If he holds it, they will come.
“He” is Steve Kaufman, local businessman and a respected flatpick guitarist around the world. “It” is the annual summer instructional camp, held on the Maryville College campus starting June 15. “They” are some of the best musicians on the planet. Between them, they have enough awards, accolades and championships to fill a couple of tractor-trailers.
In their home states (and in some cases, home countries), they’re revered for their skills. Among the students they teach, they’re looked up to as quasi-deities that can do things with their instruments that leave most players staring slack-jawed in amazement. And for two weeks, they’ll put those skills on display at a series of concerts open to the public.
Yes, it’s time once again for Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Concert Series, held every night (except Sunday), which will run through June 26. It’s difficult to get across just how rare this gathering of musicians is — all of them, individually, can command ticket prices among their contemporaries and followers that’s a good deal more expensive than the $13 to $15 it takes to get in the door at Maryville College’s Alumni Gym over the next two weeks.
And to have more than one on the same stage in a single night … well, it’s nothing short of extraordinary. And it’s the reason Kaufman himself is at a loss when locals ask him which night will feature the best concert.
“They’ll say, ‘What’s the best night to come out?’, but it really doesn’t matter what night you come out,” Kaufman told The Daily Times last summer. “People tend to buy tickets toward the end of the camps because they hear those nights are the big finale, but I tell them, ‘No — every night is a finale.’ They may not be common names that everyone knows, but these are musicians who are world-famous. They’re all unbelievable.”
Kaufman, who makes a living through flatpick guitar instruction — both workshops and instructional merchandise — organized the first camp, a week of flatpicking, 14 years ago. Over the years, the camps have grown to include classes in mandolin, banjo, fingerpick guitar and old-time banjo. The camps make up the largest banjo, mandolin and flatpicking camps in the world, and the difficulty ranges from advanced classes to courses for those who have never played an instrument before.As the classes have grown, so have the need for instructors, and Kaufman annually recruits some of the best instrumentalists in the world every year. One of the traditions has been the nightly concert series, which has gained a reputation in its own right.
Monday, June 15: Steve Kaufman and Friends, Steve Baughman (Calif.), Cindy Gray (Nev.), Mike Clemmer (Townsend)
Tuesday, June 16: Fred Sokolow (Calif.), Mike Muddox (Colo.), Evie Laden (Calif.), Keith Yoder (Idaho)
Wednesday, June 17: Rusty Holloway (Knoxville), Casey Henry (Tenn.), Rolly Brown (Penn.), Johnny Bellar (Tenn.)
Thursday, June 18: Laura Boosinger (N.C.), Jeff Jenkins (Tenn.), Stacy Phillips (Conn.), Just Us Bluegrass Band (Tenn.)
Friday, June 19: Mark Cosgrove (Penn.), Chris Proctor (Utah), Dan Crary (Calif.), Bobby Hicks (N.C.), Kamp Kompanions
Saturday, June 20: Steve Kaufman and the Instructor Concert Finale
Monday, June 22: Steve Kaufman and Friends, Keith Yoder, Andy Owens (N.C.), Eric Thompson (Calif.)
Tuesday, June 23: Robin Kessinger (W. Va.), Mike Kaufman (N.J.), Kathy Chiavola (Tenn.), Gary Davis (Tenn.), Scott Nygaard (Calif.)
Wednesday, June 24: Tony McManus (Scotland), Cindy Gray, Casey Henry, John Moore (Colo.), Just Us Bluegrass Band
Thursday, June 25: Robin Bullock (Washington, D.C.), Bill Keith (N.Y.), Beppe Gambetta (Italy), Bill Evans, John Reischman (Canada)
Friday, June 26: The Kruger Brothers (Switzerland), Don Stiernberg (Ill.), John Carlini (N.J.), David Harvey (Tenn.), Kamp Kompanions
Saturday, June 27: Steve Kaufman and the Instructor Concert Finale
All concerts will be held in the Alumni Gym on the Maryville College campus. All of them begin at 7 p.m. and cost $13 in advance and $15 at the door. For more information, call 982-3808 or 983-3330 to order over the phone prior to the day of the show or stop by Murlin’s Music World in downtown Maryville to pick up tickets. For more information, check out the concert series web site.