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'Live, eat and breathe your music'

Guitar Workshop Plus sets up shop at Quest University for five-day music session

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For just one week this summer, Quest University's hallowed halls of learning will resonate with vocals and the sounds of guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards. That's because the new private university is playing host to a prestigious Canadian music program, Guitar Workshop Plus.

Founder of the program, Brian Murray, has had almost 14 years experience running music workshops. His original vision for the camp was simple: Murray wanted to offer a fun, non-competitive, supportive environment for musicians to learn in.

"Something that you can't get anywhere else," he said. "So you just go live, eat and breathe your music."

As the name suggests, the workshop isn't just about guitar. Rather, over the years, it's grown to include bass, drums, keyboard and vocals, a structure that allows people to focus on their choice of style of instrument, and walk away from the whole experience with an improved skill set and materials to work at for the rest of the year.

"I made a living as a professional guitar player for 20 years, so I know a lot of things that I experienced were with 'schools' where guys would be getting up there and sort of cutting heads with each other," Murray said.

All of the musicians were focused on one-upping each other, and for Murray, that isn't what music is about.

"It's not a competition, it's supposed to be a sharing of musical ideas."

The intimate workshops offer a simultaneously structured and laidback approach to learning, featuring local musicians as players and teachers, and some of the biggest names in the industry as guest speakers and instructors.

"It's a really unique experience for the students, because a lot of these artists will play 20,000-seat venues when they come to town."

This year, the workshops will include a range of iconic artists, like Paul Gilbert of Mr. Big and Racer X, blues great Duke Robillard, bass master Stuart Hamm, Hall of Fame inductee Rik Emmett, Andy Timmons, Greg Howe, Don Ross, Mark Kelso, and guitar designer Robert Godin.

"The thing about the artists that come in to do these things is they kind of want to give back. They're not necessarily doing it for the money - although they don't come cheap," Murray said with a laugh. "But they could make more money if they were on the road."

The program is designed to cater to aspiring musicians of all ages and abilities, attracting teenagers, music students, adult hobbyists and professional musicians. They offer a range of courses from beginner to advanced, focusing on blues, jazz, rock, acoustic and classical.

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