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

Announcing our 23rd annual

Blue Ridge Old Time-Music Week
June 8-14, 2014

Follow this link to REGISTER ONLINE NOW

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.

2014 Class Descriptions

Beginning Old-Time Fiddle: Michael Ismerio
Beginning fiddlers will focus on identifying, naming, slowing down but mostly playing the exciting rhythms, pulses and drones that give Old-Time fiddling its distinctive sound. There will be a heavy emphasis on pointing out and demystifying the half of old-time fiddling that often gets neglected: the bowing hand. Bowing movements or rhythms will be broken down and played in the context of a melody. This class is taught by ear and uses mostly the bow hand to get muscle memory used to playing the rhythms. Bring a recording device.
Shoe Maker, Fiddler, Square Dance Caller

Advanced Beginning Fiddle: Helen White
If you can already navigate the beginning mechanics of playing the fiddle and have a few tunes already under your bow, this is the class for you. We will review basic technique, but will move through it fairly quickly to focus more on strategies that will help you learn tunes by ear independently. We’ll learn several tunes during the week applying different rhythmic bow patterns common to old-time music, and we will touch briefly on playing fiddle as back up to tunes or songs. 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.

Intermediate Fiddle: Beverly Smith
Intermediate fiddle players will have the opportunity to explore old-time detail and styling, the stuff we love about the tunes that's not just about the notes. Using different tunings and bowing rhythm, students will learn how to give their current repertoire a bit more traditional feel as well as learn tunes from the repertoire of older Appalachian fiddlers. Students should be able to play a few tunes from memory and play a G scale (first position). Recording devices and tuners encouraged!

Advanced Fiddle: Emily Schaad  CLASS FULL
This class will be focused on building repertoire, getting rhythm in the bow and developing style in old-time fiddling. We will draw tunes from a variety of fiddlers and regions, exploring different techniques that are used for accentuating rhythm. We will discuss making choices while learning new tunes, varying rhythms while playing and some basic ideas for breaking free from playing a tune the same way each time. Some discussion of improving mechanics (tone, articulation, ergonomics) and exposure to source recordings will be included. Please bring a recording device and be prepared to play in a few different keys and tunings. Email:

Fiddle Blues and Rags (intermediate and advancing players): Mick Kinney
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 tunes by the East Texas Serenaders and Grinnell Giggers as well as American classics like "Wabash Blues" and "St. Louis Tickle." Other concepts and materials covered will include the basic blues scale, ragtime chord theory, and fun with improvisation.

Beginning Clawhammer Banjo: Bill West
You can play a banjo if you can tap your foot! After learning to tune the banjo we will concentrate on the clawhammer lick. While developing a good sense of rhythm we will work on a couple of simple tunes and a few basic chords. The class will be taught the traditional way, listening and playing together. Tab will be available. Along with a banjo and extra strings you may want to bring a capo, electronic tuner and a recording device.

Advanced Beginner Clawhammer Banjo: Robby Robertson
The Advanced Beginner 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 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 Clawhammer Banjo: Mac Traynham -- CLASS FULL
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. 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. Non-melodic traditional techniques that add flavor to a tune such as back beat brushing, use of alternate tunings and employing drone notes will be shown as well. 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 Banjo: Adam Hurt -- CLASS FULL
In this class, designed for the advancing clawhammer banjo player, participants will learn a collection of traditional old-time tunes selected to convey broader ideas concerning technique, style and aesthetics, concepts that can be put to use well beyond this case-study repertoire. In the process we will discuss and explore ways of developing one's own personal musical style, as illustrated through the examples of a variety of source musicians. Beyond the development of repertoire and technique, participants will also have the opportunity to learn to musically interact with the old-time fiddle. Participants should be comfortable playing in the clawhammer style (without reading from tab) in the keys of D and A using the appropriate old-time tunings for both keys, and they should have facility with the drop-thumb technique in order to get the most out of this class. All material will be taught by ear in the traditional manner so the use of recording devices is highly recommended.

Advanced Beginner Guitar: Rhonda Gouge
Students who are interested in this class should be able to play simple chords such as G, C, D, A, and E reasonably well. We will do lots of songs and tunes and discuss how chords work together. There will be lots of tips to help students improve their playing skills, such as how to make smooth chord transitions, how to make those pesky problem chords sound better, how to get the best tone out of your guitar, and most importantly, how to keep good rhythm behind a fiddle or banjo, or in a band situation. We will also touch on how to learn to play lead lines working from a simple seven-tone scale. Recording and note taking devices are recommended. Come prepared for an exciting and interesting week of fun learning.

Intermediate Guitar: Kellie Allen
Learn to play backup guitar for old-time tunes and songs. We’ll start with bass string/strum technique (aka “boom chuck”) and move on quickly from there. Prerequisites for this class are the ability to change chords for an old-time fiddle tune up to dance speed and having the basic chords for the keys of A, D, G and C memorized, without the need to refer to a written chord chart. We will cover the Nashville numbering system, chord choices, listening for chord changes, circle of fifths and finding some chords up the neck. An important part of this class is bass runs. We will learn how to use simple and more complex bass runs à la Riley Puckett, Gene Meade, Roy Harvey and others. It is recommended that you record everything.

Advanced Guitar: Wayne Henderson
This guitar class will focus on traditional tunes. Students should come to the class with a guitar, a tuner and means of recording the tunes, as teaching will be the old-time way, by ear. Wayne will be happy to record both melody and backup for everything he teaches directly and will also teach tunes that students request. Students should already know “how to pick”; that is, being pretty familiar with chords and playing backup for traditional tunes.

Old-time Singing: Kari Sickenberger
If you enjoy playing, singing, and/or listening to bluegrass, old-time, gospel or country music, you have the Carter Family to thank for being perhaps the most sturdy block in that musical foundation. Their moniker “The First Family of Country Music” is richly deserved as the Carter Family created and circulated hundreds of songs from 1927 until their break-up just a decade later. We will draw from this rich canon (and perhaps some others) and sing, sing, sing! We will also explore ways to make these old songs our own as we celebrate the songs, the traditions and ourselves.

Intermediate/Advanced Bass: Hilary Dirlam
If you’re a bass player who wants to move beyond the open strings to new territory this is the class for you. We’ll learn how to incorporate some notes up the neck as well as learn some plain and fancy bass runs and when and where to use them. This will involve learning some scale and chord patterns. As time permits, other class topics will be: ear training, recognizing guitar chords, the circle of fifths, tuning to harmonics and right-hand rhythms. Students who take this class need to be familiar with the bass and able to play some old-time tunes with reasonably good timing. In addition to bringing a bass, you’ll need a tuner. Each class will include some time with a fiddler and guitar player. – email: silvervajra@gmail .com

Intermediate/Advanced Mandolin: Carl Jones
In this week's advanced /intermediate mandolin class we’ll explore basic 2-string chord “shapes” and how they link up on the fingerboard. This along with some basic music theory will open up and demystify the fingerboard. We will learn a few great tunes and explore song back-up examples throughout the week. Confusion will be embraced on our “mando” journey but having fun playing music will always be our primary goal. A recording device, notepad and smile are highly encouraged.

Rhythm and Repertoire: Walt Koken and Clare Milliner
This class is for all stringed instruments and students of all levels of musicianship. We will play and teach fiddle and banjo tunes from our large repertoire, playing them as fiddle/ banjo duets, fiddle or banjo solos, or fiddle duets. Although we will discuss and play the tunes slowly as well as up to speed, the intent is not necessarily to teach them note by note in class, but rather to lay out plenty of material for class members to take with them to work on. Folks are encouraged to bring an audio recorder. We will include tunes in the most common keys, as well as in less common keys and alternate fiddle tunings. Possible guitar chords for the more elusive and obscure tunes will be suggested. Our book, The Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes, containing transcriptions of over 1400 tunes as well as artist bios will be available for perusal and purchase during the week. or email: or

Rhythm and Repertoire: Betty Vornbrock and Billy Cornette
Betty & Billy, of the Reed Island Rounders, play a wide range of West Virginia, Kentucky, Round Peak and Blue Ridge mountain tunes. They are fortunate to have had friendships with Melvin Wine, Wilson Douglas, J.P. Fraley, Clyde Davenport and other masters, and they will include selections from these and other sources. From jam-friendly to complex to crooked, Betty will play each tune at a learning speed and emphasize the fiddle rhythms involved before bringing them up to speed. Billy will provide chords and demonstrate bass runs and backup tips for guitarists. Bring your recorders and load them up with a batch of great tunes - maybe even a song or two! or email:

Dulcimer: Margaret Wright
Old-time music is great on the dulcimer and can add rhythm and excitement to any old-time jam. All levels of dulcimer skill are welcome. This class will focus on old-time repertoire, getting new players started on basics while bringing fun old-time tunes to the more experienced. Goals include improving fingering skill and dexterity, ear training as well as playing with enthusiasm and drive. Students will become comfortable with the fretboard, various tunings and keys, chords and melodic patterns within the framework of the tunes themselves. Tablature will be available, but tunes will be initially taught by rote with dulcimer jams being held each afternoon. I am always willing to devote attention outside of class for those who wish. 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, a chromatic tuner and an extra sets of strings and picks. Also, if your dulcimer does not have a 6 ½ fret, please have one added. If any of this does not make sense, we need to talk. Besides, I would really love to hear from you so we can discuss your playing level and goals.
936-655-2945 (h) or 936-222-1892
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Beginning Guitar: Rhonda Gouge

Finger Style Banjo: Pete Peterson

Songwriting: Carl Jones


Beginning Bass: Kellie Allen

Harmony Singing: The Rosin Sisters

Uke: Charlie Hartness


Shape Note Singing: Laura Boosinger (FREE)

Flatfoot: Ira Bernstein

String Band: Mick Kinney


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.