20th Anniversary (1997 – 2017)

2017 was a milestone year for FAMI. We turned 20 and there were several initiatives during the year to mark and celebrate the occasion. Special 20th anniversary swag was created including: mugs, stickers, t-shirts, hoodies and pick boxes. We also had a special cake and at the May held a Swing Dance.

You might want to check out the infographics below which contain interesting trivia about FAMI’s past 20 years.

Thank you to all who have helped make FAMI such a success.

General Infographic

Some interesting facts about FAMI events in general.  VIEW (pdf)

Class Infographic

A wide variety of classes offered by FAMI – here are some of the statistics.  VIEW (pdf)

Instructor Infographic

Many excellent instructors have taught at FAMI and added to the FAMI experience.  VIEW (pdf)

How It All Started

A group of local music enthusiasts met in September 1996 to explore the possibility of starting a music workshop in the Calgary area.  The group included: Marilyn and Herb Giesbrecht, Don Williams, Beulah and Ken Limber, Rosemary Wishart, Joy and Vlad Kaitman, Sharon and Bert Jackson and Al Lamonica  (as the representative from the Foothills Bluegrass Music Society).  The Bluegrass Society set aside funds to assist with start up costs until the group could apply for an Alberta Foundation of the Arts grant.  In August of that year the group talked with Steve Spurgin at the Shady Grove Festival who encouraged them to form an acoustic music society as opposed to a Bluegrass only society.  This was agreed upon at the meeting.

Don Williams had a connection with a local group which was in the final stages of developing a facility in Southern Alberta.  This location proved to be suitable for FAMI’s needs and was booked for the May long weekend in 1997.

The Foothills Acoustic Music Institute (FAMI) was incorporated as a non profit society under the Societies Act of Alberta on June 25, 1997.  FAMI was also registered with the Federal government as a Charitable Organization.

The Guiding Force

FAMI was the vision of a few local music enthusiasts who saw a need for an educational camp for acoustic music.  Once FAMI was established the following individuals steered the course to make FAMI what it is today.  Many served for 10 years before handing off to others.  The original Board consisted of:

Marilyn Giesbrecht – President
Herb Giesbrect – Vice President
Sharon Jackson – Secretary & Registrar
Joy Kaitman – Treasurer

Don Williams – Director
Rosemary Wishart – Director
Beulah Limber – Director

All of the people who have volunteered as Board Members over the years are listed on our Past Board Members page.

The First Camp

The first camp was held on May 16 to 19, 1997 at which 14 musicians volunteered to instruct for free.  This camp included 94 class participants and 28 guests for a total of 136 which resulted in the ability to give the instructors an honorarium as well as room and food for the weekend.  FAMI completed the May Camp with a positive bank balance and was able to reimburse the generous pre-camp financial assistance of the Foothills Bluegrass Society.  FAMI applied for its first AFA Grant for 1998.

The classes offered at this camp were:

Beginner Guitar – Ken Limber
Rhythm Guitar / Beginner Flat Pick Guitar – Vlad Kaitman
Intermediate Flat Pick Guitar – Al Lamonaca
Beginner Banjo – Brian Beairsto
Intermediate Banjo – Sheri Bensmiller
Beginner Mandolin – Andreas Wissman
Intermediate Mandolin – Boh Woodward

Beginner Fiddle – Randy Jones
Bluegrass Fiddle – Bruce Blair
Celtic Fiddle – Brad Lewis
Stand-up Bass – Don Williams
Beginner / Intermediate Dobro – Bryan Bradfield
Autoharp – Tony Kuzmiez
Banjo Styles – Barry Luft

Success & Growth

During the period 1997 to 2003 FAMI offered two camps per year, an Instructional Camp during the May long weekend and a Jam Camp the weekend before Thanksgiving.  The instructional camps became very popular with the May 2002 camp selling out in three weeks with a total number of participants at 175.  In the following year, the May 2003 the camp sold out with 176 participants.   This success was not without its problems, the camp was bursting at the seams and a second dining room had to be set up to handle all the attendees.   Fresh water sources and the septic field were strained and the dorms and class rooms were overcrowded.  As a result FAMI decided to limit future camps to a maximum of 150 people.

In 2004 a second Instructional Camp, held on the first weekend in June, was added to meet the demand.  This camp was of a shorter, with the number of mini workshops reduced to maximize the class instructional time. June camps were held from 2004 to 2007, when it was decided, with feedback from students, instructors and organizers, that these camps were too short, with insufficient time to practice the skills and a too-late Sunday departure from camp.  From the organizers’ point of view the June camp was too close to the May camp and caused Board of Directors burn-out.

In 2008 the second  (June) instructional camp was moved to August, running from Thursday evening to Sunday noon and was structured like the May camp.  The May and August instructional camps, and the fall jam camp continue to form the core of FAMI’s program.