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 (Meredith McIntosh)
This class is for beginners who can play a few tunes slowly. It will include a few bowing patterns, rocking the bow, rhythm explorations, tone production, listening skills, basic music theory and good body use. All of the above will be applied to learning a few common tunes and open the door for that old-time fiddle sound to come in!
FIDDLE I B (Adam Tanner)
This class is for students who can tune their instrument and already play a couple of simple melodies of any type in standard tuning at a slow tempo. The foundation of old-time fiddling is dance music. Students will learn a few simple old-time dance tunes focusing on bowing, phrasing and ornamentation. Learning, understanding and applying various elements of southern dance fiddling will be our main goal this week.
FIDDLE II A (Greg Canote)
“The Drone and the Pulse” Are you ready to push your old-time fiddle sound up a notch? In this intermediate class, we’ll spend some quality time with a handful of beautiful old tunes, while we explore some of the left- and right-hand techniques that really make it sound old-time! We will also work on becoming the bosses of our bows with simple patterns, phrasing, and dips and pulses! Arcane secrets cheerfully revealed!
FIDDLE II B (Whitt Mead)
This class will offer a variety of fiddle tunes from Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri in the familiar keys of G, D, A and C. Employing standard tuning as well as a couple in the AEAE tuning, we’ll expand the repertoire and technique of the participants in a fun and productive manner. Tunes will be offered phrase by phrase and digital tuners and recorders are recommended.
FIDDLE II C (Amy Alvey)
Geared toward fiddlers that never leave standard GDAE tuning, this workshop will dig into different tunings, starting with the most popular, known as ‘cross-tuning’. We’ll break down the fingerings, apply it by learning a tune, and explore the endless possibility of resonating your fiddle to its full potential. Time permitting, examples will be shown of other common tunings like GDAD, Calico (AEAC#), DDAD, ADAE, and “Bug” tuning, made infamous by the Horse Flies. Tips on instrument care will be provided while you slip and slide into these wonderful, resonant tunings.
FIDDLE II D (Erynn Marshall)
West Virginia Fiddle Tunes. In this intermediate fiddle class we’ll learn tunes from some of my favorite West Virginia fiddlers including Melvin Wine, Lester McCumbers, the Hammonses, and others. Bowing, wild-notes and ‘crooked’ tunes will be explored as well as getting that ‘old-time sound”. We’ll share stories about the heritage players and their styles. Please bring a recording device to class and your love of the old tunes.
FIDDLE III A (Eddie Bond)
Get ready for the contest! In this class we will explore some of my favorite contest tunes in a couple of different cross-tunings: “Sally Johnson”, “John Brown’s Dream”, “Gray Eagle”, “Durang’s Hornpipe”, and “Otis Burris’ Fortune”. Additionally, we will do our best (time permitting) to cover what I consider some easy-listening old-time tunes like “Mockingbird”, “Piney Woods Gal”, “Flatwoods”, and “Say Darling Say”. We will learn the tunes in a traditional call-and-response method, and recording devices are encouraged.
FIDDLE III B (Greg Canote)
“The Calico Drone Zone” There is nothing quite like the sound of the fiddle tuned up to AEAC# (or down to GDGB). With the insistent shimmer of the second finger unison on the high strings, the left-hand pizzicato in endless combinations, and the rhythmic sweep of the bow digging down to the low strings! It’s like a whole new instrument! In this class, we’ll take on some of the gems in this tuning from the likes of Marcus Martin, Eck Robertson, and Greg Canote! Guaranteed fun!
FIDDLE III C (Amy Alvey)
Are you a fiddler with a healthy repertoire of tunes, yet unsure of how to take things to the next level? This class will help you bridge the divide. Expect some deep listening to source recordings and discussion of stylistic nuances. Using fiddle tunes as etudes, specific attention will be placed on bowing and articulation as we learn tunes with the intention of emulating the style as closely as possible. We’ll work on execution, drive, and melodic variations to pay homage to source fiddlers while developing your own unique sound.
FIDDLE III D (Sami Braman)
This class will work on diagnosing some of our common habits that prevent us from generating good tone and overall musical execution in relation to fiddle music. We’ll work on ways to create our own exercises and how to better understand what it is our bodies are doing when manipulating the fiddle. We’ll also do some ear training from source material as a way of developing and strengthening our listening skills. Please come prepared to explore our limits and work hard!
FIDDLE & BANJO DUETS (John Herrmann & Riley Calcagno)
This class will focus on the interplay of fiddle and banjo. There will be a lot of duo playing by participants. In the past, many fiddlers and banjo players have met in this class and continued to play outside class time, so it’s a good chance to find a musical mate. Students should be able to play at least a few old-time tunes and have a desire to play them with others. (Class limit: 16)
BANJO I (Janie Rothfield)
This class is for total beginners who are looking to get started playing old-time music on the clawhammer banjo and for novice banjo players who are looking to reinforce their skills and correct any bad habits they may have with their basic technique. We’ll start by getting your right hand moving with the basic correct ‘bum ditty’ rhythm: the source for all things clawhammer! You will quickly learn to play some fun old-time tunes and songs in several tunings. This is a skill-building class so you will learn how to and when to use hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, with chords and simple melody and, yes, you will learn to do drop-thumb! We will spend time listening to a variety of old source recordings of fiddlers and banjo players and learn how to ‘hear’ the intricacies and variety of rhythm and melody in an old-time tune. Janie makes it easy to learn with her teaching techniques that will help you internalize the music with voice and body movement in a low stress and highly supportive environment. She will show you how to play along in a jam with your newly found skills and have fun with old-time!
BANJO II A (Kenny Jackson)
This class will get you started on a couple of basic ‘non-clawhammer’ traditional banjo styles for accompanying songs and tunes, using a few different tunings. Our particular focus will be on thumb-lead two-finger picking and index-lead up-picking styles. Each of these traditional ways of playing banjo has its own distinctive feel, allows for a lot of individuality in interpretation, and is a lot of fun to boot. This class will be taught primarily by ear, although some tablature will be provided as well.
BANJO II B (Whitt Mead)
This class will teach a variety of intermediate level midwestern banjo tunes in the clawhammer style. We will focus on a various techniques for closely following the melodic intricacies of the tunes while maintaining rhythmic drive. The tunes will be taught by ear but recorders and digital tuners are encouraged.
BANJO II C (Brian DeMarcus)
Students should be able to comfortably play a couple of tunes in the old-time repertoire prior to participation in this class. We will explore various tunings, how to develop your foundation skills, how to become a listener, as well as learning some tricks to add to your tool chest to improve your playing. We’ll also learn ways to dissect a tune in order to learn how to play it, and discuss ways to make your banjo sound better
BANJO III A (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 B (Phil Jamison)
This class for intermediate/advanced clawhammer banjo players will focus on how to achieve a driving, forward-leaning, danceable sound and how to use the banjo as accompaniment to the fiddle – how to use chord shapes to find melody notes and accompany fiddle tunes that you’ve never heard before and how to create a driving rhythmic base that supports the fiddle. We will look at the rhythmic and chordal connections between these two instruments and consider techniques for both the right- and left-hands in the G and C tunings. We may also explore some two-finger picking techniques. Bring a capo so we can also play in A and D.
BANJO III C (Brian DeMarcus)
In this class we will further explore the old-time repertoire, as well as learn more tools to improve your playing. You’ll learn how to listen to other players in your group to create that groove sound. Other topics include how to play for waltzes, how to accompany a singer, chord discussions, moveable chords, right- and left-hand techniques, dancing around the melody, when to lead and when to follow, and anything else folks desire to explore.
Guitar & Mandolin
GUITAR I A (Vivian Leva)
Welcome to Guitar I! In this class we’ll nail down the fundamentals of old-time guitar. Learn how to get comfortable with your instrument, familiarize yourself with common chords and strumming patterns (boom-chuck), develop your ability to hear chord changes, and discover how to get into a groove. No experience necessary. Bring an acoustic guitar, flatpick, capo and tuner.
GUITAR I B (Kenny Jackson)
This beginning guitar class will introduce you to playing backup/rhythm guitar for tunes and songs. It will help if you can already play a chord or three, but from-scratch beginners are welcome, too! The focus of the class will be on learning a few chords and how to handle a flat pick to get good timing and strong rhythm. You’ll also learn how to tune your instrument by ear using a couple of different methods.
GUITAR II A (John Schwab)
Solid rhythm is the key to playing great old-time music, and since there’s no such thing as solo backup, we’ll be working on the guitar skills that’ll help to make you a great team player. Boom-chuck. Dynamics. Attack. Making yourself heard. Communicating! We’ll talk about phrasing and chord selection; being supportive, not dominating. We’ll also put a bunch of bass runs in your backup guitar toolbox. You should be comfortable playing up to speed and changing chords in the keys of G, C, D, and A. Bring an electronic tuner, a capo, maybe even pencil and paper. Flat picks and thumb picks are equally welcome!
GUITAR II B (Jere Canote)
In this class we’ll explore the joys of boom-chuck guitar back-up in the keys of A, D, G, and C. We’ll focus on bass note choices, and creating a solid yet bouncy rhythm, and learn the classic 2- and 4-note bass runs that take us from one chord to the next. We’ll also learn some tricks for hearing the chord changes. Bring a few flat picks, because we’ll wear some out!
GUITAR III A (Paul Kovac)
Old-time guitar styles vary greatly. The instrument came late to the music, but now it’s hard to imagine an old-time band without one. We’ll explore the stylings of Riley Puckett, Maybelle Carter, Alton Delmore, Jimmie Rodgers, and other well-known guitarists. We’ll cover bass runs, bass-note leads, double-stops, and how to fill out a song without breaking rhythm. By the end of the week we’ll address flat-picking fiddle tunes as well. To get the most out of this class, you should be able to somewhat play “Wildwood Flower”.
GUITAR III B (John Schwab)
There are many styles of old-time backup guitar, but I’m partial to the older styles that you hear on 78 rpm records, just after guitars became readily available through mass production and mail-order. Roy Harvey, Hub Mahaffey, Luches Kessinger, Fields Ward, and Asa Martin – these are just a few of my backup guitar heroes of the 1920s and early 1930s. Also Leona Stamm, who backed up her brother, Buddy Thomas. We’ll listen to recordings of some of these greats, figure out what they’re doing and why it works, and learn to channel their arrangements. As Dan Gellert says, “[The best] way to develop your own style is by slavish imitation of good models.” Or, as Tom Paley said, the key is to be “steeped in the sound…to be able to sound authentic without note-for-note copying.” Bring an electronic tuner, a capo, maybe even pencil and paper. Flat picks and thumb picks are equally welcome! Learn from the Masters!
MANDOLIN I (Paul Kovac)
The mandolin has made a place for itself in old-time music as a rhythm instrument able to back up singing or pick out a fiddle tune. We will touch on many aspects of its role, playing chords in a few keys, moveable positions, and it’s never too early to delve into the 4T’s: tone-timing-tremelo-technique. I’ll show how to play very basic versions of fiddle tunes, and also how to build on that fundamental framework, as your skills advance.
MANDOLIN II (Adam Tanner)
Of all the instruments in an old-time sting band music, the mandolin is perhaps the least defined, making it one of the most creative and satisfying instruments to play. This class is designed for those who can already play a few fiddle tunes in the keys of A,D,G and C. Adam will demonstrate how the sound and feel of both the fiddle and the banjo can be approximated on the mandolin. We’ll cover techniques for embellishment and ornamentation of fiddle tunes in the keys of A,G,D, and C, using aspects of both melody and rhythm. At the end of the week, we will explore chords, rhythm and tremolo.
MOUNTAIN DULCIMER (Don Pedi)
In the tradition of the one-room schoolhouse, this class will offer old-time dulcimer for all levels. The melody-drone style of playing the dulcimer is well suited to presenting a song simply at first, and then progressing on to more intricate arrangements. Included will be a brief history of the dulcimer and demonstrations on a few antique and vintage instruments. Stories about the source musicians and region of origin of the music presented will add an air of the continuing tradition. This class will be adjusted organically to best benefit those in attendance.
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 a favorite part of his experiences in teaching music 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 in this class will form stringbands and, with some coaching, will work on achieving a band dynamic that results in a sound that’s more than the sum of its parts. Among the topics we may consider, depending on band dynamics, will be each individual’s responsibility in a band, how to start and end tunes, tempo, rhythm, lead, back-up, chord choices, singing, choosing tunes, and playing for dances and/or concerts. Bands will have the opportunity and are encouraged to perform at a student showcase. (Class limit: 20)
BASS (John Herrmann)
This class will focus on how to get the best tone from our instrument, examine our technique and dissect how to create a pocket or groove in the context of old-time. We’ll explore the common keys (G,D,A,C) work on how to integrate walking lines and also how to take chord change cues from the guitar.
AUTOHARP (John Hollandsworth)
This is a combined class of all skill levels. We will spend time with chord changes, rhythm, and also melody-playing techniques for the more advanced players. We will all work on the same tunes, but I will give you different options depending on your skill level. If you are not a melody player yet, you should get some good insight on what to work on when you get home to advance your playing. Keys of C, G, D will be used.
UKE I (Paula Bradley)
In this class, we’ll explore the use of the ukulele in old-time music for both instrumentals and songs. We’ll learn basic chord shapes out of both high (D) and low (C) tunings, focusing on simple right-hand rhythmic strums. We’ll also do some listening to both contemporary and vintage old-time players to gather inspiration and discuss their approach. No experience necessary. Come for the fun!
UKE II (Jere Canote)
If you know the handful of basic chords and can strum a few tunes, you are ready for this class! We’ll work on creating solid rhythm for tunes and songs using the ‘Freight Train’ strum, and classic novelty strums. We’ll use them on songs from Uncle Dave, Charlie Poole, and Riley Puckett! We’ll also explore banjo techniques, including clawhammer, and two-finger picking. Bring a soprano, concert, or tenor uke with a high g (gCEA) tuning. Banjo-ukes are welcome!
TEEN GATHERING (Becky Hill)
This class for young people is an hour of music, dance, and socializing. We will collect and share songs, stories, and dance moves. We will then combine ideas to create a collection of traditional art experiments that tell our own stories while celebrating Appalachian old-time music and dance. Do you have an idea for a community art piece? Do you want to write your own song, poem, or square dance? All creative ideas will be considered, so come ready to explore and create something new! No previous experience necessary. (Class limit: 20)
MUSICIAN WELLNESS (Meredith McIntosh)
Alexander Technique teaches that mental stress and physical tension can be re-directed into whole-body use. As we observe the tension in our habitual way of playing/singing, we can begin to sense what is hindering our experience of joy and ease. We will learn simple anatomy and mindful movement to understand how our bones and muscles function together for balance and coordination. We will apply this knowledge to playing music in general and as it relates to specific instruments including voice. Taking this class may very well allow you to play without injury or pain for a very long time. This is only the second time this week-long class in musician wellness has been offered at the Swannanoa Gathering! (Class limit: 16)
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 23 from 10:00 AM-3:00 PM at the Morris Pavilion of Warren Wilson College. (No class limit)
STAMPS-BAXTER GOSPEL SING (Carol Elizabeth Jones)
In this class we’ll gather to sing gospel songs from the Stamps-Baxter song book. Songs such as “The Unclouded Day”, “Farther Along”, and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” will be sung, with harmony parts taught informally as we go. This will be an excellent class for folks who want to get together with others to sing in fellowship. No experience necessary.(Class limit 20)
TRAVELING SONGS (Carol Elizabeth Jones)
There are so many of them, and they make you wonder so many things! Where are you going? How are you getting there? Why do you have to go in a hurry? Who will be waiting for you? What are you leaving behind? Did you do something wrong? Have you been stupid? We’ll explore it all in this repertoire class, pulling from the traditional and bluegrass canon. No experience necessary.
UNACCOMPANIED APPALACHIAN BALLADS (Sheila Kay Adams)
I grew up in a small community in western North Carolina where singing was as natural as breathing. My older relatives, Cas Wallin, Dellie Chandler Norton and many others called the songs ‘love songs’ though they often ended in tragedy – “Barbary Allen” and “Little Margaret” are good examples. I’ll provide the words and we’ll work on the ornamentation – the way my family members bent and held notes and the little sigh they put on the last word at the end of certain lines. I would like to offer you the words, tunes and some of the flavor of learning these ballads as I did. If you have questions you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CARTER FAMILY SONGS (Paula Bradley)
The “First Family of Country Music”, The Carter Family recorded over 300 songs, drawn from the vast array of American music, including gospel, blues, ballads, cowboy and Tin Pan Alley. In this class, we’ll explore both lesser known and classic Carter Family songs, breaking down their harmonies and arrangements. No experience necessary, just a desire to lift your voice in song. Song suggestions welcome!
SOUTHERN HARMONY (Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno)
We will dive deep into what we know about singing, picking some good, old-time/country songs and learning them in detail and harmony. High on the agenda will be finding that ‘buzz’ – the other-worldly resonance that happens when voices perfectly match tone and vowel shape. We’ll work on learning how to find harmonies, how to learn the nuances of a song, and how to really sing together. No singing experience necessary. (Class limit: 26)
SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN CLOGGING (Rodney Sutton)
This class is a “fool”-proof process of teaching anyone the basics of American clogging and flatfoot percussive dance. While geared for beginners or those who have not yet convinced themselves that they are dancers, any experience level is welcome – especially for those who have tried before without success. Rodney will also weave stories into the history of each step with the history of who they were collected from – many personal friends such as Willard Watson and Robert Dotson along with many of the early Green Grass Cloggers! NO Taps. Smooth bottomed, low-heeled oxford type laced-up shoes are recommended – leather soles are best! (Class limit 20)
FLATFOOTING (Becky Hill)
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)
MASTER CLASS IN ARTISTRY (Janis Ian)
This is a traditional Master Class, normally offered on the university level and focusing on what it is to be an artist – to live as an artist, and to understand more about the role of and history of the artist through the ages, right up to the modern world. We will be covering history – from earliest sapient beings to the ancient Greeks, the Dark Ages, medieval troubadours and their role in spreading the news, the Renaissance, and why syphilis gave rise to the ‘artist as lunatic’ perception. We’ll pay attention to fear, and its effect on us as creative persons, the poetry and consciousness of wood, what to do when the well runs dry, the importance of both craft and talent, and the impossibility of living up to your ideals. There will be exercises for stage fright, a ‘wall’ of quotes and artwork you can take pictures of to carry home with you. Each class will end with a song to illustrate that day’s lesson, along with a short Q&A. Students will be asked to read 3-4 short stories about artists before class begins. If you haven’t received the short stories two weeks before classes begin, please email email@example.com for copies. (No class limit)
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.
CHAUTAUQUA (Phil Jamison) This year, an old-time Chautauqua will take the place of dances on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. In the tradition of the traveling tent shows of the 1870s, these evening presentations will feature speakers, films, entertainment, and cultural enlightenment.
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 (Mattias Thedens & Ben Nelson) Are you young and want to play old-time? Then this class is perfect for you! We’ll spend the week jamming, taking turns teaching dance tunes to each other, socializing and having a good time! We look forward to getting to know you all and playing some great music together. Hope to see you there! Mattias will be assisted by veteran old-time instructor Ben Nelson.