(THIS INFO IS FOR THE 2023 EVENT. INFO FOR 2024 WILL BE POSTED IN FEB.)
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 recommended for all instrumental and singing classes. Unless otherwise indicated, all classes have a limit of 15. Fiddle classes are offered at three different levels: I – Beginner/Advanced-Beginner; II – Intermediate; III – Advanced (see definitions). Please consider your skill level carefully when registering for classes.
FIDDLE I A (April Verch)
Especially for beginners who can play a few tunes slowly in standard tuning, this class will focus on the basics of right- and left-hand technique, including intonation, tone production, and bowing patterns. We will also explore ear-training tips and tricks, and build repertoire by learning a few tunes by ear. Bring your tuner, recording device, curiosity, questions and love of old time. We’ll work hard and play harder!
FIDDLE II A (Emily Schaad)
Through a handful of tunes learned by ear throughout the week, gain knowledge of bowing methods that take simple tunes to the next level, how to practice and play with others, and key elements of fiddle technique. We will explore a few different tunings.
FIDDLE II B (Erynn Marshall)
In this class, we will learn tunes that use an array of old-time bowing including pulses, shuffle bow and a variety of bow rocks. Often ornaments in southern fiddling are achieved with the bow hand but some noting-hand ornaments will be covered also. We’ll learn great tunes, bowing accents, and explore the rhythmic skeleton of the tune. Put the know into your bow!
FIDDLE II C (Jake Blount)
This class will focus on building fiddle tune repertoire and bowing patterns. Informed choices about how to use the bow make tunes more exciting, make them easier for jam partners to pick up, and also make them easier to play. Participants should come expecting to learn relatively straightforward tunes along with bowings that make them groove.
FIDDLE II D (Adam Tanner)
Get ready to learn both breakdowns and bluesy fiddle tunes sourced from some of the great fiddle performances of the 1920s and 30s. If you already play a handful of tunes in standard tuning and want to put longer, smoother phrases under your bow using slides and chords this class is for you.
FIDDLE III A (Eddie Bond)
This year we will concentrate on Galax-style fiddling from the repertoire of Emmett Lundy, Charlie Higgins, and Luther Davis. We will learn the tunes in a traditional call-&-response method, and recording devices are encouraged.
FIDDLE III B (Emily Schaad)
This class will be focused on building repertoire, getting rhythm in the bow, and developing style in old-time fiddling. We will draw tunes from a variety of fiddlers and regions, exploring different regional techniques that are used for accentuating rhythm. Some discussion of improving mechanics (tone, articulation, ergonomics) and exposure to source recordings will be included. Please bring a recording device and be prepared to play in a few different keys and tunings.
FIDDLE III C (April Verch)
If you’ve got a bunch of tunes under your belt but need help finding the groove and making the tunes sound like your own, this class might be a great fit for you! We’ll learn some tunes from different regions and fiddlers, while exploring the left- and right-hand techniques that help to achieve that old-timey sound, danceable rhythm, and navigate the balance between being true to tradition, and finding your own style and sound. We’ll bounce around to a few different tunings and time signatures along the way. I’ll be teaching by ear, so plan to bring along your recording device, and a digital tuner will also come in handy. Expect to play a lot and leave happy!
FIDDLE III D (Jake Blount)
This class will focus on advanced fiddle tune repertoire, complete with bowings. Participants should come prepared to learn challenging tunes by ear – including “crooked” tunes with mixed meters, and tunes in less-than-usual keys. We will consult source recordings as we go, paying mind to the pitches and phrasing used by the fiddlers we’re learning from.
FIDDLE & BANJO DUETS (Dan Gellert & Hubby Jenkins)
Rock-n-roll, country, funk, swing, ragtime – a whole lot of the music the world has been dancing to for the last two centuries has roots in the uniquely American-Afro-European hybrid that is the fiddle-banjo duet. We’ll learn what it takes to get that little combo into a groove that makes it impossible for anyone with ears to sit still. We’ll keep the tunes simple and tempos moderate. If you can keep reasonably steady time on your instrument and have even a handful of easy tunes you can play without sweating too much, you should find enough fun and learning here to well outweigh the bits you don’t quite get yet. There will also be plenty for an advanced player. (Class limit: 16)
BANJO I (Ben Nelson)
This class for total beginners, as well as novice banjo players hoping to reinforce their fundamentals, will build a solid banjo foundation layer by layer. We’ll learn to feel the drive of the clawhammer rhythm, to make the banjo ring with clear tone, and to listen intentionally to ourselves and other musicians. Our focus will be on technique, not repertoire; but we’ll learn at least one common old-time tune that we can play together by the end of the week. Most importantly, we’ll create a warm and welcoming musical community that offers an encouraging environment for learning! Please bring a recording device, an electronic tuner, a functioning 5-string banjo, and an open mind.
BANJO II A (SONGS) (Elizabeth LaPrelle)
I started playing banjo mostly as an accompaniment for singing, and that’s still one of my favorite ways it’s used! We’ll learn a few different songs and ballads that traditionally feature banjo, practice playing and singing simultaneously, and talk about how voice and banjo can complement each other for an unforgettable sound. Lyrics provided, all music taught by ear.
BANJO II B (Janie Rothfield)
This class is for clawhammer players who can play at a moderate speed using the basic bum-ditty rhythm with hammer-ons and slides. Janie will review these skills with you, adding in drop-thumb, ghosting and other ‘moves’ throughout the week. She will share her easy-to-learn strategies for how to pick up a tune more easily (and quickly) by ear and how to add drive, syncopation and speed to your playing. By the end of the class, you will learn many wonderful old-time tunes and songs from a variety of traditional and contemporary sources to add to your repertoire!
BANJO II C (FINGERPICKING) (Travis Stuart)
This class will cover old-time 2- and 3-finger techniques used by pre-bluegrass players such as Snuffy Jenkins, George Pegram and Dock Boggs for 3-finger, along with some western North Carolina 2-finger players like Bill McElreath, Jerry Adams, Etta Baker and Samantha Baumgartner. Right-hand rolls and patterns for these styles will be shown as well alternate tunings. We will also explore using these styles in jam sessions or band settings along with playing waltzes and accompaniment for songs.
BANJO III A (Dan Gellert)
Let’s get lazy! It can be great fun to wrestle a complex, technically challenging piece into submission, but getting the real old-time sound is much more about keeping it simple, and making it easy! We’ll look at old-time banjo (primarily frailing/clawhammer/knockdown style) from several perspectives: right- and left-hand mechanics, various individual and regional styles, choosing of notes, scales, tunings and rhythmic riffs, instrumental tone and setup, etc., all with the goals of efficiency, comfort, and control. This is supposed to be an advanced class, but anyone past a very basic novice level should find a lot of useful stuff here. Bring an audio recorder, and you can go back and revisit any parts that go flying way over your head in class.
BANJO III B (Gordy Hinners)
In this class, we will focus on keeping the drive in southern clawhammer banjo playing, while adding to your ‘tool box’ of licks with both the right and left hands in several tunings. All tunes will be taught by ear, and hopefully we’ll have some fun along the way.
BANJO III C (Travis Stuart)
This class will cover 2-finger up-picking as well as index-and-thumb lead patterns and rolls for playing fiddle tunes and solo banjo styles. Students will learn rolls and patterns to adapt tunes from clawhammer to fingerpicking style. Tunings will be G (gDGBD) for general rolls for thumb and finger lead, Classical C (gCGBD) for playing along with waltz songs, and alternative tunings of F tuning (fDGCD) and Open D (f#DF#AD) for solo tunes.
Guitar & Mandolin
GUITAR I (Alice Gerrard)
Backup guitar is the bedrock of old-time stringband music, and crucial to fiddlers, banjo players, mandolin players, etc., in holding down the rhythm and supporting and complementing a tune or song. We’ll focus on song backup but will also do tune backup. Students should have knowledge of the 1, 4, and 5 chords in these keys: G, C, D, A and E. We’ll learn to use a capo, and figure out what chords go where. Please bring a useable guitar, recording device, notebook, extra strings and a capo. Note: I do not do tablature or notation, but there will be plenty of people who do if you need to write tunes/songs down. If you have any questions email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
GUITAR II A (Phil Jamison)
In an old-time ensemble the guitar plays a crucial role by providing a solid rhythmic base in support of the fiddle, banjo, and vocals. If you know a handful of basic chords and can hold on to a flatpick, then you are ready for this class. Topics will include: boom-chuck rhythm, chord choices for fiddle tunes and songs in the common keys of C, G, D, A, and E, bass notes and runs, keeping time, tuning, learning to listen, right-hand techniques to achieve a variety of rhythmic patterns, and putting it all together to play rock-solid back-up guitar in an old-time stringband. Bring a tuner, capo, flatpick, and extra strings.
GUITAR II B (Cary Moskovitz)
Old-time guitar can provide the rhythmic foundation that adds drive to an old-time band. In this class, we’ll focus on the factors that create that drive: timing, articulation, changing chords quickly, basic bass runs, and appropriate volume. We’ll also work on valuable skills such as figuring out chords by ear, understanding chord numbers, playing with and without a bass player, choosing a pick, staying in tune, and good jam etiquette. Our main goal will be learning to play in a way that makes other musicians feel that they play better when playing with you! This class is for those who can already play along with basic fiddle tunes in the keys of G, A, and D at a medium tempo. Bring an acoustic guitar, a few flat picks, and a capo.
GUITAR III A (Beverly Smith)
For those who know the basic chords and can sustain a ‘boom-chuck’ rhythm moving between chords, we’ll dive deeper into what makes great back up for old-time fiddle tunes, i.e., how to listen, create pocket & groove, make appropriate chord choices and sustain a great sound. We’ll learn some cool runs, how to back up crooked tunes and waltzes, how to work up speed and how to create melody lines for songs a la Maybelle Carter. I will be using a flat pick for most of the class but we’ll also venture into Maybelle-style thumb-and-finger picking if there is enough interest.
GUITAR III B (Lightnin’ Wells)
In this class we will explore fingerstyle guitar as performed by such old-time artists as Maybelle Carter, Sam McGhee and Hobart Smith, featuring such tunes as “Cannonball Blues”, “Railroad Bill” and “John Henry”. We will learn several tunes in the alternate guitar tunings of open G and D as well as standard tuning. Students should have some fingerpicking guitar skills and be able to play using the alternating bass technique.
MANDOLIN I (Ellie Grace)
This class for beginners will explore the driving rhythms and sweet melodies you can create on the mandolin! You will learn healthy and approachable techniques to playing melody on a tune or two and will explore some practical music theory. You will also work on basic chords and strum patterns and practice backing up both tunes and songs. Most of all, you will experience a reminder of the joy of making music!
MANDOLIN II (Adam Tanner)
This class is recommended for intermediate mandolin players who want to learn a few new tunes and add more flavor to the tunes they already know. Techniques covered include double-stops, slides, drones and tremolo.
MOUNTAIN DULCIMER (Stephen Seifert)
Step into the 1800s world of the Blue Ridge Mountains and valleys, where the Melton family made and played one of the earliest melody-drone-style lap dulcimers. They were were used to play solo and accompany singing, but were especially used for playing in stringbands well before the 1960 dulcimer revival. Bring your own dulcimer or play one of Phyllis’s Virginia dulcimers. Learn some tunes by ear and take home TAB. All levels will be accommodated and there will be fun for all!
OLD-TIME BAND 101 (Eddie Bond)
Have you been playing alone all this time? Well, it is time to broaden your horizons. Eddie will teach you what it is like to play as a cohesive group. This is one of Eddie’s favorite experiences in teaching at Grayson County High School. Learn what each instrument’s job is in order to make the band sound great! (Class limit: 20)
OLD-TIME BAND LAB (Gordy Hinners & Janie Rothfield)
Students will learn how to form and perform with their own old-time stringband! Instructors will be available all week long to guide and coach you on how to achieve your own unique old-time band sound and have fun, too! Many things go into making a band, starting with how to really LISTEN! Other skills include how to collaboratively choose your songs and tunes for the band repertoire, best key choices for singers, how to start and end a tune, how to agree as a band on rhythm, tempo, lead and back-up responsibilities, chord choices, singing (including harmony), and/or how to play for dances or a concert performance. The bands will be encouraged to perform at the optional student band showcase. (Class limit: 20)
BASS (Cary Fridley)
This class will focus on how to get a good tone on the bass, learning the patterns for common chords used in old-time tunes, finding the groove and feel of a tune, and learning how to read chords from the guitar player. Once we learn the bass-ics, we will practice playing a slow rhythm to traditional fiddle tunes and songs with coaching and instruction about how to provide the most solid rhythm and appropriate chords in a traditional music setting. Topics covered include accompanying fiddlers and singers, hearing chord progressions and tune forms, finding tasteful runs and walks, and helpful music theory advice for traditional rhythm playing.
AUTOHARP (Tyler Hughes)
Perhaps one of the most underrated instruments in traditional music, the autoharp is one of the most versatile! This course will explore the origins of autoharp playing from its invention in the late 1800s to modern day techniques. Students will learn a variety of strum patterns, accompanied with left-hand techniques that will allow you to play either the rhythm, melody, or both in a host of musical genres.
UKE I (Tyler Hughes)
From the islands to the mountains, Uke I will get you strumming along to some of your favorite folk songs. Students will be introduced to a variety of rhythms, strumming patterns, and learn about the ukulele’s unique role in traditional Appalachian music. The course music will not be limited to just Appalachian songs, but will cover songs from various folk traditions across North America.
UKE II (Lightnin’ Wells)
This class is for more advanced uke players who have some knowledge of chords and strums and can already play a few tunes. It will be taught using the C tuning (G-C-A-E). 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. We will learn a number of tunes from America’s ‘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.
TEEN GATHERING (Becky Hill)
This is a chance for Swannanoa teens to hang, dance, sing, play games, and more. Activities will include body percussion, improvisation, practicing two-steps line-dance and waltzes for the Honky Tonk, learning to call and create your own square dance, clogging and much more. We’ll choose our own adventures and create our own traditions together. No previous experience necessary. All creative proposals will be considered, come with an idea or two! (Class limit: 20)
HARMONICA (Cary Moskovitz)
The harmonica is a wonderful instrument for playing old-time tunes – and you can take it wherever you go! While people often think of the harmonica as a toy, it is actually a remarkably complex instrument capable of great expressiveness. In this class, we’ll begin with a few simple tunes while learning the basics: articulating clear single notes, getting a good tone, and moving fluidly around the instrument. We’ll then move to tunes with more complexity, working on breath control and phrasing with a fiddler’s feel. Along the way you’ll learn to read harmonica tablature and how the notes are laid out across the instrument. We’ll end with how to choose a harmonica and basic harmonica maintenance. All are welcome – from beginners to those with experience playing other styles who want to learn to play fiddle tunes. You’ll need a good harmonica in the key of A in “Paddy Richter” tuning. These will be provided on loan or for sale for those who need them.
BONES 101 (Hubby Jenkins)
Since the dawn of man, the rhythm bones have passed from hand to hand becoming one of the most widely played instruments in the world. After many travels, the bones made their way to America and became an integral part of American popular music. Hubby will demonstrate how to hold the bones and also how to play simple rhythms that’ll get you playing in no time. There will be lots of practice as we play along to different types of music ranging from Charlie Poole to Al Green. Come learn a bit more about the history and playing of this unique instrument.
Songs & Folklore
HISTORY OF OLD-TIME MUSIC (Ron Pen)
What IS old-time music? How does bluegrass differ from old-time? What are drop-thumb, clawhammer, and two-finger banjo styles? Who are Lily May Ledford, Moonshine Kate, and Estill Bingham? Where are Galax, Clifftop, and Mount Airy? What makes a ‘crooked’ fiddle-tune crooked? This class will present a panorama of the 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 accompanied by PowerPoint presentations, recordings, films, and guest presentations will nurture an overview of the history from regional roots to international phenomena. (No class limit)
SHAPE-NOTE SINGING (Ron Pen)
We will live in musical and social harmony through recreation of a rural 19th-century singing school. Singing from the Sacred Harp tune book (1991 edition), which features intoxicating harmonies printed in a unique four-shape notation of triangles, squares, circles, and diamonds makes learning to read music easy and enjoyable. Background historical and social context will freely flow. Songs from related traditions will be explored, including the Southern Harmony, and the Christian Harmony. The class will embrace total beginners as well as 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 held on Saturday, July 22 from 10:00 AM-3:00 PM at the Morris Pavilion of Warren Wilson College. (No class limit)
SOUTHERN TRADITIONAL SINGING (Alice Gerrard)
When I’m talking about Traditional Southern Singing I’m talking about singing that was strongly influenced by African American music and singing. This is what gives traditional southern music its syncopation, blue notes, bent notes, slides and a myriad other details. It was this mix, along with other influences that gave us Traditional Southern Singing. You can’t swing a stick anywhere in the south and not hit a musician that was influenced by Black music (whether they know it or not). We’ll dig into some of the details that go into singing styles. We’ll talk about finding keys, finding your voice; and we’ll try different kinds of songs. I’ll sing; you’ll sing; we’ll learn songs and break them down. We’ll listen to recordings of source musicians. I’ll provide songs and a source list that might be helpful for continued listening. And you may have a song you’ve been working on… bring it to the class. You will need some kind of recording device too and if anyone has questions about this class you may contact me at email@example.com(Class limit 20)
BALLADS (Elizabeth LaPrelle)
We’ll learn as many ballads as we can cram in a week! We’ll also spend time talking about how they are traditionally sung, and some of the regional and stylistic vocal approaches that can make them shine as solo storytelling pieces. Lyrics and listening examples provided, but a notebook and pen are recommended. All melodies taught by ear.
LOUVIN BROTHERS HARMONY (Kari Sickenberger)
The Louvin Brothers took harmony singing to a new level. They had a unique duet sound that had a profound effect on early country singing. Originally a gospel act, the Louvins branched out in the 1950s to put out several secular hits as well. Their skillful songwriting and musicianship, coupled with their very own close harmony innovations made these brothers’ songs live on to this day, inspiring discriminating music lovers and singers – like us! In this class, we will focus on one Louvin Brothers song each day, examining their singing styles and harmony parts and honing in on the tricks and talents that carried these two country boys from a poor Alabama farm to the Grand Ole Opry and beyond. If you love to sing with another person, this class is for you. We will sing a lot! Optional reading material: Satan is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers by Charlie Louvin and Benjamin Whitmer. (Class limit: 26)
CARTER FAMILY SONGS (Beverly Smith)
The Carter Family is rightly known as the “First Family of Country Music”. They recorded over 300 sides and are cited as major influences by nearly every country artist that followed. We’ll learn to sing a bunch of their songs, both the popular and the more obscure, and learn some of their 2- and 3-part harmonies as well as solo songs and quirky rhythmic phrasing in some of their wonderful source recordings. If you are not already a Carter Family fan be ready to fall in love!
CLASSIC COUNTRY HARMONY (Kari Sickenberger & Vollie McKenzie)
The world of Classic Country music is wide, but the ‘Golden Age’ only lasted for about 50 years, from the 1920s-70s. It is from this time period that several stand-out harmony duets emerged, among them, Porter Waggoner & Dolly Parton, George Jones & Tammy Wynette, and Buck Owens & Don Rich. In this class, we will draw from the cream of this crop and have a lot of fun learning both the melody and harmony parts of some standards as well as some lesser-known classic country gems. Be prepared to stretch yourself, sing a lot, and have fun! (Class limit: 26)
CLOGGING I (Becky Hill)
This class will be a deep dive into the Appalachian percussive dance form of clogging. We will learn some basic clogging vocabulary from legendary dancers, while exploring musicality, syncopation, and improvisation. We will focus on dancing the tune, and holding a solid groove. We’ll work on basic partnering skills and weave our way through a little bit of choreography that utilizes square dance figures. We will construct-to-deconstruct with the hopes that everyone will walk away with new tools and footwork vocabulary to use on the dance floor. This class will be accommodating for all levels, come as you are. Leather bottom shoes suggested. (No class limit)
CLOGGING II (Ellie Grace)
We will spend our time together immersed in learning steps from some of my favorite Appalachian percussive dancers including Thomas Maupin, Lou Maiuri, D. Ray White, Ellen & Eugene Ratcliffe and several others. We will spend time working on improvisation, musicality, and creating our own steps inspired by these culture-bearers. Come ready to dance in either leather-bottomed or smooth-soled shoes. Bring your questions and we’ll have a little dance party. (Class limit 20)
SQUARE-DANCE & DANCE-CALLING (Phil Jamison)
This class, open to dancers as well as dance caller 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.
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. Bathroom independence is a non-negotiable prerequisite. Maximum age is 12 on July 1. Some older children (age 12-16) may be able to work as junior counselors. Please email Melissa ASAP if interested in a junior counselor position, even if you’ve discussed it with her before: firstname.lastname@example.org. We are no longer able to provide evening childcare. We are so excited for the return of the Children’s Program! This year, our theme is UNDER THE SEA!! Welcome to the Swannanoa Sea-Pod, where we explore the depths, biodiversity and magical legends of the briny deep. Together, our seafaring crew will set sail for an underwater world of arts & crafts, music and games. We’ll even meet some magical mer-folk, and read stories of sea creatures real and imagined. It’ll be another unforgettable summer of friendship, water balloon fights, scavenger hunts, and discovery… and we hope you’ll join us! With the help of a talented music teacher, we will write our own original song and perform for the whole Gathering at the student showcase on Friday. We’ll also have visits throughout the week from other Gathering staff, who will teach and perform just for our kids. Weather permitting we’ll continue our traditions of shaving cream hairdos and slip-n-slide madness; we’ll definitely have movie night, messy games, and other old favorites. Please bring at least one swimsuit with you, for cooling-down activities like running in the sprinkler. Get ready for a week celebrating curiosity, exploration and wacky fun! There will be a $30 art/craft materials fee for this class, payable to Melissa on arrival.
POTLUCK SESSIONS In addition to the regular class sessions, Potluck Sessions are offered on 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 necessary. If limits need to be imposed, students will be admitted on a first-come-first-served basis.
SLOW JAMS & SINGING 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.
YOUNG OLD-TIME (Ben Nelson) Young players 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, and at the Friday class showcase! Young string players, singers, dancers, and non-musicians are all welcome.