How did Picknbow Start?

In 2011, highly-regarded musician and four-decade music teacher Danny Gotham acted on a longtime desire to start a music camp. It was based on his experiences at music camps and workshops in Canada, New Hampshire, the Adirondacks and Virginia. Working with Jane Peppler and Bob Vasile, they drew 18 campers to The Murphey School in Durham. Each year since, Picknbow music camp has grown a bit more, with almost 60 campers, 9 instructors and a broad schedule of classes planned for August of 2019. 

Picknbow is designed to be a welcoming musical environment that brings together campers of varying levels of abilities and musical tastes. Camp founder Danny Gotham describes it as “The Picknbow Tree.” He recalls its growth from “an idea for a unique weekend music camp” to a “seedling” of “dedicated and experienced teachers and enthusiastic and talented campers” that is “watered” regularly throughout the year with activities such as jams and house concerts.

What Does ‘Picknbow Presents’ Do?

‘Picknbow Presents’ is the new name for the organization that plans and hosts all the neat events that have grown up around the Picknbow community within the past 2 years, many courtesy of Matt Velkey, Susan Johnson, and other wonderful folks from our community who love getting together to make and listen to music. Since we now do more than just camps, it’s a good time to do things like a new website, think about the different kinds of events Picknbow Presents might host, and other ways to create the music events we love. You can always come to this website - which is going to grow - to see a calendar of Picknbow Presents concerts, camps and workshops, volunteer opportunities, photos from past events, and more.

Can anyone come to Picknbow events?

Pretty much all y’all can come to camp! Picknbow classes and workshops are designed for all skill levels, most suitable for teens through age 100-plus. Registration for classes is limited, to insure that you get up close and personal instruction from some of the finest musicians and teachers in the area.

In addition, as a camper you can invite family members to the Saturday night potluck supper, a great chance for your family to meet some of your instructors and fellow campers. This is a casual community-building activity, one for your memory books, plus some mighty fine Southern food.

And, wait, wait—we’re not done yet! You can invite friends and family to the free instructors’ concert on Saturday night. And if you’ve looked at the list of instructors, you know this is an incredible lineup of award-winning, nationally and internationally known folks who will entertain and inspire you with amazing music. Your friends and family will thank you forever!

And, there’s still more! You can invite friends and family to the student recital on Sunday afternoon, a wonderful time of sharing the love of music that brought us together. This capstone event is also a great time of bonding with fellow campers, sharing our pre-recital nerves, and cheering for each other. You’ll be sad when this ends, but (wait for it):  Friendships continue throughout the year in other Picknbow Presents activities - jams, open mikes, Guitar Camp, house concerts - all of which are listed on this website on the ‘More Events’ page.

Can I volunteer?

Sure! Many hands do make it all work more smoothly. Picknbow abounds with food and beverage, chairs and tables, instruments and cases, and multiple activities, so there are times when things are on the move. Help is needed for setup and cleanup, from Friday afternoon through Sunday early evening. Check in with Leah Kaufman (leah@leahk.com) and let her know when you can be part of the volunteer crew or just pitch in informally when you see help is needed.

What is a typical day like at Picknbow Camp?

Each day is different, designed to meet various aspects of Picknbow’s “participatory” mission.

Friday officially begins with an evening meet and greet for campers and instructors, an overview of classes and activities, and a time to make music together. This is informative and fun, and energizes us for our upcoming shared musical adventures.

For those who can be there Friday afternoon, there are camper-led activities that change each year. Past workshops have included Old Time Jam, Flatfoot Dancing, Onsong Tutorial, Music Theory, and Performing for Kids and Seniors. 2019 activities will be announced prior to the start of camp.

Saturday is a full day of a wide variety of classes and workshops, some with a single focus (such as Carter family music) or a dual focus (such as fiddle and banjo duets). Combining each instructor’s expertise and experience with campers’ interests (see interest survey on enrollment page), the classes offer many options for campers. Classes run for one hour and 20 minutes, with 10 minutes between. Lunch is a generous 90 minutes, time to eat, make new friends, play some music together, or just sit quietly in the lovely outdoor setting.

As classes end on Saturday, we take our camp photo, set up for the potluck with friends and family, share a delicious potluck supper, and then enjoy a wonderful instructors’ concert. It’s a full day; come well-rested!

Sunday informally begins with a 9:00 to 11:00am gospel sing circle led by camper Lin Stogner, along with other possible jams. Two periods of classes begin at 11:15 and end at 1:45. Lunch and practices for the student recital follow. The 3:00pm recital is a communal culminating activity, the weekend’s capstone event. It features campers, generally in groups, and usually ends by 6:00. Family and friends are invited to come to the student recital and see you on the stage. Before we know it, we are back to the outside world, with warm memories of an unforgettable weekend.


“When days are filled with melody, the hours seem to fly

The music keeps us close when we’re apart

And there’s love we uncover in each song we share

We can hear it in the rhythm of our hearts.”

Leah Kaufman, “You’re My Rocking Chair (The Picknbow Song)”