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Camp founders Ben Winship and Tom Garnsey

The Targhee Music Camp was the brainchild of Tom Garnsey and local mandolin player, Ben Winship. Winship has been actively involved with the festival from its humble beginnings (in an un-mowed field with a small audience in the rain) to its current status as one of the select western festivals which has hosted some of the finest acts in bluegrass – Alison Krauss, Del McCoury, Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien and many others. Garnsey (coordinator of the Targhee Fest and Targhee Bluegrass Festival), has run the festival for the past 15 years and wanted to up the ante for the 20th annual Festival in 2005. Together, they decided that a three or four day camp would be a great way to augment the Bluegrass Festival.

While there are successful camps associated with other festivals (notably RockyGrass, Grey Fox and Grass Valley), Winship and Garnsey felt that the remote mountain setting and the fact that the resort was available prior to the festival weekend provided a golden opportunity and a chance to create something unique. Furthermore, the idea of a a camp meshed well with the resort’s mission of education.

“One of the things we have going for us is that the musicians who play at the festival really enjoy coming here.” Says Garnsey, “the performers enjoy the low key atmosphere and beauty of Targhee. So when we can offer an opportunity for them to arrive a few days early and teach, they often jump at the chance.”

“It’s a phenomenal opportunity to study with some of the best,” continues Garnsey. “Over the years we’ve been lucky enough to have instructors like Darrell Scott, Mike Marshall, Danny Barnes, and Tony Trischka – to name a few.”

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Scott Nygaard, Mike Marshall, and Tony Trischka teaching an improvisation class

Drawing on his own experience as an instructor at camps from England to Canada, West Virginia to Alaska, Winship has evolved a curriculum which strives to balance high level instruction with ample fun. One of the main goals is to try to make this camp as hands on as possible – both inside and outside of the classes in the form of structured and unstructured jams.

“Often times the most memorable experiences aren’t the new licks, or banjo tuning the students have just learned in class. It’s the song they learned in a jam at 1:30 in the morning, or the new friends they’ve made,” says Winship. “So we’ve tried to design the program to maximize those opportunites and take advantage of where we are. This is not just any music camp, this is Targhee.”

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“High on a Mountain Jam” on Fred’s Mountain

To that end, classes are often held outside and there’s built in time for hikes and bike rides. Now a camp tradition, the entire camp holds a jam session at the summit of Targhee – the now reknown “High on a Mountain Jam”.

2017 marks the 12th annual Grand Targhee Music Camp. This summer, Thomas Sneed will continue in his role as Camp Coordinator. Sneed toured the country for several years with the Reeltime Travelers. He brings both enthusiasm and a wealth of musical knowledge to the camp. Please visit the instructor profiles for a complete list of instructors for the 2017 Targhee Music Camp.