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San Francisco Bass Weekend - June 9-10, 2007

San Francisco Bass Weekend
Following the success of last year's inaugural event, the second annual San Francisco Bass Weekend will take place on June 9th and 10th in San Francisco's Mission District. Organized in the format of a college-style workshop and led by a core group of professional instructors including Cory Combs, Drew Waters, Jason Muscat, Damian Erskine, and Matt Aiken, practical and informative classes that have been designed to cover an extensive variety of bass playing subjects will be presented to improve techniques, reinforce concepts, and provide a solid musical foundation for real world applications. Aside from all of the playing opportunities available to each participant throughout the course of the weekend, students will be inspired with additional clinics and performances by Michael Manring, Stuart Hamm, Jeff Schmidt, Jean Baudin, and Todd Johnson.

In this interview, San Francisco Bass Weekend co-founder Cory Combs talks about this year's event.

How did the San Francisco Bass Weekend come about?

As a long time bass teacher, I was coming across more and more students who seemed to really love the culture of bass playing. For many of these players, the bass inspired something deeper than just learning the instrument. Even if they had no aspirations to be professional musicians, they all knew the history of the instrument, who the key figures were, what gear was the best, who was playing in town, and also shared the belief that the low end holds all styles of music together.

Because I was able to share my idea with students and gauge interest, I saw that an intensive workshop for Bay Area bassists had the potential to be a successful event. I immediately enlisted the help of Drew Waters and Jason Muscat, two very talented bassists and good friends, and we started planning for our inaugural Bass Weekend in 2006.

The core of our idea was to present more than just guest star clinics. We wanted to give classroom-style workshops on some of the fundamentals of bass playing including groove, reading, rhythm, practice, improvisation, sound, and technique. These were all elements that our students were expressing great interest. In addition, we wanted to provide a place for students to get together, share ideas, and compare concepts.

For our first time out, the weekend was a success, and we immediately began talking about the 2007 Bass Weekend which is quickly approaching.

This year's event is returning to our great Mission District location at 1875 Mission Street. The location is a refurbished top floor of a warehouse which is currently used by Waldorf High School's art department. There is ample space for the classes and concerts with parking right next to the venue. In addition, this year Joe Zon from Zon Guitars is hosting a kick off concert on June 8th at the Jazzschool in Berkeley where some of his amazing endorsees will be performing including Michael Manring, Damian Erskine, Todd Johnson, Ray Riendeau, and Jonni Lightfoot.

Could you tell us about the core instructors and the guest performers?

Part of my belief in what we are doing is the skill of all the teachers and performers involved. We designed the weekend to be centered around great teachers as well as performers. Our core instructors are some of the most talented players and teachers I know.

Dr. Drew Waters and I attended the Eastman School of Music while working towards our master's degrees. After Eastman, he went on to complete a doctorate at New York University and then taught at various colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. A recent transplant to the Bay Area, Drew is a fantastic bassist and composer.

Jason Muscat is one of the top-call bassists on the local scene. He's played professionally in San Francisco since 1990, and during that time, he has played with a wide variety of musicians and bands. He can cover basically any style and has developed an amazing technique on the instrument. He's also developed a great method of sharing his bass techniques with his students.

Matt Aiken, our guest drummer, is another Eastman graduate. We decided to bring him out from New York City both last year and this year so bassists can have a one-on-one experience working with a fantastic drummer. Matt's ability to share insight on the ever important bass/drum relationship was a highlight from last year's event, and we're thrilled he's coming back to offer more.

Our newest edition to our group of teachers is Oregon bassist and Zon artist Damian Erskine. Damian is quickly building his reputation as one of the real upcoming talents on the bass. His playing is unique, and his groove playing is sensational. We all feel lucky Damian had time in his schedule to come down and teach with us, and we know he'll have a lot to offer to our students.

For our guest performers, we are bringing back our unbelievable crew from last year with one important addition.

Jeff Schmidt, one of our favorite solo bassists, is returning to do another set this summer. After watching Jeff's playing, composing, and unique approach to the instrument first hand last summer, it was easy to see why he won the 2005 Bass Extreme Solo Bass Competition.

Jean Baudin will return to perform on his 11-string monster, tapping through an amazing set of originals and unique covers. Jean's playing was a real hit last year, and his approach to the bass is really something unique to see and hear.

Todd Johnson, a great teacher and jazz bassist from the Los Angeles area is returning again to give a clinic on his original technique and practice styles. Todd has worked for years to perfect his bass chording technique. He can provide chordal accompaniment and solo at the same time like the best jazz guitarists. Seeing him play through a standard on his 6-string Zon like Joe Pass or Jim Hall is awe-inspiring.

San Francisco Bass Weekend Our 2007 headliners have both built careers around performing as solo bassists, and we're thrilled both are joining us this year.

Last summer, Michael Manring blew us all away with his set of improvised and composed music. In addition, his question and answer session was inspiring for all of us as he honestly addressed his thoughts on his art, performing, and the bass. Michael has earned his reputation as one of the most creative bassists for good reason, and to see him up close in this intimate setting is a unique opportunity. We are honored he's returning this summer to work again with our students.

Finally, we're proud that San Francisco native Stuart Hamm is taking time from his busy touring schedule to join us this year for a solo set and clinic. Having been developing his unique approach and technique for years, Stuart is really one of the pioneers of solo electric bass performance. Following the recent success of his Bx3 tour, we're all looking forward to see his set and hear what he has to say about the bass. A fan favorite for years, Stuart is a true electric bass ambassador.

What are some of the topics that will be taught?

For the classes, our plan is to cover topics that would be immediately applicable to playing situations along with some technique and skills classes that could be developed over months and years. We will present classes on practice technique, playing in odd time feels, soloing, walking bass lines, rhythm practice, playing with a drummer, funk bass, scales, and others. Again, our teachers are very skilled at presenting the material in an inclusive, interesting, and inspiring way. In addition to the formal classes, there will be many informal opportunities to pick up techniques from teachers during the weekend as everyone involved is there to teach and interact with the students. There is no "heavy artist" vibe from any of our teachers. We all love teaching, and we love talking about the bass.

Will participants receive any form of written instructional materials to take with them to continue studying?

Any good clinic really gives students ideas on how to proceed rather than provide any instant, magical fix. Our classes are built to help lay a solid foundation for any level bassist, and with that in mind, we want to make sure the students have something to work from when they leave. For each class, students will receive materials from the teachers on how to continue with the concepts introduced in the class, and they can take the ideas as far as they choose to after the weekend is over.

Should bassists bring their own equipment in order to participate?

One thing we learned last year is that it doesn't work to have 15 bassists plugged in at the same time. This year, students only need to bring a bass and a chord. The classes will be structured so that the teachers will be plugged in, and our class assistants will plug in students one or two at a time to play examples. Everyone will get a chance to play, and it will be a more organized, less earth-rumbling way of having a group of bassists together in the same room.

Are bassists of all playing levels encouraged to attend?

San Francisco Bass Weekend Absolutely! I answer this question a lot from interested students that are more on the beginning side. While our teachers have impressive resumes, they understand how to present material to someone just starting out as well as to the seasoned professional and to everyone in between. We made a conscious effort to design the bass weekend to be a non-competitive, inclusive environment, and we all feel that approach was successful. Everyone from last year commented how welcome they felt, regardless of age or sex. This isn't a chops fest. It's really a community building event where students are encouraged to share techniques, ideas and their passion for the bass.

Each teacher will present classes for beginners, in addition to more advanced level classes. Everyone will have plenty to take in, regardless of level. If a student wants to take a class above their level, that's fine because sometimes that can be an instructive approach as well.

Can you give us a schedule of the planned events?

We are still working on the specifics of the schedule, but I can provide a general picture of what the two days will bring.

On Friday, June 8th, we're kicking things of with the Zon Guitar's concert at the Jazzschool in Berkeley. The details of that show are being ironed out, but it's going to be a great kick off to the weekend featuring many of Zon's great artists.

On Saturday, June 9th, we will open the doors at 11:30 for students to come and meet the teachers, get oriented to the space, and meet the other students. It's a nice, informal way for people to meet and talk before the official event starts.

On both Saturday the 9th and Sunday the 10th, classes will start at 12:30 PM. Each day, all of our core teachers will present three 45-minute classes. Students will be able to pick their classes based on their skill levels and interest. We will balance our class sizes so that no class will have more than 15 students. Choosing classes can all be done ahead of time because we will e-mail the schedule to participants in advance.

After a short break, we will conclude each day with our guest performers and clinicians. Each day will end at approximately 6:30 PM.

Since all of us have taught at many institutions and workshops, it's important that we present a structured and organized event. This year, my roll is to be there at all times to address questions and help if someone needs assistance picking classes. In addition, we have three great interns on board to help during the event, and as we learned a lot our first year, we expect this year to run even smoother for our students.

What is the fee to attend, and do people need to register in advance?

Our fee is $175 for the entire weekend. That includes all classes and clinics. Because we are limiting space to only 45 students, we recommend that everyone register in advance. Last year we filled up early, and we expect to do the same this year as well. You can visit our web site to download an application form and read more about our teachers.

Will there be any equipment exhibits, and will representatives be available to discuss their products?

San Francisco Bass Weekend Part of what made last great was the generous presence of gear and time from our sponsors, Zon Guitars and AccuGroove. I had casually known Joe Zon for a number of years, and it was my dream to have Zon as a sponsor when I conceived the weekend. It speaks volumes to the quality of the company that Joe was willing to sign on as a sponsor our first year. His presence at the weekend was thrilling for all of the bassists and teachers. Joe recommended that I contact Mark Wright at AccuGroove to bring speakers, and he agreed just as quickly. AccuGroove had speakers there for all the students to try, and Mark stayed for the entire weekend.

In all of our opinions, Zon and AccuGroove are designing the best quality products out there for bassists. Both Joe Zon and Mark Wright are generously returning as our sponsors, and both will be on hand to talk about gear, show you products, and answer bass-related questions.

We are all proud that this is a real Bay Area event, and both Zon and AccuGroove are companies right in the area. We are thrilled for their continued support and presence at the Bass Weekend, and if last year was any indication, they may bring some swag for the participants!

We would love to hear from anyone with questions and comments, and we are really looking forward to the 2007 Bass Weekend!

Contact Information

San Francisco Bass Weekend
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