Since the new wave of Gypsy jazz recordings and instructional materials began to come available around the turn of the millennium, North American musicians with an interest in the style have made tremendous progress. We better understand the unique cultural contributions that Django Reinhardt, his Gypsy contemporaries and their heirs have made to our own jazz tradition. Many of us have now had the opportunity to hear world-class Gypsy jazz in a live setting and take a few workshops. Some of us have a local band or jam going. We’ve learned some of the GJ repertoire you won’t find in The Real Book. Many guitarists have Selmacs, distinctive picks, and other gear that was scarcely seen on this side of the Atlantic even a decade ago.
All of this has come into being relatively quickly and all of it is good. But we North Americans are still just getting started as individual students and as a nationwide community of Gypsy jazz players. Most of us have, at best, only occasional access to truly expert guidance in the elements that set this distinctively European/Gypsy genre apart from our own, familiar jazz stylings. And most of us are seriously wanting for the musical camaraderie that, more than anything else, makes the hard work of learning worthwhile.
Since 2007, Django in June’s full-immersion offering—Django Camp—has held out an unparalleled opportunity for newcomers and very accomplished players alike. We aim to help you take both your understanding and your enjoyment of this music to the next level in two ways:
Django Camp officially gets started at 7:30 on Tuesday evening, and wraps up Sunday morning. We do, however, welcome early arrivals starting Monday after noon and offer optional pre-camp workshops on Tuesday. Many of the artists on staff arrive early as well, and the extra day provides a great opportunity to get settled in and warmed up before things get busy.
Wednesday through Saturday, the daytime schedule is built around our class offerings, with ample breaks for meals and jamming. Evenings during the week are primarily devoted to jamming, but may also include whatever folks create for themselves: a guitar show, a pop-up performance, whatever. On Friday and Saturday evenings we host concerts at Northampton’s historic Academy of Music theater. Sunday morning is unstructured time for reflection on the week’s activities, good-byes, last-minute questions and maybe one final jam for the road.
Our home base for all this activity are several dorms on the Smith College campus. That’s not only where we sleep, but where all the classes and jamming happen, so you’re never more than a few steps away from where the action is. Chances are you’re smack dab in the middle of it already. For those who opt in, meals are offered in one of the dining halls on campus, which provides easy access to good, affordable fare and yet another opportunity for informal time with fellow campers and the artists on staff.
Every year we recommend a two tiered “Core Repertoire” of tunes that provide a foundation for jamming and learning across instruments and levels of experience. Tier I tunes are Gypsy jazz standards that we come back to again and again, while the Tier II tunes change from year to year, offering experienced players the opportunity to explore and develop new shared repertoire. We start making the year’s Core Repertoire available in a variety of formats several months before the event and registered campers get a heads up as new material comes available on the Get Ready Musically page of this website.
As you will see from our Staff and Artists page, many of our teachers are Europeans for whom this style of jazz is quite literally closer to home. This points to one of the reasons why we ask that you register as early as possible for Django Camp: we want to be ready for you, and making the necessary arrangements takes more time than it would if our staff were coming from the next county.
If the pages linked above don’t answer the specific questions you have, be sure to swing by the Frequently Asked Questions page, where we even cover some infrequently asked questions.
Then do yourself a favor and get yourself registered. We look forward to sharing a wonderful week of music with you!