The Ghost Ranch Bluegrass Camp began in 2010, when Patty Meneley approached Mike Finders about constructing and staffing a short retreat program for intermediate and beginner bluegrass musicians, wanting an experience to truly lever the students into the next level of their bluegrass playing.
Patty had taken one of Mike’s bluegrass programs in Boulder County, where he emphasized the impact of playing music for and with other people. Patty felt like it could work at Ghost Ranch.
She had a long history with the remote and mystical ranch, on the New Mexico high Sierra. As a teen she had attended summer camps there with her church group, and through the years of returning, summer after summer, Patty eventually became a staff member there, working the very camps she had attended as a girl. As an adult she has served several terms on the Board of Directors for Ghost Ranch and was tickled to be able to combine her love of folk and bluegrass music, the community it builds, with her lifelong favorite place on earth, Ghost Ranch.
In prepping for the camp, Mike was able to enlist the ready services of his bandmates in Finders and Youngberg: Aaron Youngberg, Erin Youngberg and Ryan Drickey, as well as grammy nominated mandolinist, Matt Flinner, as well as Albuquerque flat picking luminary and instructional guru, Gregg Daigle. The teachers had instant chemistry, which became a signature part of their community building approach.
Instructors and students alike are camped in the little cabins and bungalows around the ranch, and throughout the week, the gang learns to push, lean on, support and celebrate each person’s experience throughout the week. All the activities are designed to support the students playing with and for other people.
The four-plus day camp culminates in a Saturday night performance that has become a regional barn burner, with not only the other campers on the ranch (from other programs), but the ghost ranch staff, and many of the neighbors around the ranch attend the big show at the end of the bluegrass camp.
The success of the camp over the last decade is indicated in the return of musicians to the camp year after year, as well as the marked improvement of their bluegrass playing. Many have gone on to form bands and play gigs. Sometimes, they even make MONEY.
It’s truly a wonder that the camp has now been able to keep the same staff, at the same tremendous place, doing this transformative programming for over a decade. There are many new ideas and themes and offerings we’re drumming up for the next seasons of Bluegrass Camps West.