ResoSummit Reflections – Total Dobro Overload

Many of you had the good fortune to hear Rob Ickes, Trey Hensley, and Mike Bub back on April 27 at the HVBA-sponsored concert. You don’t need me to tell you that they are amazing musicians; their tone, speed, and synergy are second to none in my book. Be sure to get a copy of their new CD — World Full of Blues. I have had the pleasure of seeing Rob and Trey perform in Nashville a few times.

In 2016, about two years after I picked up that crazy instrument called the dobro, I attended my first ResoSummit in Nashville. Sponsored by Rob Ickes, it’s a four-day, international gathering of around 100 square-neck resonator players. Rob and his indefatigable assistant Betty Wheeler (actually she’s like the mayor of ResoSummit) refer to the camp as “total dobro overload.” That is the truth! From Thursday to Sunday, each participant can take 10 sessions with world-class instructors on whichever level best suits his / her playing ability: Beginner, Low Intermediate, High Intermediate, Advanced, Very Advanced. Emphasizing education and inspiration, Rob described his goal on the ResoSummit website: “To send you home with enough homework, ideas, and especially inspiration to make this a highly creative and productive time in your musical life.”

The classes are varied each year ranging from bootcamp basics and practice regimens to deep dives into particular artists or songs; genres include bluegrass, blues, swing, ballad, and hymns. Over the past three years, I have been able to take classes with Rob Ickes, Andy Hall, Randy Kohrs, Orville Johnson, Ivan Rosenberg, Jimmy Heffernan, the late Stacey Phillips, Sally Van Meter, David Hamburger, Billy Cardine, Mike Witcher, Greg Booth, Gary Hultman, and Phil Leadbetter. Unfortunately, I was not able to take classes with Jerry Douglas or Cindy Cashdollar — perhaps another time. Master luthiers Paul Beard and Tim Scheerhorn are also on hand to service instruments and discuss setups and maintenance.

Instructors encourage all participants to bring audio recorders to the classes; it’s a great way to review the material. Admittedly, after more than 10 hours of dobro instruction, it’s hard to keep all the classes straight. Most classes also include handouts, tabs and techniques. I drive down to Nashville each year because there is no hard case that’s made for my Beard Copper Mountain resonator, and I can’t afford to buy an extra plane ticket for the guitar. But I do enjoy the ride through some beautiful country and the opportunity to stop at important places along the way, like the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Owensboro, Kentucky or the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. And Nashville has some great sites to visit — the Ryman, the new Grand Ol’ Opry, the Johnny Cash Museum, the Country Music Hall of Fame. This year I have a ticket to attend the Grand Ol’ Opry at the Ryman.

To launch the weekend of “total dobro overload” and before the classes begin, all the instructors perform either individually or in pairs — giving us a taste of their different styles. Beyond the classes, the dobro overload continues with an exclusive concert each night from Thursday to Saturday at The Station Inn, the iconic Nashville bluegrass and American music venue in The Gulch section of the city. What The Station Inn lacks in ambience and cuisine (crowded tables with folding chairs, beer, wine, popcorn, frozen pizza), it more than makes up for in the quality of music. Rob and Trey kick off ResoSummit with a concert on Thursday night. Friday and Saturday nights will feature instructors from the camp and their bands. Other performers included The Jerry Douglas Band, Molly Tuttle with Mike Witcher and Horse Country. Gary Hultman and The Highland Travelers, Lindsay Lou and The Flatbellys. The weekend ends with faculty performances again; Trey Hensley frequently will sit in and accompany the instructors.

The ride home is long, about 15 hours if I drive straight through. I take the opportunity to purchase some CDs from the instructors, so new music helps me pass the time; I also listen to the recordings of my classes. Just like the Hudson Valley Bluegrass jams, the fellow musicians are friendly and encouraging. This November I will return to ResoSummit, looking forward to picking up more tips and techniques. Happy picking.

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