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Festival Jam Classes

​Wernick Method Festival Jam Classes Include:

  • Daily 2-hour sessions teaching the basics of informal bluegrass playing.

  • Songbook provided, small coached groups.

  • Understanding instruction on following and leading songs, faking solos, backup skills.

  • No music or tab, no prior experience required but must be able to switch smoothly between G, C, D, and A chords.

  • All bluegrass instruments, all ages.

  • Walkups welcome or pay in advance for discount."

Austin Scelzo Bluegrass Jam Class Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival Wernick Method

Here is the list of festivals that offer them- (Rockygrass, Delaware Valley, IBMA World of Bluegrass, etc)


Folks can sign up beforehand or on the spot - usually $20 for a two hour class. 


Typical times are Friday 4 – 6 pm, Saturday, and Sunday: 10 am – 12 noon


I would like to target people who bring their instruments to the festival, hoping for a chance to jam, but unsure of how to go about it. Or perhaps they have jammed once or twice, but don’t understand the ins and outs of typical festival jamming. Many novice pickers at the festival feel intimidated about jamming. 


This class will give students the lowdown on how jamming is done, with hands-on practice playing bluegrass with other people. They’ll also leave the class with a list of emails of the attendees, to help the connections made at this year’s festival to grow in months to come. 


By scheduling the class in the morning, students have time to enjoy the rest of the festival day, seeing the acts they want to see.

What's in it for the Festival?

  • The class fosters the goal of preserving the music and growing the bluegrass audience.


  • The class will attract potential festival-goers. People who haven’t attended in the past will be compelled to buy a weekend ticket so they can also attend the jam class. It will encourage people who are on the fence about attending the festival to buy a weekend ticket, bring their instrument and come ready to learn. Wernick Method research so far has shown that classes draw on average 12 students (some as high as 30), with 45% of those who answered the question saying they attended the festival because of the class.  

  • The festival will receive publicity from the Wernick Method at no cost. The class information webpage will link to the festival website, as will email blasts advertising the class to the Wernick Method’s contacts in the area.


  • The teaching will take place in an accessible part of the festival site, with spectators invited and welcome. All present can hear the music and the teacher’s amplified instruction, directed at the registered students but heard and seen by all. The class will add to and enrich the activities available to festival-goers.  

  • The relationships that form around jamming help bond people, to each other and to the setting, leading them to attend the festival for years down the road.

Austin Scelzo Guilford St. Johns Bluegrass festival Wernick Method Bluegrass JamClass.jpeg

Who can sign up?

  • A full packet of jamming information for each participant, sent in advance to early registrants, or upon registration on-site  

  • Free information sheets about bluegrass jamming for all spectators  

  • A roster of all registered participants, with email addresses, to facilitate post-festival contact  

  • Advertising: This class will be advertised on the Wernick Method website: In addition, the Wernick Method office will send out two email blasts about the class to its full list in VT, MA, NY. CT, and NJ.

Bluegrass Jam Class Arts on the Lake.jpg

 I Will Provide: 

  • People can register in advance, or wait until the festival to sign up. Pre-festival signups get the best price, but walk-ups for any of the sessions will be accommodated. 


  • My target audience is the person who brings an instrument, but is afraid to take it out of the trunk of their car. Or the person who has had an instrument at home for the past 20 years, and only plays it once in a while. 


  • The first rung of the ladder of bluegrass jamming is very low to the ground. The requirements are that they are able to play G, C, D and A on their instrument and change chords smoothly. Fiddle players and bass players have to know which notes to play on each chord. We will be playing real bluegrass music, standard songs, only slowly-- about 70 beats per minute.

What’s in it for me?

  • I will follow a specific plan, demonstrating skills with students as they play along and apply what they are learning. The skills include: following chord changes, faking solos, and leading songs. Basic harmony singing will be taught, as well as a variety of typical beginnings and endings. In the second part of each two hour session, I’ll break the class into typical-size smaller groups, and get them jamming with each other. I’ll have assistants on hand so that each small group jam will have a coach to help students work through problems and refine techniques.

Austin Scelzo Bluegrass Jam Camp Ashokan Center.JPG

Class content

  • My goal is that each student will leave more confident about how to jam with other pickers. I get a great deal of satisfaction from enabling people like this. 


  • Typical pricing charges are $15 per teaching hour, a portion of which goes to the Wernick Method. Students pay through Pete Wernick’s Website. 


  • I’ll have Pete Wernick’s jamming DVDs and his Bluegrass Songbook available for sale.

  • (No money to pay for my teaching)  

  • (No money for advertising) I’ll have my own advertising campaign, with help from Pete Wernick and the web site 

  •  (No people resources) required. I’ll have my own helpers on hand to assist. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  

  • A small plug and link in a noticeable place on the festival web site, with the link going to the full information page on 

  •  A brief mention in email blasts publicizing the festival.  

  • A short noticeable plug in any festival program distributed at the gate.  

  • A shady location is needed for the class. A tent or a place with an overhang, to contain sound and for rain shelter, is preferred if available.  

  • Chairs if possible, or students can be asked to bring their own.  

  • A table if possible, or I can bring one.  

Austin Scelzo Montclair NJ Wernick Method Bluegrass Jam Class

Festival Support Required  

Other Details

  • Registered students will receive name badges to indicate they’re enrolled in the class. Nonplaying observers are welcome at no cost. I hope some will be inspired to go back to their campsite, bring their instrument back, and join the class! 


  • The Wernick Method office will also send out a survey after the class, asking for feedback from the students. I’ll make available an overview of the results, so that you can hear from the students their perception of the value and benefit of the class. 

​​ FUNdamentals  

  • Music should be fun  

  • Do what gets you the most musical fun the soonest. 

  • Easy is good, as long as the music is good  

  • Encourage changing chords and basic timekeeping first. 

  • Play/sing from a songbook.  

  • Keep it slow at first, around 70 beats per minute  

  • It’s easy enough to be in tune, so check tuning regularly 

  •  Soloing is optional and easier once jam skills are learned. 

  • Instrumentals are difficult for novices. Stick to songs 

  •  Students may not read chords from paper in a jam. 

  • Teach the guitar player’s left hand different chord positions to non-guitar players  

  • Ear skills are needed for bluegrass, tab and music reading skills are not.We’ll be cultivating ear skills 

  •   Respect bluegrass sensibilities and traditions 


Go For Liftoff  

  • Learn to control your backup volume 

  •  Practice singing so you can carry a tune and sing in a jam.

  •   Learn the number system for following chords and transposing keys quickly 

  •  Learn choruses by listening/singing. 

  •  Learn to reinforce the pulse effectively  

  • Learn “placeholder” soloing, do it when appropriate  

  • Learn more chords so you can play more songs in more keys  

  • Help others stay on track  

  • Learn the basics of using a capo. 

  • Players of non-capoing instruments: learn to read capoed guitar chords 

  • Learn “filler content” soloing as an upgrade to simple placeholder soloing  

  • Learn how to find melodies and build simple solos that include them 


For extra participation and respect  

  • Learn to lead songs  

  • Learn to take good-sounding solos, including kickoffs  

  • Learn to sing harmony, and practice adding harmony on the fly 


For Respect and the Success of the Group  

  • Work with the limitations and preferences of your fellow jammers  

  • Share the spotlight 

  • Give others a chance to show off

  •   Bring good material to the jam that you are prepared to lead

Bluegrass Jam Host at Nod Hill Brewery.jpg

Wernick Method precepts: 

Westchester Bluegrass Club Wernick Method Jam Class with Austin Scelzo
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