ROMP artists add to fan experience with workshops

·4 min read

Jun. 25—Harry Clark, the mandolin player for the Nashville-based bluegrass band East Nash Grass, has had an exciting time at the 19th annual ROMP Fest so far.

"Last night, I actually played for the first time with Dan Tyminski on the main stage," he said Friday. "And the night before, we played over on the (Jagoe Homes After Party Stage) with Theo & Brenna .... (For) my first ROMP, I'm getting a very three-day dose of it."

And while Clark's band took the main stage themselves on Friday afternoon, he brought his talents beyond the large festival grounds to lead one of ROMP's Artist Workshops alongside bandmate James Kee at the Jim Lambert Pioneer Village located in the back of Yellow Creek Park.

The workshops are led by ROMP artists on specific instruments that take place throughout the day, while the artists get a chance to interact with fans and players of all ages and skill levels.

"The artist-led workshops are a way for the fans to connect with the artists and an opportunity to ask them questions about their music (and) their style of playing," said Carly Smith, curator for the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum and site coordinator for ROMP.

"It's just a way of engaging with the festival," said Dave Howard, director of the Louisville Folk School, who coordinates the workshops. "The education part of it has always been interesting to me. ...There's something cool about the artists on stage performing somewhere where the barrier between audience and performers are lessened to a degree."

Some of the workshop sessions focus on mandolin, writing and band collaboration, playing banjo solos, fiddling and a Wernick Method jam class led by Dave Howard and Jeff Burke, while artists like Cole Chaney & Wolfpen Branch and Lindsay Lou leading some of the other ones.

Additionally, a bluegrass jam is on the schedule each morning that is open for those who want to play with others.

One of the early arrivals to the mandolin workshop, led by Clark and Kee, was Willis Howard of Whitesville.

While Howard, 62, has been playing instruments since he was about 15, he finds a great benefit to attend these types of events.

"I always get a different perspective on different styles and gives you a little bit more encouragement and kind of beefs you up ... about getting back out there and playing again," he said. "A lot of times, you get playing and you get kind of discouraged about what you're doing and then you come to a workshop such as this ... and it kind of energizes you about pursuing your own practicing and playing. ...It's very inspirational."

The workshops allow both the artists and the attendees to have a more one-on-one, personal experience for both parties.

"It helps me learn how to teach," Clark said. "I come from it at a pretty loose angle of the workshop. I just like to be asked questions because everyone's got different things that they're trying to learn on an instrument.

"There's tons of musicians I would like to get to know and get to pick their brain a little about things. If I could ever help someone find out what they're trying to gain, I'd love to be able to help."

Clark feels sessions such as these workshops help people see how a musician operates.

"I always get more from watching musicians play than just sitting and listening to a record," Clark said. "As far as technique and agility and stuff like that goes, being able to sit a couple feet away from someone playing and just visually take in what their hands are doing and kind of their body language while they play — that's really important ...."

And Clark said that teaching others can also be an eye-opening experience for himself.

"It can kind of expose my knowledge," he said. "Someone might realize that my knowledge isn't as deep as they might have thought. Sometimes someone will ask me a question that I had never even thought about and so then I kind of have to stop, reflect and ponder about the question they might be asking."