Western Swing Festival hosts educational music camp for aspiring artists

This is the second year the festival has been hosted at the Enumclaw Expo Center Field House.

At the end of the Western Swing Festival is a dance competition, complete with cash prizes — if you want to compete, we suggest attending the dance lessons from 11 to noon on Saturday, Aug. 10. File photo by Ray Miller-Still

At the end of the Western Swing Festival is a dance competition, complete with cash prizes — if you want to compete, we suggest attending the dance lessons from 11 to noon on Saturday, Aug. 10. File photo by Ray Miller-Still

It’s never too late to learn a new skill — which is why the 29th annual Western Swing Music Festival is hosting a new Western Swing Camp before the festival begins.

The whole event is organized by the Northwest Western Swing Music Society, which has been hootin’ and hollerin’ in Washington since it formed in 1983.

For those not in the know, Western Swing is a highly improvisational form of country jazz that was born in mid-western states in the early 1920s and ’30s. One of its key features is the use of rural string instruments, like steel guitars and twin fiddles, rather than the traditional big band instruments that were also popular during this time period.

But it’s not just the music that makes Western Swing so lively, said Jeanne Yearian, the Northwest Western Music Society president and Maple Valley/Renton resident.

“The dancers and the people listening help make the music,” she said in a previous interview. “Their interaction with the people on stage, with the musicians, their feedback, that give-and-take, helps make the music.”

The Western Swing Music Festival, from Thursday, Aug. 8 to Sunday, Aug. 11, is filled with dozens of live performances, jam session opportunities, and — of course — an open dance floor, all topped with a Western Swing Hall of Fame induction ceremony and a dance contest with cash prizes.

And this year, in honor of Mayme “Lou” Bischoff, a dedicated member of the Northwest Western Swing Music Society, first responders (active duty police, firefighters, and EMS) are being provided free admission to the festival, plus one complimentary meal and beverage every day.

“In her immediate family were several first responders and veterans,” Yearian said. “She took every opportunity to express her admiration and gratefulness for their contributions to our communities and country. Her expressions carried over into western swing functions, honoring their service during showcases and festivals.”

But to get chord fingers stretched and dance feet loose, Suze (pronounced Suzie) Spencer will be leading the Western Swing Camp from Aug. 7 to the 11 in order to teach folks how to jam, play with a western swing band, and move along to the music.

“Music is a wonderful thing,” Spencer said. “It gives you something positive to do. It’s very good for the brain and the neuron connectors. And it’s the same thing with dancing — we all have busy lives, and sometimes stressful lives, and there’s just nothing so stimulating in a relaxing way [than] playing music and dancing.”

Spencer hails from a family prominent in the Western Swing scene, with her grandfather having performed with several prominent leaders of the Western Swing movement in the 1930s. She also grew up watching Karl Farr, the original guitarist with the Sons of the Pioneers.

In the late ’80s, she managed a music store and for 15 years, taught immersive Western Swing music lessons; Spencer continues to teach individual and group music lessons around southern Washington at festivals, universities, and camps.

This particular camp won’t be for people completely unfamiliar with an instrument — you should already know the basics, she said.

“We’ll work with the people who are a little less accomplished because the whole idea is to get them more accomplished, but it isn’t [time to] borrow a guitar and take a class [you’ve] never done before,” Spencer continued. “They might have a hard time.”

Nearly any instrument can be incorporated into a Western Swing Band, so feel free to bring your accordion or harmonica. And if you can’t play any instrument, you’re certainly welcome to come sing.

“It’s fun to make music with your friends,” Spencer said. “Making music with your friends is emotionally, socially, and intellectually stimulating… [and] it’s much more fun to play music with others, because you have to learn to speak the language, and you’re speaking the musical language with other people.”

She hopes that younger musicians will come to learn the Western Swing style and play along with some of the old timers.

“It doesn’t matter what your age is — when you’re playing music together, it makes no different at all,” she said. “There’s not a lot of things multiple generations can participate in together on an equal level.”

The camp starts off at 1 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Expo Center Field House with attendee check-in, teacher introductions, and class descriptions.

For the next three days, classes are in the morning and workshops and band labs in the afternoon, followed by jam sessions or breakouts into the main festival.

But not only are students learning Western Swing and how to play with a band, but they’ll be gearing up for their own performances on Aug. 10, demonstrating what they’ve learned to festival attendees.

For those looking to learn how to dance to Western Swing, the dance class is slated for 11 to noon on Saturday, Aug. 10, right before the camp plays at the festival.

More information about the camp and festival schedules can be found at www.nwwsms.com/events.htm.

Festival tickets can be bought at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4191655: day passes vary between $15 on Friday and Saturday and $10 on Sunday; weekend passes for all three days are $35; and children under 10 can come free. Additionally, families and groups can reserve tables to rest their feet and enjoy their meals for between $150 and $300, depending on the day.

Music camp tickets can be bought at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4101389 for $130. As of Monday, July 22, only a few spots remained.

MORE INFORMATION

If you want to join the Northwest Western Swing Music Society and its mission in keeping Western Swing music thriving in the Pacific Northwest, the nonprofit holds monthly board meetings at the Lynnwood Eagles on the second Sunday of every month (except this August) at 10:30 a.m. These board meetings are accompanied by jam sessions from 1 to 5 p.m.

However, if Lynnwood is too far to travel, there are also jam sessions at Enumclaw Music on Cole Street every third Sunday of the month from 2 to 5 p.m.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

Jam sessions outside the Enumclaw Expo Center Field House will be a common sight during the Northwest Western Swing Music Festival, where people can bring their instruments and join in the fun. File photo by Randy Hill, leader of the western swing band, The Oregon Valley Boys.

Jam sessions outside the Enumclaw Expo Center Field House will be a common sight during the Northwest Western Swing Music Festival, where people can bring their instruments and join in the fun. File photo by Randy Hill, leader of the western swing band, The Oregon Valley Boys.

More in News

Blotter bug
Enumclaw, Black Diamond police blotter | Nov. 16 – 23

A fake $100 bill, a gravel spill, and multiple commitments to St. Elizabeth Hospital.

Enumclaw council chambers. File photo
Enumclaw council moves on property tax, utility increases as part of ‘21 budget

Natural gas and garbage disposal services received a bump in rates.

book cover
Former EHS student pens first book of poetry

Additionally, the Unknown Poets Society is hosting a poetry competition, with a writer’s retreat as the top prize.

Jackson's on Cole Street had to close temporarily due to staffing shortages. It was planning to open up again when Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all restaurants to stop indoor dining for four weeks. Photo by Ray Miller-Still
Enumclaw’s downtown economy threatened by restaurant closures

Will outdoor dining and take-out orders be enough to keep local restaurants open?

The current Enumclaw section of the Foothills Trail ends at the historic Boise Creek Bridge. That will be the end of the line until a bridge across the White River is added, a step not expected until perhaps 2023. Photo by Kevin Hanson
County close to opening new section of Foothills Trail to Boise Creek

Unfortunately, the construction of the pedestrian bridge that will cross the White River has been delayed to 2023.

A King County Sheriff’s Office photo of the crawlspace in which Urbano Velazquez was hiding when a K-9 unit was used. Sound Publishing file photo
King County settles $2 million dog bite lawsuit

The county agreed to pay $100,000 after being sued after a 2016 K-9 unit arrest.

Contributed by the Society for Conservation Biology 
A map showing the locations where plants have gone extinct in the U.S. and Canada since European settlers arrived.
Study: 65 plant species have gone extinct in U.S., Canada

More than 65 species of plants have gone extinct in the U.S.… Continue reading

file photo
COVID-19 continues spreading at a breakneck pace

Every person infected with COVID appears to be passing the disease along to 1.5 people on average.

Flaming Geyser is one of the several state parks in proximity to the Plateau that you can visit for free on Jan. 1 and 18. Photo courtesy Washington State Parks
Free Park Days in 2021 start in January

The first free days are Jan. 1 and 18.

Most Read