Fall Newsletter 2020 – Coming Next Summer

Dates for the 2021 workshops:

Mando & Banjo Week, June 27-July 3
Fiddle Week, June 27-July 3
Traditional Song Week, July 4-10
Celtic Week, July 11-17
Old-Time Music & Dance Week, July 18-24
Contemporary Folk Week, July 25-31
Guitar Week, July 25-31

It’s difficult in such uncertain times to do any sort of planning, short- or long-term, and of course we’re aware that the course of the pandemic may change our plans. Having said that, if we hope to have in-person workshops next summer for our 30th Anniversary, we have to begin the planning process now. If that proves to be impossible, we plan to have a Swannanoa Gathering of some kind in its place next summer, and we hope to know one way or the other by the spring. What follows are our plans for the most hopeful scenario, when we can be together in community again, but even if in-person workshops are possible, we may have to adjust our class offerings, staff, program events, etc. in response to the pandemic. Planning this year is like trying to paint a portrait blindfolded. Whatever form it takes, next summer will be a Swannanoa Gathering unlike any other. Watch our website for any changes to our schedule. 

Multiple Grammy-winner and friend of the college Janis Ian will be once again be offering her Master Class in Artistry during all five weeks of the Gathering and will be a regular member of the Contemporary Folk Week staff. This will be a rare opportunity to gain insight into what it means to be an artist from someone who has been at it for more than 50 years. 

We will again offer a full Children’s Program during our Traditional Song, Celtic and Old-Time Weeks. For those families bringing small children, we will continue to provide evening childcare during those weeks at no additional cost.

The Swannanoa Gathering is structured around what we call an ‘open format’, which allows students to create their own curriculum and take as many classes as there are periods in the day. We require that students register for specific classes, but allow them to switch after the first day into another, open class if they find they have made an inappropriate choice. After this ‘settling-in’ period, we expect that students will remain in those classes, and we discourage dropping in and out of classes during the week. This structure allows students considerable flexibility, and is an essential element of our program’s character and appeal. Many of our classes may include musical notation or tablature, though in general, we emphasize learning by ear.

Classes generally have a maximum of 15 students. Some may have more or less than this figure due to the nature of the subject or the discretion of the instructor, and limits for each class will be indicated in our catalog. Many of our workshops fill up early and we expect that trend to continue as more of our programs approach their limits, and although our schedule of classes is not currently complete, pre-registrations from this newsletter are strongly encouraged. While it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get all the classes you want, pre-registration definitely gives you the best chance at doing so. Folks may register with a tuition deposit of $100 and may reserve housing without a deposit. The deadline for pre-registration is Feb. 5. NOTE: If you were registered for the 2020 workshops and chose to have us credit your funds toward 2021, you are automatically pre-registered for next summer. If your contact info has changed since last spring, please send us your updated info. Pre-registrants will be sent a class schedule as soon as it is ready and given priority in class assignments. Full payment is required by May 31 to guarantee a space. After that date, class reservations will be unconfirmed until we receive the balance. If we are holding a space for a student in a class that is full, and their balance is unpaid after May 31, we may release that space to another student.

At present, we are completing our staff selections for next year, but many of our instructors have already confirmed. The online version of this newsletter will be continually updated with the most current staff roster. One special feature of the 2021 workshops is Janis Ian’s Master Class in Artistry, which will be offered in all five of our weeks next summer.

Here’s a peek at the 2021 lineup…

Fiddle Week, June 27-July 3, explores such fiddle styles as bluegrass, old-time, progressive, swing, blues/improv, Irish, Scottish and more and will continue its integration with several features of Mando & Banjo Week. Coordinator Julia Weatherford’s staff currently includes our Master Music Maker and improv wildman Joe Craven, swing fiddler Evan Price, Irish fiddling great Colin Farrell, Bronwyn Keith-Hynes of the bluegrass band Nine Mile, old-time fiddlers Kenny Jackson, and Tricia Spencer, April Verch on Canadian fiddle styles, Scottish fiddler Jenna Moynihan, and progressive fiddler Casey Driessen. The program also includes bassist Kevin Kehrberg, gypsy jazz guitarist Greg Ruby and Natalya Weinstein, teaching beginning fiddlers. Next year we will again feature a Luthier’s Exhibit with several of the country’s best builders. 

Mando & Banjo Week, June 27-July 3, features classes in bluegrass, old-time, Celtic, swing/jazz, newgrass & more for both instruments as well as a few classes in guitar accompaniment. The program continues to be integrated with Fiddle Week through common jams and Band Sessions that encourage players in both programs to form bands that will work up a few tunes throughout the week. Mandolinists Joe K. Walsh and Radim Zenkl return to the staff after a brief hiatus, with newcomer Conor Hearn doing double duty on Irish mandolin/tenor banjo and guitar. Mike Marshall heads up the mandolin staff, which also includes bluegrass greats John Reischman and Alan Bibey, progressive mandolinist Matt Flinner, swing mandolinist Don Stiernberg, classical master Caterina Lichtenberg, blues player Steve James, and guitarist Ed Dodson. Tony Trischka and Bill Evans will be instructing the bluegrass banjo players, and old-time pickers Paul Brown and Terri McMurray will teach clawhammer-style banjo. Lynn Dudenbostel will once again be onhand to offer repair services.

Traditional Song Week, July 4-10, promotes a wide variety of traditional singing styles. For next year, Coordinator Julee Glaub Weems’ program welcomes the ‘freedom songs’ of Reggie Harris, Irish singers Cathy Jordan and Dáithí Sproule, gospel choir leader Kathy Bullock, Master Music Maker and host of NPR’s Thistle & Shamrock Fiona Ritchie, multi-talented Appalachian musician Josh Goforth, Riders in the Sky’s Ranger Doug, National Heritage Award-winning ballad singer Sheila Kay Adams, Karl Scully from the Four Irish Tenors, Nashville guitarist Tim May, old-time country musician Carl Jones and Sing Out! Radio founder Matt Watroba.

Celtic Week, July 11-17, welcomes some new staff members in Solas fiddler Winifred Horan, whistle player Brian Holleran, and Chieftains guitarist Will MacMorran. Also back after a brief spell is Scottish fiddler Laura Risk. Returning staff include fiddlers  Liz Carroll, Gerry O’Connor, Mari Black, Katie McNally, Andrew Finn Magill and Caitlin Warbelow, singer Dave Curley, bodhran player Anna Colliton, singer Dáithí Sproule, Irish guitarist and singer John Doyle, Lúnasa’s Cillian Vallely and Kevin Crawford, guitarist Eamon O’Leary, Irish singer and flute player Nuala Kennedy, Celtic Week Host John Skelton, ballad singer Len Graham, harper/concertina player Gráinne Hambly, harper Billy Jackson, sean nós dancer Siobhan Butler, Scottish singer Ed Miller, fret wizard Robin Bullock, mandolin/tenor banjo instructor Dave Cory and accordionist John Whelan. Check our website for staff updates.

Old-Time Music & Dance Week, July 18-24, is one of the Gathering’s original programs and its oldest. Coordinator Erynn Marshall has lined up another great staff, featuring Eddie Bond, Kirk Sutphin, Carl Jones, Jeff Claus, Rick Good, M.J. Epps, Judy Hyman, Cary Fridley, Paul Kovac, Bob Carlin, Ben Nelson, Ron Pen, Ellie Grace, Lloyd Wright, Beverly Smith, Emily Schaad, Charlie & Nancy Hartness, Sharon Leahy-Good, John Herrmann, Gordy Hinners, Rodney Sutton, Jake Blount, Mattias Thedens, Nokosee Fields, Becky Hill and Karen Mueller. Guest Master Artists include Bruce Greene, Don Pedi, Thomas Maupin, Daniel Rothwell, Bob Herring & the Red Herrings, Bobby Taylor and Jim & Joyce Cauthen. Classes will include fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, clogging, square dance, dance calling, southern harmony singing, string band, shaped-note singing and more.

Contemporary Folk Week, July 25-31, offers an inspiring week of artist development for all acoustic performers. Classes include songwriting, performance, vocal coaching and more, taught by an outstanding lineup of seasoned professionals passionate about their art and equally passionate about inspiring others to develop their own unique gifts. Next year we welcome back Grammy-winners Kathy Mattea, Janis Ian, and Tom Paxton, singer/songwriters John Gorka, Nora Jane Struthers, and Master Music Maker and creative dynamo Joe Craven. We’ll also have on hand veteran staff Cliff Eberhardt, Jon Vezner, Don Henry, Ellis Paul, David Wilcox, and Vance Gilbert. New this year, Red Molly vocalist Laurie MacAllister joins Camela Widad on the vocal coaching staff. Kim Richardson returns as Contemporary Folk Week Host.

Guitar Week, July 25-31, offers classes in fingerstyle and flatpicking guitar in a wide variety of styles, as well as ukulele. Coordinator Greg Ruby brings back a number of old friends including Master Music Maker Al Petteway, David Grisman guitarist Grant Gordy, master of many styles Mike Dowling, fingerstylists Clive Carroll, Christie Lenée, Steve Baughman, Gonzalo Bergara, and blues players Steve James, David Jacobs-Strain and Scott Ainslie, Celtic guitarists Robin Bullock and Tony McManus, jazz guitarist Sean McGowan, bluegrass player Ed Dodson and percussive fingerstylist Yasmin Williams. Gerald Ross returns to teach ukulele and new this year is Cory Seznec, whose well-traveled style has many influences, from New Orleans to Paris to Ethiopia. This year’s Luthier’s Exhibit will feature the guitars of master luthiers John Slobod (www.circaguitars.com),  Tom Doerr (www.doerrguitars.com) Laurent Brondel (www.laurentbrondel.com), Gage Halland (www.hallandguitars.com) and Michael Bashkin (www.bashkinguitars.com), as well as a selection of amazing instruments from the inventory of Dream Guitars (www.dreamguitars.com) located in nearby Weaverville, NC.