Old Time Week Classes – July 21-27, 2024


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 (Meredith McIntosh)
This class is for beginners who can play a few tunes slowly. It will include a few bowing patterns, bow rocking, rhythmic 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 opening the door for that old-time fiddle sound to come in!

FIDDLE II A (Earl White)
This intermediate fiddle class is designed to help you ‘get your jam on’. We will focus a bit on some bowing techniques and ways to enhance your playing for just jamming or performance. We will explore and learn a slew of little-known and infrequently-played regional fiddle tunes and styles from across the US, with particular notice given to Appalachia.

This class will focus on both repertoire, tone and technique. We will learn tunes in both standard and cross-A tunings from a few different regions including the midwest. As we learn tunes, we will take time to look at how to get the most out of your instrument and talk about how our bodies interact with the fiddle. We’ll learn by ear, and talk about tips for doing that. Bring a recording device if you have one (audio and video are great!)

FIDDLE II C (Rhys Jones)
Students will gain articulation, clarity and precision in their bowing, using tunes from the repertoire of southern West Virginia, Kentucky, and the Midwest as a basis for teaching. We will explore common bowing patterns found in many tunes, and learn to apply them. Special attention will be given to improving control of rock-bows, pulses, drones and double-stops while significantly expanding repertoire.

FIDDLE II D (Erynn Marshall)
In this class, we will learn tunes that uses an array of old-time bowing techniques, 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 for good measure. We’ll learn great tunes, bowing accents, and explore the rhythmic skeleton of the tune. Put the know into your bow!

FIDDLE II E (Tessa McCoy)
This class will be great for the fiddler who already plays a good number of standard tunes and is looking to add some new, jam friendly tunes to their repertoire! We’ll work on new melodies broken down into smaller sections and build in natural bowing patterns that will give our new tunes good and solid phrasing.

FIDDLE III A (Tessa McCoy)
Big River Tunes – Fiddling from the Kanawha and Ohio River Valleys. In this class, we’ll take a trip through the regions I grew up in and work on tunes from fiddlers like Ed Haley, Buddy Thomas and a few others. We’ll talk about tips and tricks for relating to and tackling trickier tunes while adding some really fun tunes to your repertoire.

FIDDLE III B (Rhys Jones)
In this class we will examine the nuances and details of a broad range of tunes from southern West Virginia and parts of the Midwest, learning to preserve the essential components of traditional style while expressing musical individuality. Attention will be focused on strengthening rhythm through efficient bow use, introducing variation, and learning how bowing choices can influence both rhythm and style.

In this class we will use some fun tunes to take a deeper look at nuances in rhythm, phrasing and variation. Focusing on mostly midwest repertoire, which tends to be notey and includes less common keys (F, Bb and standard tuned A), we’ll discuss the musical building blocks of the tunes and learn why understanding things like chord structures can help us become better fiddlers. All material will be taught by ear so bring a recording device if you have one (audio and video are great!)

FIDDLE III D (Chance McCoy)
This advanced fiddle class will explore the beauty of Calico (AEAC#) tunes. Add a new dimension to your repertoire with Calico tunes from West Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina.

FIDDLE & BANJO DUETS (Gordy Hinners & Earl White)
There’s nothing like sitting knee to knee with your fiddle, and ‘locking in’ with a banjo player and vice versa. This class will explore and share some of the many ways the banjo and fiddle can complement and encourage each other in an intimate song & dance that gives rise to beautiful music. We will give demonstrations with simple tunes and you too will have an opportunity to ‘dance’ with the instructors and each other. Most of all, we’ll have a lot of fun. (Class limit: 16)



BANJO I (Laura Boosinger)
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 (John Herrmann)
In Banjo II the topics included are: how to play tunes you don’t know, syncopations, useful licks for playing with a fiddler, how to play off chords, abstracting the tune, basics of ‘Round-Peak’ banjo.

BANJO II B (Mark Olitsky)
Clawhammer banjo can be used for playing back-up for a fiddle (or string band) and as a solo instrument playing banjo/fiddle tunes. This class is for players that are comfortable playing with a basic bum-ditty rhythm at a moderate speed. We’ll learn how to play a tune by ear so that you won’t have to sit out during any tunes in a jam. We’ll also build repertoire that covers how, why and when to modify the basic bum-ditty rhythm. Players will be encouraged to bring any banjo questions or concerns about set-up, jam etiquette, difficulties etc. Consider bringing a recording device.

BANJO II C (Gordy Hinners)
Goal One of playing the banjo is to have fun, and we’ll have that in this class! We’ll explore some techniques, licks, etc. that will expand your repertoire of clawhammer tools to help you develop your own playing style. We’ll learn some tunes and tunings with some variations that will help us learn to adapt to different playing styles, tunes, and versions of tunes and work some on learning new tunes on your own. As an intermediate class, students should have some facility with basic clawhammer rhythm(s) and know a few tunes.

This class will explore the world of fingerpicking banjo, with a focus on backup. 3- and 2-finger techniques will be discussed. We will look at roll patterns, chord shapes, phrasing and how to use them to accompany a fiddle tune or vocal melody. Picks or no picks, no problem.

BANJO III B (Mark Olitsky)
We’ll have fun exploring some techniques, licks, etc. that will expand your repertoire of clawhammer tools and help you develop your own playing style. We’ll learn some tunes and tunings with some variations that will help us learn to adapt to different playing styles, tunes, and versions of tunes, and work some on learning new tunes on your own. As an intermediate class, students should have some facility with basic clawhammer rhythm(s) and know a few tunes.


Guitar & Mandolin

GUITAR I (Ben Nelson)
In this class for novice guitar players, we will learn basic rhythm guitar technique to accompany old-time fiddle tunes and songs. Topics will include chord choices, right-hand technique, bass runs, and capo use, as well as some basic music theory that will make it easier to pick out the chord changes of songs and tunes on the fly. Although we will start at the very beginning, it would help if students know the basic guitar chords (G, C, D, F, E, A, Am, Em) in advance. We’ll be learning by ear, so a recording device may be helpful. Please bring extra strings, a capo, and a few flatpicks.

GUITAR II A (Chas Justus)
In this intermediate guitar class you’ll expand your skill set beyond basic accompaniment, obtaining tools to make you a higher-functioning guitar player. You’ll learn different approaches from Mother Maybelle Carter to ‘black string band’ (Mississippi Sheiks, Memphis Jug Band), ragtime, tasteful bass runs, and a bit of simple fingerpicking. All this will give you a broader range in backing up fiddlers, playing in string band ensembles and accompanying yourself.

GUITAR II B (Rina Rossi)
Rhythm guitar can make or break a good session, and there are few things more satisfying than creating a solid pocket and using your playing to compliment and lift up other musicians playing with you. This class will dig into various elements of old-time rhythm guitar, including timing, articulation, hearing chords, bass notes, and bass runs. We’ll listen to examples of different regional back up styles and leave with strategies for continued learning. We’ll work on understanding chord numbers in A, G, D, C, and E, using a capo to play in other keys, and talk about working with a bass player and playing in jams. This class is for those who can play standard chords and use a pick. You’ll want a guitar, tuner, flat picks, a capo, and something to write on!

GUITAR III A (Carl Jones)
In this class we will learn tools to improve our fiddle tune back-up and add variety to our playing. We will work on ways to gain better pick control and how to use 2 and 3-string chord shapes to play easily in many keys. A dab of music theory will lead the way to better bass runs, arrangment ideas, melody playing and song back-up to boot. Using classic tunes and songs, we will see just how fun and amazing playing the guitar can be.

MANDOLIN (Reed Stutz)
Here we will dive into mandolin techniques and how to apply them across different spheres of old-time music. Fiddle tune backup, vocal accompaniment, stringband rhythm, and mandolin tunes are all on the table. We will discuss things like double stops, tremolo, right-hand technique, fretboard awareness, and how these all weave together.


Other Instruments

In this class, we’ll be exploring the world of old-time fiddle tunes and adapting them to the mountain dulcimer fretboard. We’ll cover simple strategies for helping you hang with the fiddles when the jams get fast, as well as some right-hand and left-hand techniques to help you play relaxed while getting the best tone out of your dulcimer. We’ll start the week in DAd tuning and branch out from there to play in other tunings/keys. We’ll also learn some fun tunes in the process.

OLD-TIME BAND 101 (Chance McCoy)
Add ‘plays well with others’ to your old-time resume! In this class, we’ll get comfortable playing with a mix of instrumentation. We’ll work on listening and the fundamentals of playing in a group including timing, style and etiquette. (Class limit: 20)

OLD-TIME BAND LAB (John Herrmann & Meredith McIntosh)
Students will learn how to play in their own old-time band. Instructors help form bands the first day and will be available all week to coach you on how to achieve a good band sound by learning such skills as listening to yourself AND other players, settling into a deep rhythmic groove, choosing tempos, considering chord choices, how to start and end tunes, and thinking about arrangements for performance especially with singing. While it is optional, the bands will be encouraged to perform at either the student showcase or a dance with a student caller on Friday evening. (Class limit: 20)

BASS (Rina Rossi)
Bass players don’t usually play tons of notes per measure in an old-time setting, so it’s how you play each note that counts. In this class we’ll dig into how to be a bumping bass player. We’ll start with some basics like technique, tone, attack and length of sustain, and go over chords/bass notes in the keys of G, D, A, and C. We’ll then move on to pushing and pulling the beat, note choices, strategies for playing by ear in jams, basic theory/chord patterns that you see in traditional music, and getting comfortable backing up tunes at medium speeds.

AUTOHARP (John Hollandsworth)
This is a class for beginning and intermediate autoharp players. We will work together to refine your playing skills, covering strum patterns, chord changes, timing, beginning and intermediate melody playing techniques, and playing well with others. The class will all work on the same tune at the same time, but tailored to your own skill level. Some time will be devoted to individual practice so that we will be able to play tunes together as a group. It should be fun! I hope you join us.

UKE (Carl Jones)
In this class we will discover just how wonderful playing the ukulele can be. We will start with easy chords and old-time songs, but also be learning music theory and advanced techniques. My goal is to have newer players and more experienced ones learn together as they enjoy becoming a musical ensemble. All ukes are welcome (C tuning preferred for soprano uke: G-C-E-A)

This class is for the teens at the Gathering to get together and have fun through music, dance, art and whatever else we are excited to explore. We may practice two-steps and line dances for Honky Tonk night, make old time arrangements of our favorite pop songs, create a group art collage project, or learn basic screen-printing techniques. Bring a few ideas to share; no experience necessary! (Class limit: 20)

HARMONICA (Cary Moskovitz)
While people often think of the harmonica as a toy, it is actually a remarkably complex instrument capable of great expressiveness. We’ll begin with a few simple tunes while learning the basics: articulating clear single notes, getting a good tone, and moving 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. For those who have taken my class before, we’ll be focusing on some new tunes!

BONES (Jackie Merritt)
The rhythm bones are considered one of the oldest instruments known to humankind, along with the voice. Jackie learned from the legendary Mr. Richard “Bones” Thomas and Mike Baytop at the original Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Barbershop. Her style of playing bones reflects many years of being a bass player, holding down the ‘bottom’ and staying ‘in the pocket’ of a song. Our class sessions will focus on learning one- and two-hand playing techniques, including taps, doubles, and triplets. An assortment of different types of bones will be provided to sample in class, ranging from wood, plastic, to real rib bones.



Songs & Folklore

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)

We will engage in musical and social harmony through recreation of a rural 19th-century singing school. Singing from the Sacred Harp tune book (1991 edition) features intoxicating harmonies printed in a unique four-shape notation of triangles, squares, circles, and diamonds, that 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 27nd from 10:00 AM-3:00 PM at the Morris Pavilion of Warren Wilson College. (No class limit)

OLD-TIME SINGING (Cary Moskovitz)
This class is all about improving your ability to sing old-time—whether in a jam setting or performance. We’ll focus on practical skills such as projecting so you can be heard, finding the right key for your voice (and knowing when you’ll have a choice of key!), and making your singing interesting through phrasing, articulation and the use of ‘blue notes’. We’ll also cover choosing versions of songs and memorizing lyrics. For those who sing while playing an instrument, we’ll address the challenges and learn how to do this well. We’ll explore a wide range of songs within the broad old-time tradition. Most importantly, we’ll have lots of fun and you’ll learn a bunch of songs! Handouts with lyrics and chords will be provided.

BALLADS (Cary Fridley)
In this class participants will learn to sing two to three ballads in each session, drawing from traditional ballads of western North Carolina where Cary has lived for 25 years, and from around West Virginia and Virginia, where Cary grew up. Words, pitch map, and source information provided. Instruction will be provided on full-voice singing, phrasing, breathing, and finding your natural voice. Ballad singers covered include Dellie Norton, Berzilla Wallin, Dillard Chandler, Doug and Jack Wallin, Maggie Hammons, and others.

HARMONY SINGING (Laura Boosinger)
In this welcoming class, you’ll learn a small repertoire of roots and old-time music in two, three, and four-part harmony. We’ll explore healthy singing technique, quality and style, skills for harmonizing, and working as a unified whole. Most of all, we will sing together! All music will be taught by ear and no previous experience is required.

This class is a survey of songs from old 78’s, field recordings, and popular old-time festival songs from the Southern Appalachians around VA, WV, and Western NC. We will sing songs from around the Clinch Valley area of VA which includes The Carter Family, early Stanley Brothers, traditional mountain ballads, and songs from the 1927 recording sessions in Bristol. Instruction will be provided about how to sing in the mountain style, as well as how to project your voice, support long notes and high notes, finding resonance, tips on phrasing and breathing, and how to deal with nervousness. Instruments welcome, and lyrics and source information will be provided for each song.

In this welcoming class, you’ll learn a small repertoire of roots and old-time music in two, three, and four-part harmony. We’ll explore healthy singing technique, quality and style, skills for harmonizing, and working as a unified whole. Most of all, we will sing together! All music will be taught by ear and no previous experience is required.

SOUTHERN HARMONY (Kelli Jones & Chas Justus)
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 (Rodney Sutton)
This class features a ‘Fool’-proof process of teaching anyone the basics of American clogging and flatfoot percussive dance. Although the class is geared for beginners or those who have not yet convinced themselves that they are dancers, everyone at any experience level is welcome – especially 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 of the instructor 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! (No class limit)

CLOGGING II (Phil Jamison)
This is a welcoming and energetic class for folks who have prior percussive dance experience. We will explore the technique, musicality, and rhythmic possibilities of foundational flatfooting and clogging steps! There will be simple choreography to learn, and we will dabble our toes in the waters of percussive improvisation and variation. (Class limit 20)

Flatfoot dance uses low-to-the-ground, percussive steps following the rhythm and syncopation typical of Appalachian fiddle music — and it’s a fun and exciting way to participate! We’ll explore basic flatfoot and buckdance steps, and build from there to develop your own personal style. We will discover the dialogue between instruments and feet, as well as the historical and cultural significance of percussive dance in old-time music. Bring comfortable shoes — ones with leather soles work best, but any smooth soled shoes will do!

This class, focusing on the traditional square dances of the southern Appalachian region, is open to dancers with all levels of experience. 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. No prior experience is required. Mainly, we’ll have fun dancing and learning about this southern Appalachian dance tradition.




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: melissa.hyman@gmail.com. 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 SUPERHERO ACADEMY!! Welcome to the Swannanoa Superhero Academy, where we train aspiring champions of the downtrodden in all the most important heroic skills: speaking up for what’s right, flying, breathing underwater, x-ray vision, super strength and more. Get ready to don your cape and zoom into arts & crafts, music and games that tap into our amazing superpowers of creativity and fun. We’ll also learn about real-life heroes through the ages, who inspire us to step up and be the greatest versions of ourselves. It’ll be another unforgettable summer of friendship, silliness and discovery… and we hope you’ll join us! With the help of a talented music teacher and our beloved drama instructor Miss Mary, we’ll 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, swimming in the river, playing in the sprinkler and slip-n-slide madness; we’ll definitely have movie night, messy games, and other favorites. Please bring at least one swimsuit with you. There will be a $30 art/craft materials fee for this class, payable to Melissa on arrival.



OTHER Events

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.

Throughout the week  violin maker Gordon Gross will be on hand for fiddle setups and minor repairs.