Camp Lesson 1

October 2008 Ohio Camp—courtesy M. L. Schweitzer.

Lessons: Camps

Shakuhachi retreats are held seasonally 4 times a year.

The objective of camp is to create the situation which affords an opportunity for everyone to totally immerse themselves in shakuhachi for 2 full days away from the distractions of everyday life. Therefore, these camps are held at venues throughout Ohio and Michigan which are chosen because of their natural beauty and isolation away from cities. We value the social aspect of camp where you will meet and spend time with other like minded people learning, playing, experiencing shakuhachi together and also cooking and eating together. Everyone there comes because of their love of shakuhachi and their energies are focused in a like minded manner. The end result is that you will be able to go places that you cannot go at home where you depend on the energy of one person, yourself. And although we literally eat, sleep and drink shakuhachi there is time built into the schedule for one to wander off on his own, maybe taking a nice walk thru the farm down to the pond to clear your head or take a nap to rejuvenate mind and soul.

Most camps start on Friday evenings and end at 4:00 pm on Sunday afternoons. This allows time to drive or fly in from another state on Friday, meet the other participants, eat dinner, set up tents, relax and start playing shakuhachi. On Sunday, the camp stops around 4pm to allow time to get back home and be ready for the work week on Monday mornings. Transportation can usually be arranged from nearby airports to the facilities. Recently, we have been using the Stratford Ecological Center outside of Delaware, Ohio. Stratford has roughly 350 acres of pristine land set aside for farming and ecological preservation. We have full use of the facilities which include a large main meeting hall, kitchen and bathrooms and shower. We do all our own cooking and every participant helps out in the kitchen in some manner. It creates a very healthy environment of cooperation, admiration and respect when working together in the kitchen. I must also say that most shakuhachi players are pretty good cooks too. The cuisine is always vegetarian and the menus quite varied. The staff at Stratford has always been so respectful in allowing us freedom to run our camps in privacy and we in turn respect their facilities and follow the few simple rules that exist. You can get a better picture by going to the Stratford Ecological Center website.

The June camp each year is held outside Marion, Ohio at the home of Craig Ciola. Craig has a large amount of land in the countryside where he and his wife open up their home to us and host camp. The setting that Craig has created is perfect for shakuhachi camps: there is a winding “philosophers path” with intermixed carp ponds and bamboo groves. We began to offer an Extended Camp through monday and tuesday for those who wish to have a longer period of study during the June camp.

There are 6 main study sessions at camp:

Friday evening, 8:00~10:00
Saturday AM, 9:00~12:00
Saturday PM, 2:00~5:00
Saturday evening, 7:00~10:00
Saturday AM, 9:00~12:00
Sunday PM, 1:00~3:00

You can expect to play around 16~18 hours if you want to! Many enthusiastic participants are up till 1:00 or 2:00 AM Saturday nights.

Study consists of a variety of folk tunes and lullabies, one main honkyoku song, one modern song and duets. Saturday night is duet night. The participants are divided into a beginner’s group and an intermediate group. Careful consideration is given to chose songs appropriate for each level and scores and CDs are mailed out early upon receipt of notice of registration.

There is much time in which all the camp participants will do activities together. When separated into groups, Michael will teach one group for 30 minutes, then go to the other group. This allows each group time to digest the teachings and immediately practice and start to make the teachings a part of you.

Special Services

Bodhidarma sitting on a Komuso Tengai—courtesy Taniguchi.

There are often special guests invited to the camps to offer a complementary study on some aspect of shakuhachi. Here is a list of some previous guests:

• June 2007 Camp: Sebastian Gishin Cyr, a zen monk from Montreal, Canada lectured on changes in Buddhism from India to Japan and led a Buddhists chanting class.

• November 2007 & June 2008 Camp: Shakuhachi craftsman Perry Yung from New York taught a workshop on fundamentals of shakuhachi making. All the participants in this class enjoyed learning how to make their own shakuhachi including how to lacquer, spot tune, bind, and utaguchi caps.

For more information about Michael Chikuzen Gould’s camp retreats you can look at the calendar for camp dates or contact Michael directly with any questions via email.

For other types of lessons offered, see: