I thought last year’s Summit at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music was about as great as any guitar gathering could be: Julian Lage (above) surprising us all with that otherworldly solo set? The Milk Carton Kids teaching 100 of us all how to harmonize on a new song? The Nickel Wound Chef where Creston Lea and Duncan Price battled it out? The luthiers, who brought their a-game and showcased some truly stunning creations? Collings with those matching pairs of acoustics and electrics? Looking back on all these memories, it feels like a dream.
Well, we’ve been hard at work planning this year’s Fretboard Summit (August 24-26, 2023) at Old Town and I can safely say it tops last year’s. For all I know, it may just be the greatest gathering of guitar minds ever outside of a NAMM show…and you’re invited.
We haven’t updated the fretboardsummit.org site with all the latest developments yet, but I’ll happily spill the beans here. A staggering array of artists are participating: Performers include Joey Landreth, Jeff Parker, Tommy Emmanuel, Nathan Graham, Via Mardot (who just appeared on our podcast), Jorma Kaukonen, and Jack Broadbent. Bill Frisell will be leading a guitar orchestra that you (yes, you) can join. Bob Minner and Cameron Knowler (another recent podcast alum) will be leading a workshop on the music of Norman Blake that will be filled with surprises. Nashville studio ace Tom Bukovac of YouTube Homeskoolin’ fame will be performing alongside bluegrass legend Bryan Sutton. Luthier Wayne Henderson is attending; he’ll surely be playing in our acoustic jam sessions alongside some surprise guests. We’ve also got Adam Levy and Ethan Sherman teaching a workshop on the art of the duo and a myriad of world-class artists like Mason Stoops and Jamie Stillway who tell me they’re now coming…just to experience the Summit firsthand.
Last year’s Nickel Wound Chef partscaster competition was so amazing that judge Josh Scott (founder of JHS Pedals) is throwing his own version at this year’s Summit…the Germanium Chef (yes, it’s another Iron Chef-themed battle). At it, Robert Keeley and Heather Brown will compete to build the ultimate fuzz in an hour in front of you all. There will also be sessions on vintage Martins with Summit alums TJ Thompson and Mark Stutman; workshops on buying your first lutherie-built guitar from Paul Heumiller of Dream Guitars; and sessions on everything from custom inlay to scoring for movies.
Listeners of our Truth About Vintage Amps Podcast will have an entire room to hang out in all weekend long, filled with classic and rare amps and PAs ready to play that podcast host Skip Simmons has worked on. We’ve got secret after-hours jams, places where you can hang with your new friends, and a couple of gear giveaways that will floor you.
A few folks have asked if this weekend is just for the pros. The answer is a resounding no. Most of our attendees just love guitars…that’s all. Whether you’re into acoustics or electrics, a beginner or a touring artist…it doesn’t matter. We’ve made a point to make workshops that are fun and eye-opening, not intimidating.
As packed as the programming is, I hope most attendees skip a bunch of sessions. Why? So that they get quality time with the builders. It’s a who’s who of guitarmaking, large-scale and small. Bob Taylor and Andy Powers from Taylor are attending, as is the crew from Collings, Huss & Dalton, Preston Thompson Guitars, Martin, Yamaha and Santa Cruz. On the handmade lutherie front, we’ve got Bryan Galloup returning, Grez Guitars, Noemi Guitars from Italy, Jason Kostal, Cardinal Instruments, Mike Baranik, Rob Robinson, Michael Bashkin, Ralph Dammann, and about two dozen more acoustic and electric builders…all showcasing their wares, letting you play their newest creations and answering any questions you may have regarding your next guitar purchase. A bunch of authorities like Jim Baggett of Mass Street Music, Nashville repair guru Joe Glaser, and Lillian Werbin of Elderly Instruments will be there, too.
A show like this is a celebration of all things fretboard…and Fretboard Journal. It’s a labor of love and a bit of a family reunion. If you’re reading this, you’re part of our family, too. We’d love to see you there. I can guarantee you you’ll want to make the Summit an annual tradition. There’s simply nothing else like this.
We still have a limited amount of discounted ($350) three-day passes at fretboardsummit.org that include all the concerts, workshops, showcases, and parties. But act fast, they are going to sell out.
On June 1, we’ll start offering lutherie show-only, single-day passes for folks who just want to go guitar shopping without the concerts/workshops/parties.
Either way, you’ll never find this array of talent anywhere else. I hope to see you there.
This year’s Summit starts on the morning of August 24, 2023 and goes through August 26. I’ve noticed a bunch of great hotel deals in Chicago on Expedia and elsewhere for that stretch right now, including many nice places that are under $200 a night. www.fretboardsummit.org
Below pics from our 2022 gathering.