Old Time Week Classes - July 20-26, 2014

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). 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 (John Hoffmann)
In this class for advanced-beginner fiddlers, we will focus on phrasing, bowing, timing, and rhythm, all essential elements of old time fiddling. By learning one, maybe two, fiddle tunes during each class meeting we will focus on different approaches for learning tunes that will allow you to continue the process independently by week’s end. We’ll learn a mix of tunes in a couple of fiddle tunings from different parts of the South. 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 (Anna Roberts-Gevalt)
This class is for advanced-beginner fiddlers who know a few tunes and are ready for more. Incorporating basic bowing techniques and noting patterns commonly used by southern Appalachian fiddlers, students will learn several tunes in the keys of A, D and G. We’ll learn some standards, and spend time with a few unusual and beautiful tunes from eastern Kentucky.

This class for intermediate fiddlers will concentrate on old-time tunes mostly from the West Virginia repertoire, and break down the bowing using a back and forth, play and response, format. This will allow students to grasp a basic bowing concept, and then to build on that by fine-tuning nuances used in the various tunes to make them unique. While some patterns will be learned, many West Virginia melodies overshadow the bowing patterns, and this will be a major goal of the week.

OLD-TIME FIDDLE II B (John Hoffmann)
In this class for intermediate fiddlers, we will explore old time fiddling styles drawn from North Carolina, southwestern Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. We’ll learn one to two tunes per class while we focus on hearing the layered parts of a phrase – melody, bowing, double stops, beat placement, etc. We’ll also spend some time on the intricacies of bowing, rocking the bow, pulsing, etc. These exercises will help us understand and assimilate the “source” of a particular region or fiddler. Bring a recording device since all tunes will be learned by ear.

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 (Joseph Decosimo)
In this class for intermediate fiddlers, we will explore some fun tunes and tunings common to old-time music, focusing on the ways we can use the bow in order to create the right kind of rhythm and feel for old-time music. We’ll learn some breakdowns (and possibly a waltz or slower piece) in G, D, A, and maybe C and work on developing as listeners capable of fleshing out the tunes we hear. We will also discuss approaches to learning new tunes. Much of our time will be devoted to figuring out how to get our bows to make the sounds and rhythms that we want to hear. The tunes will include those from western North Carolina, Tennessee, and Cumberland Plateau repertoires.

This is an advanced class for folks who are very comfortable with the fiddle and with learning by ear. We’ll learn traditional tunes in a variety of tunings that allow us to dig into the nuances of rhythmic bowing and melodic ornaments. Bring an audio recorder, musical curiosity, and plenty of gameness.

This class is for intermediate/advanced fiddlers, we will focus on learning tunes from Grayson and Carroll Counties in southwest Virginia. 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.

In this class for intermediate/advanced fiddlers, we will draw from the repertoire I have learned from many stalwarts of the old-time music scene in West Virginia. This includes Melvin Wine, Ward Jarvis, Ernie Carpenter, Sarah Singleton, Frank George, and many others who I have performed with and recorded through the years. We’ll strive to achieve the distinctive styles in which these fiddlers played, while at the same time claiming these tunes for ourselves when that adds to the performance. Some varied tunings will be introduced.

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 (Elizabeth LaPrelle)
In this class for the total beginner, students will learn the basics of clawhammer banjo technique. By the end of the week, students will be able to play a handful of old-time tunes, and will have learned some of the tricks of playing back-up on the banjo.

OLD-TIME BANJO II A (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.

OLD-TIME BANJO II B (Joseph Decosimo)
In this class, we will work on intermediate old-time banjo repertoire and techniques that will be useful for solo playing, playing with a fiddle, and playing with stringbands. We will pay close attention to the right hand as the engine that drives clawhammer banjo. By rooting ourselves in some delightful tunes that utilize several tunings and techniques, we’ll work on developing our ear, our ability to flesh out tunes, and our sense of where the banjo fits in when playing with others. Ultimately, we’ll work towards being better listeners and more confident players, capable of learning and working tunes into our own repertoires. If time and interest permit, we may spend a day discussing the rudiments of some old-time up-picking styles. Plan to have fun.

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.

Marcus Martin, a fiddler from the Swannanoa, who recorded for the Library of Congress in the 1930’s, played in a beautiful, archaic style. To capture his expressive phrasing on the 5-string requires some techniques not common in the Round Peak style. This class will use the tunes recorded by Martin to introduce these techniques and explore how they can be used to expand the melodic and rhythmic possibilities of your clawhammer playing.

Recordings of old-time music made in the 1920s and 30s reveal that clawhammer was one of several styles of traditional banjo playing. After many years of clawhammer dominance, finger-picking styles are regaining their popularity among today’s old-time players. This class will be an instruction in these finger-styles, including two-finger, three-finger, thumb-lead, and finger-lead, using the music of Dock Boggs, Morgan Sexton, Roscoe Holcomb, Pete Steele, and B.F. Shelton.

Guitar & Mandolin

OLD-TIME GUITAR I (Carol Elizabeth Jones)
This class is for novice guitar players (advanced beginners), who know the basic guitar chords (G, C, D, F, E, A, Am, Em) but want to learn to play with other people. We’ll play backup for songs and learn to parse fiddle tunes on-the-fly. This class will help you play solid rhythm with your right hand and understand how to hear chord changes when learning new material for the first time.

OLD-TIME GUITAR II A & B (John Herrmann, Jeff Keith)
If you know a handful of basic chords, and can hold on to a flatpick, you’re ready for this class. Learn back-up guitar for stringband tunes and songs. Topics will include: the boom-chuck rhythm, chord choices, bass notes and runs, keeping time, tuning, learning to listen, and putting it all together into a duet, trio, or band. Guitar students may get together with fiddle and banjo students during the week.

We will learn Maybelle Carter style guitar which is played mostly of C position, so students will especially need to know how to make C, G, and F chords. Students should feel comfortable with a basic bass/strum lick and with changing chords. We will learn the basic Carter lick and the breaks to some of the familiar Carter Family songs as well as some of the more unusual ones. Since most of the Carter Family repertoire is built around songs, we will learn to sing them as well (hopefully) although singing will not be the primary focus of the class. We will spend a short time in each class listening to the Carter Family. Please bring a recording device.

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.

Old-time mandolin for beginners. In this fun class, we’ll play lead and backup to your favorite old-time songs and tunes, learn to create your own licks and fills, and discover many of the tricks of improvising.

This intermediate-level mandolin class will focus on tunes. We’ll work to understand lead mandolin playing and its place in old time music, and we’ll explore ways to creatively accompany lead instruments in jam sessions and in band settings. This class will raise student confidence through new skills and an expanded repertoire. A good tuner is essential, and a recording device is recommended. Much fun will be had.

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 (Wayne Erbsen)
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 (Gordy Hinners & Kevin Kehrberg)
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)

This class will cover intermediate principles of bass performance and accompaniment applicable to old-time music and related styles. Students should possess fundamental technical skills applicable to this music and know some basic scales. This includes knowing how to play in basic keys (G, D, A, and C) for tunes, songs, and waltzes. We will work on repertoire and discuss nuances of bass line construction, chord progressions, timing, and feel. If time permits, we will explore other techniques (slap, bowing, soloing) and styles of music as well.

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. Some 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.

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 include background historical and social context. Songs from other tune book traditions will be explored, including the Southern Harmony, Christian Harmony, and the Kentucky 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 eighth annual Swannanoa Singing with dinner on the grounds. This will be held on Saturday, July 26 from 10:00 AM-3:00 PM at the Warren Wilson College Pavilion. (No class limit)

BALLADS & CRANKIES (Anna Roberts-Gevalt & Elizabeth LaPrelle)
A ‘crankie,’ also known as a scrolling panorama, or crank box, is a box containing a length of paper or fabric rolled around two posts, which is then pulled across the front, much like the film in an old camera, illustrating a story or song. In this class, we’ll learn songs and ballads by making crankies to illustrate them, working with fabric, cut paper silhouettes, shadow puppets, paints and ink. ‘Non-artists’ are encouraged to give it a whirl – you may be surprised with what you come up with! Making pictures of the songs is sure to spark discussion about the stories and their meanings. Then we get to perform our efforts to each other, and to the rest of the camp. (To see videos of crankies, visit: http://annaandelizabeth.com/watch.html) There will be a $10 materials fee for this class, payable to the instructors on the first day of class. (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, with a look at the classic repertoire of Hazel and Alice as well as other singers. We will explore ways to become a stronger singer by finding and using your natural voice to get that country sound. We will also explore harmony, but that won’t be the main focus of the class. Bring recorders and voices. (Class limit: 20)

These are the unaccompanied songs that I grew up singing in the many different Baptist churches in Sodom, North Carolina. You’ll recognize many of them – “I’ll Fly Away,” “Build Me a Cabin,” “Where the Soul Never Dies,” “Farther Along,” and “Palms of Victory” are but a few. This class will ROCK! You can sing melody or find a harmony. I’ll provide the words and music, but we’ll sing them without accompaniment. That’s how I learned them because we couldn’t afford a piano. Come to this class ready to sing and sing some more! (Class limit: 20)

THE EVERLY BROTHERS & THEIR INFLUENCES (Carol Elizabeth Jones & Paul Kovac)
The Everly Brothers were hugely popular in the late 1950s and early 60s with a rock ‘n’ roll style that featured singable, memorable melodies and close two-part harmonies. As the Everly Brothers had a profound influence on groups to come, (the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, etc.) they, too, owed much to the musicians and repertoire that came before them. In this class we will learn traditional repertoire from the Everly Brothers’ Kentucky upbringing as well as songs from the Blue Sky Boys, the Delmore Brothers, and the Louvin Brothers. Participants in this class should be able to hold a melody and hear when a harmony is present. (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)

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 brilliant creations. Some adventures may include creating a young old-time flash mob, learning songs and practicing two-stepping for the Honky Tonk dance, crashing the square dance class, trying out every old-time instrument under the sun (guided by those in the class with instrumental experience), big group harmony singing, and a little clogging for good measure. Games and crankies and more. All proposals for fun activities will be considered! (Class limit: 20)

CLOGGING I (Rodney Sutton)
Let Rodney prove to you that everyone can learn Appalachain clogging steps. This class covers beginning southern Appalachian clogging and buckdancing from “step one.” Learn the basic steps and how to put them to use with live old-time music. Wear smooth-soled shoes – leather is best, and no taps. (No class limit)

CLOGGING II (Ellie Grace)
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. (Class limit: 25)

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)

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.

Each evening, after supper, teenaged musicians get together for the Young Old-Time Band, a staff-guided jam for young players, and on Wednesday night, following the staff concert, this group will have the opportunity to play for the post-concert square dance. This year, Young Old-Time will be led by Ben Nelson. Ben has taught old-time music for a number of years to young people in western North Carolina through the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program.

Evening dances will be held throughout the week, providing plenty of chances to dance a variety of traditional Southern Appalachian squares and circles. Thursday night features our valley’s 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.

Beneath the wind and waves lies the melody and magic of the OCEAN. This summer in the Children’s Program we will visit the watery, wondrous world of the SEA and all of her inhabitants. We are likely to find sea horses, crabs, dolphins, fish, whales, mermaids, giant squid, sea serpents and much more. If King Neptune allows, we may take a ride in a Yellow Submarine to visit an Octopus’ Garden! Colorful coral reefs, mysterious deep sea creatures, smelly seaweed snacks and a scary shark or two.... who knows what may show up at the Gathering? LOTS of arts & crafts (with many shells), LOTS of water (and dry land) games and LOTS of fun will be our goal. Can you find the pearl in the oyster shell, the lost city of Atlantis or the homes of Sponge Bob, Patrick and Squidward? Let’s not forget the sounds of the sea.... as we sing silly sea songs AND create a band led by Sue Ford (singer, songwriter, percussionist). As a special treat, we will be visited 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, pie-eating contests and the Gathering Scavenger Hunt. Each busy day will close with free swim time in the college pool. Non-swimmers must be accompanied by a parent to swim. So get your snorkels on and practice your fish faces as we dive into some nautical nonsense!! There will be a $30 art/craft materials fee for this class, payable to Denisa, the Children’s Program coordinator, on arrival.