Week Format

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges to the safe presentation of in-person gatherings of all types. Our safety protocols are guided by the findings of the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Buncombe County Health Department and those of Warren Wilson College.

For the last two years, we have required documentation, verified with a photo ID, that all participants have received a COVID-19 vaccine primary series and have gotten the most recent booster dose recommended by the CDC.

Covid is still with us, but its prevalence has receded to the point where we no longer require vaccination, but still strongly recommend it. Anyone testing positve for Covid during the Gathering will be asked to leave in order to limit the spread of the virus among the participants. Participants will be updated throughout the spring of any changes or additions to these safety measures.


Each week commences with supper, an orientation session, and jam sessions and socializing on the Sunday before classes begin. Most classes will meet for morning or afternoon sessions, Monday through Friday. Friday evening’s activities will close the week. Some classes may meet in the evenings for performance critiques, rehearsals, or jam sessions. Most of our programs also feature staff members in concerts open to the a public. See the Public Concerts page for details.

In addition to the scheduled classes and instructor staff, we will have various ‘potluck sessions’, guest instructors and adjunct staff to call dances and lead picking sessions and ‘slow jams’, or tune-learning sessions. Evening activities might include open mikes, dances, staff concerts, student showcases, jam sessions, song swaps and more. Some concerts and dances will be open to the public. Please note that although there is no deadline for registrations, both class size and total enrollment are limited for each calendar week, so early registration is encouraged. Students enrolled for instrumental instruction should provide their own instruments, and most of our instructors encourage the use of small recording devices like tape- or mini-disc recorders as a classroom memory aid. Students wishing to videotape classes will be required to obtain the permission of the instructor prior to the first class meeting, and must sign a release form stating that no commercial use will be made of any recorded materials. The Swannanoa Gathering reserves the right to cancel, add, and/or substitute classes and personnel where necessary.

Our program’s ‘open’ format, which encourages students to take several courses a day, allows a breadth of understanding of our folk traditions seldom found in workshops of this type. For example, a fiddler may take a class in her instrument in the morning, then, after lunch, a dance class that uses tunes from her fiddle class, and a folklore class in the afternoon describing the cultural context in which both tunes and dances developed. This may then contribute to a more complete grasp of the nuances of the style during her practice time, and a more authentic fiddle sound. We encourage all students to come to Swannanoa with an open mind and a willingness to try something new.