History of the Mendocino Guitar Workshop

Workshop Attendees in 2013

2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the workshop’s humble beginnings as a pair of weekend get-togethers with a handful of guitarists—one at our home and the other at Laurel Mill Lodge, deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains. My wife, Alison, volunteered to cook and has continued to delight workshop participants with her delicious and healthy meals ever since. Realizing the limitations and “close quarters” of holding a workshop at our home, for the next 13 years we conducted all the Summer Intensive Guitar Workshops at Laurel Mill Lodge where participants could choose between paying extra for a cabin on the creek, a cheaper option of throwing down a sleeping bag in the A-frame bunkhouses, or free camping in the meadow next to Soquel Creek—or even just crashing on the couch!

Laurel Mill Lodge was a great place for a guitar workshop, but eventually we felt the need to move operations closer to our home in Mendocino County, so we pulled up stakes and moved operations to Jug Handle Creek Farmhouse on the Mendocino Coast in 2013. The 19th century farmhouse had its charms—it is part of the beautiful Jug Handle State Park and beach—but it was a little cramped, so we moved, once again, to our current location at the Albion Field Station facility on the mouth of the Albion River.

It was this last move that allowed us to expand in size from 12 to 18 students, and for the first time, add a second teacher in the form of Grammy® award winning classical guitarist and composer Andrew York. Though we had been aware of each other’s work for many years, Andy and I met for the first time at a guitar festival in Germany in 2011, and shortly after that, we started performing in concert together. Having each played the other’s primary instrument—Andy has played steel-string, and I’ve played classical guitar—and being very eclectic in our influences, it seemed like a natural to bring the sounds and traditions of both genres together in concert and also to teach them together under one roof.

We have always been an all-ages workshop, and we have had participants as young as 12 and as old as 70. While we have considered offering separate workshops for different age groups and interests, we find the intergenerational mix provides a unique opportunity for participants to learn about a variety of musical traditions and guitar techniques from each other. Evening jam sessions often look like family gatherings where the songs of the 60s collide with the latest sounds off the internet.

Late Night Jam Session in the Library

We have tried to make the workshop reasonably accessible to guitarists of different economic backgrounds, and we have been very fortunate to attract sponsors who make it possible for young students (under 25) to apply for full tuition scholarships. We currently offer six scholarships and we are looking to increase that number going forward.

Our name has changed over the years; from the Alex de Grassi Summer Guitar Workshop to the Laurel Mill Lodge Summer Intensive Guitar Workshop to the Mendocino Summer Guitar Workshop and finally, with the anticipation to extend our activities to other seasons and other events, very simply, the Mendocino Guitar Workshop. However our mission has not changed—we are still dedicated to offering insights into the ever expanding universe of guitar music, and having some fun along the way! If you are interested in learning more about us, or would like to become a sponsor, contact us at office@mendocinoguitarworkshop.com