American Roots Music Program

AGES 18+

Make an Old Song Yours:

Dear Friends,

Our roots music program for 2018 draws upon your inspiration, indeed from lessons learned from you. In short, from listening to your interests. Accordingly, our emphasis this year centers on both vocal song and harmony techniques, as well as traditional methods in blues and bluegrass. Through it all, we observe a theme articulated by one of our new teachers, Val Mindel, a long-time musician, singer, author, educator, and recording artist. Early this fall, as we talked about her courses, Val proposed a program she called “Making an Old Song Yours”– a step-by-step journey.” She writes, “This class would involve taking an old song, identifying early recordings and sheet music and moving it through to our own realization of it as we might perform it today.” While Val had in mind such numbers as the 1870s song, “Twilight is Stealing,” she noted that other songs such as the Civil-War era “Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still” also figured in her thinking. Leaving aside the fascinating repertory that she knows, her title with its implicit idea of inheritance and renewal, seems emblematic of our entire program. In making an old song yours, this process brings together past and present, tying the personal to the historical.

We have a wonderful faculty in 2018, a faculty that includes another new addition besides Val Mindel: the great multi-instrumentalist, teacher, and singer Chris Walz.  A 21-year member of the teaching staff at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Chris directed for six years the School’s bluegrass, old-time, and folk programs. All that in addition to his being a member of the celebrated Special Consensus Bluegrass Band! I urge you to explore his website as well as Val’s. Chris brings to us his expertise in flat-picking the guitar as well as finger-picking it; he plays Scruggs-style banjo, and he knows the mandolin too. Let alone bottleneck guitar technique.

I’m thrilled to report that Mary Flower returns to us with new courses that she has devised in ragtime, blues and alternative tunings, as do Harry Tuft, Dick Weissman, Sharon Arms, Larry Edelman, Peggy Browning, and Matt Brown. Each of them have crafted anew their offerings and teaching plans. For example, you’ll find in the schedule below collaborative sessions like the guitar accompaniment program that Matt and Chris have devised for multiple country genres. At another point Mary and Chris explore two guitars paired in blues settings, and how one might incorporate those time-tested patterns. Val will lead an extensive four-day program in old-time harmony and also one devoted to heavenward song, while Dick and Harry will give a one-time seminar presentation on their lifetimes and livelihoods in music. There is more, too, that the schedule reveals. Through it all, we return to an idea we collectively share, students and faculty alike: of making an old song yours. By that process folk tradition has always operated. Not through formal means such as laws and regulations, but from observing and doing and responding and venturing. In that spirit we welcome you to Rocky Ridge 2018. Make an old song yours.

— Stephen Wade, Director, American Roots Music Program

MORE INFORMATION

Fees, Faculty and Schedules

TUITION AND FEES
TUITION:

$850

APPLICATION FEE:

$85

OPTIONAL UPGRADES & ADD ONS:

Non-student room and board $275
Private cabin with bath fee $250
Bedding (optional) $50
Tent discount (bring your own tent) $250

FACULTY
Stephen Wade Banjo, Guitar
Sharon Arms Fiddle, Guitar, Voice
Matt Brown Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar
Peggy Browning Banjo, Guitar, Voice
Larry Edelman Fiddle, Dance Caller
Mary Flower Lap Slide Guitar, Guitar, Voice
Harry Tuft Guitar, Songwriting, Voice
Dick Weissman Banjo, Composition, Guitar, Piano
Val Mindel Mandolin, Guitar, Voice
Chris Walz Banjo, Mandolin, Guitar, Voice
Schedule

Friday, August 31, 2018

9:00 AM to 11:50 AM: Participants arrive

12:00 PM to 12:50 PM: Lunch

1:00 PM to 1:50 PM: Introducing the Program. Faculty members describe their courses, presentations, and workshops.

2:00 PM to 3:00 PM:
— Entering Tradition Ourselves, led by Peggy Browning with fellow faculty members. Make music with others as we create new arrangements of some core and surprising tunes and songs. We’ll work on dynamics, rhythm, melodies, and harmonies. We draw from gospel to blues, old-time numbers to lyrical ballads. All instruments and levels welcome. We’ll find routes that eventually lead us to the Monday night concert.

— Flatpicking guitar with Chris Walz and Matt Brown. We explore over multiple sessions the playing of solos and rhythm in bluegrass, country, and folk songs. We’ll set our focus on two guitars playing in two positions in a duet form: one guitar playing open or capoed in one position and the other guitar capoed in a higher position. This class will give you tools to play guitar more confidently in a variety of ensembles, in a lead and a supporting role.

— Songwriting with Dick Weissman. A two-part class that begins with how songs are made and ends with assigned individual or group songs newly written over the weekend.

3:15 PM to 4:15 PM:
— Heading toward Heaven with Val Mindel. America has seen its share of tough times, and that’s when hard-hit folks turned to singing about their hopes for heaven as a way to brighten their earth-bound lives. In this four-session class we’ll learn a bundle of heaven-bound songs from a variety of Americana traditions stretching back to the 1800s and up into the 2000s, stopping along the way at camp meeting songs, shape note repertory, “home” gospel of the sort that dominated the Bristol sessions, the brother duets, black and bluegrass gospel and more. Lots of singing, learning parts by ear and singing in small and big groups, along the way looking at how to hone our singing to best fit the styles and blend our voices. We’ll raise the roof!

— Finger-Picking Blues and Rags with Mary Flower
(Adv- Beginning to Intermediate levels). For the four days of the seminar, Mary will explore left and right hand moves that drive this great feel-good, Piedmont guitar style. She might share the music of masters such as Gary Davis, John Hurt, as well as a little of her own music. She will explore syncopation, movable chords, and alternating thumb. Students will come away with many new tunes and as well as tools to apply to their own arrangements. Both the ability to read tab and finger-picking experience will be helpful. Students are encouraged to record the class (audio).

4:30 PM to 5:30 PM:
— Going for the Buzz: The Nitty-Gritty of American Country Harmony with Val Mindel. In this country harmony intensive, we’ll work on both the basics and the finer points of creating that buzzy, close-harmony sound that defines the music of the rural American South. We’ll draw repertory from traditional mountain and old-time music through to bluegrass, gospel, classic country and beyond, and we’ll work on the various permutations of harmony singing, from creating basic harmonies above and below the melody to crossing harmonies, trading leads and blending with another singer. We’ll also look at what’s involved vocally in creating that “high lonesome” country sound as well as ways to blend across genders. This is a hands-on class, ongoing over four sessions, so expect lots of singing and breaking up into small groups to work with other singers.

— Scruggs-style Banjo with Chris Walz and Stephen Wade. Chris and Stephen probe antecedents to classic Scruggs-style banjo as well as song melodies played in Scruggs-style. We place special attention on Earl’s melody and backup work within the first five frets, and its relationship to his position-playing higher up the neck.

5:30 PM to 6:00 PM: Social Hour

6:00 PM to 6:50 PM: Dinner

7:00 PM to 8:00 PM:
— Open Tuning for Roots Music with Mary Flower. 
(Level: Adv- Beg. to Intermediate) Over the program’s four days, Mary will bring some of her favorite tunes to this class to demonstrate the primitive yet brilliant nature of open tuning. Blind Blake, Bo Carter and Skip James (to name a few) all slacked their strings for their unique sounds. Class will explore how to listen, improvise, and find melodies and chords in a variety of tunings. Mary will teach a number of tunes and show what lies in common between the various tunings. Taping the class is encouraged and ability to read tab is extremely helpful. Please make sure your strings are relatively new and that you have a backup set.

— Old-Time Fiddle & Mandolin with Matt Brown and Val Mindel. Here fiddlers and mandolinists gather to learn the same tunes in ways that best suit their instruments. Class begins together with a sketch of the tune’s melody. Then the fiddlers will work with Matt on the bowing and phrasing of the tune, while the mandolinists will work with Val on two-finger chord pattern backup. The two groups reconvene at the end of these classes to put it all together.

8:15 PM to 9:45 PM:
— Desperate Love, the American Way. Faculty presentation. We explore this sempiternal theme expressed in old-time, early country, classic country, singer-songwriter, blues, Cajun plaints, and more. Songs reveal not only personal emotion, but social thought; providing both a lamp and a mirror on matters of love and marriage.

10:00 PM and on:
— Two kinds of collective musicking (to adopt the recent, useful coinage) with Matt Brown, Peggy Browning, Chris Walz, and fellow faculty. Whether you play old-time, bluegrass, folk or just like to sing, this jam is for you. Matt, Peggy, and Chris will lead you through all your old-time favorites. We’ll play standard fiddle tunes, square dance numbers, and soar in harmony on some great old bluegrass songs. All welcome!

— Song Circle with Harry Tuft: “The central idea is that while there may be ‘jamming’—folks joining in on a given song—this is not emphasized. In fact, my introduction at the beginning is that we, the other players, become the ‘back-up band,’ and try not to interfere, but more to support the person doing the song. I’m encouraged to do this because Peggy Browning is so good at doing a ‘sing-along’ jam, and as long as she’s up for that, we can have each. Folks can decide on the one they want.”

Saturday, September 1

8:00 AM: Breakfast

9:00 AM to 10:15 AM:
— Going for the Buzz: The Nitty-Gritty of American Country Harmony with Val Mindel.

— Fiddle Forum with Matt Brown. In this single fiddles-only session, we’ll delve deeply into the challenges we encounter as fiddle players. Bring your fiddle woes and goals, and we’ll address as many of them as we can.

— Exploring the guitar with Dick Weissman. Dick explores how right and left hand techniques can be utilized in a single instrumental piece.

10:30 AM to 11:45 AM:
— Open Tuning for Roots Music, with Mary Flower.

— Old-Time Banjo with Stephen Wade and Matt Brown. Stephen will demonstrate and discuss, and Matt will dissect and teach tunes set in various old-time picking styles and tunings. We feature repertoire Stephen learned from older, traditional musicians.

— Song Circle with Harry Tuft. For our theme we center on ballads, stories told in song.

12:00 PM to 12:50 PM: Lunch

1:00 to 2:15 PM: Making Life and a Living in the Folk Revival, with Harry Tuft and Dick Weissman. Harry and Dick discuss how their music has evolved from early days at the Gilded Cage Coffeehouse in Philadelphia to various ventures since those halcyon times.

Also at 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM: Mandolin with Chris Walz. Here we work on mandolin chop chords for bluegrass and Monroe-style, in addition to a melody approach for songs as well as fiddle tunes.

2:15 PM to 3:15 PM:
— Flatpicking guitar with Chris Walz and Matt Brown.

— Headed toward Heaven, with Val Mindel.

3:30 to 4:30 PM:
— Finger-Picking Blues and Rags, with Mary Flower.

— Flatpicking, with Chris Walz. Instruction for playing both song melodies and fiddle tunes. All the great players could take a song melody or a fiddle tune and transfer them to the guitar. We’ll figure out the system for doing both. They’re closer than you think.

3:30 PM to 5:15 PM: Playing for Square Dances. Led by Larry Edelman and Matt Brown, this lively session will include a discussion and demonstration of square dance history, calling, and playing. In addition, students will learn a few tunes we plan to include in the evening dance.

5:30 PM to 6:00 PM: Social Hour

6:00 PM to 7:00 PM: Dinner

7:30 PM: Saturday Night Dance. Called by Larry Edelman, with Matt Brown, Chris Walz, Stephen Wade, Val Mindel, and others. Peggy Browning will assist any students who want to play along.

10:00 PM: Jams and Song Circle.

Sunday, September 2

8:00 AM: Breakfast

9:00 AM to 10:00 AM:
— Entering Tradition Ourselves, led by Peggy Browning.

— Songwriting with Dick Weissman, part two.

— Old-Time Fiddle & Mandolin with Matt Brown and Val Mindel.

10:15 AM to 11:15 AM:
— Heading toward Heaven, with Val Mindel.

— Finger-Picking Blues and Rags, with Mary Flower.

— Scruggs-style Banjo, with Chris Walz and Stephen Wade.

12:00 PM to 12:50 PM: Lunch

1:00 to 2:00 PM:
— Flatpicking, with Chris Walz and Matt Brown.

–Three Great Gals, with Peggy Browning. Get to know three pivotal women in traditional music: Rosalie Sorrels, Ola Belle Reed, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. We’ll work on creating arrangements in their styles, focusing on rhythm, melodies, and harmonies.

— Vocal interpretation with Harry Tuft. We will explore ways to “own” a song, whether it is a cover or one you have written. Some ideas may be concrete, some may be more elusive, but there are creative ways to interpret songs, and we’ll look into some of those.

2:00 PM to 2:45 PM: Allons en Louisiane, with Sharon Arms: Students will be introduced to Cajun and Creole music from the Louisiana French repertoire, including two-steps, waltzes, and ballads. Melody, lyrics, and historical background will be covered, as well as basic guitar and fiddle accompaniment.

3:00 PM to 5:00 PM: Music in the Mountains Faculty Concert: Matt Brown, Peggy Browning, Mary Flower, Val Mindel, Harry Tuft, Stephen Wade, Chris Walz, Dick Weissman.

5:30 PM to 6:00 PM: Social time

6:00 PM to 6:50 PM: Dinner

7:00 PM to 8:15 PM:
— Going for the Buzz, with Val Mindel.

— Open Tuning for Roots Music, with Mary Flower.

8:30 PM and on: Jams.

Monday, September 3

8:00 AM: Breakfast

9:00 AM to 10:00 AM:
— Going for the Buzz, with Val Mindel.

— Old-Time Banjo, with Stephen Wade and Matt Brown.

— Flatpicking, with Chris Walz.

10:30 AM to 11:45 AM:
— Looking toward Heaven, with Val Mindel.

— Open Tuning for Roots Music, with Mary Flower.

12:00 PM to 12:50 PM: Lunch

1:00 PM to 2:00 PM: Chicago Folk History, with Peggy Browning and Chris Walz.
— An interactive presentation on the role Chicago played (and still plays) in folk music. We’ll begin with the Peoples’ Songs Concerts of the late 1940’s and extending to today’s Old Town School of Folk Music. Chicago welcomes all to participate: to play and sing and join in this musical community, whether passing through or staying on.

2:15 PM to 3:15 PM:
— Finger-Picking Blues and Rags, with Mary Flower.

— Allons en Louisiane, with Sharon Arms.

3:30 PM to 4:30 PM:
— Complementing and accompaniment, with Mary Flower and Chris Walz. How to second another’s playing, along with bottleneck technique in both open-G and open-D tunings.

— Old-Time Fiddle & Mandolin, with Matt Brown and Val Mindel.

4:45 PM to 5:45 PM: Panel on Chicago and Points Beyond: How Place Matters in this Music: Peggy, Stephen, Mary, Matt, Sharon, Chris, and Val. We take to heart William Carlos Williams’ injunction that “America is local,” as we ponder the shaping role that the local exerts in our singing and our learning.

5:30 PM to 6:00 PM: Social Hour

6:00 PM to 6:50 PM: Dinner

7:30 PM to 9:00 PM: Student concert, coordinated by Peggy Browning and Matt Brown. Students, this becomes your chance to delight one and all with you’ve been working on for a while, or else, team up with your friends and try out something recently written or learned. Pick a piece that means a lot to you and tell us its story!

9:00 PM: Singing and jamming.

Tuesday, September 4

8:00 AM: Continental Breakfast

9:00 AM: Check-out