Blue Ridge Old-Time Music Week: Classes


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 – Hilary Dirlam

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 this banjo class 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 live fiddler with a surprise tune every day) we can explore ways for the banjo to enhance and have fun with the tune.  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 a little tab used in this class, but a recording device and paper and pencil will be much more useful. Any questions? Email me at

 Advanced – Mac Traynham – Full –closed with waiting list available

This class will focus on learning traditional tunes with interesting tunings that come from the central Appalachians of Southwest Virginia, Northwest North Carolina, Eastern Kentucky, and Southern West Virginia.  Emphasis will be on using both right and left hand techniques to include sounds other than melody from the banjo as the melody of the tune is being played.  Knowledge of the fundamentals of clawhammer banjo is required. The tunes taught will employ ancient elements such as drones and rhythm patterns as heard in the playing of the old masters from the region.  Both fretted and fretless techniques will be explored and employed.


Intermediate/Advanced – Kellie Allen

As a prerequisite for taking this course, students must be able to play bass up to a moderate speed on old-time tunes. Above all else, the emphasis will be on providing solid bass rhythm in an old time string band setting. We will move beyond the “ones and fives” bass style by exploring bass runs to move from chord to chord in a given song or tune. We will practice the art of recognizing certain patterns in old time fiddle tunes. We will address the best ways to interact with guitar players in old-time music and what style of bass playing, if any, works best in various old-time music contexts. We will learn about playing in two or three positions on the neck in the common old-time keys, and cover some tricks for playing in the less common old-time keys, such as F and Bb. This course is for those willing to play upright, acoustic bass. Please bring a recording device. Kellie Allen


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 (don’t just take it down off a wall and make assumptions!)  Have it checked for string height and any buzzes.  A capo will be needed and an electronic tuner.  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 device for recording.  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 son, Lloyd’s class if it seems fitting.

Intermediate/Advanced/ Lloyd Wright

Lloyd’s knowledge of other instruments including fiddle, banjo, guitar and mandolin gives him a strong perception of how to tastefully incorporate mountain dulcimer in any setting whether it be a casual jam or an on stage performance.  In Lloyd’s class he will cover multiple keys, tunings and styles, with and without a capo. He will focus on old-time music but may touch on other style. This is an intermediate to advanced workshop.


Beginning – Sarah Westhues Owen

The Beginning Fiddle class will be geared toward the absolute beginner.  All you will need is a working fiddle and bow and a desire to play some very simple fiddle tunes.  Rhythm will be emphasized and you will learn how to use your bow in an old-time style.  By the week’s end, you should have several tunes under your belt and a boost to your confidence.

Early Intermediate – Helen White

This class offers a quick refresher to fiddlers on the basic foundations: playing in tune, rhythmically, and with good tone production. We’ll work on developing an aural learning style based on identifying the “bones” (simplest melody) of a tune and fleshing it out by recognizing and 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’ll work primarily in standard tuning, but with sufficient interest we can migrate to a simple crossed tuning for at least one class period. 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 tuned. A recording device is strongly recommended. The D’Addario violin tuner that clips on the fiddle body is highly recommended.

Intermediate – Beverly Smith – Full –closed with waiting list available

In this class we will begin to explore the details that will give your fiddling a real old time sound. This will include bowings and tunings as well as left hand ornaments used by traditional players.   We will be learning tunes from the repertoire of older fiddlers from the Appalachians such as Melvin Wine, Wilson Douglas, Eden Hammons, Norman Edmonds, Tommy Jarrell, Hiram Stamper and more.  Tunes will be taught by ear.  Please bring a tuner and a recording device.

Advanced – Emily Schaad

This class will focus on building a stylized repertoire, getting rhythm in the bow, and finding “that old-time fiddle sound.” Tunes will be drawn from a variety of fiddlers from NC, KY, VA, and WV, 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, as all tunes will be taught by ear, and be prepared to play in a few different keys and tunings.

Blues and Rags – Mick Kinney

Since the 1800s, ragtime and blues have been part of fiddling. Studying one measure at a time, you will have some great pieces to include in your collection. We’ll begin with tunes in familiar keys and scales so you can get into some raggy rhythms right away. As we progress, we will cover some improvisations within the blues, and the harmony behind the old time rags. Our material will range from classic American composers W.C. Handy and Scott Joplin, to Jug Band and street style fiddlers. Suggested for intermediate to advanced fiddle or mandolin.


Early Intermediate – Susie Coleman

A New Approach to Old Time Guitar focuses on using the simplicity of alternating bass to become a powerful, 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 study timing basics, kickoffs, simple bass note runs, how to navigate square and crooked tunes, and will get a comprehensive 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 a couple hours at a time.

Intermediate – Rachel Eddy

This class will focus on three layers of playing guitar.  The first bit will be providing solid backup rhythm for old time fiddle tunes, studying and discussing different tips for improving tone, tempo, drive and technique.  The second layer will be to add a variety of bass runs and licks to texturize you’re playing, and discuss how to use them reactively to other musicians in jamming scenarios.  The third item will center around how to fill out guitar accompaniment while singing, how to craft a simple yet elegant solo, and different ways to harmonize the guitar with your voice.  The class will be taught entirely with a flat pick, offering tips and exercises to improve cross picking, strumming, and melody playing.

Advanced Backup – Evan Kinney

Starting with the basic folk chords you know, we will concentrate on getting a powerful tone and clear strum on the offbeat. We’ll build on that by connecting one chord to the other with traditional bass runs, then on to more complex movements by great backing guitarists such as Riley Puckett, Melvin Dupree, and Jim Baxter. During the week you will pick up useful concepts such as circle of fifths and chromatic steps as we study some rags, blues, songs and novelty tunes of the old time repertoire.

Advanced Flatpicking – Josh Goforth

From the melody driven solos of Mother Maybelle to the powerful flatpicking of Doc Watson, this class will focus on a wide variety of old-time guitar styles.  With an emphasis on ear training we will study both rhythm and lead guitar. Through the concept of singing with your fingers, no tune will be out of reach.  Come learn the steps you need to take to climb the musical mountain before you.   Above all, let’s have fun exploring the world of old time guitar in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. All you need is an open mind, a love for old-time music… And perhaps a recording device.


Intermediate/Advanced – Pete Vigour

The mandolin has been a standard instrument in American traditional music for generations, gaining great popularity with the introduction of a wonderful line of instruments introduced by the Gibson Company in the early 20th century.  The mandolin can do it all— melody, chords, song accompaniment, and percussive rhythmic backup, and is perfectly suited for playing fiddle tunes and accompanying songs from the Carter Family, Blue Sky Boys, and other early country music performers.  Pete will be assisted by his wife, mandolinist Ellen Vigour.  Pete and Ellen will include tunes they learned personally from many great players such as Kenny Hall, Everett Lilly, and central Virginia’s Bobby and Lovell Coleman.  Tunes will be presented specifically to clarify pick direction, opening the door to playing rags and other syncopated styles.

Rhythm & Repertoire

Paul Brown and Terri McMurray

Come experience a week of music and growth in a wonderfully relaxed old-time way.  We’ll sing and play repertoire from the communities in northwest North Carolina and southwest Virginia where Paul and Terri have lived for decades. We’ll also explore the old piedmont Virginia songs Paul learned from his mother. You’ll hear great stories of the old-timers who mentored Terri and Paul, and get valuable social and historical context for the music. Not only will this be fun, it’ll help you make yourself a better musician as you more fully understand southern music traditions. Terri will share some stories of the women in and around old time music.  On fiddle, we’ll try ancient repertoire and styles from some of the oldest players Paul encountered, plus the newer styles of Arthur Smith and postwar-era fiddlers and bands Paul played with during the 1980s and 1990s.   Banjoists will explore fingerpicking and clawhammer styles with both Terri and Paul, including song backup, interesting tunings and how to bring out the banjo’s best qualities.  Backup guitar players will refine approaches in flatpicking and fingerpicking styles, and learn about how some of the popular backup styles evolved.  Uke players will have a great chance to understand Terri’s widely admired propulsive uke backup style and give it a try. Don’t miss this rare chance to live the old time music life for a week, singing, playing and learning in a non-compartmentalized environment.  You will love it. Whatever your level, there will be plenty to learn as we structure the class around your success and enjoyment.

Greg & Jere Canote

As almost fifty-year veterans of the old time music world, we like to joke that we’ve forgotten more tunes than we remember.  However, we are always shoving more tunes in, even if it means that a few tunes fall out the other ear. In this class, we will certainly uncover lots of those gems- either teaching outright or giving you the opportunity to record them for later study!

Through the medium of learning tunes, we will simultaneously cover many of the fiddle and guitar concepts that make the music sound old time. On the fiddle- bow direction, drones, slurs, dips, pulses and doodads, phrasing and variation.  On the guitar- anatomy of the boom-chuck, how and when to use bass runs, how to find the chords, and maintaining a steady reliable rhythm. Because the music is so tied to all of the wonderful folks we’ve met along our old time journey, there WILL be plenty of stories and lots of fun!


Country Duet

Alice Gerrard & 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.



Bass Beginning – Amy Buckingham

The upright bass is the bedrock of good old time music.  No matter whether you play another instrument or you are a beginning musician, this class will get your feet wet. We will learn some “bass-ics”, such as how to play in the keys of D, G and A and how to follow guitar players’ chords.  Bring a recording device.  Oh, and a bass would be helpful, but isn’t required if you know how to share.

Fiddle Own Some Tone in the Old Drone Zone! – Greg Canote – Full –closed with waiting list available

For Intermediate/Advanced Fiddlers:  We will spend some quality time with some quality tunes in my two favorite cross tunings- DDAD and AEAC# (or GDGB). These tunings have plenty to offer- including lots of droning richness and a whole new repertoire!

Guitar Maybelle Carter-Style – Pete Peterson – Full –closed with waiting list available

Maybelle Carter was probably the most innovative country guitarist of the first half of the 20th century.  Have you ever listened to “Wildwood Flower” and wondered how she got that distinctive sound? In this class we will deconstruct her backup style and some of her breaks between verses of songs. Maybelle played with a thumbpick; a door prize of a Herco blue thumbpick will be given to each attendee.

Harmonica Old Time “Country” – Mac Traynham

G and C harps required (A and D optional), 10 hole type

 This class will focus on learning to play familiar tunes in first position indicated by the key of a particular harp.  Stylistic elements of tongue blocking, tongue fluttering, and bending notes will be explored.

Ukulele Clawhammer – Jere Canote

This class is for clawhammer banjo players who would like to explore a tiny sweet little banjo sound on the ukulele, or uke players who are very comfortable with the clawhammer technique. Please bring a uke with a high G string (4th string). We’ll use the standard uke tuning of gCEA, and the aCFG tuning ( like the double C banjo tuning in F) Our tunes may include: Shortnin’ Bread, Snowdrop, Upper Lehigh Polka, Lazy John, Been All Around This World, and many more!


Banjo EZ Chord System – Mick Kinney

Here is a way to use your old-time double C tuning for tunes that may call for more than open string clawhammer. This easy chord system is also great for rags, songs, blues, and enables you to play in any key! We will also try some different vintage right hand techniques such as two finger and plectrum style.

Fiddle Bowing and Phrasing – Rachel Eddy – Full –closed with waiting list available

The fiddle workshop 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. In learning these things 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 using a tune or two that utilize certain helpful techniques, and really working hard to know them before you leave. There will be lots of playing time, as fingers on strings is the best way to take home what you learn!

Harmony Singing – The Rosin Sisters

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.

Mandolin from Scratch – Ellen Vigour

This mini-class is for folks who love the mandolin, may have limited experience playing, but are motivated to learn.  Many wonderful traditional tunes can be played with just a few notes; Ellen will soon have everyone playing by ear together.  The mandolin is the perfect instrument for both melody and accompaniment.  Come join in the fun!

Reading Music and Tab – Hilary Dirlam

This class will unlock some of the mysteries of what is on the written page, and how it translates into actual music for old time musicians. We will cover standard notation as well as examples of tab for different stringed instruments. Bring your instrument of choice and an example of what is puzzling you, and all will be revealed!


Beginning Banjo – Robby Robertson

The beginning banjo class is geared toward the complete beginner. You will learn the “clawhammer lick,” how to tune your banjo in the most common old time tunings, and enough chords to start you off having fun.  You will leave with a few tunes under your belt.  Make sure you have a playable banjo, a tuner, and a recording device is highly recommended. Tunes will be taught by ear.

Dance Flatfoot –Emolyn Linden

“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.”

Guitar Beginning – 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 the best 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. We will work with first-position open chords only. Students should be able to wrap their fingers around a guitar neck. But no one is too old or too young to give it a try. Things you might bring: 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.

Singing Shaped Note – Laura Boosinger (free afternoon class)

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.

Ukulele – Charlie & Nancy Hartness

The ukulele, sometimes viewed as a toy, can bring you hours of musical joy. Join Nancy and me after you’ve worked hard in your morning class and your fingers and brain need a change of pace. This class is designed for players who already have some basic uke experience. We’ll quickly review basic chords in the Keys of C, G, D, A and F. Then we will strum, hum, whistle, sing and laugh together, focusing on chordal accompaniment to songs, but also providing rhythmic drive for playing with 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.