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Conferences and Events
P.O. Box 6785
Mars Hill, NC 28754

Announcing our 24th annual

Blue Ridge Old Time-Music Week
June 7-13, 2015

Classes are scheduled Monday - Friday from 9:00 a.m. until lunch, but the fun doesn’t end there! Workshops are offered after lunch, as well as formal and informal jam sessions. Evenings include concerts by instructors, special guests, and a very special student showcase at the end of the week!

Learning, Laughing, and Living
Students and music lovers of all ages and backgrounds, many of whom have attended the annual Blue Ridge Old Time Music Week for years, come together in this relaxed and supportive environment. During the week, you’re skills will improve; you’ll learn new tunes, and visit with old friends and meet ones who share your passion for old time music.

2015 Instructors


Michael Ismerio, Beginning: Are you ready to take your first steps into the world of old-time fiddling? Well let's get you started on the right path. This class will focus on giving the beginning fiddler the necessary groundwork to play both halves of old-time music, the melody and the rhythm. There will be a heavy emphasis on pointing out and demystify the half of old-time fiddling that often gets neglected: the bowing hand, while familiarizing the beginning student with proper left-hand technique. Bowing movements or rhythms will be broken down, and then played in the context of a simple melody. This class is taught by ear. Bring a recording device.

Helen White, Advanced Beginning : This class is for those who have a few tunes already under their bow and can already navigate the basic mechanics of playing the fiddle. We will review basic technique, but will move through it fairly quickly to focus more on bowing and strategies that will help you learn tunes (by ear) on your own. Note readers wanting to transition to learning by ear are welcome! We’ll learn several tunes during the week applying different rhythmic bow patterns common to old-time music. In addition to standard tuning, we may explore “cross tuning” in the key of A or G. A fiddle with good working pegs for tuning is required. A recording device is highly recommended as no notation or tab of tunes will be provided.


Sandol Astrausky, Intermediate: Class is closed, waiting list available. Through developing confidence and grit in bowing, and a varied old time repertoire from source musicians, intermediate players will explore how to play old time fiddle tunes with a strong rhythmic, tempo and setting sense. Players will learn what to listen for and employ in a melody when learning by ear from source and fellow musicians. Players will also explore the process of how to enjoy and play unfamiliar tunes comfortably in a session setting by learning to recognize various finger patterns and repeated phrases and tags in different keys. A rich repertoire of tunes, from a variety of source recordings in standard and cross-tuned keys will be taught and discussed during the week. We hope, by the end of the week, you will be able to lose yourself to the tune, and develop an inner gratification and satisfaction when playing the fiddle.

Mick Kinney, Fiddle Blues and Rags: Blues and Ragtime has been a part of the Old Time fiddle repertoire for over a century, and here's a way to add some of that venerable tradition to your own collection. We will start with easy to learn rags in familiar fiddle keys, and gradually explore more complex pieces. 
This course will break down challenging bowing and fingering one phrase at a time so you can master syncopated string band classics. Other concepts and material covered will include the basic blues scale, ragtime chord theory, and having some fun with improvisation. For intermediate and advancing players.

Brad Leftwich, Advanced Old -Time: Class is closed, waiting list available.The strong, danceable rhythm of most Southern fiddling comes from a rich vocabulary of bowing rhythms that you can learn to recognize and use. We’ll look at some of the rhythmic tools that traditional fiddlers commonly use to build tunes, and learn repertoire that gives them a good workout -- one or two tunes a day, drawn from different parts of the South. We'll also talk about other elements of style and quirks of individual fiddlers. This is an advanced class, so you should already have good facility on the fiddle (no difficulty keeping up with others in jam sessions or bands), be familiar with the most common keys (A, D, G, and C), and be able to learn short phrases by ear. We’ll use other tunings besides the standard GDAE, and you should be willing to learn to use them. Bring your fiddle, extra strings, and a recording device (and plenty of batteries, chargers, cords, etc.).


Robby Robertson, , Advanced Beginning:The advanced beginner banjo class is for the picker who is wondering, "OK, what's next?" Well, some new tunes and some new licks are what's next. If you've already got the basic clawhammer lick down and know a few tunes, then this class is for you. We'll work on old-time tunes in the G(A) and C(D) tunings, learn some cool new licks like hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides, and work on playing along with a fiddler. Bring a playable banjo, an electronic tuner (or a good ear) and if you have one, a portable recorder. We’ll learn to play the banjo the old-timey way: by listening and practicing.

Hilary Dirlam, Intermediate:Class is closed waiting list available: How do you translate a fiddle tune into “banjo language”? Once you’re ready to move into playing in a group, you’re faced with this challenge. In intermediate banjo we’ll look in depth at various approaches to playing banjo with the fiddle. These approaches include rhythmic backup (including chords and occasional harmony notes), sketching the melody, and playing note-for-note with the fiddler. Beginning with listening to a fiddle tune (we’ll have a boom box in class) we can explore ways for the banjo to enhance and have fun with the tune. We’ll work with a live fiddler, too. To be in this class you need a solid grasp of clawhammer banjo basics, including common tunings, basic chords, hammer-ons and pull-offs. You should be able to play several tunes comfortably in a couple of tunings. There may be some tab used in this class, but a recording device and paper and pencil will be much more useful. Any questions? Email me at

Tom Sauber, Advanced: This class will examine the licks used by the great Round Peak banjo pickers like Charlie Lowe, Tommy Jarrell and others to play melody while at the same time providing the strong, rhythmic support for the fiddle characteristic of the Round Peak style. In addition to learning some Blue Ridge classics, we'll apply Round Peak licks to tunes from different regions in a variety of keys and tunings. Bring a tuner and a recording device. A capo will be handy, but not absolutely necessary.

Pete Peterson, Old-time Fingerstyle Banjo: First we will learn the tune, then we will learn how to play it. We will start with thumb lead two finger banjo using thumb and index finger to play melodies in the key of G. We will move on to tunes in D and introduce index finger lead. By the end of the week we be using thumb and two fingers to play melodies and to back up fiddle tunes. Charlie Poole backup techniques will also be covered. Most of all, we plan to have FUN.

Rhythm & Repertoire:

Erynn Marshall and Carl Jones: In this rhythm and repertoire class, Carl and Erynn will play several of their favorite, southern, fiddle and banjo tunes at slow and faster tempos. Bluesy mandolin-led numbers and an original tune or two will be added to the mix. All instruments are welcome in this class. We will form an all-star stringband – having fun playing tunes from West Virginia, Round Peak, Mississippi and everything in-between. Chord options for unusual tunes and different rhythmic approaches for a variety of instruments will be explored. Guitarists will be shown both flatpick and fingerpicked backup. There’ll be tips for uke and bass players too. Repertoire will be taught quickly by ear during class. Music/chord sheets will be provided to take home at the end of the week. Recording devices are recommended. Carl and Erynn will also share stories about older musicians they have learned from, give tips on making up your own tunes, and show how to bring them to life in a band setting. They’d love you to join this group of merry music makers!

Walt Koken and Clare Millner: Clare and Walt will once again play and teach fiddle and banjo tunes from their large repertoire, played as fiddle/banjo duets, fiddle or banjo solos, or fiddle duets. Possible guitar chords for the more elusive and obscure tunes will be suggested. Walt and Clare will discuss and play the tunes slowly as well as up to speed, but know that the intent is not necessarily to teach them note by note in class, but rather to lay out plenty of material for students to take with them to work on. In addition, Clare and Walt’s important book, The Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes, containing transcriptions of over 1400 tunes, will be available for perusal and purchase during the week. or email at: or


Bill Dudley, Advanced Beginning: The Advanced Beginning Guitar class is aimed at guitar players who are comfortable with the basic chords and can change chords quickly enough to back up old time fiddle tunes at a very moderate tempo. We'll discuss the importance of the guitar in old time music, as well as what the player must do to provide a solid backup. We'll talk about the roles of both the downbeat and the backbeat in old time music. Each day we'll work on several tunes in one specific key, learning bass runs and getting familiar with common chord progressions in that key. We'll discuss the use of the capo - as well as some new ideas about when not to use it. We'll work on ear training: how to determine keys and find chords that are appropriate to the tune being played, and we'll discuss important ideas about session etiquette. Please bring your guitar, an electronic tuner, and a capo. Some sort of recording device will also be very helpful.

Beverly Smith, Intermediate: This class is for people who already know basic chords and can move moderately between them. We'll be learning how to back up fiddle tunes in a way that rocks! We'll learn a lot of handy bass runs but also dive deeply into how to get a good sound, groove, and make good chord choices. We'll be backing up a fiddler every day, playing tunes in all the common keys and, as time permits, learning to back up songs, crooked tunes and waltzes. I have a huge library of source recordings available for comparing guitar styles and, though we will mostly be playing, playing, playing, we will be spending some time listening to the great players and learning from them. Please bring a recording device and a tuner. Be ready to have fun!

Steve Kilby, Advanced:This is an advanced class. We will learn some lead tunes and some more complicated runs within the standard tunes. We will also learn some shortcuts to take when playing tunes with many chord changes. We will learn to play some lead on songs as Doc Watson or Maybelle Carter might do. We will learn to play back up to singers. Expand your repertoire beyond the standard D chord tune.

Intermediate / Advanced Mandolin:

Rhonda Gouge: The theme of this class will be tunes, tunes, and more tunes! If you play mandolin and want to learn new old-time tunes in a fun and low pressure setting, this is the class for you. Not only will we be learning lots of tunes, but we will also discuss basic music theory for mandolin, in order to learn how chords and scales work together to make beautiful mandolin music. Students should be able to play basic chords and scales in the keys of G, C. D. and A. We will try some of the more challenging scale patterns in the keys of F, E, Bb, and B and experiment with playing familiar D and G tunes in these sometimes less familiar keys. There is always a scale or pattern, or tip to help students catch on to these keys quickly, and these will be thoroughly demonstrated and explained. Learning how to improvise and use musical ornamentation such as fill licks, hammer-ons, pull-offs, tremolo, intros and endings will be included in the instruction of new tunes as well as how to include these techniques in the old standards. Good timing is extremely important and this will be stressed in class. So, get out your mandolin and start getting ready for Mars Hill’s wonderful BROTMW. You will learn and have fun too! Recording devices are recommended and questions and discussion will be welcome.

Traditional Singing:

Alice Gerrard: Basically we will be working with 4 types of southern country singing: old-time fiddle tune songs like Stay All Night Cluck, Old Hen, etc; unaccompanied song style; accompanied traditional old-time songs like I'll Be All Smiles Tonight, Give Me the Roses While I Live, etc.; and country/bluegrass style songs like Hey Good Lookin', Alabama Waltz, etc. This is not a group singing class. We will be working as much as possible individually, trying to bring out the core elements of what goes into traditional singing style. You will be expected to sing, this will be a very safe environment in which to do so. If you are shy, feel like you're not a "good" singer (whatever that is), or think you have other problems, we can work on those. If there are those of you who are interested in country harmony, we can get into that to some extent although that will not be the focus of the class. Listening to music is as much a part of learning as doing it. By listening we learn to hear, and become familiar with style, nuance, etc. Every day we will devote a portion of the class, 20 minutes to 1/2 hour, to listening. Please bring a recording device to class so when you are being taught a song, you will be able to record it and work on it outside of class, and we won't have to be going over the same territory the next day.

Dulcimer, all levels:Class is closed waiting list available

Margaret Wright: The dulcimer class will prepare players to be exciting, rhythmic additions to any old time jam. New players will get started on basics while the more experienced players will expand their repertoire. All levels of players are welcome. Goals include improving fingering skill and dexterity, ear training, and playing with enthusiasm and drive. Students will become comfortable with the fretboard, various tunings and keys, chords and melodic patterns. Tablature will be available (if desired), but tunes will be initially taught by rote. Jamming is STRONGLY ENCOURAGED and dulcimer jams (with other instruments welcome) will be held each afternoon. Recording devices are encouraged and music stands discouraged. Be sure to have a dulcimer that plays in tune with a comfortable string height and no buzzes. Bring a dulcimer capo, chromatic tuner, and extra sets of strings and picks. If your dulcimer does not have a 6 ½ fret, please have one added. If any of this does not make sense, feel free to contact Margaret. 936-655-2945 (h) or 936-222-1892



Beginning Guitar - Rhonda Gouge :The beginning guitar mini-class will be a fun learning experience for those interested in learning to play guitar for the first time in a relaxed, low pressure situation. We will begin with tuning, basic open strumming; keeping the beat, technique, and the basic role of the guitar in an old-time band setting from there we will begin to learn basic chord positions and keys that are often used in old-time music. By the end of the week students should be able to strum along with many old-time songs and fiddle tunes. More than anything else students should be prepared to have a good time. Recording devices and questions will be very welcome.

Songwriting - Carl Jones: The main goal of this class will be to examine, explore, and encourage creativity. Songwriting is one of the great paths toward self-expression. No matter if you’ve never written a song or if you already are a prolific published songwriter, bring an open mind and high expectations for great songs to emerge as we invite the muse and allow the stream of consciousness to flow freely. Plan to find new outlooks before the week’s end.

Ukulele - Charlie and Nancy Hartness: After a great morning in your primary music class join my wife Nancy and me after lunch in the refreshing breeze of a roomful of smiling ukulele strummers. In a way it's the musical equivalent of synchronized swimming in the Olympics. We'll efficiently tune our instruments, review basic chords in the Keys of C, G, D, A and F and then we will strum, hum, whistle, sing and laugh together as we learn songs on the uke. We'll also work on providing rhythmic drive to accompany fiddle, banjo and guitar. Please bring a ukulele in good playing condition tuned G-C-E-A and a tuner. A recording device will be useful. Handout packets will be provided.


Fiddle Bowing Patterns - Tom Sauber:  Class is closed waiting list available

“Nashville, Georgia, syncopated shuffles; Kentucky and jazz bow; rolling (and rocking) bow; stresses, pulses and jerks”--all terms to describe rhythm patterns and licks. We'll look at them, I'll tell you what they mean to me, and then we'll see how they work in a variety of tunes. Be sure to bring a recording device.

Beginning Bass - Kellie Allen: Students will learn how to play simple back up bass on old-time tunes using the “ones and fives” bass back-up style. Depending on students’ interest and ability, we may move into simple bass runs and different positions on the neck. This course is for those willing to play upright, acoustic bass. Please bring a recording device. Bring a bass if you have one, but there will be a few to borrow for class time.

Harmony Singing - The Rosin Sisters: Class is closed waiting list available: This class is for anyone who wants to explore and participate in harmony singing, whether you are already accomplished at harmony or just getting started. We promise a friendly and fun atmosphere. We’ll learn the basics of musical harmony, how to find a harmony part to fit your voice, how to work out a song with one or more other people, and the etiquette of harmony singing. We’ll focus on old-time country songs, and throw in some blues, gospel, and honky-tonk just for fun.


Beginning Banjo - Bill West: This beginning banjo class is for the complete beginner. Emphasis will be on the "clawhammer lick,” tuning your banjo, common old time tunings, a few chords and having fun. We'll learn a basic clawhammer banjo style and as many tunes as we can. Bring a playable banjo, an electronic tuner (or a good ear) and if you have one, a portable recorder. We'll learn to play the banjo the old timey way --- by listening and practicing.

Backing up Blues and Rags (all instruments) - Mick and Evan Kinney:  The unique language of blues and rags is easy if you know how- here is the secret! Beginning with the all important "12 bar blues" chord sequence, we will move on to "circle" movements for those cool ragtime riffs. You'll learn to make dozens of chords with only a few magical fingerings, and those all important rhythm strokes to go with them. We will be working on some material from the Blues and Rags fiddle class so we can all jam right away.

Flatfoot Dance - Emolyn Lide: "Have you ever been listening to an oldtime jam and wanted to get up and dance but didn't know just how to do it? In this Flat Foot Dance class we'll dig in to the wonderful traditional steps from dancers that have come before us and touch on various dance styles to create a style all your own. We'll learn a variety of steps to add to your "dance vocabulary" to have ready for freestyle dancing and we'll also discuss how to combine steps in a sequence to match the melody of tunes so that you'll become a percussive "addition" to the overall sound - a musician in your own right. Flatfooting is about letting go, laying-down rhythm, and adding to the music while letting your personality shine. The steps will be taught in a very approachable way; starting with the basics for beginners and adding layers of rhythm for more intermediate dancers. Throughout the class we will be striving to polish those traditional steps, add new challenges, and define your individual styles."

Shaped Note Singing - Laura Boosinger (FREE! - including potluck): Join us for a cappella shaped-note singing. We will be singing from The Christian Harmony, a seven-shape book traditionally used in Western North Carolina.


Double Occupancy Price includes meals, room, and program tuition. Attendees that do not request specific roommate will be assigned one by the BROTMW staff.
Single Occupancy Price includes meals, room, and program tuition
Additional charge for air conditioned room (if available)  
$ 85
Commuter Price includes lunch Monday through Friday.

Non-participant attendee (double occupancy)

Designed for spouses and/or friends that wish to attend the program but do not wish to attend class or workshops. Price includes meals, room and activity fee (staff concerts, etc.).
Mini-class/es (optional) Afternoon mini-classes at 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00

Housing and Meals: Accommodations are provided in campus dormitories. Rooms are a suite arrangement with two bedrooms and a shared bath. All bedrooms have two twin beds and only a few are air-conditioned. Linens are provided. Although single accommodations are available, private baths are not.

Additional Amenities: Attendees have access to campus amenities, including tennis court, walking trails, etc. Meals are exceptional quality, with an all-you-can-eat hot buffet, grill, plus salad, dessert and drink bars.

Transportation: Mars Hill University is located 18 miles north of Asheville, NC, the largest city in the Western NC region. Asheville Regional Airport (code: AVL) is served by Allegiant, Delta, United, and US Airways and their regional affiliates. Direct flights are available to and from Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers/Punta Gorda, Newark, Orlando, and St. Petersburg/Clearwater. The city also has a Greyhound bus terminal. Shuttle service from the airport or bus station to Mars Hill University may be arranged by contacting GrandyCo Airport Transportation at (828) 691-0504. Please make shuttle arrangements before arriving in Asheville.

Refund Policy:  Due to the limited number of spaces available, a non-refundable deposit of $100 per person is required in order to hold your space in class. Full payment is due four weeks before the program begins. If for any reason you are unable to attend the program, your payment minus the $100 deposit will be refunded until four weeks before the program begins. If cancellation occurs after the four week deadline, any funds paid (minus the $100 deposit) will be credited toward next year’s program.  Cancellations must be made in writing by email at or by regular mail at Conferences Office, Mars Hill University, P O Box 6785, Mars Hill, NC 28754.