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History of MerleFest Jam
Camp, with photos

Pete Wernick's Intermediate/Advanced
Bluegrass Camp, Boomer NC

April 20 - 23, 2020 — just before Merlefest

This camp has been canceled, as has Merlefest 2020.

However, there WILL be an all-levels Bluegrass Jam Camp at the same time and place, and registration is open - see this page for more info.

We look forward to seeing everyone in 2021!

Monday - Thursday prior to MerleFest at the beautiful and spacious grounds of the Camp Harrison YMCA at Herring Ridge, 10 miles outside of Wilkesboro, NC. Lodging and meal packages available directly from Camp Harrison. Onsite accommodations and meal info
For a look at a
recent jam camp...

MerleFest Info

In 2020 we will again present TWO CONCURRENT CAMPS:


for experienced jammers

directed by Pete Wernick

Limited to 50 students

For new or inexperienced jammers:

(for novice through early intermediate)

A Wernick Method Jam Camp, hosted by Gilbert Nelson

Total tuition $425 either camp

This year’s tuition has been raised to accommodate extra charges from the venue

Pete's Intermediate-Advanced Camp - $425 - or only $410 if paid in full by February 28th

* Complete the registration form and pay $100 deposit to hold your spot. $325 due at camp.
* To get the discount, ALSO send a check for $310 By February 28 made payable to Dr. Banjo at 7930 Oxford Road, Niwot, CO 80503

Both camps will run Monday-Thursday 9:15am-5:00 daily, in separate but close-by locations at Camp Harrison. Both camps’ students will have meals together and may arrange accommodations on-site.

Not sure which camp is right for you?


If you don’t qualify for the Intermediate-Advanced camp, this camp is the one for you.


(for novices-early intermediates) is a Wernick Method Jam Camp directed by Gilbert Nelson. To qualify: be able to change smoothly between 4 chords, G, C, D, A.

For information and registration: Basic Jam Camp

The Basic Jam Camp is comparable to elementary and middle school for bluegrass, with classroom-style instruction on jam skills and lots of time jamming in coached small groups, with instruction on instrument skills, by instrument.


This camp can be likened to high school/college for bluegrass.


Participants must:

  • Be experienced at bluegrass jamming including following guitar chord changes
  • Be able to play comfortably in the keys of G and D, and use the chord number system
  • Be able to sing in pitch and lead songs ("good voice" not required)
  • Be willing / able to fake instrumental solos on most songs in G or D (except basses and rhythm-only guitars).

If you're not sure if you qualify, write Pete regarding your skills in these areas.

  • Students may attend “as a band” for a discount (write Pete for details), or will be placed in small groups (rotated during the camp).
  • Ensembles meet twice a day, for jamming and/or rehearsing with coaching by experienced Wernick Method staff.
  • Instrument instruction classes and harmony singing instruction offered daily
  • Performance opportunities, with performance coaching
  • Camp performs 2 songs en masse on the Merlefest Cabin Stage to conclude camp


$100 deposit holds your spot. By paying a deposit you are attesting that you meet the minimum qualifications above.

Discounts available for members of bands attending as a band. Write Pete

Need-based discounts (for students who can't afford to come otherwise) may be available for players of instruments we're short of (most often fiddles and basses). Inquire about availability any time after March 1, 2020. More info.


We are often able to grant scholarships (up to $325 of $425 tuition) to musicians who are 20 and under, or who are service combat veterans, according to financial need. Grants will depend on contributions to our Merlefest Camp scholarship fund. To donate or apply, write to Pete.

Applicants should give their age, instrument(s) played, and experience and goals in bluegrass, and a short statement of their financial need. Applications must be received by March 15 and notifications to applicants will be sent by March 25.

Scholarship applicants must pay a standard deposit, same as registering -- refundable if a scholarship is not granted, but applied toward tuition if a scholarship is granted. If paying the $100 deposit is a hardship, please write to Pete.

Pete's teaching background

Practice jamming at home!

17 songs, just 4 chords and SLOW tempos. This DVD will help you prepare for your first jam camp.

Click here for more pics from this camp from ace photographer and jam camper Ted Lehmann

Instructional content

Teaching team
Pete will be assisted by outstanding multi-instrumentalists and experienced teachers including Joan Wernick, Scott Freeman, Steve Lewis, Keith Yoder, and Liam Purcell.

For new or inexperienced jammers

find out more about Basic Camp

For intermediate level jammers

(able to play comfortably in G or D, take simple solos on the fly, willing/able to sing and lead songs). You will be coached in skill-matched groups. Harmony singing, backup instruction, creating good solos, rehearsed or on-the-fly.

For organized bands

"Band lab", band cohesion, rehearsal guidance, stagecraft including working with sound systems, band decision-making and organization.

Comments from recent jam campers

“I have been waiting to start playing real bluegrass with people for quite a while, and now I can.”

“Breaking up into individual groups of 5 persons each, with little to no doubling of instruments, and having coaches participate. By far, this was the most valuable aspect for me.”

“ I and others look forward all year for the next camp. It is a high light in our year. We again get to connect with the great music friends we have made. We again get to see the teachers we have come to know, The positive feedback and encouragement is invaluable.”

“An incredible experience... a depth of knowledge on the subject beyond just technique, including the history, etiquette, and flavor of the genre.”

“Instructors were professional taskmasters that knew what they were doing. Everyone gave me valuable insight and were approachable and offered additional help if I wanted it”

“Closing with the show on the Cabin Stage was a highlight that I will never forget.”

“We were always jamming and always working towards jamming. I thought the performance on the last evening would be the focus, but it was really just another tool to emphasize jamming.”

“I liked having Pete's camp limited to more experienced players, but it was also nice to have Gilbert's camp running concurrently so that we could still see friends in the other camp.”

“The camp was amazing for me and much needed. I really learned a tremendous amount. My budding ear for music was greatly strengthened and this will prove invaluable as I move forward. The camp community was unbelievably positive and full of skill. I had begun learning bluegrass from books and had attended many local jams, but I really had no idea what I was doing or why. I had no idea I could sing, and yet many people at camp told me they enjoyed my singing. I had almost everything backwards in terms of my musical skills and talents. This camp showed me what I should be doing, how to use my skills, and why I should be doing it.”

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