Past Kamper Cards And Letters

The staff is exceptional. Helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly. Isaacs is a great experience with the open mic opportunities- and the crowd that attends is supportive of those trying new things. I do miss the refreshments that used to be available at Isaacs. Also- it’s really fun to be here where staff, instructors, and students are obviously having a good time. It was a good kamp. Thank you.
Pat P.

I really liked all the staff, they were all cheerful and helpful. My room was good, as were the facilities in general. The food was not great--I'm celiac and a couple of nights the gluten free options were pretty meager--sandwiches were my go-to. There was a good selection of gluten free cookies, though, including double-stuff Oreos! I won guitar strings twice, which is good since I'm pretty sure the ones on my guitar are dead by now. I will definitely be back next year.
Chris Mc

This was my first time at Old Time and Traditional Week. The thing that stood out for me was that with fewer instructors and attendees, we had more time with the instructors to dig deeper into the materials, especially when one adds The Master's Class into the mix. I don't really know how you could arrange the schedule to make available more time with the instructors, but that was biggest difference that I took away from this week. I also appreciated the time that Steve took on the last day to offer students a chance to play a duet with The Master. That was huge.

Don H

Loved the camp! As a first timer, was very impressed and got the lay of the land this round. Looking forward to further leveraging my first year experience next time. I stayed off campus this time; if I were able to have a guaranteed single occupancy room I would have stayed on campus. Very organized for the scope of the camp. Highlights: concerts; instruction; food; access to instructors between classes (meal time; some jamming).

Per above, great experience overall. Would enjoy an optional module given by instructors on how they prep for ana house concert doing songs/tunes they haven't played before for insight into how the pros work out arrangements on or before getting on stage.
Thank you for all your work to put on such a great camp experience!
See you next year!

Pat S

I really enjoyed the square dance night. I truly love the concerts, but it’s nice to do something completely different one evening.
Laurel T

I think it is so very organized and offers so many different opportunities to learn and grow with music.
Ethan R

There were quite a number of non-bluegrass musical styles presented by the faculty this year. I LOVED it. All beautifully executed. Don Julin provided a masterful recital on how to imagine and present a tune without boundaries/restrictions. He showed, in his own way, how to imagine something and then express it on the fretboard. Alas, most of of us bridle ourselves and this was a good reminder that there are possibilities beyond what we "allow" ourselves to pursue...
Doug L

Set up a Weight Watchers table at the front steps of the dining hall! LOL

Our classes were combined more than on the schedule, and I found two of those sessions to be way over my beginner level. 1 wouldn't recommend it to an enemy, because it would be to much fun for them, just kidding! LOL

Joe M

First time attendee and everything was excellent, with the evening concerts capping it off. The only minor negative was the exuberance of some of the younger students, e.g. excessive, loud playing not related to class content, not paying attention during class time, etc. The instructors did a good job of keeping them in line, but their patience was taxed, along with the adults in the class, as the week progressed. Advanced technical ability needs to be matched with at least average situational awareness.

Tom D

Thanks again, Steve, Donna and staff for putting on such a great Kamp!

Dan H

You and Donna did a wonderful job; all of the time you spent in preparation provided, for all your Kampers, a nurturing environment.
I am the envy of all of my adult peers, who say, in a nutshell: "You got to go to grown-up Kamp and do music, too; wow!"
Ditto their sentiments.
Hats off from here for a job well done.

Jim Richards


Here is another suggestion.... Nancy and I brought in our camp chairs the last concert and were a lot more comfortable than sitting on the logs the school provided. We had difficulty finding room where we weren't in soneone's way. Consider leaving a section bare of the logs so that personal chairs can be set up for the week.

Nancy and I decided that the Kamp was the most fun we have had for a week's time in our entire life. The staff and more importantly the Kampers were the most cheerful, helpful and all-around wonderful people. We will see you in 50 long weeks.

Mark & Nancy

------SK- I think you got something there guys. See you next June!

Dear Steve and Donna,

Thank you so much for your hands-on management of the greatest music event we’ve ever been a part of. My first year and Gray’s second are sure to be followed by many more returns filled with meeting new friends, renewing old relationships, experiencing excellent training, and enjoying fantastic nightly concerts. The instructors were knowledgeable and very patient with those having close to no music background (like myself) and left us with the desire to improve and expand our abilities.

I was surprised and excited beyond understanding to win the Ken Miller guitar! Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I would be learning a new (and challenging) instrument after just a year with a dulcimer. But determined I am to play it and I have plenty of friends that are encouraging and helpful. I will say that I received more than my share of genuine congratulations from many who would have loved to have taken it home themselves. That really showed depth of character!

It’s easy to see your love of music and desire for all to be happy, satisfied, and challenged to improve. Thank you for all that you do to give us fantastic music memories. We look forward to Kamp 2013!

Gray and Linda


Hi Donna & Steve,
Thank you for my first Kaufman Kamp experience. I've attended other camps and this was one of the best.
I was a bit concerned about having a different instructor for each class but it wasn't an issue. Amazing how much information you can get from a truly knowledgeable instructor in less than 2 hours!

I know organizing the camp is a tremendous amount of work for you, but believe me, it was worth it.

Thanks again for all the work you put into organizing the camp to make it one of the best.

Jo Mc.
Naperville, IL

You and Donna did a wonderful job; all of the time you spent in preparation provided, for all your Kampers, a nurturing environment.
I am the envy of all of my adult peers, who say, in a nutshell: "You got to go to grown-up Kamp and do music, too; wow!" Ditto their sentiments.
Hats off from here for a job well done.
Jim R.


Just got back from Tennessee after the first year of Kamp for my wife and myself. The Kamp was way better than I expected and I started with pretty high expectations. Next step is to try to sort out and understand how to apply class material. There is enough direction there to keep me moving ahead for the next five years.

I knew it was going to be good when Roland White offered me a ride to breakfast Tuesday morning, the Kentucky Colonels being personal heroes. Every instructor brought something extra to think about and it seems like every
important theory question was answered. Personal highlights included getting runner up in the band scramble as part of Emma and the Murahville(sp?) Mayhem. Our bribery of judges, underhanded chicanery and shameless pandering
were almost but not quite sufficient, still second place felt good. My first ever White Castle sliders fully met expectations for them such as they were. Met a lot of nice people from all over the U.S. and world even as far
away as Western Australia.

Hope to be back next year, as one of my friends says, the good Lord willin' and the
creek don't rise.

Carl M


Here's a nice note from a 2011 First Time Kamper:

Impressions of a first time Kamper

First of all, I frequently attend music camps as an instructor in dulcimer, beginning guitar, mandolin, performing skills, etc or as an emcee. I've only attended a couple of camps as a student,but the Kaufman Kamp trumps all of them in several areas.

First, Maryville College is extremely friendly and accommodating. As a a life-long educator, I am VERY familiar with cafeteria food, and the Kamp food is quite good, unlike many institutional cafeterias.

Second, regardless of your level, the instructors are supportive and each of them has a unique approach to music. One size does not fit all, and the rotation system allows students to have more than one way of learning presented to them. The advanced flatpicking course that I took was not just "more tab and more tunes" but, techniques, philosophy, theory (Why is it called that...it should be renamed "Practical" since it gives you tools to understand what you are doing and what you want to do) .

Third, the nightly concerts are excellent.

Fourth, the level of organization of the overall festival is extremely good. Tight, but not constraining. The elective activities are varied and excellent.

Fifth, it's eminently affordable. Cheaper than a week at a resort, plus your food, concerts and top-notch teaching included Plus, you get to play with and jam with lots of folks and meet friendly people from all over. (Where else you you have a chance to play bluegrass with guys from Israel and Italy?) Not to mention the huge number of outstanding guitars...Since I know I can't afford any of them, GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome) did not affect me too much....although dreams of a Ken Miller (guitar) keep recurring.

Recommended to all!

The Following Are From The Graduating Class Of 2010:

This was truly the BEST kamp ever as far as instruction was concerned. All of the instructors did a great job in the advanced flatpicking classes and without a doubt, this is going to help take me to the next level.
Thanks Steve and Donna! You all are really getting this Kamp thing down :)

The Winlock Guitarist,
Marv Sobolesky

Subject: Comparing Augusta Bluegrass Week (ABW) With Steve Kaufman Acoustic Kamp (SKAK).

Full disclosure: I have attended both ABW and SKAK. A bunch of years for both. I last attended ABW in 2008, SKAK in 2010. Note that since I haven't been to ABW in 2 years, some things might have changed. Due to time and money considerations I now only attend SKAK since, in my humble opinion, SKAK is the best. If you are considering going to either of these camps, you might be interested in the following comparison.

Instruction: SKAK, excellent instructors. A variety of genres. ABW, mostly excellent instructors. All bluegrass. I have had a couple of duds at ABW. The BIG difference is that at ABW, you spend the entire week with one teacher and at SKAK you get a couple of hours each with several teachers. And SKAK has excellent "master classes".

Class rooms: SKAK, all are air conditioned (some better than others). One requires climbing long stairs. ABW, most are air conditioned. All are either ground floor or have elevator access. Some require a moderate walk.

Cost: similar. SKAK, on and off campus prices includes food. ABW, on campus price includes food. Off campus does not - you have to buy a meal ticket.

Lodging: SKAK has a variety of dorms, all are air conditioned. Some are designated as "quiet". Some are older, some are new. All are fine.
ABW has all older dorms, only one has air conditioning (International dorm) and you have to climb 100 stairs to get to it. You can optionally book a room in their on campus Conference Center which is essentially a very nice motel. Of course that will increase the cost quite a bit.

Food: Both have cafeterias. SKAK wins hands down. Much better selection.

Concerts: SKAK, excellent one every night. Half hour of open stage prior to concert. Multiple genres. ABW, two concerts. One bluegrass concert on Thursday, a concert on Tuesday with performers from Family Week.

Instrument giveaways and raffles: ABW, none. SKAK, lots!

Campus: SKAK, everything fairly close together, land is flat. ABW, spread out and hilly.

Luthiers: SKAK, two skilled luthiers. ABW, Bob Smakula shows up on Tuesday to put railroad spikes on banjos.

Jamming: SKAK, nightly jamming in dorms and outside. Organized multi-level jams during the day. ABW, jamming mostly on the big porch. Fair amount of private jamming in dorms. Organized slow jam. Some go into Elkins for "picking in the park" on Wednesday evening to jam with locals.

Instructor interaction with students: SKAK, lots of interaction. Instructors often sitting with students at lunch and participating in nightly jams. ABW, not much. In the cafeteria, the instructors tend to sit together at the far end. The only instructor that routinely ate with students when I attended last was Roland White.

Night life: SKAK, open stage at Isaacs hamburger joint. Very late dorm jamming. ABW, the very interesting and hard to describe Ice House bar.

Store: SKAK, easy to get to, excellent inventory. ABW, fair inventory. In 2008, hard to find as it was far away from everything.

In conclusion, I hope I've covered the differences well. My lousy memory might have failed me here and there. If you spot errors, feel free to chime in.


What? There's another level above advanced? I guess you're talking about the "Another Planet" level. The Steve Kaufman, Mark Cosgrove, Tyler Grant, Tim May, Pat Flynn, Mitch Corbin, Beppe Gambetta, Carlo Aonzo (plays a rippin' guitar), Kathy Barwick, Chris Jones, Bryan McDowell, Alan Shadd, Richard Starkey and all. How about that Bryan McDowell, anyways. Another planet fur sure. He played a set at Kamp with Steve Kaufman and Alan Shadd
and he was sensational.
Sunday morning, rested, picking the Beppe finger gymnastics from his class.
But don't tell Beppe, I have the TV on.

Anita Practice
Royal Oak, Michigan
I Was Very Impressed My First Year At Kamp.

Steve, Donna and the rest of the crew run a tight ship. The week's time is used efficiently and all of the activities VERY well organized, allowing the Kampers and staff to make the most of the educational experience while still having a great time. It was great to meet some of you listers (flatpick-l internet list) in person. I got to pick with some of you and would like to pick some more next time. Thanks to all of the students for being so attentive and showing their support at the concerts. I got to sit down with Steve for a tune a few times during the week and that was a real treat. Donna and Steve are a great team. They get all the business done while being exceptionally fun kamp directors. Okay, more details when I get home next week and I'm off this silly iPhone.

Tyler Grant

I'm Back From A Camp Too But It Was The Mandolin Symposium Here In Northern CA. It Was Alright......Next Time Though I'm Going To Kamp!

From: Guy Hill
Subject: More Pix From Kamp
You'll Find My Photos On SK's Forum. Here's A Link...

Hi honey, I'm home! Craig Rothfolk, Dave VanDeusen and I got home mid-afternoon yesterday. About 1000 miles with the old Ford 500 getting 28 mpg average with three of us and all our luggage. Great Kamp, wonderful Kamp concerts, sensational Kamp classes, and, the best of all, super Kampers! It was such fun to see, talk and pick with all of you. My only regret - - I still didn't get to meet Marv.
Next year! I'm beginning a two-week Kamp campaign. We'll see if Ann buys it.

Tony Anthonisen
Richfield, Minnesota

From: Mark Kilinski
Subject: Re: DU Raffle Results?

Yes, my wife has been gloating about it for the last couple of days 'cause I've been talking about getting a Braz/Ad guitar for the past few years and now SHE has one. Oh, well - at least she lets me play it. BTW, it is definitely a gorgeous guitar made using superior materials and craftsmanship. I haven't really had a chance to wring it out yet but I'll
get to it soon. It makes me wonder why I haven't seen Seth Naugler's name and work more often. He's definitely a fine builder and generous person to boot!!!

Mark Kilinski
The Husband Of The DU Scholarship Drawing For The Naugler Guitar
Coconut Creek, FL

From: Allen Shadd
Subject: Re: Kamp 2010 Highlight:

As usual, Steve and Donna, along with countless individuals behind the scenes each day, did a wonderful job at kamp. I have been to about half of the kamps over the years, some for the entire week but most for a couple of days to a few days at most. Kamp was certainly bittersweet to me. It is always great to see the friends, too many to list (yes, I have friends, lol), and I always meet a few each year I go that stand out.
This year the stand outs would have to be Shane, the young fella that Mario and Jenny brought with them, and Andrew Collins, and getting to meet Kathy Barwick briefly and talk plumbing was waaay cool, lol. It's
hard not to feel good when you see the level of energy and enthusiasm some folks carry with them. Also a reason I enjoyed attending kamp with Bryan McD this year, he complained both evenings we were there because the jamming didn't go past daylight, lol. I did enjoy a couple of good jams, but it did seem to be off a little compared to years past. Sharing the stage with Steve Kaufman is always an experience I enjoy, and the green room banter this year was especially cool watching Bryan light up because Roland White was sitting there joining the conversation. Seeing long time friends like Mark Cosgrove and Mitch Corbin among many others,
It was a good kamp, and I brought home a few memories to smile over.

Allen (Pistolero)

From: Mike Lambert
Subject: Kamp - From A Local

To everyone who has never been to Kaufman's camp, you don't know what your missing. To everyone who has been I want to say thanks for great memories, great friends, new and old, and thanks for letting an old man set in on some great music. To Steve Kaufman, what a huge undertaking, I seriously doubt that anyone can ever express gratitude enough to you and Donna. To Kathy Barwick, I still think that was "Whiskey before Breakfast" after 3 to many "sliders". Please send me the name of that tune so this local won't be embarrassed next time I see you folks. Jerry, I didn't realize you were such a great singer! Safe pickin everyone, hope to see you all next year or sooner!
Mike Lambert

This Subject On The Internet Board Was:
What Will You Get Out Of Kamp?

From: Charlie Jones
Subject: Re: What do you get out of Kamp?

The year I went my intermediate group was pretty well matched skill wise. The instructors usually have a set of lesson plans they want to get through during the week. If someone is slowing down the group the instructor will usually keep things moving.

There's a ton to learn. Almost too much. My advice to first timers is to absorb as much as possible, review the material when you get home and then create a 3, 6 or 12 month study plan based on what was covered and what you want to learn. Yes there is that much material.

They also had master classes you could sign up for. You basically sit-down with the instructor and play them a tune. They'll assess you and offer suggestions to improve your playing. I found this very helpful.

People go to kamp for any number of reasons. All I can say is you getout of it what you put into it. There is certainly enough stuff to learn.

From: Chris Thiessen
Subject: Re: What do you get out of Kamp?

Ken Brown asked about the value of Kamp.

Ken, I've only been to Kamp five times, so there are more seasoned vets on the list who may provide other opinions. But here's mine.

I've played guitar for 40 years, but only seriously picked up mando in the last four. I attended Kamp last year for the first time as a beginning mandolinist, because I wanted to focus on acquiring good mando habits and not simply transfer over bad guitar habits.

So first, Kamp allows you to set your own level of expertise and puts you in a small group (10-15) that you stay with the entire week. Every morning and every afternoon you have a different instructor, who has prepared a lesson sequence for your chosen level of expertise. Sharon Gilchrist was one of my instructors last year, and she did a great job of not presuming anything. I would have to say that of most of the instructors (both in guitar and mando, since I've experienced both at different levels).

And if you find yourself incorrectly placed as to expertise level, you can shift to a higher or lower level class in the first day or so. Steve and Donna are flexible, so you're not "stuck."

Apart from the classes, you have endless opportunities to jam at almost any hour of the day or night. You can practice off by yourself (one of my favorite early evening activities during which I try to absorb what I've learned that day), attend superb concerts every evening, and listen to or participate in open mic nights at the on-campus coffee house. Another of my favorite things is the afternoon Master classes, where you sign up to sit down one-on-one with an instructor who listens to you play something and then provides a critique designed to help you focus on getting better. This year I'm looking forward to sitting down with Kenny Smith (yes, you can sign up for Master classes for any instrument)!

Cool giveaways at the concerts (you have the chance to walk away with a very expensive instrument!), great music stores within driving distances, warm weather, and a walkable campus. Life's good at Kamp.

Apart from the music, you absolutely have the chance to catch up with folks. Many of us on Comando and Flatpick talk routinely with each other, but only see each other at Kamp. It's like a family gathering, except that you choose to be with these folks.

I drive for two days from Iowa to Tennessee to get to Kamp, and it's worth every minute on the road. Kamp is probably the most learning-friendly, least judgmental, best picking for the money opportunity I've experienced.

From: Rusty Smith <rustysmith3@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: What do you get out of Kamp?

On Fri, May 27, 2011 at 11:05 AM, Ken Brown <kenbrownpl2@cox.net> wrote:

See my answers below. I went in 98,99,00,01, and 02. Things are somewhat different now because of the size and variety offered, but basically it's the same Kamp. The environment is as supportive as you can find anywhere. It can be a little overwhelming because of the size but all you have to do is say 'howdy' and before you know it you will have lots of new friends.

> Anyway, my question is: what do you all get out of Kamp?
It's a little like asking a kid what he got out of Disneyland. The list is pretty long.

>Are the workshop productive?
Every teacher has something you can walk away with and work on for the next year. Steve screens them and their material very carefully.

>Do people pick their skill levels properly, or do you have many people in there who are just in the wrong level?
Mostly yes but sometimes no. Most instructors can handle a wide variety of skills in a class. I doubt you would experience anything as extreme as you described in your workshop experience.

>Do you come away with new techniques to work when you get home, or are you just happy to be in the presence of a well known player/instructor?
I always had enough material to work on for the next year or more. Being in the presence of guitar heros and luminaries is an added bonus.

>Do you just go to renew old friendships?
That's an added bonus but not the main reason to go. Also you get to meet new best friends if you go again. It's also fun to share some memorable events from past kamps with those who were there. They are sort of like fish stories that keep growing. Ask someone about the squirrel that fell out of the tree and see how many version of the story you can get. <G>

>Or do you go just to get away from the spouse for a week or so?
I didn't go to get away but did leave the spouse at home. That way it's easier to get immersed 24 hours a day in picking. You can sleep when you get home.

> I know Kamp is a good deal (money-wise), but with airfare from California, Kamp fees, money spent on incidentals, (not to mention using a week's vacation time) it's still a lot of money. =A0And I just don't have a good idea as to what I would be getting for my money.
If you can afford it you won't regret it and each year the value grows because you've experienced how to get the most out of it. If you are sacrificing family vacation bucks that would cause others to have less of a vacation then wait until the money isn't an issue.
That's my nickels worth.

I meant to jump in here sooner, but it was a VERY busy week...Just wanted to say how special Kamp has been for me over the years. A lot of that has to do with how special Steve and Donna are as people. Their dedication, openness to new ideas, and work ethic are responsible for the (relatively) small event that Kamp originally was, and for the amazing refinements and developments that made Kamp what it is today.

We all hear about "captains of industry", and, all too often, they create a big business by dint of less than admirable actions. Then you have Steve and Donna, who have created an amazing community which benefits everyone who comes into contact with it: Pro musicians get a great gig, and they're treated, as Steve might say, the way HE would like to be treated as a pro. (Along those lines, I'd like to thank Steve publicly for deciding to hire me in the first place, after I'd wheedled my way into the Kamp experience.)

Students become part of a great community of friends and get to hang with pro musicians they admire. They can get one-on-one time by virtue of the master classes. The jams, ranging from two people sitting around in the most relaxed manner, playing a couple tunes, to small combos and on to large slow jams and such, can fulfill every jamming need for students at every level, and at any hour of the day. Many instructors come out in the evening to jam with the students, as well. And students go home with a thick book of instructional materials to work on for the year to come, as well as having the chance to make audio recordings of the classes they attend. In addition, they have the opportunity to have their instruments repaired a/or set up by some of the best luthiers in the business...over the years, that list has included Bryan Kimsey, Lynn Dudenbostel, Marty Lanham, Ken Miller, Jim Grainger, Rich Starkey...(more than once, I've lugged along an extra guitar or two just to have these great guys work on 'em w/o shipping costs...)

The economy benefits as well, as Steve and Donna put out a lot of money on advertising and promotion, helping support publications that we all value, like Flatpicking Guitar Magazine. The luthiers get to display their wonderful work, and often take orders for new instruments to be built. Local Maryville businesses, the college included, get increased business during the two weeks of Kamp.

Everyone on Flatpick-L benefits, because they get a certain amount of interesting discussion that was generated at and about Kamp, not to mention dozens of Youtube videos of Kamp concerts.

And, of course, Steve and Donna benefit, as they rightly should, being the hardest working folks in the flatpicking world...but it's notable how unselfish they are about spreading the prosperity around.

I'll miss Kamp this year (just the third time since '98), as Steve rotates different teachers in and out to give students the best and most varied experience, but, as they say in the baseball world, "there's always next year".

So, what could I say to answer Ken's question that hasn't already been said? How about this: In 2009, I turned 60. My wife, Janice, was trying to think of what she could get for the "guy who has everything he wants". I was scheduled to teach at Week One that year, and Jan's perfect gift for me (and it WAS perfect!!) was simple; knowing how much I love my time in Maryville, she arranged an "all-expenses paid vacation in lovely Maryville TN" for Week Two. Yes, after spending a full week of non-stop guitar picking, teaching, and hanging out, she knew the thing I'd value most was ANOTHER full week with just the picking and hanging out part!!
It was the best present ever!
I rest my case.

Rolly Brown
Sellersville PA