2016 Seminars

Here's a taste of what's in store for you at the San Antonio convention. Seminars, workshops, special events, jams and open mic.

Just added:

Sonny Terry Tribute
Tom Halchak
Tom will be joined by Joe Filisko, Peter Madcat Ruth, Grant Dermody & others in this tribute to Sonny Terry. They will be playing some of Sonny's original harps. Special guests will be attending.

Accompanying a Lead Vocalist with Harmonica – Playing Fills and Lead
Brenda Freed and Michael D’Eath
Many players are used to performing as lead vocalist and harmonica player. However, it takes special skills to be able to perform alongside a lead vocalist, playing fills, taking leads, and complementing the overall performance without trampling on the vocalist - even if you have never heard the song before! In this seminar, Brenda and Michael (Him & Her) will demonstrate the necessary listening, musical and performing skills to do this effectively, including: Listening to your musical partner(s), choosing the right harmonica and position to play, playing fills and “leading” the melody by understanding where the song will go next, managing volume, playing leads that complement the lyrics, anticipating stops, and when to play/when to sit out. There will be plenty of opportunities to try this out yourself. Bring A, C, F, G, and D harps.
Advanced Charts: Sight Reading for Chromatic, Bass and Chord Players
Steve Watne
This is an advanced class requiring sight reading skills for multi-part arrangements for Bass, Chord, and Chromatic.
Advanced Diatonic Technique: Part 1 & 2
Jason Rosenblatt
Join composer, pianist and harmonica player Jason Rosenblatt as he explores advanced techniques necessary for playing chromatically on the diatonic harmonica. He will cover styles including klezmer, Turkish, Quebecois music and jazz. 
Advanced Harmonica Technique
Robert Bonfiglio
Last year’s recipient of the Bernie Bray Award will demonstrate and explain some of the technique and dedication required to up your level of playing on the chromatic harmonica.
Advantages of Playing Country Tuned
Larry Regen
Everyone is invited to learn the benefits of country tuned harmonicas. Bring your C C/T harp if you have one.


Annual General Meeting (AGM)
Saturday 3:30 p.m.
All SPAH members are invited to participate in shaping SPAH's future. Come and let your voice be heard.

Basic Chromatic Harmonica Maintenance
Greg Jones
A Seydel technician, Greg will focus on simple preventative maintenance and troubleshooting such as how to keep your chromatic mouthpiece assembly clean and how to deal with wind savers. He will demonstrate the required tools and answer questions.

Bebop Tuning for the Chromatic
Gary Lehmann & Bill Barrett
Everyone one is invited to join Gary as he explains and demonstrates the joys and advantages of bebop tuning in various musical genres.

Beginner’s Blues Jam
Michael Rubin
Bring any C harmonica and Michael will get you started on the blues on Wednesday and Thursday.

Bluesify your Jazz & Jazzify your Blues
Jimi Lee
Learn what makes a blues song sound jazzy and what makes a jazz song sound bluesy and why. Learn simple ways to make your harmonica sound more jazzy and/or bluesy and how to play overstated and understated.

Blues Without Bends
Larry Regen
Bring a C harp and learn from a full time diatonic teacher how to play those non-bending riffs.

Boosting the Breathing Resistance of your Harmonica to Improve your Health
Dana & Mary Lou Keller
The inventors of the Pulmonica® pulmonary harmonica have improved their product. The Pulmonica® 2.0 has long-lasting stainless steel reeds and comes with the Harmonica Booster™ comb cover that increases the breathing resistance of any Pulmonica®, Seydel Session (Standard or Steel), or 1847 model while benefiting patient safety. Everyone is invited to attend a demonstration and discussion.

Buy, Sell or Trade
Following a successful debut of this event in 2015, SPAH members are again invited to bring their extra “harmonica stuff” to the Partagas Room on Friday between 1 and 4 p.m. Find space on a table and you’re set to go. You can sell some old treasures or buy new ones. You are responsible for all your items.

Can your Computer or Phone Really Get TONE?
John Shirley
This seminar will introduce several applications that process the tone of the harmonica in real-time within the computer (Windows or OSX) or smartphone (iOS) for the purposes of live performance and/or recording. An original freeware application to aid in both practice and recording, The Blue Dadi, will also be presented. The Blue Dadi was written for the harmonica community by Dr. Shirley - it runs on both Windows and OSX, and is offered to all free of charge. Here is the link: 

Celtic Harmonica
James Conway
Learn about the modes of Celtic dance tunes and the harmonica positions used to play them. Techniques such as rhythmic chording, octaving and tongue-switching will be covered. Useful tunings and breathing tricks will also be discussed. A traditional jig and reel will be learned and sheet music/tab
will be provided. Bring a diatonic in the key of D.

Chromatic for Diatonic Players
Robert Bonfiglio
If you are ready to expand your harmonica world, Robert can help open the doors. Bring your willingness to learn.
Combining 1st, 2nd and 3rd Position
Connor Frontera
Connor will elaborate on the positions commonly used in Blues, Bluegrass and Country music. Scales for each of these first 3 positions will be explained and then, their understanding applied. This seminar is open to all players with the basic fundamentals of single notes and bends. Please bring C, A, D and G harmonicas. 

Computer Generated Backing Tracks
Bill Dulin
Can’t find backup players? Not a problem. Bill will demonstrate and explain an easy method to create your own backup band. Bring your laptop for maximum participation.

Creating the Music
Nedra Russ & Julio Guerra
This husband and wife acoustic duo will show you how a team works, writing original material, working out songs, making cover tunes your own and doing shows. You don’t have to be in a duo to attend. Bring your harps.

Creating Tone through Special Effects
Bob McFarlane
This is for both chromatic and diatonic players. Bob will demonstrate how to create great tone using special effects pedals. Vibrato will be demonstrated in both its natural and electronic formats. Bring your own special pedals to demonstrate.


Duo Playing: Part 1 & 2
Joe Filisko and Eric Noden
Joe & Eric explain how they approach working together musically as an acoustic blues duo. Students will learn to think of the Guitar and Harmonica as one instrument that can create a wide range of sounds. Just a few of Joe and Eric favorite duos are Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Big Joe Williams & Sonny Boy Williamson and Fred McDowell & Johnny Woods.

Effortless Singing for Harmonica Players
Brenda Freed
Would you like to feel more confident about singing or be able to front your own band? Brenda has an MA in Music Education/Music Therapy. She has been performing since childhood and has been teaching voice for over 20 years to all ages, ranging from those who could not match pitch to experienced singers. Brenda is intuitive and has the ability to pinpoint vocal problems and offer suggestions on how to make immediate improvement. Her techniques include how to: breathe properly, project and avoid hoarsness, increase vocal range and stamina, improve pitch and tone, and become more confident about singing. This workshop is designed to be experiential, fun and applicable for all participants. Handouts provided.

Effortless Harmony Singing for the Harmonica Player
Brenda Freed
Would you like to play and sing descants so that you can provide interesting accompaniments to a singer? In this fun workshop, participants will learn the basic music theory of harmony and experience singing and playing harmonies with each other. "Brenda Freed can have you singing intricate harmonies in a matter of minutes - even if you've never done it before. Her warm, friendly, yet knowledgeable approach is perfect for both the beginner and the seasoned artist" (Workshop Participant). This workshop is designed to be educational, experiential and fun. Bring a C harp. Handouts provided.

Evening Jams
Do you want to play Blues, Jazz, Country, Bluegrass, Gospel, etc.? Bring your harmonicas. Check program for location.

Every Groove a Bluesman Needs to Know
Jimi Lee
Learn how to use you harmonica to demonstrate a groove to another musician, how to play to many different kinds of blues grooves and more importantly, how to communicate with other musicians the groove that you want to play. Learn the slang that players use to speak to each other about groove and style.

The Filisko Teach-In
Join Joe and all his special guests on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a series of mini-workshops on every aspect of the harmonica covered by some of the world's very finest specialists including David Barrett, Mike Caldwell, Jerry Devillier, PT Gazell, James Conway, Madcat, Will Scarlett, Grant Dermody, Rob Roy Parnell, Ronnie Shellist, Michael Rubin, Todd Parrott, Cara Cooke, Lonnie Joe Howell, Johnny Bishop, Connor Frontera and Buzz Krantz. Some of the topics and musical styles include Blues, Bluegrass, Old-Time, Cajun, Irish, Country, Gospel and Texas Harmonica. There will be help for beginners, intermediate, advanced, chromatic and diatonic, playing grooves & bass-lines, using windsavers, overbending, basic tuning and adjusting and using your computer as a resource and practice tool.  This informal 3 day event allows you to interact with each specialist for a few hours a day on more of an informal and relaxed setting than ever before.

The Gospel Harmonica Community
Keith Mitchell
Learn how to participate in the online Gospel Harmonica Community, a gathering of those who enjoy playing Gospel harmonica music and want to learn more about performing. We will demonstrate how we use both a discussion forum and a “live video” meeting to provide peer support, share learning resources and our live performances, and jointly build a library of resources. Meet some of the community’s Gospel harmonica content experts and help us make plans for the coming year. This session should be of interest to anyone who enjoys playing Gospel Harmonica and for those interested in learning how to create your own online community.  

Growing as a Gospel Harmonica Musician
Franklin Cobos II
How do you advance from being a beginner to then play at a level where others want you to play music with them? This seminar will relate how I went through that process, and how you can do the same. Included in the presentation will be: instrument selection process, maintenance and basic customization, and tuning; draw and blow bends, overblows, and tongue splits; considerations in selecting the key and position in which you play, using the Circle of Fifths and music theory skills to increase your confidence while playing. All levels of players welcome. Bring C, G & D harps.

Hallway Blues Jam
Jimi Lee
Bring your harps and join Jimi on Wed., Thurs. and Fri. afternoons. starting at 3:30. 

Hands Free Chromatic Harmonica Basics
Bruce Dunai, Cynthia Dusel-Bacon & Greg Jones
The presenters will provide a history and evolution of the HFC and demonstrate its usage in various musical styles. Other devices will also be discussed and demonstrated.

Harmonica Adjustments
Bertram Becher
Learn to adjust the standard out-of-the-box harmonica, diatonic and chromatic, for improved tone control, bending, and overblowing. The out-of-the-box harmonica is adjusted to meet the basic needs of the majority of players; however, each player from beginner to professional is unique. Adjustment and customization can dramatically improve reed response and tone control. This workshop will take the mystery out of adjustments and customization by providing the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to make adjustments, making the harmonica a truly individual and intimate instrument. Amongst his other talents, Bertram just happens to be Seydel's Product Manager.

The Harmonica Exercise for Lung Program (H.E.L.P.): A 9 Year Follow-Up
John Schaman, M.D.
Starting in 2007, the Harmonica Exercise for Lung Program has attempted to develop a method of exercising the pulmonary system (lungs) using harmonicas, with the intent of demonstrating measurable physiological and therapeutic benefit. Starting with 10 hole diatonic harmonicas in the key of C, it was determined that the ambulatory population that made up the study subjects did not show significant benefit in the measured parameters (pulmonary function, muscle strength of breathing, etc.). Switching to multiple note chordal played showed better pulmonary physiological challenge, leading to the development of a new kind of harmonica, a diatonic chord harmonica, also now known as the Medical Harmonica.
This lecture/seminar/workshop will outline the salient features of the present-day H.E.L.P. program and demonstrate the main components which include: 

  1. Warm-up exercises (techniques that improve lung exercise also improve sound quality)
  2. Long Tones (working the lungs out of the “comfort zone”)
  3. Chordal Rhythmic Playing (strengthening the muscles of respiration, inspiratory and expiratory)
  4. Chordal Jamming (adding significant musicality to the physiology)
  5. Freestyle Rhythms (“unplugged” exercise and musicality, without wires, electronics, or internet)
  6. Pulsed Metronome Breathing (a simple technique to challenge the lungs while providing a rhythmic framework)
  7. Harmonica as a Meditation Tool (engaging the brain “reset button” to lessen or abort the damaging influence of the high stress world we live in)

Participants should bring either a Medical Harmonica (available at the Seydel booth or www.harmonicaMD.com ) or a low F diatonic harmonica (&/or G harmonica, or, if not available, any harmonica will suffice for demonstration purposes.) Handouts will be provided.

Harmonica Fun A to Z
Lonnie Joe Howell
Join Lonnie in a fun-filled session, learning how to imitate other instruments and sounds, create chords and rhythm patterns, key scales and much more.

Harmonica Rhythm and Chordal Accompaniment
David Kachalon  
Bring your harps to work on rhythm and chordal accompaniment, useful in solo, duo or trio harmonica groups. Rhumba, shuffle, waltz, fox chase and train rhythm imitation will all be covered. Learn to hold and use multiple diatonic harmonicas and to play a melody and chords at the same time. The playing of the John Henry melody over a "fox chase" will be demonstrated.

Harmonikids Session
Gary Allegretto
Gary Allegretto's Harmonikids is multiple award winning 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that has provided the therapeutic joy of learning music on harmonicas to children with special challenges worldwide for thirty years. Missions have included those traumatized by such natural disasters as the earthquake in Haiti, tsunami in Indonesia, hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, and thousands of places in between.  In Allegretto’s words, “Harmonikids provides challenged children shiny new harmonicas and gentle, entertaining music lessons, often in the most devastating time of their life. My special method engages them and provides a positive means of self expression crucial to their recovery. In addition to physical and post-traumatic stress relieving benefits, we have seen Harmonikids programs effectively replenish self-esteem, confidence, hope, and joy into children’s lives. Simply stated, Harmonikids helps nurture their spirits and help them return to being kids again…. or as I like to say, they find the healing joy of music ~ right under their nose.” (www.harmonikids.org)

How to Make your Harmonica Play Better in 30 Minutes or Less
Tom Halchak
Out of the box harmonicas can be a hit and miss proposition.  Sometimes you get a good one, sometimes not.  Fortunately, the harmonicas being manufactured today are some of the highest quality ever made. They pretty much all have “Good Bones” and can be made to play much better with a little TLC. In this workshop you will learn some simple tweaks that will dramatically improve the tone and responsiveness of your harps.

Grant Dermody
Feeling stuck? Don’t know where to start? This workshop will help you move, more easily and joyfully, through 12 and 8 bar blues forms. Bring an A harp to participate.

Introducing Two New Harmonicas
Brendan Power
Always creative, Brendan has developed two new and unique harmonicas, a diatonic and a modified chromatic. All are invited to the U.S . launch to see and hear these harmonicas.

An Introduction to Bass and Chord Playing
Bill Morris & Bud Boblink
Bill and Bud will help you get started on these orchestral instruments, so please bring them if you have them. Learn how the two fit together along with some basic skills and techniques.

Jazz Improvisation on the Hands-Free Chromatic
Enrico Granafei
He does it all. Writes, composes, sings, plays guitar and the hands-free chromatic harmonica. Enrico will discuss and demonstrate how to put it all together to create some beautiful jazz.

Jimmy Reed: The Boss Man and his Music
Michael Cohen and Fred Akins
This seminar will follow the life and musical legacy of Jimmy Reed, often using his own words. We will discuss first position playing (especially the upper octave), including tabs of a number of his songs. Bring your harps (playing optional). Discussion will also include his alcoholism, epilepsy, and if time permits the ubiquitous problem of performance anxiety in musicians.

Kid's Program
Joe Filisko
Join Joe as he entertains and instructs a new generation of harmonica players.

Latin Rhythms
Tim Gonzalez & Thomas Hotcaveg
Bring a C and Cm harp to participate in learning about Latin rhythms by vocalizing through the harmonica, having your own voice and thinking outside the box by using alternate tunings. Music examples will be provided followed by discussion and a Q&A

Low Tech for High Effect Blues Harmonica
Dave Moore
Beginner and intermediate players are invited to bring a C harp to work on some old-school ideas about getting a good feel on the harp without a ton of notes. Dave will cover growls, flutter blasts and bends, tongue slaps, octaves and creating a big, deep throat tremolo sound.

My Nashville Journey with the Harmonica
Buddy Greene
Everyone is invited to join the 2014 recipient of the Bernie Bray Award for a musical journey covering a diversity of musical styles, followed by a Q&A period.

A New Chromatic Harmonica
Gerhardt Mueller  & Tom Stryker
Hohner is releasing a new revolutionary chromatic harmonica. Come to see and hear it.

Open Mic
Marvin Monroe
Here’s your chance to play solo or with others. Leave some space in your day to play.

Pocket Full of Soul: The Harmonica Documentary
Todd Slobin and Marc Lempert
After a screening of this incredible harmonica film, both a shorter and full version,  you get the opportunity for a face-to-face discussion with the makers of the film and some of the players in it such as Peter Madcat Ruth, Robert Bonfiglio and Michael Rubin.

Racking Up and Rocking Out
Lonnie Joe Howell
Lonnie Joe will discuss and demonstrate the equipment needed, basics of guitar and chording, bass and lead runs on guitar, playing harp lead and rhythm guitar, using a capo and signature licks and kickoffs into various well known songs. Bring a C harp.

Rhythm Harp: Train Sounds and Fox Chases
Peter Madcat Ruth
The man who broke SPAH’s diatonic barrier and recipient of two of its highest awards invites all to experience his unique rhythms. Bring a C harp to participate.

Rhythmic Embellishment for Harmonica Players
Bertram Becher 
Music is composed of tones, pauses, and rhythm. It is said that you need to have rhythm in your blood. We will explore how rhythmic elements can be used to create more varied and interesting harmonica improvisations. This introduction includes systematic exercises designed to enhance awareness and fluidity with different rhythms and feelings in harmonica music, bringing the player to a higher level in musical exploration. Bring A and C harps.

The Slider Bass
George Miklas
Join George for an introduction to and a demonstration of the new Slider Bass as well as a comparison to other bass models.

Solo Harmonica Performance
Drea Van Allen
Bring a C and A harp to join Drea as she discusses and demonstrates solo performance, busking, song writing and improvising techniques.
Songs for Clubs: Multi-Part Arrangements
Steve Watne and Mike Runyan
This workshop, open to all, will run for three sessions. Participants will be reading through some of the great arrangements from the Twin Cities Harmonica Society. Included are Bass, Chord, and Chromatic, lead/harmony parts. You will be able to take these arrangements back to your club. Music chart reading skills are an asset.

Strategies to Break Creative Ruts
Lee Sankey
Bring a C and A harp to participate in this workshop designed to help you break out.

Third Position Playing Made Easy
Don McRee & Katrina Curtiss
Want to get that mysterious, exotic "minor" sound and play on songs like “Thrill Is Gone” and “Black Magic Woman”? Third position is the answer and Don will walk you through ways to do it simply and enjoyably. You'll also learn how to use the 3rd position blues and minor pentatonic scales in your licks and solos. And you'll be playing during this seminar; not just listening! Bring A, C, G and D harps.

Three Reasons to Play Half Valved Diatonics
PT Gazell
Join PT as he reveals the three reasons he chose to play half valved diatonics. He will explain and demonstrate the “Gazell Method”.

Trade in your Old Blues Licks for New Ones
Ronnie Shellist
Join Ronnie as he explores new angles to breaking old patterns in your improvisation and phrasing. Learn fresh approaches to creating riffs in the moment without thinking your way through it. Everyone who wants to upgrade their old blues riffs is welcome.

The Tremolo Harmonica
Manfred Wewers
Play the tremolo harmonica or want to? Join Manfred to discuss, demonstrate and play. Explore the history, usage and development of this instrument. Don’t forget to bring your tremolo harmonicas.
Virtual Harmonica Museum
John Whiteman
You can view the Virtual Harmonica Museum at your leisure. But if you want to talk, discuss or ask questions, meet harmonica collector extraordinaire John Whiteman who will be nearby. 


Welcome to the SPAH Convention
Manfred Wewers
Is this your first SPAH Convention? Beginner player? Have questions? Need to maximize your time? Join me for answers, helpful hints and the rules of conduct during the convention.

More details will be listed as they become available. The actual schedule will soon be posted.

If you would like to present a seminar, workshop or lecture, please contact me directly at mwewers@rogers.com. It's never too late to volunteer.

Manfred Wewers
SPAH Convention Seminar Coordinator

Note: All seminars and events are subject to change.