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

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Announcing our 25th annual

Blue Ridge Old-Time Music Week
June 5-10, 2016

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.

Register now!

2016 Instructors and Class Descriptions:  2016 BROTMW Online registration is now open. Please use the links under Contact on the upper right hand side.

New class has been added for 2016: Intermediate/Advanced Mandolin: Carl Jones
See class description below


Advanced Beginning: Robby Robertson:

This 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: Hilary Dirlam

Class is full. Please call 828-689-1167 to be added to waiting list.

What do you do when the fiddler surprises you with a brand new tune? How do you catch on to a new version of a tune you already play? If you’re ready to move into jamming, and/or playing one-on one with a fiddler, and sometimes feel perplexed, this class is for you. Working with fiddler Mary Gordon, we’ll look at different techniques for enhancing and having fun with initially unknown tunes and versions of tunes. These will include rhythmic backup (including some chords, harmony notes, etc.) sketching the melody, and playing rhythmically note-for-note with the fiddler. This class assumes that you have a solid grasp of clawhammer basics including several tunings, use of the capo, hammer-ons, and pull-offs. You should already be able to play several tunes at a moderate speed. You’ll find a recording device and a notebook useful. If you have questions, please email me at

Advanced: Paul Brown

Class is full. Please call 828-689-1167 to be added to waiting list.

As we learn repertoire and polish up standards, we’ll explore techniques including clawhammer and two-finger and three-finger picking. We’ll use a variety of tunings and consider how they can bring out the banjo’s core characteristics as a melody, drone, rhythm and backup instrument. We’ll focus in on style, phrasing, and on outstandingly good timing, a primary component of good music on any instrument. We’ll train our ears to make ourselves more flexible musicians. You can bring your banjo playing, both solo and ensemble, to a new level in this class designed to give you advanced tools for a lifetime. Along the way you’ll have a lot of fun with classic tunes and songs of the mountain south, and great stories of old timers who shared generously with new generations of players. Participants are encouraged to bring recorders and be prepared to learn by ear.


Beginning: 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: 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: Beverly Smith 

Class is full. Please call 828-689-1167 to be added to waiting list.

In this class we will be concentrating on old- time fiddle style - how to get that sound you love. We will be working with different tunings commonly used by old-time players as well as the standard tuning. Emphasis will be on bowing and other little details that give the music the old-time sound. Participants will learn versions of tunes from the older players mostly (but not exclusively) from Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. Students should know their scales in D, G, and A and, if possible, bring a recording device.

Fiddle Blues and Rags: Mick Kinney

Class is full. Please call 828-689-1167 to be added to waiting list.

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.

Advanced: Eddie Bond

Class is full. Please call 828-689-1167 to be added to waiting list.

This class is for intermediate/advanced fiddlers. We will learn some of my favorite tunes, especially tunes that I would consider good fiddlers convention tunes (tunes with a lot of drive). Emphasis will be placed on bowing and expanding your repertoire. We will try to learn at least two tunes a day if possible. Students are encouraged to bring recording devices to this class. Come prepared to have a good time as well! We will talk about different regional styles of southern Appalachia, and the different influences they have had on my personal style. I will be teaching tunes out of standard tuning as well as cross key, and we may even cross the border of Virginia into the West Virginia repertoire! I try to show up at least 20 minutes early each day and go over what we have learned so far that week, a sort of warm up session before the class. I will provide a CD of the tunes that we will learn (slowed down version) as well.


Advanced Beginning: 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 the chording hand and the strumming hand. In addition to learning multiple new tunes every session, students will study timing fundamentals, alternating bass and other simple bass note patterns, learn how to navigate square and crooked tunes, and will get an overview of the Nashville Number System. All students will receive a complimentary spiral-bound copy of the Pegram Jam Chord Chart Book (a fiddle tune reference manual for old-time rhythm players) and a TranspoSlide, a little gadget Susie created that de-mystifies the Number System. We will work with first-position open chords only. Students should be familiar with most major chord shapes — A, D, E, G, C, F, B7 — and minor shapes — Am, Em, Dm. Students should be able to strum smoothly and have developed sufficient callouses and hand strength to play for several hours at a time.

Intermediate: 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: (1) the ability to change chords for an old-time fiddle tune up to dance speed (look up videos of flat-foot clogging to see the kind of speed I am talking about); and (2) 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 and learn how to use simple and more complex bass runs à la Riley Puckett, Gene Meade, Roy Harvey, and others. I recommend that you record everything.

Advanced: Josh Goforth

Old-time guitar is a broad term and in this class we will explore as many realms as possible. From rocking old-time rhythm to Mother Maybelle melody, there is sure to be something that will catch your ear. Speaking of the ear, this class will use the focus of ear training to jumpstart your ability to pick up any tune or style you hear. Through a method I call "singing with your fingers," you'll learn techniques that will allow you to think about the guitar in an entirely different way. Above all, we will have fun learning old-time music together with the backdrop of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Rhythm & Repertoire:

Earl White and Adrienne Davis

Our segment of Rhythm and Repertoire will explore old-time tunes that have withstood the tests of time. We will play “tunes in two keys”: great for dances; crooked tunes: tunes with irregular beats; tunes from the North and tunes from the South, with an exploration of tunes from different regions of the country and their melodic differences. Most of all, we'll have lots of FUN. Our repertoire sometimes seems never-ending, so bring a recorder and let’s have some tunes.

Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer

Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer will present old style tunes from their home states of Texas and Kansas, as well as tunes from surrounding states that influenced or were influenced by those styles such as Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa. Many of the tunes they will present were learned directly form older masters or family members such as Tricia's grandfather, Kansas old-time fiddler Vernon Spencer. On the rhythm side, Tricia will teach her trade secrets of fiddle chording which can be applied to any instrument and help musicians of any skill level be able to accompany all manner of fiddle tunes and play tunes effectively on the fly. Howard will also teach his guitar chording for the tunes. These old tunes from Texas and the mid-west are full of surprises. Some are twisted, crooked, cross-tuned, and just plain weird. Others are straight ahead barn-burners. Some waltzes, schottisches, and jigs will also be presented for good measure. Everything is learned by ear so a recording device is encouraged.

Intermediate / Advanced Bass:

Cary Fridley

This is an intermediate class geared toward bass rhythm players that want to improve their timing, learn how to play runs and walks, practice chord progressions to common jam tunes and songs, learn to hear what chords to play, understand basic music theory for folk musicians, and improve tone and consistency. Ability to play the three basic chords in a consistent rhythm in the keys of G, C, D, A is required.

Intermediate / Advanced Mandolin:

Carl Jones

In this class, we will use a generous portion of the ever eye opening “Slants” & “Reaches”( 2- string chord shapes) to learn some great old time tunes and song back-up as well. Harmonized scales, octaves, unisons, and much more will be an inspiring undercurrent to swim in as we navigate just how great sounding the mandolin can be. Original tunes and creative noodling will be encouraged and discussed along the way. Notebook, pen, and a recording device is recommended and a high expectation for a fun and enlightening week.

Song Catching and Story Weaving:

Shelia Kay Adams

In this class we'll explore the rich culture and heritage of my home, Madison County, North Carolina. When Cecil Sharp, renowned folklorist from England visited what he referred to as "the Laurel Section" of Madison County in 1915-1918, he said he discovered a "nest of singing birds that sang as easily as they talked." I learned the traditional love songs and ballads from my older relatives who actually remembered his visit. Storytelling was as much a part of the oral traditions as the ballad singing. I'll be sharing songs for you to learn and we'll work on how to develop family stories for the telling.Bring your recorders and come prepared to have fun!

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 and 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.


Intermediate / Advanced: Lloyd Wright

This class will be for all dulcimer players who are already very comfortable with their instrument. This is also for folks who want to be welcomed in any old-time jam. Driving rhythm and melodic flexibility will be a big focus for the week. We will play across the strings and in other keys beyond the dulcimer homeland of D, such as G and A. Students will become comfortable with re-tuning and capos will be a necessity. All techniques are taught within the framework of the tunes themselves. Ear training will be stressed and jamming will be a requirement. Recording devices may be helpful. 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. 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. 936-222-8895 (cell) E-mail at Check out our festival at

Beginning : Margaret Wright

Old-Time Music is great on the dulcimer and its rhythm and excitement can add to any Old-Time Jam. This class is aimed at aiming you in that direction. Brand new players as well as less experienced players are welcome.Some of my goals will include fingering skill and dexterity. Students will become comfortable with the fretboard, various tunings and keys, chords and melodic patterns. All techniques are taught within the framework of the tunes themselves. Ear training is also encouraged in a non-threatening manner.
The focus of the class will be old-time repertoire with tunes broken down into small, repetitive sections. Tablature will be available, but tunes will be initially taught by rote. Jamming is a highly encouraged (should I say it is a requirement?) even at the beginner level and I encourage all students to meet me at all the jams. Dulcimer-led jams will be held each afternoon and I am always willing to devote attention outside of class as well. Tape recorders 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. 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.
936-222-1892 (cell)
Check our website at

Mini Courses:


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.

Old-time Finger-style Banjo - Pete Peterson

Class is full. Please call 828-689-1167 to be added to waiting list.

This will be an INTRODUCTION to fingerstyle banjo. We will learn simple tunes using thumb lead in G; once this becomes familiar add index lead and C tuning. If time permits we will do an introduction to Charlie Poole's backup style. Come have fun!

Ukulele – Charlie and Nancy Hartness

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 Bass – Kellie Allen

We will cover basic old-time bass playing, with “ones” and “fives” in the keys of A, D, G and C, and then we will move on to learn simple bass runs as well as positions up the neck. Prerequisites for this class: access to an upright, acoustic bass fiddle and an electronic tuner. I recommend that you record everything.

Harmony Singing –The Rosin Sisters - Barbara Panter-Connah, Jan Smith, Ann Whitley

Class is full. Please call 828-689-1167 to be added to waiting list.

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.


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 potluck) no registration required

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.

Flatfoot Dance- Emolyn Liden

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.

Prices for 2016

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 per person (if available)  
$ 50
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. Please bring your own linens . 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.