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

Announcing our 26th annual

Blue Ridge Old-Time Music Week
June 4-10, 2017

2017 Scheduled Instructors list: Class descriptions below


Beginning – Shay Garriock:

The beginning fiddle class is not only a beginning fiddle tutorial, but also an applied introduction to bowing techniques commonly used in Southern Appalachian Fiddling. The class integrates specific starter bowing techniques and timing with traditional tunes that are commonly played at jam sessions. Bowing techniques covered include the basic shuffle, slurring, circle bowing, and syncopated bowing. Also covered are beginning essentials such as bow holding and control, finger placement for good pitch, learning by ear, and methods to improve tone. Teaching is done patiently at a slow, structured pace that won’t leave you behind.

Early Intermediate – Helen White

The Early Intermediate class offers a refresher to fiddlers on the basic foundations: playing in tune, rhythmically, and with good tone production. We will look at developing an aural learning style based on identifying the “bones” (simplest melody) of a tune and fleshing it out by applying various bowing patterns common to Southern Appalachian fiddling. We’ll look at chords for fiddle and how to “get into a jam” without initially knowing a tune. We may migrate to a common old-time crossed tuning for at least one class. Although not primarily a repertoire class, we will learn several tunes in different keys during the week. Tunes will be taught by ear. Students need a good functional fiddle that is easily tunable. A tuner is strongly recommended.

Intermediate – Rachel Eddy (Class is full, waiting list available)

This class will focus primarily on how to help your fiddling sound better and more driving. It will be geared toward learning how to use bow pulses, bowing phrases, and note combinations to give fiddle tunes a shape. We will also explore ways to be more consistent players, and how important that is in terms of leadership in jams. This will not be a repertoire-heavy class, but rather we’ll use a handful of tunes that utilize certain helpful techniques, and really work hard to know them before the end of the week. There will be lots of playing time, as fingers on strings is the best way to take home what you learn!

Advanced – Joe DeCosimo (Class is full, waiting list available)

In this advanced fiddle course, we’ll delve into some elements of style that make old-time fiddling powerful and moving—ornamentation, bowing nuance, shadings of intonation, rhythmic play. Striving to become better listeners, we’ll examine how we bring old recordings to life in our own playing. We’ll also consider how to make the best music possible by ourselves, in jams, and for dancers. Since we’re in Western North Carolina (and close to East Tennessee), music and stories of regional players like J.D. Harris, Marcus Martin, Manco Sneed, Bill Hensley, and Osey Helton will be included. We’ll work in a range of tunings. Participants will leave with an appreciation for the region’s diverse, beautiful sounds, strategies and ideas for learning on their own, and a feel for a handful of tunes from the region. To get the most out of the week, folks should have solid fiddle skills and the ability to play in multiple keys.

Rags & Blues – Mick Kinney

Blues and Ragtime have contributed some of the most interesting and expressive tunes to old-time music, and this course will have you playing some fiddle favorites. Starting with easy rags in familiar keys, we will progress to more challenging fingering and bowing pieces by a one-phrase-at-a-time method. Material to be studied will include historic performances by artists such as the East Texas Serenaders, Mississippi Sheiks, Memphis Jug Band, Macon Ed, as well as fiddle versions of New Orleans and St Louis style classic rags and blues. Other concepts covered are improvising on the blues scale and ragtime chord theory. This class is for intermediate and advanced players.


Early Intermediate – Robby Robertson

The Early Intermediate Banjo Class is for the picker who is wondering, "OK, what's
next?" You've already got the basic clawhammer lick under your belt and know a few tunes and want to learn even more. We'll work on old-time tunes in G and C tunings, and at the same time, we'll learn some cool new licks like hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides. 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.

Intermediate– Mac Traynham (Class is full, waiting list available)

Mac will teach several tunes from the Southwest Virginia clawhammer banjo tradition. Emphasis will be on playing in a traditional style that's strong and lively. i.e.: the “Mac” attack. Students should be adept at basic right hand and left hand techniques and keeping time. Players will be shown how to fit a melody onto a basic rhythmic template. We will explore non-melodic traditional techniques that add flavor to a tune, such as back beat brushing, use of alternate tunings and employing drone notes. Elements that lead to better danceability, like tempo and drive, will be discussed and demonstrated. Every participant will receive a copy of a collection of source recordings of "old masters” that have inspired Mac in his experience.

Advanced – Kirk Sutphin

This class will cover many of the Round Peak tunes, "clawhammer " style, as well as the many two and three finger picking styles that Kirk learned direct from some of his heroes. The class will also focus on matching the notes that the fiddle plays on banjo, along with left-hand embellishments that Round Peak style banjo is known for. Bring a recording device. Learn it just as the old timers did.

Finger Style Banjo - Pete Peterson

We will start with thumb lead two-finger style (thumb and index finger) and learn by playing melodies of familiar tunes. We will learn harmony backup and see, with the help of fiddlers and guitarists, how the banjo fits in to a string band setting. By the end of the week, you will be having fun playing tunes from DaCosta Woltz, Frank Jenkins, Uncle Dave Macon. Charlie Poole, and others.


Early Intermediate –Susie Coleman

This course focuses on becoming a rock solid, reliable old-time rhythm guitarist, featuring exercises to build hand strength and muscle memory for both hands. In addition to learning new tunes every session, students will learn timing fundamentals, kickoffs, alternating bass and simple bass note patterns, how to navigate square and crooked tunes, and will get an overview of the Number System. Course includes a copy of the Pegram Jam Chord Chart Book, a fiddle tune reference for old-time rhythm players. We will work with first-position open chords only. Students should be familiar with most common major and minor chord shapes, be able to strum smoothly and have developed sufficient callouses and hand strength to play for several hours at a time.

Intermediate – Beverly Smith

In the Intermediate guitar class we will be focusing on taking our playing to the next level. If you can easily move between chords and are looking to improve your style with bass runs, chord options and creating a groove, this is probably for you. We will have a fiddler in the class every day and will be working on improving our back up to fiddle tunes in the common keys, D, G, A and C. We will be learning runs that move from chord to chord as well as lines that hang on a single chord. Depending on time we may explore some waltzes, song back up and crooked tunes. Bring a playable guitar, a couple of flat picks and a tuner.

Advanced – Wayne Henderson

We are honored that National Heritage Award winner Wayne Henderson will be teaching Advanced Guitar Class this year. Guitar players have an unparalleled opportunity to spend a week with a true master of traditional guitar. You will learn to be friends with the entire fingerboard of your instrument, to play traditional melodies, and to absorb the “extras” that will add polish and pizzazz to your guitar picking. Wayne teaches by ear and if you have a tune you want to learn, Wayne will be happy to help you learn it. Students should be solid rhythm players and generally be familiar with most chords, alternating bass, and some of the standard old-time repertoire.


Erynn Marshall/Carl Jones

In this rhythm and repertoire class, Carl and Erynn will play a selection 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 string band – having fun playing tunes from West Virginia, Round Peak, Kentucky, 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 flat pick and finger-picked 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. 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!

Adam Hurt/Beth Hartness

Players of any of the traditional old-time instruments--fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, and more--will be guided through a curated selection of southern, midwestern, and other interesting tunes from Adam & Beth's broad repertoire as a group, with melodic, structural, and chordal details emphasized. While instrument-specific technical instruction will not be provided, Adam will play both fiddle and banjo as the tunes are presented at manageable tempos for on-the-fly learning. Appropriate chord progressions will be suggested, and questions and discussion will be encouraged throughout the class. Participants can expect to come away with plenty of new tunes to make their own as well as a heightened understanding of how to analyze fiddle tunes for clearer learning in the future.


Intermediate/Advanced: Hilary Dirlam

This class is for bass players who want to move beyond open strings to new territory. If you’re already familiar with the bass, and can play some old-time tunes with reliable rhythm, this class is for you. We’ll learn how to incorporate notes and patterns up the neck. We’ll learn some bass runs and when and where to use them. Part of every day’s class will include using what we’ve learned as we take turns backing up a fiddler and guitar player. Other class topics might be: ear training, recognizing guitar chords, the circle of fifths, tuning to harmonics, and right-hand rhythms. In addition to bringing a bass, you’ll need a tuner.


Intermediate/Advanced: Ellen Vigour

This class is designed for folks with some mandolin experience who want to increase the clarity of their playing and add interesting and fun tunes to their repertoire. Teaching old-time tunes (including a rag or two with syncopated rhythms), Ellen will focus on playing techniques including pick direction, rhythmic backup, and playing with other musicians, in a fun, supportive learning environment. We will explore how the mandolin is used for both lead and rhythm. Ellen’s teaching focuses primarily on learning to play by ear although mandolin tablature will be provided. Instruction is individualized as needed to ensure success of all students.


Country Duets: Alice Gerrard and Kay Justice

This class will examine the singing styles and harmonies found in traditional rural singing. It will focus on learning to sing a strong lead and then exploring appropriate harmony parts. There will be some listening to recordings of various styles of traditional singing, but the thrust of instruction will be upon learning and singing a variety of those songs. The instructors will demonstrate the melody to each song and will give some ideas for harmony lines. Students will be divided into small groups so that each student will have an opportunity to experience singing lead and harmony. Lyric sheets will be provided. Those who play instruments while singing are encouraged to bring their instruments with them. A recording device, while not required, will be helpful.


Beginning: Margaret Wright

Margaret will focus on Beginner and New Player level dulcimer students. The focus will be fretboard familiarity, rhythmic, musical strumming techniques, and tune acquisition in the keys of D, G and A. All subjects will be presented within the framework of fun, old-time tune material. This class is totally “hands-on!” Tunes will be taught by rote with ear training and muscle memory encouraged. However, tablature will be available. Be sure that your dulcimer is playable. Have it checked for string height and any buzzes. Your dulcimer should have a 6 ½ fret, but please do not add 1 ½ (unless it is already there.) Bring a set of extra strings and a capo. If you are not sure about your skill level, you may contact Margaret, or know that there may be some fluid movement between her class and her son Lloyd’s class if it seems fitting.

Intermediate/Advanced: Lloyd Wright

In Lloyd’s class we will cover multiple keys, tunings and styles, with and without a capo. We will focus on old-time music and how to incorporate dulcimer into any jam or performance. This is an (advanced-) intermediate to advanced workshop.In Lloyd’s class we will cover multiple keys, tunings and styles, with and without a capo. We will focus on old-time music and how to incorporate dulcimer into any jam or performance. This is an (advanced-) intermediate to advanced workshop.

Mini-class schedule: Descriptions below


Ukelele - the Hartnesses 

This little instrument, often viewed as a toy, can be the source of endless hours of musical joy. After you've worked hard in your music class all morning and you need to give your fingers and brain pan a little R&R, join us in the afternoon Ukulele Mini-Class. We'll quickly review basic chords in the Keys of C, G, D and A, with a little F thrown in, because it's a fun key on the uke. With the support of my wife Nancy we will strum, hum, whistle, sing and laugh together. 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. For folks who took this class last year, we will have a new set of songs to learn.  

Beginning Banjo -Evan Kinney 

Starting with the basic claw hammer stroke, you'll be able to play along with fiddle tunes the first day. From there we will focus on accompaniment while learning some simple session and jam tunes. Bring your banjo and if possible a tuner. Recording devices are welcomed and encouraged.

Beginning Guitar -Susie Coleman

In our class, students will learn how to hold a guitar and a pick, and a little about the instrument itself. We’ll talk about how to tune and care for your guitar. We’ll cover the most commonly used open guitar chords and try some basic strum patterns. We’ll discuss what’s important about timing, volume control, tone, pitch, sustain, and syncopation, and examine various roles the guitar can play in a body of music. We’ll talk about how to practice efficiently. And we’ll learn to play a few of America’s most well-known old-time tunes. All students will receive a complimentary spiral-bound copy of “Acoustic Guitar: Meet the Rhythm Machine”, a reference guide with related commentary, diagrams and charts, plus some simple songs to practice with to help the beginning strummer get off on the right foot. Students should be able to wrap their fingers around a guitar neck. Bring a guitar with fresh strings; a tuner of any type; a flat pick; a capo; pen or pencil; a recording device if desired. iPhones, iPads, etc. are welcome.


Harmony Singing -Rosin Sisters (Class is full, 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 Mandolin -Pete Vigour

This class is for total beginners! Using simple two-finger chords and a few notes, we’ll be playing tunes right away, with Pete steering you toward correct finger placement and pick direction. Pete will present many elegant and unusual tunes as well as old favorites, by ear and using tab and classic recordings. 

Harmonica -Mac Traynham

Beginning harmonica is for anyone wanting to learn old-time tunes in the favorite old-time keys of G, D and A. Students will need three 10-hole harps - one for each key. (See above). The goal is learning to play melodies using rhythmic techniques used by harmonica players. Students wanting to try playing on a frame with guitar are welcome too.


Flat Foot Dancing- Emolyn Liden: 

Have you ever been listening to an old time 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.

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

Backing up Blues and Rags – Mick 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.

Shaped Note Singing -Laura Boosinger (free class):

Join us for a capella shaped-note singing. We will be singing from The Christian Harmony, a seven-shape book traditionally used in Western North Carolina.