Gaby Baasch was the winner of the 2018 VBA Bursary to the Nimblefingers Workshop in August.
She recently sent us a summary of her experience.
"As I drove up to Sorrento Centre for the first weekend of Nimblefingers
the forest fire smoke was as thick as my nervous anticipation. I had been
pining after the opportunity to attend this festival for years and thanks
to a bursary from the Victoria Bluegrass Association, I was finally
afforded the chance. I knew that I was in for a week jam packed full of
bluegrass, but otherwise I had no idea what to expect.
From the moment I stepped out of my van it became apparent that this was
going to be an amazing week. Sorrento Centre is a beautiful venue
overlooking a lake; a sprawling green field littered with camp sites
nestled snuggly between trees, rustic lodging and various stages. The
gentle plucking of various instruments could be heard from all
Upon check in I was given the program for the week. I would be lying if
I said I was not surprised when I read through it for the first time.
Aside from our scheduled classes there were a plethora of optional
workshops, beginner jam circles, square dancing lessons, instructor
concerts, student concerts, and the list goes on! Everyday there were
activities from 9:30 in the morning till 10:30 at night, and the music did
not stop there. Around 10:30 we were fed snacks and coffee to help
energize us for the rest of the night spent jamming.
My experience playing banjo prior to the festival was fairly limited. I
had attended several slow-pitch jams and had been taking lessons for a few
months. Though I had been to a few bluegrass festivals in the past, I had
never had the confidence to join in on a jam. Nimblefingers, however, is
very beginner friendly. We were taught jam etiquette and encouraged to
join in as much as possible, and I can happily say that I left with much
more confidence in playing with other people.
In addition to learning the prerequisite skills to jam with people, I
left the week feeling more inspired to play my instrument than ever
before. Every single instructor completely blew me out of the water; I
have never before been surrounded by so much musical talent. I took
Patrick Sauber's bluegrass banjo workshop, and I'm so grateful to have
had the chance to learn from him. He is a bluegrass purist who insisted
that we never touch a piece of sheet music but instead insisted we learn
by listening to and imitating the classics. In his words, listening to
Earl Scruggs would 'make his hair light on fire'. I have taken his
lessons to heart and haven't looked at sheet music since.
On whole, Nimblefingers was a journey, both in music and in self
exploration. From nervous anticipation, to exhaustion, frustration and
blistered fingers, to the anxiety and adrenaline that is the student
concert. This night was the highlight of the week for me. There is nothing
more enjoyable than watching the people you have grown close to perform
their new found skills - to see them trembling nervously as they walk on
the stage, and to leave smiling with humble pride.
I can say without a doubt that the week exceed my expectations on all
accounts. I feel that I left having made real musical progress and genuine
friends. I am truly grateful to my teacher Cluny McPherson, who informed
me of the bursary provided by the VBA, and to the VBA itself. Happy Picking!"