McGregor Music Retreat

McGregor Music Retreat


Each day was split into three sessions, instrumental study, electives and ensemble rehearsal.


In the morning, the instrumental study was with our tutor James Sherlock. Our guitar group included another guitar teacher from Goulburn Conservatorium and around half-a-dozen eager-to-learn guitarists. Throughout the week, we touched on areas such as: fretboard memorisation, the CAGED system and associated uses of position-playing, improvisation over jazz standards, diminished and whole-half scale solo ideas, functional harmony and general guitar exercises to strengthen fingers and rhythmic ideas.


The middle session granted us the choice to pick a session out of five different musical areas. I chose improvisation and theory for the first two days and then transitioned into the arranging and composing elective for the remainder of the week. The improvisation and theory workshop was aimed at learning how to improvise and solo over a simple bluegrass progression. Once the group created a basic lead sheet for the structure of the song, each participant would have 2 or 4 bars to improvise over the progression using a specific subset of notes of the minor pentatonic scale.


After lunch each day, around 2 hours were dedicated to a rehearsal of our pieces that we were preparing for the end-of-week concert. Our group, out of the three, were allocated to the main performance hall at Artworx, so having the equipment set up and all ready to go made our sessions and final performance run much smoother. Our group consisted of two guitars, bass guitar, drums, two organs, a piano, a viola and four vocalists. During the Tuxedo Junction performance, the guitars, piano and organs all took a 16-bar solo.



  • Final performance of our four ensemble pieces - “Tuxedo Junction”, “Runaway”, “Down Under” and “Smooth Criminal”
  • Recording one of our performance pieces, “Runaway”, in the Artworx recording studio.
  • Collaboration with a guitar teacher from Goulburn Con - comping jazz standards, taking turns playing the progressions and improvisation
  • Performance from jazz pianist and singer Brenda Earle Stokes, accompanied by James Sherlock (guitar tutor), double bassist and percussion tutor John Parker.


Joel would encourage senior students to look at future McGregor Music Programs and considering participating as this is a fantastic opportunity.

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