Old Time Week Classes - July 19-25, 2015


In keeping with the tradition and nature of Appalachian music, learning by ear is encouraged. Classes will not generally be taught using tablature or written music, though some instructors may provide tablature and other handouts as memory aids. Hand-held audio (not video) recorders are highly recommended for all instrumental and singing classes. Unless otherwise indicated, all classes have a limit of 15. Fiddle classes during Old-Time Week are offered at four different levels: 0 – Beginner; I – Advanced-Beginner; II – Intermediate; III – Advanced (see definitions on pg. 1). Please consider your level of skill carefully when registering for classes


OLD-TIME FIDDLE 0 (John Herrmann)
This class for complete beginners will start with the basics of tuning, bowing, and finding the notes on the fingerboard. By the end of the week students will have learned cross-tuning, a few simple bowing patterns, how to learn tunes by ear, and be able to play a few standard old-time tunes. Please bring a working fiddle and bow. No prior experience necessary.

OLD-TIME FIDDLE I A (Susie Goehring)
In this class for advanced-beginner fiddlers, we will focus on phrasing, bowing, and rhythm, all essential elements of old-time fiddling. We’ll learn one or two tunes a day to focus on different approaches for learning tunes that will allow you to continue the process independently. We’ll learn a mix of common tunes in the keys of A, D, and G, using a couple of different tunings. We’ll also work on playing together and improving abilities while participating in jams. Tunes will be taught by ear so bring an audio recorder.

OLD-TIME FIDDLE I B (Alice Gerrard)
In this class we will start at the beginning with basic things like tuning, holding the bow, finding the notes, etc., as well as some bowing patterns. We will learn some old-time tunes in cross-tuning and standard tuning. Please make sure you have a fiddle that can be tuned, and a bow. Bring recording devices.

Lift up your playing with some of the simple techniques that really make it sound like fiddling. We’ll spend some quality time with a handful of beautiful old tunes while we explore some easy old-time bowing conventions (drones, pulses, dips and patterns), taking solid steps toward becoming the “bosses of our bows.” If time allows, we might dive into some cross-tunings like DDAD and Calico (AEAC#). Bring your milking machines (recording devices)!

OLD-TIME FIDDLE II B (Kenny Jackson)
This class is for advanced beginner and intermediate players who are fairly comfortable with their fiddles and have a modest repertoire of old-time tunes. You should be able to pick up simple melodic/rhythmic phrases by ear, and be able to keep up with slow-to-moderate tempos. I’ll teach some of my favorite old-time tunes for this class, beautiful and accessible pieces drawn mostly from mid-southern Appalachian sources. Tunes will be taught entirely by ear, breaking them down into easily-learned melodic/rhythmic phrases, and working a great deal on getting the rhythm in the bowing. The tunes will be set in both standard and non-standard fiddle tunings. Bring your audio/video recording device, a notepad, and a pen(cil).

OLD-TIME FIDDLE II C (Rayna Gellert)
This is an intermediate level class appropriate for folks who already know their way around a fiddle and have at least a few old-time tunes under their belt. We’ll learn traditional tunes in a variety of tunings, with a focus on getting your bow arm to be versatile, rhythmic, and tonally rich. Bring an audio recorder, musical curiosity, and plenty of gameness.

OLD-TIME FIDDLE II D (Erynn Marshall)
This is a class for intermediate fiddlers who wish to expand their repertoire and get that real old-time sound. We’ll also delve into ways to play with ease, spice up tunes, and jump into jams. The focus in class will be on learning by ear, old-time bowing patterns and ornamentation at a relaxed pace. Recording devices are recommended. We will learn a number of fine southern tunes that you’ll enjoy playing for years to come. Bring your adventurous fiddling spirit!

For this class players should already have good familiarity with southern old-time fiddling, a solid repertoire, the ability to play a variety of tune types up to speed in a variety of tunings, and comfort with learning tunes by ear. We’ll especially focus on unusual and beautiful tunes from western NC and KY fiddlers, exploring personal tune interpretation in the context of the tradition. Tunes will be taught entirely by ear. We’ll study how noting and bowing together shape the phrasing, and how left-hand and bowing ornaments/embellishments may be used appropriately. At this class level we will stray away from a strictly patterned approach to bowing. We’ll work on no more than two fairly challenging tunes each class session. Be ready to learn tunes that are in both standard and alternate fiddle tunings. Bring your audio/video recording device, a notepad, and a pen(cil).

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.

OLD-TIME FIDDLE III C (Erynn Marshall)
This class is for advanced fiddlers who wish to explore a variety of archaic fiddle styles from the Virginias, Kentucky and North Carolina. We will delve into left-hand ornamentation, blue notes, alternate tunings and the intricacies of bowing (rocks, pulses and dwells) and other nuances typical of traditional southern fiddling. We will also explore secrets to great tone and playing with ease. Recording devices are recommended. Fiddlers should be comfortable playing by ear, have good facility on their instrument and an appreciation for beautiful, old tunes.

FIDDLE & BANJO – GALAX STYLE (Eddie Bond & Josh Ellis)
Focusing on the old-time repertoire from the region surrounding Galax, VA, this class for intermediate and advanced players will focus on the tight interplay between the fiddle and banjo. These two instruments formed the basis of southern Appalachian dance music for the better part of a century, and they remain the core of the old-time band sound today. We will learn tunes from the Galax repertoire and explore the rhythmic connection between the fiddle and banjo, the relationship of melody to chords/drones, the ability to adapt to one another, in short, utilizing the complementary nature of these two instruments to create as much sound and rhythm as possible. (Class limit: 12 fiddles, 12 banjos).


OLD-TIME BANJO I (Hanna Traynham)
In this class for the total beginner, students will learn the basics of clawhammer banjo technique. This foundational class will emphasize the driving rhythm that fuels the beat of a jam and inspires listeners to get up and dance. Students will learn a handful of basic old time tunes with skills that can be applied to various jam settings.

In this class, we’ll approach intermediate clawhammer banjo from two perspectives. On one hand, how can we learn specific techniques from source recordings that enrich our musicality and technical ability? On the other hand, how can we respond joyfully and spontaneously to music played in a community setting? Tracing each of these threads, we’ll work together to weave greater depth and richness into our banjo playing. Learning by ear, and using both common and unusual tunings, we’ll play banjo styles from the traditions of string bands, fiddle-banjo duets, and solo banjo masters. Come prepared to listen deeply, to step outside of your comfort zone, and to encourage your fellow students (and instructor!) along what promises to be a fun musical journey.

OLD-TIME BANJO II B (Gordy Hinners)
For advanced-beginner/intermediate clawhammer banjo players, who know some tunes in the clawhammer style, this class will focus on the rhythm of Southern clawhammer playing and explore tunes and “licks” in several banjo tunings. The use of a recording device is highly recommended, as all tunes will be taught by ear.

In this class for advanced beginner/intermediate players, we will concentrate on learning Galax/Round Peak-style clawhammer banjo, phrase by phrase. Different skill levels are welcome, so don’t worry about what level you think you may be, just come prepared to learn and have fun! Recording devices welcome and encouraged, but a CD of the tunes with slowed-down and full speed versions will also be available.

In this class for advanced clawhammer banjo players, students will be shown how to play several dance tune melodies in a danceable style that uses a steady ‘back beat’ as its foundation, keeping a strong melody presence. Alternate tunings will be shown for certain of the classic solo banjo tunes. Uncommon right-hand techniques such as delayed drop thumb, double thumb, and brush rolls will be introduced for rhythmic as well as melodic variation. The use of a recording device is highly recommended, as all tunes will be taught by ear in the traditional manner.

OLD-TIME BANJO III B (John Herrmann)
This class for intermediate/advanced banjo players will focus on playing banjo with a fiddle. Emphasis will be placed on the rhythmic connection between the two, the relationship of melody to chords/drones, and the tight interplay between these two instruments, which are the core of the old-time band. This is not a tune-oriented class. We will mainly cover technique and theory and there will be tips on how to play tunes you don’t already know.

Guitar & Mandolin

OLD-TIME GUITAR I (Carol Elizabeth Jones)
This intro to rhythm guitar is for beginners who can play basic guitar chords (G, C, D, F, E, A, Am, Em) but want to learn to play music with others. We’ll play backup for songs and learn to parse the structure of fiddle tunes. You will learn to play solid rhythm and understand how to hear chord changes in songs and instrumentals.

OLD-TIME GUITAR II A (Jenny Traynham)
This intermediate level class will focus on learning to become a solid back-up guitar player, with emphasis on timing, rhythm, and, of course, runs! We’ll spend time on learning how to anticipate starting runs while keeping good time, developing an ear for hearing runs on old recordings, and discovering how much fun playing back up country guitar can be. The class is designed for those who are comfortable with chord changes and can keep up with a moderate pace. Recording devices strongly recommended.

In this class we will work on backing up some old-time fiddle tunes and songs and incorporating some basic music theory to help us along the way. You need a basic chord foundation as we explore bass walking, which chords to use, timing, and just what makes a solid foundation for a fiddler or singer. Enhancing the tune and making good music is our goal. A recorder is re- commended as well as a notebook. We may try to team up with some banjo or fiddle students in the course of the week. Fun will be guaranteed as we inspire each other and celebrate the guitar’s role and all it’s possibilities.

Making the jump from playing chords, to “Maybelle”-style leads, to flatpicking fiddle tunes in eighth-note style, requires good fundamental right-hand rhythm, comfort with a flat pick, some knowledge of the fingerboard, and a good ear for melody. In this class, we’ll use a few common fiddle tunes/songs to cover such topics as making the leap from quarter-notes to eighth-notes, pick direction and accenting (playing with a pulse), left-hand positions that put your fingers in the right spots, playing out of chord positions, using double stops to create leads, breaks and turnarounds, and good practice habits and exercises. If you can play “Wildwood Flower,” can kind of hear fiddle tunes in your head, and just need the skills to get to the next level, this is the class for you.

In this class we will explore some basic concepts that work great on the mandolin and make it easy to sound good from the start. A generous sprinkling of songs and tunes will be part of the mix as we utilize music theory in a gentle way to play two string chord shapes, octaves, unisons and more. Our main goal is to have fun while learning and becoming more comfortable picking the mandolin.

In this intermediate-level class, we will start with an overview of the fundamentals: the simple things that hold players back from playing more challenging music. We’ll address playing chords and soloing with rhythm, improving tone, accompanying singing, kickoffs, fills, tremolo, and practicing. We’ll explore how to inject more life into fiddle tunes and different ways to approach playing the mandolin in an old-time tune session, and we’ll spend some time unlocking the double-stop mystery. Students will learn a number of two-note chord positions that move and connect all over the fingerboard. This approach is where the mandolin really shines. It will have you playing in new keys, finding new voices for your instrument, and will give you some tools to create your own solos on old-time songs.

Other Instruments

Easy and fun! This class is for absolute beginners or those interested in building a solid foundation for playing mountain dulcimer in old-time music. Class will include dulcimer history, as well as playing techniques for developing the old-time sound. Traditional songs, tunes, and hymns will be taught by ear, but tablature will be provided. Bring a recorder.

This class for intermediate players and above will focus on playing techniques for old-time music on the mountain dulcimer. We will learn traditional tunes, songs, hymns, playing by ear, various noting techniques, different modes, dulcimer history, and more. The class will be taught by ear, but tablature will be provided. Bring a recorder.

OLD-TIME BAND 101 (Susie Goehring)
This is the right place for novice old-time musicians who can play several tunes and know some basic chords but want the thrill of bonding and playing with other musicians in a no-stress fun string band. Bring your list of tunes and songs and we’ll learn to play and sing together. All stringed instruments and singers welcome! (No class limit)

OLD-TIME BAND LAB (Meredith McIntosh & Rayna Gellert)
Students in this class will form string bands and with a little coaching, learn how to play together and achieve a cohesive band sound. We will consider each individual’s responsibility in a band, how to start and end tunes, tempo, rhythm, lead, back-up, chord choices, singing, band dynamics, and playing for dances or concerts. Bands will have the opportunity to perform at a Student Showcase or play for a dance at the end of the week. It is expected that students already know how to play their instrument, and that lead instrument players know a few tunes and/or songs in several keys with the accompanying chords. (No class limit)

What’s that persistent strumming sound heard at every old-time jam these days? It’s the sound of the old-time ukulele! We’ll learn the basic chords in the fiddle tune keys of A, C, D, and G. We’ll explore right hand strumming techniques, especially the relentless “freight train” rhythm. We’ll work on hearing the chord changes, and we’ll play a lot, backing up fiddle tunes and songs from the old-time repertoire. We’ll also take a look at old-time banjo techniques (clawhammer and finger-picking) Bring a working ukulele or banjo-uke. This class will be taught at intermediate level, but it’s easy enough that beginners should be able to do it, and guitarists will have an advantage.

BASS BASICS (Meredith McIntosh)
This class will cover the basics of old-time bass technique, including tuning, noting, listening, finding chord changes on tunes, songs and waltzes and most importantly, playing in the old-time groove. We will also talk about good body mechanics. It is strongly suggested that you bring your own instrument. If you don’t own one, please investigate the possibilities of borrowing or renting one for the week. No experience necessary.

AUTOHARP I (John Hollandsworth)
The autoharp has been a part of mountain culture since the early 1900s and since then has played a prominent role in old-time and early country music with the original Carter Family, Pop Stoneman, Kilby Snow, and others. Drawing on tunes from the old-time repertoire, topics in this beginner-level class will include right- and left-hand techniques, finger memory, tuning, timing, playing in 3/4 and 4/4 rhythms, basic chord progressions, playing in major and minor keys, harp setup, and playing scales that will lead you into melody playing. Ability to read music or tablature is not necessary, but handouts on the tunes and techniques covered will be provided. Students must have an autoharp in good playing condition, one thumb pick, and two finger picks. A music stand might also be helpful.

AUTOHARP II (John Hollandsworth)
During the past twenty years the autoharp has had a huge revival, with some major performers and landmark recordings. This class will provide insight into what top players are doing and how to expand the role of the autoharp as a melody instrument. Drawing on tunes from the Appalachian tradition, we will cover both chromatic and diatonic playing, rhythm changes, syncopation, chord substitutions, playing in 3/4 and 4/4 time, arranging, alternate tunings, and how to interact with other instruments in a group situation. Students will refine their playing skills and gain a good understanding of clean melody playing on the autoharp. A basic knowledge of melody playing would be helpful, but ability to read music or tablature is not required, and handouts on the tunes and techniques covered will be provided. Students must have an autoharp in good playing condition, one thumb pick, and two fingerpicks.

This class is for teens only! It’s a time for all of you to come together and make plans to take over Swannanoa and possibly the world with music, dance, and other creations. Some adventures may include a young old-time flash mob, arranging country songs and practicing two-stepping for the Honky Tonk, creating our own square dances, big group harmony singing, old-timeifying pop songs, and a little clogging for good measure. Games and mischief abound. All proposals for fun activities will be considered! (Class limit: 20)

Songs & Folklore

What IS old-time music? How is bluegrass different from old-time? What do terms such as “authenticity” and “revivalism” really mean? What are drop-thumb, frailing, clawhammer, two-finger, and rapping? Where are Galax, Clifftop, and Mount Airy? Can you dance a Tobacco Hill? What is a crooked fiddle tune? The answers to these and other such mysteries will all be revealed here. Focused presentations on “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” the Georgia Fiddle Contest of 1924, ‘Affrilachia,’ moonshining, and Marion Sumner will provide windows on the style and culture. Discussion, recordings, videos, and guest presentations will nurture an overview of the history and context of old-time ballads, fiddle tunes, hillbilly music, and string bands from the Skillet Lickers to Uncle Earl. (No class limit)

We will engage in musical and social harmony through the recreation of a rural nineteenth-century singing school. Singing from the Sacred Harp tune book (1991 edition), which features intoxicating harmonizations written in a unique four-shape notation of triangles, squares, circles, and diamonds makes learning to read music easy and enjoyable. The class will also weave in background historical and social context. Songs from other tune book traditions will be explored, including the Southern Harmony, Christian Harmony, and the Shenandoah Harmony. The class will accommodate both total beginners and veteran singers. Books will be available to borrow for class use. At the end of the week, members of the class are invited and encouraged to participate in the ninth annual Swannanoa Singing with dinner on the grounds. This will be held on Saturday, July 25 from 10:00 AM-3:00 PM at the Warren Wilson College Pavilion. (No class limit)

John Lomax collected and recorded folk traditions from the 1930s to the 1990s, preserving cultural variety as represented through traditional music, dance, story, and song. We’ll learn a selection of songs from the recordings Lomax made on trips to the Southeastern U.S. from Madison County, NC to the Georgia South Sea Islands. Exploration of the Lomax collection can continue after class is over, as much of the Lomax collection is available online for free. (Class limit: 20)

This class will cover the unaccompanied singing style of Appalachian songs and versions of ballads brought from the British Isles to western North Carolina in the 18th and 19th centuries. Handouts will be provided and there will be plenty of class participation. (Class limit: 20)

In this singing class, we will focus on style and repertoire in traditional country singing. We will explore ways to become a stronger singer by finding and using your natural voice to get that country, old-time sound. We will also touch on harmony, but that won’t be the main focus of the class. Bring recorders and voices. And bring some songs that you’re working on or need help with. (Class limit: 20)

STORYTELLING (Sheila Kay Adams)
This class will focus on the Appalachian tradition of storytelling and how to tell your own personal story. During the week, students will develop a family story to share. There will be lots of class participation. (Class limit: 20)

Participants in this class will learn the basics of old-time country duet singing as popularized by singers from the Golden Era of Country Music including the original Carter Family, the Delmore Brothers, and the Blue Sky Boys. Students will learn to find lead and harmony parts in the proper keys and pitch in order to sing comfortably and with confidence. Vocal pairs will be formed and coached to perform duets effectively. Back up instruments such as guitars, mandolins, and autoharps are welcome. (Class limit: 20)

OLD-TIME SONGS (Greg & Jere Canote)
This class will focus on the Appalachian tradition of storytelling and how to tell your own personal story. During the week, students will develop a family story to share. There will be lots of class participation. (Class limit: 20)


This class, open to dancers as well as dance callers, of all levels, will focus on the traditional square dances of the southern Appalachian region. No prior experience is required. We will learn about, and dance four-couple squares as well as Southern big circle dances, and students will have the opportunity to try their hand (or voice) at calling out the dance figures. Dance callers of all levels will have the opportunity to expand their repertoire and receive feedback to improve their calling skills. Mainly though, we will have fun dancing and learning about the traditions of southern Appalachian square dances. (No class limit)

Are you ready to crank your dancing up a notch? If you have already taken beginning clogging or have previous percussive dance experience, this class for intermediate/advanced dancers is for you. The driving rhythms and beautiful style of Appalachian flatfooting will be explored, and you will learn specific techniques for making a clean, crisp sound and connecting with the music. The dancing will still be highly approachable, but we are going to have a grand time forging ahead towards clogging greatness! Tap shoes are welcomed and recommended, but not required. (No class limit)

This class will focus on traditional flatfooting, buckdancing, and clogging techniques for intermediate-level dancers, with an emphasis on using the feet as a musical instrument involving intricate rhythms, ‘dancing out the tune,’ improvising rhythms and steps and free-styling. Wear smooth-soled shoes – preferably leather and no taps please. (Class limit: 25)

Special Events

T'AI CHI (Don Pedi)
Start the day with a smile with these ancient, gentle, easy to learn rejuvenation exercises. Reduce stress. Focus on breathing, balance, and gentle stretching. Includes: T’ai Chi, Chi Kung, Standing Meditation, Eight Pieces of Brocade, and more. No experience necessary and no registration required. (No class limit)

In addition to the regular class sessions, Potluck Sessions are offered most afternoons. These one-hour mini-classes give students access to the entire teaching staff, and provide a wide variety of class offerings to choose from. No advance registration is necessary.

After supper each night, students have the opportunity to participate in slow jams and singing sessions. At the slow jams, common tunes are played at a speed that is accessible even to beginners. The singing sessions are a chance to share your voice and songs.

Teenagers from the Swannanoa Gathering community get together each evening after supper for a young-folks-only hour of music and socializing. A staff musician will facilitate jam sessions for younger players, and the Young Old-Time band will have the opportunity to play for the Wednesday night square dance! String players, singers, dancers, and non-musicians are all welcome. This year, the Young Old-Time hour will be facilitated by Ben Nelson.

Evening dances will be held throughout the week, with plenty of chances to dance a variety of traditional Southern Appalachian squares and circles. Thursday features the long-standing weekly dance, the Old Farmers Ball.

Children's Program

We offer a full-day program, taught by Melissa Hyman, for children ages 6-12. Children must have turned 6 by July 1st to participate. No exceptions please. Evening childcare for ages 3-12 will be provided at no additional cost.

This summer, we are going to... OUTER SPACE! The Final Frontier. Explore the possibilities that lie beyond our planet through crafts, music, games and science experiments. Jump on our hardy spacecraft, the Swannanoa Starship, and we will navigate our solar system, learn about galaxies and supernovas and the like, and imagine goofy extraterrestrial life. We’ll get messy with antigravity games and be mesmerized by homemade rockets. We’ll learn to sing space-themed songs loud enough to be heard on Pluto, with the help of our very talented music teacher. At the end of the week, parents will get to hear us sing and see the crafts we’ve made, at our big performance at the Student Showcase. As a special treat, we will be visited throughout the week by wandering musicians and artists (Gathering staff) who will perform just for our kids. We will, of course, continue our long-loved traditions of shaving cream hairdos day, movie night, super-messy games and the Gathering Scavenger Hunt. Get ready for a week of wonder and space exploration on the crew of the Swannanoa Starship!! There will be a $30 art/craft materials fee for this class, payable to Melissa, the Children’s Program coordinator, on arrival.