug your compressor in here and this
effect in this part of the chain, any number of things. He just has a way of
clearly expressing it that works for me. I always have a much better
understanding after talking with Greg about anything related to The Stick.
And then there's this Canadian guy (he means me). What you've brought to the
seminars is really valuable. You have a way of communicating the music theory
stuff. The sheets that you gave out in Vancouver with chord changes and their
options was just another weakness of mine, I've just not had any training in
that area. I think, like a lot of other Stick players, once I hear it, it
makes sense but I don't formally understand that. Some of the materials and
the time you spent going through that was really helpful not only in playing
and understanding things but when I start to compose it gives me more options
for creating my own stuff so as not to sound so straight forward.
JR: You've been a participant and now and organizer, what's the
difference between the two?
JM: It was really nice to go to the seminars in Michigan and especially
in Germany and just be a participant, just sit in the back and try to go over
as much as possible.
When you organize one in your own city, it is a fair bit of time and effort
but it is so fun to see something like that come together. All these Stick
players come to your town and have at least one, maybe a couple of nights of
amazing performances at a local venue. It's really great.
JR: O.k., give me the top five 'Jim Meyer Seminar Moments.'
JM: All right, number five and number four would be from Kamloops.
Number five would be when we were standing around in a circle at the end of
the seminar. You and Greg got us going through a little chord progression then
the idea was one of you would point at each of us and we would play eight bars
or something like that with the right hand. Everybody was doing a chord change
with the left hand and a little solo with the right. That was the first time
I had ever done that and was so nervous, my hand was shaking and it was a
little bit rough but when I got done I thought, "Wow, I've never done that
before" and it was really a buzz.
Jim performs during the
2002 German Stick seminar
The other Kamloops one was when we played 'In C.' It has to have been amazing
for everyone who played but for me especially. I had never sat in front of
people and played The Stick before. It was such a safe environment with 16
other Stick players, there wasn't any sort of pressure, it was completely
relaxed. It was an amazing experience that I will always remember.
Number three and number two would have to be playing on stage in Ann Arbor
in Michigan and playing on this little stage in Germany. Those are the two
times I've played solo in front of people. Both of them were a bit on the
rough side but I see those as the steps I've got to take to actually perform.
I don't think I have any unrealistic ideas about what that will be but it's
something that I really want to do.
The number one for me would have to be in Michigan spending a lot of time
with Greg driving back and forth between different places and talking about
playing The Stick and being a performer. Greg is so open when you ask him
something. Talking to him about being nervous about playing and this whole
idea that you know you'll stumble but you also know that you have to. Greg
was really supportive. That night we were watching the guys perform and Greg
dedicated 'Goya's Dream' to me. It's a piece that has always inspired me on
The Stick and he told me earlier that he hadn't been playing it much lately.
I knew when he played it that part of what he meant was, it's music that's in
me and maybe I'm not 100 per cent ready to play it this minute but it's just
a moment and just go for it.
I thought that was the most significant demonstration of the feeling of trying
to promote everything: The Stick, people who play The Stick, all of that
stuff. I think Greg is just so important in our community to be able to do
that sort of thing.
(Don't forget to check out the websites for the upcoming seminars on
Salt Spring Island and
Both plan to take the Stick seminar to the next level and are going to be a
whole lot of fun. See you there.)
Jim Reilly can be reached at
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