Old Time Week Classes – July 15-21, 2018


In keeping with the tradition and nature of Appalachian music, learning by ear is encouraged. 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 are offered at four different levels: 0 – Beginner; I – Advanced-Beginner; II – Intermediate; III – Advanced (see definitions on pg. 1). Please consider your skill level carefully when registering for classes.



OLD-TIME FIDDLE 0 (Erynn Marshall)
This class is for the student with zero prior experience on the fiddle. We will start by learning the essentials: how to hold the instrument and bow, find the notes, basic bowing and how to play your first, easy old-time tunes (and they’ll be good ones). We’ll have a total blast in this relaxed and fun class. No prep required; just make sure you have a working instrument to play. I recommend you bring an adjustable shoulder rest, rosin and most importantly a recording device. You can do this! Questions? Email me: <erynnmarshall@gmail.com>

OLD-TIME FIDDLE I A (Karen Celia Heil)
This class is for those with some experience playing fiddle, but still consider themselves beginners. Bring that tunable functioning fiddle & bow and whatever other gear you use such as a shoulder rest, tuner, and your open ears! A recording device is recommended as well. We’ll learn fun and accessible jam-able tunes together, phrase by phrase, learning by ear. Within that structure we will give lots of attention to building-block bowing patterns, which create the ‘sound’ of old-time fiddling as well as its infectious rhythm. We’ll cover ergonomics & relaxation, tone, how to practice, drones/double stops, listening and jamming skills and more. My goal is that you go home with inspiration, enthusiasm, lots of stuff to work on and that we have fun!

This beginning fiddle class will cover basic southern old-time fiddling techniques such as bowing, left-hand fingering and ways to bring your fiddling to the next level. Basic music theory and ear training with a strong focus on rhythm will be used throughout the class as well as tips for practicing. We’ll learn a few common tunes in standard tuning and we might even try cross-tuning for some easy tunes too.

We’ll concentrate on some old-time “chestnuts.” We’ll learn tunes phrase by phrase and recording devices are encouraged. A CD of the tunes played fast and slow will be provided. If you know these tunes but don’t really like your version of them or want to improve on your version of them, then this class is for you. We will try to cover at least two tunes a day, enjoy each others company and most of all, have fun!

Before contest-style and swing fiddling, there was an older style more akin to Appalachian fiddling in Howard’s home state of Texas. Some of these tunes are straight ahead breakdowns, others unique, quirky, simple and beautiful gems. We will talk about who this older style comes from and how it traveled across the south and got to Texas. All music will be carefully broken down and learned by ear, so a recording device is important. Expect to have a lot of fun learning these great, old tunes!

The best fiddlers can make a simple tune sound good. This is partly a matter of feel and partly a matter of technique and how the tune is arranged. This intermediate class will focus on Kentucky tunes that are relatively easy and accessible and at the same time fun to play. We will pay particular attention to bowing and how to adapt to different kinds of tunes and feelings and how to use some basic elements to develop your own style.

OLD-TIME FIDDLE II D (Joseph Decosimo)
This class is for intermediate fiddlers eager to become more confident bowers, listeners, and learners. Drawing from the repertoires and styles of western NC and east TN, we will explore some delightful tunes and tunings (AEAE, GDAD, AEAC#) with an eye (and ear) towards how we use the bow to create the right kind of rhythm and feel for southern old-time music. We’ll discuss learning strategies and resources and work on understanding what makes certain performances captivating. At the heart of our workshop is the bigger question: How we can make the best music possible by ourselves, in jams, and for dancers? To get the most out of the week, folks should have some tunes under their belt, be willing to listen closely and learn by ear, and be able to play in multiple keys (G, C, D, and A). Recording devices are encouraged.

OLD-TIME FIDDLE III A (Joseph Decosimo)
This advanced fiddle class will delve into some elements of style that make old-time fiddling powerful and moving, including old-school ornamentation, bowing nuance, shadings of intonation, and rhythmic play. We’ll focus on capturing the feel of the music and having some fun, discussing how we listen and bring old recordings to life in our own playing. We’ll also consider how to make the best music possible by ourselves, in jams, and for dancers. We’ll explore tsome of western NC’s compelling fiddlers and captivating repertoire, tapping into music from J.D. Harris, Marcus Martin, Manco Sneed, Bill Hensley, and Osey Helton. We’ll work in a range of tunings (GDAE, AEAE, AEAC#, DDAD). Participants will leave with an appreciation for the region’s diverse, beautiful sounds, strategies and ideas for learning on their own, and a nuanced feel for a handful of tunes from the region. To get the most out of the week, folks should have solid fiddle skills, be comfortable learning by ear, and be able to play in multiple keys. Recording devices are encouraged.

Kentucky fiddling was not just one style but many regional styles with different histories, repertoires, tune types, and phrasing tendencies. While our ultimate goal is always to evolve our own style of playing, it’s helpful to listen closely to the full range of feeling that was represented in these local traditions. In this class we will take a tour of the Commonwealth, get acquainted with some interesting characters, some not so well-known, and learn tunes that exemplify these regional styles. The main requirement will be open-mindedness, flexibility, and willingness to try new things as we expand the language in search of the dialects.

OLD-TIME FIDDLE III C (Tricia Spencer)
We’ll learn fiddle tunes from Tricia’s repertoire, learned from her grandpa and other master fiddlers from the midwest, including tunes from TX, MO, and OK. Tricia will also unlock the mysteries of seconding on the fiddle which allows a fiddler to focus on bowing, intonation, and learn tunes more quickly through the use of chord shapes. All tunes and techniques will be learned by ear, so be sure to bring a recording device, paper and pen if you want to take notes, and expect to have a lot of fun.

Kirk spent years learning directly from legendary fiddlers like Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham. He also mastered the playing styles of H.O. Jenkins, Charlie Higgins, Emmett Lundy, Henry Reed and others. In this class you will learn Round Peak and Piedmont tunes and focus on Tommy Jarrell’s down-bow style of bowing. Tunes will be taught by ear quickly in the old, traditional way with no music given out. Questions are encouraged and feel free to ask Kirk for suggestions on how to play the best loved Round Peak tunes better. Bring a recording device.

FIDDLE & BANJO DUETS (Eddie Bond & Jared Boyd)
We’ll learn at least or two tunes a day, trying to show how the banjo and fiddle are linked together to create the old-time sound. This is a good class for folks who have spent a lot of time playing alone, and would like to expand their experience. Tunes will be taught phrase by phrase on both instruments and we’ll pair up for banjo and fiddle duets. We’ll start the day with a short jam/warm-up session and focus on good hard-driving dance tunes. Recording devices are encouraged. (Class limit: 13 fiddles, 13 banjos)




OLD-TIME BANJO I (Sheila Kay Adams)
In this class for the total beginner, we’ll build a solid foundation of clawhammer banjo technique layer by layer: driving rhythm, ringing tone, learning melodies by ear, and listening to other musicians. Our main focus will not be on learning repertoire, but we’ll learn one or two common old-time tunes that we can play together by the end of the week. Most important, we’ll create a warm and welcoming musical community that offers an encouraging environment for learning! A recording device, an electronic tuner, and an open mind are all useful tools to bring to this class.

OLD-TIME BANJO II A (Phil Jamison)
For advanced-beginner/intermediate clawhammer banjo players, we will learn some new tunes, and explore ways to add more drive and presence to your playing through the intentional use of subtle changes in rhythm. We will also learn how to use chords, in several different tunings, to accompany fiddle tunes or songs that you have never heard before. The use of a recording device is highly recommended, as all tunes will be taught by ear.

This class will learn tunes from the mountains of southwest VA and northwest NC, using several different techniques including hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, drop-thumb, and the “Galax-lick.” We’ll stick to standard open-G and double-C relative tunings, but bring a capo as well. We’ll be playing in the keys of G, C, A, and D.

OLD-TIME BANJO II C (Luke Richardson)
As a banjo player it is important to be supportive and versatile. This intermediate clawhammer/two-finger style class will gallop and meander through the complexities of two different old-time banjo players: VA’s Wade Ward and TN’s Omer Forster. Each class will explore the means and motivation for their sound through listening and discussion and tunes that showcase each style. For intermediate players who wish to add more focus, efficiency, and versatility to their playing. Recording devices are much encouraged.

This class is for players who can comfortably keep a consistent clawhammer rhythm. We’ll break down a few complexities of playing by ear, including responding to rhythmic variation, approaching chord changes and unfamiliar melodies, and using space within the ‘bump-ditty.’ Specific tunes will serve as foundations for building our technique and musicality, but the class will not focus on repertoire. Come prepared to participate in a warm, welcoming, and open-minded musical community that welcomes playing in tune: please bring an electronic tuner.

This class will explore alternative tunings used in solo banjo playing from some of the late banjo masters of the Appalachians. Using clawhammer, up-picking , two- and three-finger styles, the class will cover playing with a fiddler, regional Appalachian styles, chord structures for playing waltzes, and accompaniment for songs. The class will also cover jam sessions, general tips for getting good tone, and some basic music theory for exploring the banjo neck. Participants will find expression in the music with a focus on listening, tune variations and maintaining rhythmic integrity rather than focusing on speed and technical display.

This class explores and celebrates the richness and diversity of old-time clawhammer banjo. Each day we’ll learn tunes of a different region from a particular stylist. Day 1 will highlight Lee Hammonds and Oscar Wright of WV. Day 2 will cover the playing of Wade Ward from the mountains of VA. African-American clawhammer from the Thompson Family of the Triangle area of Piedmont NC will be covered on Day 3 and “Round Peak” stylist Kyle Creed on Day 4. Finally, we’ll investigate Bob’s own playing and learn arrangements from his recording and performing of new tunes in the old-time style.

This class will cover many Round Peak tunes, “clawhammer” style, as well as many two- and three-finger picking styles that Kirk learned directly from some of his heroes. The class will also focus on matching the notes that the fiddle plays on banjo, along with left-hand embellishments that Round Peak banjo is known for. Questions welcomed. Bring a recording device. Learn by ear just as the old-timers did.



Guitar & Mandolin

OLD-TIME GUITAR I (Karen Celia Heil)
This class, is for those with some experience who can keep their instrument in tune and know basic open chords, but still consider themselves beginners with regard to old-time. Mostly we will work with flatpick technique, however those that prefer thumb & finger are welcome. We’ll work on backup skills that support a fiddle tune or an old-time song starting with the revered ‘boom-chuck,’ and what it takes to do it well, exploring some fun tunes as examples. We’ll cover ergonomics, the role of the guitar when playing with others, chord choices, bass runs, how to navigate a crooked tune, etc. Be open to trying new techniques, and challenging yourself. My goal is that you go home with inspiration, enthusiasm, lots of stuff to work on and that we have fun!

In this class we’ll delve into the art of back-up guitar for stringband tunes and songs, exploring simple theory concepts to add variety, have more fun, and sound better. Knowing the distance between the notes of a chord makes “keys” and the fingerboard truly is a “playground” we can enjoy navigating. We’ll play in several keys and put a few new tricks up our sleeve and join with other classes to give our new guitar prowess a whirl. A notepad and recorder is always recommended.

In this class, we will learn all about the big BOOM and the little chuck, listening for chord choices, playing bass runs, and keeping time. We will talk about the important, yet often overlooked, role of the guitar player in old-time and discuss how to assess a session so that your back-up is right for the jam at hand. We’ll also explore a bit of Howard’s unique approach to finger-picking that he learned from his dad. Most of all, we are going to have a great time backing-up fiddle-tunes and songs.

If you know a handful of basic chords, and can hold a flatpick you’re ready for this class. If you’d rather grab a bass with your thumb and add a finger strum that’s fine too. This advanced class will explore the art of 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. The guitar is an incredibly versatile instrument, which we will enjoy and discover throughout the week. A recording device and notebook are always recommended.

MANDOLIN I (Paul Kovac)
Mandolin has been used as a rhythm/chord instrument, playing turnarounds and solos (think Blue Sky Boys) in singing songs, as well as an instrument for playing fiddle-tunes. We’ll learn good pick-hand techniques & proper pick direction, exploring the fingerboard with chords, double-stops and single-note tunes. We’ll touch on playing with a pulse, tremolo, and tone while learning fiddle-tunes, trad. songs, kick-offs and turnarounds. The focus of the class will be learning skills more than building repertoire. I will gear this class to the level of the musicians that attend, and will be prepared to take you as far as you can go. Tuner, strap and recording device recommended.

MANDOLIN II (Carl Jones)
We’ll learn some favorite fiddle tunes in different keys focusing on melody but also working to improve our back-up. We will explore the nuances of pick technique aiming for better control, dynamics, sustain, and a solid driving pulse that makes the listener want to start dancing. We’ll also find different ways to accompany the same tunes utilizing the mandolin’s strong points and switch back and forth from melody to back-up easily to have more fun being creative while picking. A recording device is highly recommended.



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. Topics 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 (Bob Carlin)
This class is for the advanced beginner/intermediate who has little or no experience playing with other musicians or wants to add to their skillset. Some knowledge of the old-time tune- and song-repertoire would be helpful and class participants are welcome to bring song- and tune-books and ideas that they want to attempt with the ensemble(s). All instruments are welcome. Emphasis will be on the fun one can have when creating something bigger than oneself. (Class limit: 20)

OLD-TIME BAND LAB (Carol Elizabeth Jones & Tricia Spencer)
We’ll explore the ways in which thoughtful listening and playing together can make for not just good old-time music, but a good time in general. We will talk about each person’s role in the band, as well as in the music, and how those roles work together to make a strong band sound. (No class limit)

OLD-TIME HARMONICA (Luke Richardson)
We will learn the basics of straight- and cross-harp and how each style meshes with old-time music. In each class we will refer to the sounds of bands like “The Crook Brothers” or “Dr. Humphrey Bates and His Possum Hunters” to inspire and guide us through this wonderful tradition. You’ll come away with a few tunes for the harmonica and a greater ability to follow along with other musicians. Please bring a ‘C’ harmonica so we can all be in tune!

BASS (Kevin Kehrberg)
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 (John Hollandsworth)
This class will provide insight into 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. Ability to read music or tablature is not necessary, but handouts of tunes will be provided. Students will need an autoharp in good playing condition, one thumb pick, and two fingerpicks.

UKE I (Lightnin’ Wells)
This class for beginners will be playing in standard C tuning for the soprano, concert or tenor ukulele (GCAE). No baritone ukes, please! We will learn the basic chords in first position as well as some basic strumming techniques. The class will learn a song together which will be a simple blues song from the early part of the last century. The uke is fun. We will not forget that! (Class limit: 20)

UKE II (Lightnin’ Wells)
This class for more experienced uke players who have some knowledge of chords and strums and can already play a few tunes will be taught using the C tuning (GCAE). We will explore some second and third ukulele chord positions as well as sliding chords and alternate strumming patterns such as the triplet. The class will touch on employing the thumb on the right hand and possibly playing a melody on the uke. We will learn a number of tunes from the American ‘Golden Age’ of the uke (1920s) and a bit of history about some of the great old mainland uke players. A suggested book is Treasury Of Ukulele Chords by Roy Sakuma, a valuable resource providing over 800 chord diagrams in all keys. (Class limit: 20)

This is a time for Swannanoa teens to come together for music, dance, adventures, and games. Some activities in the past have included a young old-time flash mob, arranging country songs and practicing two-stepping for the Honky Tonk, creating new square dances, old-time-ifying pop songs, big group harmony singing, and a little clogging for good measure. Group games and escapades always 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 styles? Where are Galax, Clifftop, and Mount Airy? How do you distinguish flatfooting, clogging, and buck dancing? What makes a crooked fiddle tune crooked? This class will ponder these mysteries while presenting a history and social context of old-time music. Focused presentations on “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” the Georgia Fiddle Contest of 1924, “Affrilachia,” and “Hillbilly” music will provide insight into the style and culture. Discussions with PowerPoint presentations, recordings, films, and guest presentations will nurture an overview of the history from the Skillet Lickers to the Onlies. (No class limit)

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. We’ll also cover 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 annual Swannanoa Singing with dinner on the grounds. This will be held on Saturday, July 21 from 10:00 AM-3:00 PM at the Warren Wilson College Pavilion. (No class limit)

During the summer and early fall months of 1916 -1918, the renowned English folklorist Cecil Sharp collected 231 “love songs” in Madison County and the majority of the singers were my relatives including my great-great Aunt Mary Sands (25 songs), Mrs. Ruben (Clora) Hensley (26 songs), and Mrs. Tom (Ona) Rice (18 songs). They were first cousins to both my grandmothers. We’ll tag along with Sharp and through my family stories we’ll “visit” with the singers and “listen” to their songs that I’ll teach in the same manner they were taught to me. Please join us for the other side of the story of Sharp’s meanderings through my part of the world! It’ll be great fun! (Class limit: 20)

DAILY GOSPEL SING (Carol Elizabeth Jones)
Experience the pleasures of singing with a group, with songs from the Southern Gospel tradition and the harmonies that go with each song. We will sing accompanied and unaccompanied, and we will have lots of fun. (No class limit)

What is the “high lonesome sound”? What are embellishments or ornamentation? What is “bending a note”? What is a “blue note”? Improvisation? What’s that all about? Where do these southern sounds come from? We will explore all of that and more through the vast repertoire of southern music. Email me at alice@alicegerrard.com if you have any questions.

SOUTHERN COUNTRY DUETS (Alice Gerrard & Cliff Hale)
Start with a melody, add a harmony, and magically there’s another voice. We’ll learn melody first, then harmony, then work towards duets, exploring how to find a harmony, how to make it work with another voice and delve into style, blend, and other elements that contribute to the amazing diversity of sounds that make up southern country duet singing. We will feature material by the Carter Family, Louvin Brothers, George and Melba, the Stanley Brothers, and others. You should be able to sing in tune a simple song like “Happy Birthday” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Bring recording devices and ears. We will provide lyrics. Email Alice at alice@alicegerrard.com or Cliff at <samridgebag@yahoo.com> if you have any questions. (Class limit: 26)

Like songbirds, the great country singers have signature tones and phrasing that make their singing style their own. They’re also masterful imitators, constantly integrating sounds they’ve heard from other singers as well as from their environment: a train whistle, a whippoorwill, a howling wolf. We’ll learn by listening, experimenting and singing, starting with the great Hank Williams. (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. We’ll have fun dancing and learning about the traditions of southern Appalachian square dances. (No class limit)

CLOGGING I (Ellie Grace)
Now is your chance to get “feet-on” experience in Appalachian clogging. With clear, step-by-step instruction and lots of good humor and encouragement from your teacher, you just might find yourself in awe of the exciting rhythms coming from your own two feet by the end of the week! (No class limit)

CLOGGING II (Ira Bernstein)
This intermediate/advanced flatfooting class will cover signature steps from several of the dancers featured in Talking Feet, Mike Seeger’s video documentary of solo, southern percussive dance. Featured dancers will include Jay Burris, L.C. King, Alga Mae Hinton, and Luther Boyd, among others. This is a step repertoire class. Technique will be taught only in support of the presented steps. (No class limit)



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 have the opportunity to get together each evening after supper for a young-folks-only hour of music and socializing facilitated by Ben Nelson. The Young Old-Time band that forms at this jam session will have the opportunity to play for the square dance on Wednesday night! Young string players, singers, dancers, and non-musicians are all welcome.

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’ve got an especially dreamy theme picked out: it’s all about DREAMS! The Swannanoa Gathering Children’s Program Dream Team will journey together into a world limited only by our own wild imaginations. We’ll make our own dreamcatchers, and learn about the Native American traditions and tales behind these beautiful crafts. We’ll learn about and even make our own surrealist art, with the wacky dreamscapes of Magritte and Dalí – among others – as our inspiration. We’ll explore and talk about what happens in our brains while we’re asleep, to create all those crazy scenarios we half-remember in the morning. Why did you dream about your teacher frying an egg while tap-dancing to Beyoncé songs and standing on her head?? We’ll sing, craft, play games and read stories in our classroom (which will be transformed into a beautiful dreamscape, of course) and even talk about ways to make our most fabulous dreams come true. We’ll write our own original songs on our Dream Theme, with the help of our talented and imaginative music teacher and some extra-dreamy-sounding instruments. We’ll make new friends, play our favorite messy games, and dress up in crazy clothes. 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 beloved traditions of shaving cream hairdos, movie night, crazy contests and the Gathering Scavenger Hunt. Get ready to dream away the week with your friends at the SGCP! There is a $30 art/craft materials fee for this class; fee is payable by cash or check to Melissa Hyman, the Children’s Program coordinator, on arrival.