Mars Hill University to Introduce Roots Music Week

The thriving Americana music scene is as eclectic and varied as the people who enjoy it. But what many devotees of the genre may not realize are the deep connections that today’s acoustic music draws from American traditional styles and genres.

Exploring these connections is the goal of the inaugural Roots Music Week, to be held June 24 through 30, 2018, on the campus of Mars Hill University.

“Today’s Americana draws from all different kinds of music, including bluegrass, blues, African-American spirituals, ukulele, singer/songwriter, country, old-time, and others,” said musician Hilary Dirlam, assistant to Beverly Smith, artistic director of Roots Music Week.

Given the growing popularity of Americana and Mars Hill’s location near the thriving music scene in Asheville, Dirlam and Smith believe now is the time to establish a new tradition for people longing to go deeper in the roots of Americana. Over the past several months of planning, they have assembled a faculty of well-known musician/instructors to teach an exciting line-up of classes designed to fully explore the foundations of the genre.

According to Dirlam, the week promises an abundance of instruction, sharing, and fun for students with an interest in learning more about and increasing their skills in American roots music. There will be an emphasis on increasing self-confidence in performance as well as increasing technical skills.

Dirlam said: “Roots Music Week is designed to challenge people to learn more about something they may have always found interesting, in a nurturing atmosphere, with other like-minded individuals. The whole week is designed to encourage people, and in a context where they can connect and learn.”

In comparison to other short-term music camps, Roots Music Week is intended to be as varied an experience as possible.

“This will not be an in-depth class in one instrument,” Dirlam said. “We’ve planned the format with a wider focus, so that participants will take at least two different kinds of classes, and will have exposure to many topics related to American roots music.”

Current plans for Roots Music week include the following instructors and classes:

  • Chris Brashear: Mandolin, Flat Pick Guitar and Country Duets with Gerrard
  • Alice Gerrard: Ballad Singing, Country Duets with Brashear
  • Ernie Hawkins: Texas Blues Guitar, Piedmont Blues Guitar
  • Frank Lee: OT Clawhammer Banjo, 3 Finger Bluegrass Banjo
  • Del Rey: Ukulele Blues Party, Memphis Minnie Guitar Styles
  • Suzy Thompson: Blues Singing, Fiddle Rags and Blues
  • Dowdle, Gordon, Whitley: Scratch Band

In addition to daytime classes, the daily lineup will include moderated song writing circles every day after lunch, as well as an open mic in the evenings.

Information and registration for Roots Music Week is available on the Mars Hill University website, at