FUR PEACE RANCH
Conceived in 1989 by Jorma & Vanessa Kaukonen, The Fur Peace
Ranch is nestled in the rolling foothills of southeast Ohio.
Imagine sitting down in a circle with a group of strangers. Each person holds a guitar on their lap and suddenly, a unison of strumming begins. All of the chords blend together into one big, open, crazy, organized, chaotic jam. The music stops and Jefferson Airplane alumni, Jorma Kaukonen, comes over and explains the chord that he played and why he chose to play it. He looks around and says, “alright, everybody be quiet and play that one more time.”
That is one example of the way a class may be taught at Fur Peace Ranch. Located in Meigs County, Ohio, FPR offers a unique and immersive experience for guitar enthusiasts. The music camp was founded by Jorma and Vanessa Kaukonen in 1989 as “a ranch that grows guitar players.” Students at the camp stay in cabins, Friday through Sunday, immersing themselves in music.
Jorma and Vanessa’s goal was to create a place where musicians could come together and surround themselves with music for several days and emerge with a new found inspiration. Jorma says he wants to “demystify the process of playing music” for those who attend the camp. For students arriving around noon on a Friday and leaving Monday morning with classes scattered throughout the days, the process of demystifying music may come with ease. Guitar is the main language spoken at FPR.
“What happens when you’re here is that there’s nothing else to do except to talk about the music and geek out about the guitars,” Jorma says. “There’s just nothing to do but that and it’s an interesting community that people who don’t play don’t really get. But whatever you’re into when you’re surrounded by people that are into that thing and you’ve got an odd language that you all speak it’s a cool thing.”
-Excerpts from Speakeasy Magazine by writer Laura Flum
Built in 1989, Jorma and Vanessa Kaukonen looked at a piece if property in Meigs County, Ohio and conceived what Jorma calls, “a ranch that grows guitar players.” Not a fantasy camp, but this would be a place where both budding and seasoned musicians could immerse themselves for several days, and emerge with renewed inspiration and tangible progress in their music.
The ranch originally started with the kitchen, workshop building, library and the 17 cabins and bathhouse. Over the years, it has expanded to the Fur Peace Station Theater, the Company Store, the Psylodelic Gallery and their new restaurant, Pho Peace Restaurant. The Station Concert Hall, with seating for 200 music lovers, plays host to some of the worlds finest musician in a very intimate setting every Saturday night during camp weekends and throughout the year. The fact that world-famous musicians perform here speaks to the reputation of the Ranch.
Every new session at FPR offers new instructors. Teachers have ranged from Jorma Kaukonen himself to GE Smith, Arlo Guthrie, Jack Casady, Oteil Burbridge, Steve Kimock, Chris Smither, Warren Haynes, Jill Sobule, Patty Larkin, Happy Traum, Jonathan Edwards, Woody Mann, Tom Feldmann, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Bill Kirchen, Bobby Vega, Roy Book Binder, Michael Falzarano, Guy Clarke and the list goes on. Each instructor has their own way of teaching their classes. For Jorma, teaching is a very important aspect of what he does at the ranch. His style of teaching is very anecdotal.
The classes at Fur Peace Ranch are relatively small, with no more than 12-15 people. Students may come from across the ocean, across the US or they may just be located an hour away. They may be white-collar employees, blue-collar or retirees. They may have heard about it because they were fans of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna or they may just want a more intimate musical learning experience. They may be returning for their 40th class or this may be their first time at the ranch. The only characteristic that matters is their passion for music.
Jorma notes that Fur Peace Ranch is not like applying for grad school. The talent level is varied, but they try to have people with similar skill levels in the same class. Workshop levels range from Level One (Beginners) to Level Four (Masters). While each level assists in making class selections best suited for the students’ ability, there may be a range of experience within each of the levels. Some classes may be offered for multiple levels. Ranch would be just a bunch of buildings.
Because of all of these people and their commonality of spirit, Fur Peace Ranch nourishes the soul while educating the mind and the fingers. Jorma and Vanessa could not have known in 1989 that their music-farm would germinate as it has with a following of more than 4,000 “repeat offenders”, and serve as a springboard for forging deep new friendships. Ask someone who has been to the ranch a few times and you will hear, not entirely in jest, that this is home and the rest is just time in between. Come be a guest in this land of musical peace.