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Music lesson the prize for young man's dedication at Pickers’ Fest

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16-year-old Cameron Palmer, of Castle Rock, received a private guitar lesson from nationally-acclaimed artist Stephen Bennett at Pickers’ Fest Saturday, thanks to a scholarship from the Winlock Acoustic Music Association.

Regrettably, there were not many young kids watching or participating at the 14th Annual Winlock Pickers’ Fest over the weekend at Winolequa Park.

One lucky young man sat and enjoyed much of Saturday at the annual blue grass event with about 200 other spectators and musicians. 16-year-old Cameron Palmer, of Castle Rock, was the winner of the Winlock Acoustic Music Association's (WAMA) scholarship, allowing him to have a private lesson with nationally-acclaimed artist, musician and educator Stephen Bennett.

"Cameron was nominated and selected as the recipient of a workshop with Stephen Bennett simply because his interest and his dedication," said Jim Bierlein, secretary for WAMA. "He loves to play music."

Bierlein also added that obtaining the participation of more youth in acoustic music is an important part of WAMA's mission.

That was not a problem for Cameron Palmer or his parents.

"We both grew up playing music", said Angie Palmer, Cameron's mother, who was enjoying performances in the shade of Douglas Firs during Saturday's 90-degree temperatures. "My husband's family is just super musical. He grew up doing it with his whole family."

"I think it is just awesome," Angie Porter said of her son's private lesson with Bennett. "We got him lessons when he was nine and he wasn't really into practicing. A couple of years later, he said OK, I want to play now."

"Being a musician myself, I thought when he really wants it. It makes for a good musician," she added. "We have never once had to tell that kid to practice."

"He is full of natural talent and comes from a very musical family," said Bennett, who leads workshops and teaches private lessons in conjunction with performances all over the country from his home base in Connecticut.

"He also has had a great teacher for the last couple of years," he said, referring to Marv Sobolesky, who happens to be the WAMA President and Palmers local guitar teacher based in Winlock.

Just before Palmer's hour of instruction, Sobolesky was Bennett's pupil.

"He is a really good teacher," says Cameron Palmer about Bennett. "He knows a lot of good stuff."

Palmer says that they do not play much on stage, but family functions are almost always filled with music, stating, "Whenever family asks us to play, we will go out and play for them."

Palmer says that his interest in acoustic performance leads to a pretty solo existence in the music community at his school. He says that most have a tough time keeping up with him.

"At a small school, it is hard to find people that can play," said Cameron Palmer, who will be a sophomore at Toutle Lake High School this fall. "Sometimes I will have my guitar and play in the halls and wander around at school."

"I would like to start making some albums and recording some stuff," he added.

While he believes someday he may contribute vocals, he may end up being one of those silent players that amaze with their skill.

For now, Cameron Palmer enjoyed great music at Pickersfest and challenged his future classmates by gleaning more knowledge from a community of musicians over a very special weekend in Winlock.


"CowChips" from Tacoma, played a mix of western swing, bluegrass and cowboy tunes, featuring three-part harmony reminiscent of the Western bands of the 1940s, entertained an audience of about 200 at the 14th annual Winlock Pickersfest.


Portland's "Wayward Vessel" performs in front of about 200 people from around the Northwest at Winolequa Park on Saturday night during the 14th annual Winlock Pickersfest.


Participants at the 14th annual Pickersfest "jam" in the meadows of Winolequa Park.

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