Old Time Week Classes - July 23-29, 2017

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 highly recommended for all instrumental and singing classes. Unless otherwise indicated, all classes have a limit of 15. Fiddle classes are offered at four different levels: 0 – Beginner; I – Advanced-Beginner; II – Intermediate; III – Advanced (see definitions on pg. 1). Please consider your skill level carefully when registering for classes.


OLD-TIME FIDDLE 0 (Meredith McIntosh)
This class is for true beginners. It will include instrument & bow care, tuning, body care and coordination for playing, a few bowing patterns, and fingering for 1-3 tunes. Very basic music theory is inherently included. Learning by ear is emphasized though a few handouts will be offered to assist you at home. “True beginners” come! We’ll get rockin’ on some fun rhythms. All other new players please choose another level class.

OLD-TIME FIDDLE I A (Clelia Stefanini)
We will explore some basic and recognizable old-time fiddle tunes and spend a fair amount of time listening. Then we will approach each phrase with comfort and ease. We will learn tunes in the key of G, D, and A. It is recommended that students bring an audio or video recording device. Clelia will take her time with the class and make sure everyone goes away from the week knowing at least two tunes.

Drone & Pulse: Are you ready to push your old-time fiddle sound up a notch? We’ll spend some quality time with a handful of beautiful old tunes, while we explore some of the easy left- and right-hand techniques that really make it sound old-time, including ornaments, open-string drones and double-stops. We’ll also take our first steps toward becoming the bosses of our bows with phrasing, simple patterns, and pulses. We’ll explore different keys and more relaxed tempos that will allow us to enjoy the internal rhythm and the magical order of notes. Arcane and not-so-arcane secrets revealed!

Kirk spent years learning directly from legendary fiddlers like Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham. He also mastered the playing styles of H.O. Jenkins, Charlie Higgins, Emmett Lundy, Henry Reed and others. In this class you will learn Round Peak and Piedmont tunes and focus on Tommy Jarrell’s down-bow style bowing. Tunes will be taught by ear in the old, traditional way. No music given out. Questions encouraged. Bring a recording device.

OLD-TIME FIDDLE II B (Clelia Stefanini)
In this class we will learn all melodies by ear, take the time needed to absorb the parts of the tunes, and go clearly over the bowing patterns. It is recommended that students bring a recording device. We will learn tunes in standard tuning, as well as some in cross tunings. Goal will be 1-2 tunes a day.

This class is all about having fun while enhancing and fine-tuning your skills to help you move from intermediate to advanced old-time fiddle. We will explore bowing techniques that will help you get that old-time sound, while building your repertoire with tunes in various keys. Bring recorders! Let’s play!

OLD-TIME FIDDLE II D (Rafe Stefanini)
The music in this class will be learned by ear, with emphasis on listening and repetition. No written music will be provided. We will explore tunes and styles from the Appalachians and the deep South, which may draw from the repertoires of Ed Haley, Edden Hammons, Tommy Jarrell and others. We will concentrate on bowing and melody and discover how the tunes were put together. We will listen to source recordings with the hope to inspire those who may not be too familiar with what this music sounded like a hundred years ago. This will be an intermediate level class so familiarity with the genre and a certain level of skill are required. Participants should have a basic ability to play and tune their instrument. The teaching will be slow and methodical with attention given to a good melody and bowing. Audio and video recording devices are highly recommended.

If you have ever heard me play, you know I have a hard time doing anything the same way twice. That tends to be the way I teach too. Come prepared to ask plenty of questions, and don’t forget your audio recorder. The primary emphasis is going to be on RHYTHM and there will undoubtedly be detours into bowing and fingering mechanics, intonation, history, etc. You’ll learn some new tunes, and/or new ways of playing the old ones. Remember that it’s called playing, (not working). The goal is to make it easier and more fun.

Own Some Tone in the Drone Zone: In this advanced class, we will apply all those tasty goodies that make it sound old-time, and we’ll concentrate on tunes in two specific tunings. In DDAD, we’ll look at tunes like Bill Stepp’s “Piney Ridge,” Marcus Martin’s “Boatsman,” or “Yell in the Shoats” from Cecil Seeley. We’ll also spend time with AEAC# (also known as Calico tuning) with tunes like Mose Coffman’s “Lost Indian,” “The Scolding Wife,” from Marion Reese, or Marcus Martin’s “Wounded Hoosier.” (Actual tunes to be determined.) The tunings really add color to the tunes. AND they make their own gravy!

This class will explore traditional fiddling from North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky, thereby expanding our understanding of old-time fiddle styles, their variety, different regional techniques and characteristics. We will expand our repertoire with tunes that are representative of each region and focus on fundamental rhythm, melody, bowing and ornamentation in a variety of tunings. We can now listen to traditional fiddling from a range of styles from different regions and hear how they have evolved over almost 100 years. How does a contemporary fiddler use the techniques and other lessons learned from older traditional fiddling to develop his or her own style and “voice”? We’ll take a look at some of the choices and opportunities that knowledge and understanding of traditional fiddling offer a fiddler in the 21st Century.

For this class you should already have good familiarity with southern old-time fiddling, a solid repertoire, and the ability to play up-to-speed in standard tuning and in at least one non-standard tuning. We’ll focus on some unusual and beautiful old-time tunes, sing the tunes, listen to source recordings, and explore personal tune interpretation in the context of tradition. Tunes will be taught by ear in standard and alternate fiddle tunings. We’ll pay attention to how noting and bowing together create the phrasing, plus we’ll learn left-hand and bowing ornaments /embellishments. We might even get a little bit into tune composition. Definitely bring your audio/video recording device, and be ready to play!

SINGING WITH FIDDLE (James & Vivian Leva)
Great singing needs and deserves good backup instrumentation. The fiddle is in the same range as that of most vocalists. We will examine how we can frame and enhance vocals rather than competing with them by paying attention and working with the vocalist. We will focus on range, rhythm, harmony and “fills.” We’ll adopt tried-and-true techniques developed and practiced by old-time, bluegrass, Cajun, and traditional country fiddlers. We’ll see the options available for any particular song and how it can all work in an old-time band. If there is enough interest we can also work on how to fiddle with your own vocals. Get ready to sing and play!

FIDDLE & BANJO DUETS (Erynn Marshall & John Herrmann)
All of the older musicians Erynn visited in West Virginia remember a time when there was no guitars – just fiddle and banjo. The two instruments have a beautiful, archaic sound together and are as well-suited to one another as biscuits and gravy! In this class we will talk about and listen to source musicians we have known and discuss techniques or ideas on how to really lock in with another person/instrument in a jam. For part of the class we’ll split into small groups. You’ll get to jam on some well-known old-time tunes and likely learn a few new ones too! (Class limit: 12 fiddles, 12 banjos).


In this class for the total beginner, we’ll build a solid foundation of clawhammer banjo technique layer by layer: driving rhythm, ringing tone, learning melodies by ear, and listening to other musicians. Our main focus will not be on learning repertoire, but we’ll learn one or two common old-time tunes that we can play together by the end of the week. Most important, we’ll create a warm and welcoming musical community that offers an encouraging environment for learning! A recording device, an electronic tuner, and an open mind are all useful tools to bring to this class.

OLD-TIME BANJO II A (Phil Jamison)
For advanced-beginner/intermediate clawhammer banjo players, we will learn some new tunes, and we will also explore ways to add more drive and presence to your playing through the intentional use of subtle changes in rhythm. We will also learn how to use chords, in several different tunings, to accompany fiddle tunes or songs that you have never heard before. The use of a recording device is highly recommended, as all tunes will be taught by ear.

OLD-TIME BANJO II B (Gordy Hinners)
This class is for advanced-beginner banjo players who know at least a few tunes and want to expand their repertoire and learn more clawhammer technique. Students will work on a basic repertoire of tunes that are familiar to many musicians, as well as some North Carolina standards.

OLD-TIME BANJO II C (John Herrmann)
In this class we will learn clawhammer techniques based on Round Peak style, rooted in the playing of Fred Cockerham, and Kyle Creed. We will be looking at ways to accompany a fiddler playing tunes you don’t know.

OLD-TIME BANJO II D (Joe Newberry)
For intermediate players, this class will feature a mix of famous and not-so-famous (although they should be) tunes which will serve as a springboard to techniques to enhance your playing. Topics will include: 5th string as a melody vehicle, the under-used second fret, putting drive in your right hand, slides, pulloffs, and hammer-ons. The use of a recording device is highly recommended, as all tunes will be taught by ear.

OLD-TIME BANJO III A (Rafe Stefanini)
This banjo class is intended for advanced five-string banjo players who are willing to try fingerpicking styles. Rafe will present and teach tunes in the styles of Roscoe Holcomb, Dock Boggs and others including his own, exploring thumb lead and index lead and combinations of the two. Some clawhammer may be touched upon. Finger picks and a thumb pick are optional. A tuner is highly recommended. Video and audio recording are encouraged.

This class will cover many Round Peak tunes, “clawhammer” style, as well as many two- and three-finger picking styles that Kirk learned directly from some of his heroes. The class will also focus on matching the notes that the fiddle plays on banjo, along with left-hand embellishments that Round Peak banjo is known for. Bring a recording device. Learn it just as the old-timers did.

We’ll be digging music out of the spaces between the notes in the clawhammer style (no reason you couldn’t do most of it playing index-lead two-finger, though) and learn timing, phrasing, riffs, syncopation and dynamics. You’ll want a banjo that tunes comfortably in standard open G. Fretless banjos very welcome. Steel strings are strongly recommended (because we are liable to be changing tunings frequently). Bring your audio recorder and be ready to ask questions.

Guitar & Mandolin

OLD-TIME GUITAR I (Adrienne Davis)
Have you been struggling to get your jam on? This advanced-beginner class will review chording and how to decide what chords to play with old-time fiddle tunes. We will discuss the ‘circle of fifths’ and how that can enhance your understanding of chord selection. The class will also introduce bass runs and how to use them tastefully in your playing. Most of all we’ll have a lot of fun!

If you know a handful of basic chords, and can hold on to a flatpick you’re ready for this class. We’ll explore the art of back-up guitar for stringband tunes and songs. Topics will include: the boom-chuck rhythm, making chord choices, bass notes and runs, holding patterns, slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, pick direction, keeping time, tuning, learning to listen and putting it all together into a band. We will learn the back-up to some of the tunes the fiddlers are learning, so we can play together. Bring a recording device.

This class will focus on Honky-Tonk lead playing utilizing the great Hank Williams song “Settin’ the Woods on Fire.” We’ll find the same melody in 3 different parts of the fingerboard using 3 chord shapes every player knows. If that ain’t enough, we’ll apply this method to other classic songs. I’ll have handouts for the shapes and the songs so that we’ll all be on the same page.

If you know a handful of basic chords, and can hold a flatpick you’re ready for this class. If you’d rather grab a bass with your thumb and add a finger strum that’s fine too. This advanced class will explore the art of back-up guitar for stringband tunes and songs. Topics will include: the boom-chuck rhythm, chord choices, bass notes and runs, keeping time, tuning, learning to listen, and putting it all together into a duet, trio, or band. Guitar students may get together with fiddle and banjo students during the week. The guitar is an incredibly versatile instrument, which we will enjoy and discover throughout the week. A recording device and notebook are always recommended.

MANDOLIN I (Ellie Grace)
This class for the advanced-beginner will explore the driving rhythms and clear melodies you can create on the old-time mandolin! You will learn healthy and approachable techniques to play melody/lead on an old-time 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 daily reminder of the joy of making music!

MANDOLIN II (Carl Jones)
This intermediate-level class will focus on learning old-time songs and tunes, with a good dose of music theory included. We’ll come to appreciate just how handy and amazing the mandolin really is. Two- string chord shapes will be our springboard for making it easier to improvise and feel more comfortable in all the common keys and anywhere on the fingerboard. An audio recording device and notebook is recommended and having fun while learning will be unavoidable.

Other Instruments

Easy and fun! This class is for absolute beginners or those interested in building a solid foundation for playing mountain dulcimer in old-time music. Topics will include dulcimer history, as well as playing techniques for developing the old-time sound. Traditional songs, tunes, and hymns will be taught by ear, but tablature will be provided. Bring a recorder.

This class for intermediate players and above will focus on playing techniques for old-time music on the mountain dulcimer. We will learn traditional tunes, songs, hymns, playing by ear, various noting techniques, different modes, dulcimer history, and more. The class will be taught by ear, but tablature will be provided. Bring a recorder.

OLD-TIME BAND 101 (Kenny Jackson)
If you are an advanced beginner/intermediate player (fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, etc.) who has had little experience in playing in a band but yearns to learn how to do that, this is the class for you. You should just be able to play a few tunes/songs (nothing fancy or obscure - old standards are great!) and if you are a rhythm player, know some basic chords. Bring your list of tunes and songs and be ready to have a ball learning the essentials of playing and singing together. Experience the fun of bonding and playing with other musicians in a no-stress string band! (Class limit: 20)

OLD-TIME BAND LAB (Adrienne Davis & Gordy Hinners)
Students in this class will form string bands and with a little coaching, learn how to play together and achieve a cohesive band sound. We will consider each individual’s responsibility in a band, how to start and end tunes, tempo, rhythm, lead, back-up, chord choices, singing, band dynamics, and playing for dances or concerts. Bands will have the opportunity to perform at a Student Showcase or play for a dance at the end of the week. It is expected that students already know how to play their instrument, and that lead instrument players know a few tunes and/or songs in several keys with the accompanying chords. (No class limit)

UKULELE (Jere Canote)
What’s that persistent strumming sound heard at every old-time jam these days? It’s the sound of the old-time ukulele! we’ll learn the basic chords in the fiddle tune keys of A, C, D, and G. We’ll explore right hand strumming techniques, especially the relentless “freight train” rhythm. We’ll work on hearing the chord changes, and we’ll play a lot, backing-up fiddle tunes and songs from the old-time repertoire. We’ll also take a look at old-time banjo techniques (clawhammer and fingerpicking). Bring a working ukulele or banjo-uke tuned GCEA. This class will be taught at an intermediate level, but it’s easy enough that beginners should be able to do it, and guitarists will have an advantage.

BASS BASICS (Meredith McIntosh)
This class will cover the basics of old-time bass technique, including tuning, noting, listening, finding chord changes on tunes, songs and waltzes and most importantly, playing in the old-time groove. We will also talk about good body mechanics. It is strongly suggested that you bring your own instrument. If you don’t own a bass, the Swannanoa Gathering office can refer you to local folks and music stores for rentals. No experience necessary.

AUTOHARP I (John Hollandsworth)
The autoharp has been a part of mountain culture since the early 1900s and since then has played a prominent role in old-time and early country music with the original Carter Family, Pop Stoneman, Kilby Snow, and others. Drawing on tunes from the old-time repertoire, topics in this beginner-level class will include right- and left-hand techniques, finger memory, tuning, timing, playing in 3/4 and 4/4 rhythms, basic chord progressions, playing in major and minor keys, harp setup, and playing scales that will lead you into melody playing. Ability to read music or tablature is not necessary, but handouts of tunes will be provided. Students must have an autoharp in good playing condition, one thumb pick, and two finger picks. A music stand might also be helpful.

AUTOHARP II (John Hollandsworth)
During the past twenty years the autoharp has had a huge revival, with some major performers and landmark recordings. This class will provide insight into what top players are doing and how to expand the role of the autoharp as a melody instrument. Drawing on tunes from the Appalachian tradition, we will cover both chromatic and diatonic playing, rhythm changes, syncopation, chord substitutions, playing in 3/4 and 4/4 time, arranging, alternate tunings, and how to interact with other instruments in a group situation. Students will refine their playing skills and gain a good understanding of clean melody playing on the autoharp. Ability to read music or tablature is not necessary, but handouts of tunes will be provided. Students must have an autoharp in good playing condition, one thumb pick, and two fingerpicks.

This class is for teens only! It’s a time for all of you to come together and make plans to take over Swannanoa and possibly the world with music, dance, and other creations. Some adventures may include a young old-time flash mob, arranging country songs and practicing two-stepping for the Honky Tonk, creating our own square dances, old-time-ifying pop songs, big group harmony singing, and a little clogging for good measure. Games and mischief abound. All proposals for fun activities will be considered! (Class limit: 20)

Songs & Folklore

What IS old-time music? How is bluegrass different from old-time? What do terms such as “authenticity” and “revivalism” really mean? What are drop-thumb, frailing, clawhammer, two-finger, and rapping? Where are Galax, Clifftop, and Mount Airy? How do you distinguish flatfooting, clogging, and buck dancing? What makes a crooked fiddle tune crooked? This class will ponder these mysteries while presenting a history of old-time music. Focused presentations on “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” the Georgia Fiddle Contest of 1924, “Affrilachia,” moonshining, and the “old-time time line” will provide insight into the style and culture. Discussion, recordings, videos, and guest presentations will nurture an overview of the history and context of old-time ballads, fiddle tunes, hillbilly music, and string bands from the Skillet Lickers to the Foghorn String Band. (No class limit)

We will plunge into musical and social harmony through the recreation of a rural 19th-century singing school. Singing from the Sacred Harp tune book (1991 edition), which features intoxicating harmonizations written in a unique four-shape notation of triangles, squares, circles, and diamonds makes learning to read music easy and enjoyable. The class will also weave in background historical and social context. Songs from other tune book traditions will be explored, including the Southern Harmony, Christian Harmony, and the Shenandoah Harmony. The class will accommodate both total beginners and 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. This will be held on Saturday, July 29 from 10:00 AM-3:00 PM at the Warren Wilson College Pavilion. (No class limit)

Songs From Cecil Sharp’s Collection. During the summer and early fall months of 1916 -1918, the renowned English folklorist Cecil Sharp collected what he called, “English Folk-Songs.” He gathered 231 “love songs” in Madison County and the majority of the singers were my relatives including my great-great Aunt Mary Sands (25 songs), Mrs. Ruben (Clora) Hensley (26 songs), and Mrs. Tom (Ona) Rice (18 songs). They were first cousins to both my grandmothers. In this workshop, we’ll tag along with Sharp and through my family stories we’ll “visit” with the singers and “listen” to their songs as they were passed down to me. Come prepared to learn at least one of those love-songs that I’ll teach in the same manner in which it was taught to me. Please join us for the other side of the story of Sharp’s meanderings through my part of the world! It’ll be great fun! (Class limit: 20)

These are the songs I grew up singing in the many different Baptist churches in Sodom, North Carolina. You’ll recognize many of them: “I’ll Fly Away,” “Build Me a Cabin,” “Where the Soul Never Dies,” “Farther Along” and “Palms of Victory” are but a few. This class will ROCK! You can sing melody or find a harmony. I’ll provide the words and music but we’ll sing them without accompaniment. Come to this class ready to sing and sing some more! I love teaching this class! For more info contact me at www.sheilakayadams.com. (Class limit: 20)

This repertoire and technique singing class will focus on songs that made the journey from the Appalachians to the Ozarks, plus some numbers that were home grown in both locations. Selections include ballads, play-party songs, topical songs, and new songs that sound old.

SOUTHERN HARMONY (Dave Keenan & Kari Sickenberger)
What do we mean by “Southern Harmony?” Obviously there is a place called The South and music that originates from that place. Well, the blend of voices called harmonies which have formed from and within that music are what we mean. And we will explore many examples of harmonies from family groups like the Carters and Stanleys, to Hazel and Alice, George and Melba. We will learn ways to find harmony parts. And we will sing A LOT! Enjoy singing the melody? Great! We need you too - you are, after all, a very important part of the HARMONY! (Class limit: 20)

Country Music’s Golden Age spanned half a century, from the 1920s - 1970s. Within that time period there were only a few artists with the integrity, grit, and talent to rise to the top and become the undisputed, true Classic Country singing stars. Among the cream of the crop was Hank Williams, who paved the way for many to follow. In this class, we will explore some of the greatest country songs of all time, though perhaps not the most well-known, and the stylistic qualities that made them great. Through close listening and lots of singing, we will study the most exemplary Classic Country styles and try them on with our own voices. And we’ll have a lot of fun doing it. Be prepared to sing A LOT. (Class limit: 25)


This class, open to dancers as well as dance callers, 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. Mainly though, we will have fun dancing and learning about the traditions of southern Appalachian square dances. (No class limit)

CLOGGING I (Rodney Sutton)
Let Rodney prove to you that everyone can learn Appalachian clogging steps. This class covers beginning southern Appalachian clogging from “step one.” Learn the basic steps and how to put them to use with live old-time music. ​ We will build a repertoire of easy rhythm variations of original Green Grass Clogger steps that will lay the foundation for a smooth transition into flatfooting. Wear smooth-soled shoes – leather is best with NO taps (No class limit)

CLOGGING II (Earl White)
Dust off your shoes, tune up your toes! This class will focus on learning new steps and how to incorporate them into routines using simple square dance formations. We will also cover a brief history of the Green Grass Cloggers and other historical aspects of clogging. Let’s have fun! (No class limit)

Special Events

T'AI CHI (Don Pedi)
Start the day with a smile with these ancient, gentle, easy to learn rejuvenation exercises. Reduce stress. Focus on breathing, balance, and gentle stretching. Includes: T’ai Chi, Chi Kung, Standing Meditation, Eight Pieces of Brocade, and more. No experience necessary and no registration required. (No class limit)

In addition to the regular class sessions, Potluck Sessions are offered 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 is necessary.

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.

During Old-Time Week, teenagers 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 for younger players will have the opportunity to play for the square dance on Wednesday night! Teen-aged string players, singers, dancers, and non-musicians are all welcome.

Evening dances will be held throughout the week, with plenty of chances to dance a variety of traditional Southern Appalachian squares and circles. Thursday features the long-standing weekly dance, the Old Farmers Ball.

Children's Program

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. Evening childcare for ages 3-12 will be provided at no additional cost.

This summer, we will enter the fascinating ancient world of DINOSAURS. You are cordially invited to join our crack team of Swannanoa’s preeminent paleontologists. Our mission: to discover the world of those “terrible lizards” who walked the Earth millions of years ago. Be sure to bring your curiosity and creativity... and don’t forget to pack any fossils you have lying around the house! We’ll learn about the ancient world of the gentle Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus – and, of course, dreaded carnivores like Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus Rex – through crafts, music, games and stories. We’ll make new friends, play our favorite messy games, and dress up in crazy clothes. We’ll write our own original dino-themed songs with the help of our very talented music teacher, Jane Kramer. At the end of the week parents will get to hear us sing and see the crafts we’ve made at our big performance at the Student Showcase. As a special treat, we will be visited throughout the week by wandering musicians and artists (Gathering staff) who will perform just for our kids. We will, of course, continue our beloved traditions of shaving cream hairdos, movie night, crazy contests and the Gathering Scavenger Hunt. It’ll be a journey you won’t soon forget! There is a $30 art/craft materials fee for this class; fee is payable by cash or check to Melissa Hyman, the Children’s Program coordinator, on arrival.