Mount Airy Old-Time Retreat
May 27-June 2, 2018


Photo by Hobart Jones

Make time for old-time as we explore our rich music heritage the week before the 47th Annual Mount Airy Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddlers Convention.

The Mount Airy Old-Time Retreat coordinator is Laura Turner. She is a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago, working on a dissertation about old-time music. She holds a BA and Masters in Musicology from Oxford University, plays old-time fiddle, classical violin and viola, and has done field work in both Mount Airy and other North Carolina towns.

The retreat is hosted by the Surry Arts Council and is supported in part by the North Carolina Department of Natural & Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

TUITION

Tuition is $400. Payment in full is confirmation of your place. $100 is nonrefundable. The balance of the tuition is refundable if requested by April 30, 2018. The tuition includes classes, meals (Sunday dinner and lunch on Monday-Wednesday), Fiddlers Convention tickets, and a t-shirt.

REGISTRATION

Online Registration can be done through Eventbrite with Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express. Please contact Dana Whitaker at 336.786.7998 or via email with any questions.

SCHEDULE

Sunday

  • 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
    Registration
  • 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
    Supper (provided) with Introductions and Class Descriptions
  • 7:00 pm
    Instructor Performance/Jam

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

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CLASS DESCRIPTIONS

The classes will be held in venues at Veterans Park. Sign up for classes at the time of registration. Classes include fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, mandolin, singing, songwriting, and more. Ensembles and jams will be open to all who wish to attend and there is no need to register for them. Registrants are free to change classes until the class size limit is met. Please select the skill level that feels most appropriate. Instructors will advise you to switch classes after you begin if they feel that you are not in the correct class – or you may choose to switch.

Banjo I
Terri McMurray

Intrigued with the sound of clawhammer banjo? This is the class for you! We’ll work on the basic clawhammer down-stroke style, develop some left-hand techniques (slides, hammer-ons & pull-offs) and bring these all together using some simple, yet great, southern tunes. This class is designed for players new to the banjo or new to the clawhammer style. Terri can promise a fun, comfortable pace. Singing and laughter are encouraged! Please bring a capo, extra strings, a strap and a recording device.

Banjo I and II
Paul Brown

Although there isn’t one specific Round Peak clawhammer banjo style, there are elements of style that contribute to a recognizable sound from the Round Peak region of northwest North Carolina. This class will explore some well-known tunes from the great players of the Round Peak community. The class will focus on the space, style and timing that make Round Peak music recognizable. The class will go at a comfortable pace in a safe, fun, and encouraging environment. Time will be spent during each class listening to the masters playing the tunes being studied. For the most part, students will play in the keys of A and D. Bring a capo, extra strings, a strap and a recording device.

Banjo II
John Herrmann

John has played and taught at most major festivals and music camps in the United States. As a teacher he specializes in getting people to play tunes they don’t know. He has developed many innovative teaching techniques, and is often credited for having both invented and created the name for “the slow jam.”

Banjo I and II
Kirk Sutphin

Kirk will be teaching both banjo and fiddle and leading slow jams with John Herrmann. Kirk Sutphin has dedicated 40 years with his love for Old Time fiddle & banjo playing learning directly from legendary fiddlers Tommy Jarrell, Lonnie Austin and H.O. Jenkins. He also studied with many other local master fiddlers and banjo pickers. His workshops cover things from all of these masters. Fiddle workshops focus on Tommy Jarrell's down-bow style of fiddling. Tunes will be taught by ear so Kirk encourages participants to bring a recording device.

Old-Time Bass, Body Mechanics, and Old-Time Rhythm (bass and guitar)
Meredith McIntosh

Whether you are a beginner or play other instruments or already play bass, these classes are for you. The Old-Time Bass classes 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. In the Old-Time Rhythm class, you will play tunes together and see what is in them and learn how to negotiate chord choices, playing in the groove, and more. In the Body Mechanics class, you will learn how to play to prevent and possibly heal injuries. (This is based on principles of the Alexander Technique.)

Fiddle I
Erynn Marshall

Good choice! Now that you’ve decided to play the fiddle a whole world of joy, community and music is going to open up for you! This is a class for beginner fiddlers who already know a few tunes and would like to learn how to spice up tunes, play with greater ease, jump into jams and get that “old-time sound.” We'll delve into secrets of bowing, ergonomics and a little history on the tunes and fiddlers our music comes from. Be sure to bring a recorder or phone to record/video in class and get ready to relax, have fun, and learn some great old-time music.

Fiddle II
Erynn Marshall

If you've ever been interested to know more about alternate tunings on the fiddle and love the sound of drones - this is the class for you! Erynn will show you how easy it is to get into these different tunings and how beautiful they are. We'll learn some great tunes, more advanced bowing, ornaments and the history behind the tunes. This class will help you get a more authentic old-time sound. Recording devices recommended. Rosin up your bow and get ready for the drone zone!

Fiddle I
John Herrmann

John has played and taught at most major festivals and music camps in the United States. Fiddle classes will include bowing patterns. He has developed many innovative teaching techniques. John is often credited for having both invented and created the name for "the slow jam."

Fiddle I
Kirk Sutphin

Classes will cover Round Peak tunes and Tommy Jarrell’s bowing style. Participants are encouraged to bring a recording device as they will be learning it just as the old-timers did – by listening and watching.

Guitar I and II
Joe Newberry

Guitar I will take the basic strum, also known as “Boom Chuck” and give a good platform for students to help drive a string band. First bass runs will be introduced, as well. Guitar II will focus on helping students with bass runs, three-quarter time, and song backup. Capo tips, and work with thumb picking and the flat pick will also be featured.

Guitar I and II and Mandolin
Carl Jones

Carl is known for his find musicianship, sense of humor, songwriting, and charismatic teaching. Students in all classes are invited to bring recording devices.

Round Peak Style: Playing Well with Others, All levels, All instruments
Terri McMurray and Paul Brown

What is your role in the band? This proven, highly participatory class gives you skills to raise your understanding of melody, rhythm and phrasing. In a safe and encouraging setting, participants will get to play with the instructors and other students in duos and small ensembles. Players and listeners will offer observations on what is going well and how to get to the next level. The class will focus on the distinctive Surry County fiddle, banjo, guitar and band styles, including Round Peak fiddle-banjo interaction and the small ensemble tradition of the region.

Singing
Joe Newberry

The repertoire and technique singing class will focus on songs from the Appalachians, including ballads, play-party songs, topical songs, and new songs that sound old.

Slow Jam
John Herrmann & Kirk Sutphin

This jam will showcase Tommy Jarrell’s down bowing style.

Songwriting
Joe Newberry

Make your good songs even better! Joe will guide you in uncovering the heart of different types of songs. Through writing, writing, and more writing, the song in your head can become the song on your lips!

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INSTRUCTORS

 

Paul Brown

Paul Brown spent years learning music directly from some of the last fiddle, banjo and guitar players to emerge before the age of radio and recordings. These include banjoist and fiddler Tommy Jarrell, banjoist Gilmer Woodruff, guitarists and singers Paul Sutphin and Fields Ward, fiddlers Robert Sykes and Luther Davis, and mandolin player Verlen Clifton. Paul played for decades with fiddler Benton Flippen and has been a member of numerous ensembles including the Bent Mountain Band with Andy Cahan and Mike Seeger, Benton Flippen and the Smokey Valley Boys, Robert Sykes and the Surry County Boys, and the Toast String Stretchers. Paul has been on the staff at music camps across the country since the early 1970’s from the Festival of American Fiddle tunes in Washington to the Pinewoods in Massachusetts. He is a retired NPR journalist and he currently hosts the public radio program “Across the Blue Ridge.” He started his professional broadcasting career at Mount Airy radio station WPAQ.

Website

John Herrmann

John has been traveling the world playing old-time music for over forty years. He plays fiddle with the New Southern Ramblers, but he has performed with many bands including the Henrie Brothers, Critton Hollow, the Wandering Ramblers, One-Eyed Dog and the Rockinghams. Equally adept on banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and bass, he is known as the originator of the “slow jam.” He learned the Round Peak style of clawhammer from its original masters: Fred Cockerham, Kyle Creed, and Tommy Jarrell. His specialty is playing with the fiddle. He has played all over the world and is inow as the Father of Old-Time Music in Japan. John has been on the staff at numerous music camps from coast to coast. He lives in Madison, North Carolina.

Carl Jones

Carl Jones is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He lives in Galax, Virginia. He is widely respected for his instrumental talents and original songs about the joys and tribulations of day-to-day life in the South. Carl’s songs have been recorded by The Nashville Bluegrass Band, Tony Rice, and others. His song “Last Time on the Road” appears on the Grammy-award-winning album, Unleashed by the Nashville Bluegrass Band. In the 1980’s, Carl played mandolin with James Bryan, and Norman and Nancy Blake as part of the Rising Fawn String Ensemble. Today he performs with his wife, fiddler Erynn Marshall, the Bow Benders and the Galax Bogtrotters. Carl is known for his fine musicianship, sense of humor, songwriting, and charismatic teaching.

Website


Photo by Susi Lawson

Erynn Marshall

Erynn Marshall is an old-time fiddler who lives in Galax, Virginia and is known nationally and beyond for her traditional music. She learned the nuances of Appalachian old-time fiddling from rare recordings and visiting 80-95 year-old southern fiddlers for decades. Still, she puts her own unique spin on the traditional music she plays. Erynn performs at festivals and music camps around the globe and often tours with her husband – songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Carl Jones. Erynn has won fiddle championships including 1st place at "Clifftop," The Appalachian Stringband Festival, where she was the first woman to do so. She has recorded six albums and appeared in four films (Voices of Virginia, the Clifftop Experience, I'll Fly Away Home, and the upcoming film Never a Stranger). She coordinates Old-Time Music & Dance Week at the Swannanoa Gathering in North Carolina and has recently toured in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and China.

Website

Meredith McIntosh

With a degree in music education and a great love for old-time music, Meredith is known as a patient and enthusiastic teacher and will make you laugh. She teaches good body mechanics in every class especially those dedicated to the subject of playing with ease and preventing injury. Meredith is a multi-instrumentalist who plays bass with the New Southern Ramblers and Bigfoot, and has performed with Alice Gerrard, Balfa Toujours, The Freight Hoppers, and the Bucking Mules. She has recorded with a variety of people including Polo Burguiere, Dirk Powell, and Si Kahn. She lives in Asheville, NC where she is a certified Alexander Technique teacher and a licensed massage therapist.

Terri McMurray

Terri McMurray shows up with a sharp wit, a memorable smile and great chops on 5-string banjo, banjo uke, and guitar. Music drew her to North Carolina in 1982 where she looked and listened hard during her many years around some of the great master traditional musicians in North Carolina and southern Virginia, and it shows in her playing. Terri studied banjo intensively with the late Tommy Jarrell and has played with many other great banjoists including Dix Freeman, Fields Ward, Earnest East, Benton Flippen, Matokie Slaughter, and Kyle Creed. She co-founded the Old Hollow String Band with Riley Baugus and Kirk Sutphin, and has since performed with the Toast String Stretchers, the Mostly Mountain Boys and the Mountain Birch Duo with Paul Brown. She excels as a string band banjo player, and has taught at camps including the Swannanoa Gathering, Pinewoods, Bluff Country Gathering, Ashokan, Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, the FOATMAD old time music weekend in England, and many Banjo Camps (North, American, Midwest, Suwannee). She is a well-loved teacher known for her engaging manner, patience and ability to work with students of all ages.


Photo by Jillian Clark

Joe Newberry

Known around the world for his clawhammer banjo playing, Joe Newberry is also a powerful guitarist, singer and songwriter. The Gibson Brothers’ version of his song “Singing As We Rise,” featuring guest vocalist Ricky Skaggs, won the 2012 IBMA “Gospel Recorded Performance” Award. With Eric Gibson, he shared the 2013 IBMA “Song of the Year” Award for “They Called It Music.” A long-time guest on A Prairie Home Companion, he was a featured singer on the Transatlantic Sessions 2016 tour of the U.K. with fiddler Aly Bain and Dobro master Jerry Douglas, and at the Transatlantic Session’s debut at Merlefest in 2017 with fellow singers James Taylor, Sarah Jarosz, Declan O’Rourke, Karen Matheson, and Maura O’Connell. In addition to performing solo, he plays in a duo with mandolin icon Mike Compton, and also performs with dynamic fiddler and step-dancer April Verch. He has taught banjo, guitar, singing, and songwriting at numerous camps and festivals, including Ashokan, Midwest Banjo Camp, American Banjo Camp, the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, Targhee Music Camp, The Swannanoa Gathering, Centrum Voice Works, the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Pinewoods Camp, Vocal Week, Bluegrass Week and Old-time Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV, the Australia National Folk Festival, the Blue Ridge Old-Time Music Week, and the Bluff County Gathering. He was for many years the coordinator of Old-Time Week at the Augusta Heritage Center.

Growing up in a family full of singers and dancers, Joe took up the guitar and banjo as a teenager and learned fiddle tuns from great Missouri fiddlers. He moved to NC as a young man and quickly became an anchor of the incredible music scene in the state. Still going strong more than 35 years later, he does solo and studio work, and plays and teaches at festivals and workshops in North America and abroad.

Website


Photo by Deni McIntyre

Kirk Sutphin

Kirk Sutphin grew up in Walkertown, North Carolina, exposed to the traditional music of the region from the Round Peak fiddle styles of Surry County to the banjo picking of Charlie Poole. Throughout his life, Kirk has made an effort to visit with countless older musicians of the area and learned tunes from many musicians born around the turn of the 20th century. He is an exceptional fiddler whose sound is often compared to that of Tommy Jarrell. He is also an excellent banjo player in both clawhammer and fingerpicking styles. His travels have taken him twice to Australia, to England and Scotland to share the Surry County styles. He has been included in several N.C.T.A. Tours and performed in 2010 at The Kennedy Center. He has taught at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes and at many other fiddle camps.

Website


Photo by Hobart Jones

Laura Turner
Coordinator

Laura is a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago, working on a dissertation about old-time music. She holds a BA and Masters in Musicology from Oxford University, plays old-time fiddle, classical violin and viola, and has done field work in both Mount Airy and other North Carolina towns.

Website


Slate Mountain Ramblers
Wednesday Night Dance

The Slate Mountain Ramblers is a family old-time band from Mount Airy, NC. For many years, Richard Bowman, his wife, Barbara, and their daughter Marsha, have spent weekends playing music. Richard plays fiddle, Barbara the bass and Marsha plays claw-hammer banjo. Randy Hiatt joins them on guitar. Slate Mountain Ramblers have a winning tradition, both individually and as a group at many fiddlers’ conventions over many years. The Slate Mountain Ramblers play for shows, dances, family and community gatherings, benefits and compete at fiddler’s conventions throughout the year. They have played internationally at the Austrian Alps Performing Arts Festival and in Gainsborough, England, for the Friends of American Old Time Music and Dance Festival. They also lead fiddle, banjo, bass and dance workshops. Don’t miss the Wednesday night dance and calling and the Friday workshops.

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FRIDAY FIDDLERS CONVENTION WORKSHOPS & INSTRUCTORS

Registered participants are encouraged to join other Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention attendees for an afternoon of old-time workshops with area musicians and hosted by the Surry Arts Council.

This project was supported by the N. C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.

Diane Bowen

Diane Bowen plays clawhammer banjo with the Zephyr Lightning Bolts and helps her husband Steve with the band’s vocals. She is originally from Buncombe County and is a graduate of Appalachian State University. She is a retired teacher from Surry County Schools and spent her entire career teaching at Mountain Park Elementary School. She learned to play banjo from Emily Spencer and has been involved in old-time music for over twenty years. She and Steve founded the “Zephyr Lightning Bolts” not too long after they began to play old-time music.

Website

Jacob Bowen

Jacob Bowen is the fiddler and he is Steve and Diane’s son. He followed his parents in graduating from Appalachian State University with a degree in Psychology. He has worked in the mental health field. He learned from both Thornton and Emily Spencer and is an avid collector of old-time music. He has been greatly influenced by the late Albert Hash, G.B. Grason, Rafe Brady, Eck Robertson, and others through their recorded music.

Website

Steve Bowen

Steve Bowen plays bass and is one of the lead singers in the old-time band, Zephyr Lightning Bolts. He is a native of Wilkes County and graduated from Appalachian State University then received a Masters Degree from Gardner Webb University. He is a retired teacher from the Surry County School system. Steve has been involved in Bluegrass and Old-Time music for forty years. He began playing bluegrass and then discovered the beauty and simplicity of Old-Time music.

Website

Barbara Bowman

Barbara Bowman plays bass with the Slate Mountain Ramblers alongside her husband, award winning old-time fiddler Richard Bowman, and her daughter, award winning dancer and old-time musician, Marsha Todd. Barbara grew up going to dances in nearby Patrick County, VA and then later attended dances in Carroll, Grayson, Surry and Stokes counties where she learned more about flat footing, square dancing, and calling. Barbara’s square dance calling is a blend of several callers she met over the years. Barbara has won multiple awards in both old-time dance and bass. The Slate Mountain Ramblers have played old-time music for dances, concerts, and fiddlers conventions all over the area and abroad. Barbara resides in Mount Airy.

Richard Bowman


Photo by Hobart Jones

Born into a well-known musical family from Patrick County Virginia, Richard was the youngest of 8 kids. His Mom and Dad played the autoharp and his Dad also played clawhammer banjo. The first fiddle he can remember hearing was Tommy Jarrell on the radio. He thought he could learn to play that if he had a fiddle. He lived 12 miles from Jarrell and started spending some time with him picking up tunes and Jarrell’s style. He also learned from Earnest East, Benton Flippen, and Kyle Creed before he became the champion old-time fiddler that he is today. Over the years he has won both individual and band competitions at many fiddler’s conventions including Galax, Mount Airy, and Fiddler’s Grove. He band, The Slate Mountain Ramblers, have played at dances and festivals all over North Carolina, Virginia, and around the United States and abroad for over three decades.

Verlen Clifton


Photo by Hobart Jones

Verlen is a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipient and he grew up in the Round Peak community of Surry County. His playing has attracted the attention of old-time music enthusiasts throughout the country. He first played banjo and guitar but he eventually settled on mandolin, which he plays more as a rhythm rather than a lead instrument. He played in bands and in 1963, he joined Round Peak musicians Fred Cockerham, Kyle Creed, Paul Sutphin, and Earnest East to form the legendary Camp Creek Boys. For ten years the group played hard-driving square dance music and captured first prize at numerous fiddle competitions across the region. They caught the attention of listeners across the nation with their recordings and they inspired many young urban musicians to travel to Surry County to seek them out. Verlen still loves old-time music and has inspired many musicians locally and around the country.

Website

Wes Clifton

Wes Clifton was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina and is the grandson of the legendary Verlen Clifton. Wes began playing in rock bands as a young man and became interested in the traditional music of this region in his mid-twenties. Wes played guitar and mandolin with Benton Flippen’s Smokey Valley Boys for some of that group’s later years. He currently sings lead and plays guitar with the Buckstankle Boys.

Website

Andy Edmonds


Photo by Hobart Jones

Andy was raised in the heart of Surry County and became one of the area’s old-time music ambassadors at a young age. He comes from a family of musicians. With the help of uncles, Andy learned to play guitar when he was 11 years old. On radio station WPAQ, he heard many local and regional musicians. He eventually picked up the banjo and started to learn Scruggs-style but he gravitated to clawhammer and was mostly self-taught. On hearing an album recorded by local fiddler Benton Flippen, Andy was immediately drawn to his style. Benton’s fiddling inspired Andy to learn to play fiddle and he spent many hours with Benton watching and learning. “He is my #1 influence on the fiddle.” Andy has won numerous ribbons and contests in fiddle, banjo, and guitar. He has become well-known for his ability to play in Benton’s style and instruct others on the finer details of Flippen’s as well as other Surry County old-time styles. He has played in numerous prestigious venues.

Website

Chester McMillian

Chester McMillian is the guitarist for the Zephyr Lightning Bolts. He has played old-time music for decades. He played with Round Peak legends including Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Whit Sizemore, Benton Flippin, Fred Cockerham and others. He was awarded the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award in 2013 which acknowledges lifetime achievement in furthering cultural traditions in North Carolina. Chester resides in the Round Peak community of Surry County. Chester is known for his unique runs and picking technique.

Website

Aaron Ratcliffe


Photo by Hobart Jones

Award winning flat foot dancer, Aaron Ratcliffe is returning to teach the classes again this year. Aaron has called dances and taught across the Southeast including the International Bluegrass Music Association Festival Wide Open Bluegrass event in Raleigh NC and the Appalachian State Fiddlers Convention in Boone, NC. He has been an organizer of the NC Squares, a monthly traditional square dance in Chapel Hill, NC since 2007. He danced with the Cane Creek Cloggers of Chapel Hill, NC from 2003-2011 performing and teaching workshops across the Southeast including a performance with the North Carolina Symphony. As a solo dancer, he has performed at the NC Museum of Art and many other venues. He has won flatfoot competitions in several states and is a multi-instrumentalist.

Website

Bill Sluys


Photo by Mark V Sanderford

Bill plays the bass with Nancy in the Pilot Mountain Bobcats band. He and Nancy were in several bands and played many concerts and dances. They were the house band for the Green Grass Cloggers. In 1985 they moved to the musically rich area of Mount Airy, NC and formed the Bobcats. The Bobcats are well-known for their hard driving traditional style and danceable rhythm. From 2000-2003, in addition to the Bobcats, Nancy and Bill were members of the progressive old-time band, Man Alive! with Joe Thrift and David Long. Bill has recently opened Minglewood Recording Studio.

Website

Nancy Sluys

Nancy Sluys has been playing traditional music since 1973 when she acquired a mandolin. In 1974 she happened upon the Galax Fiddler’s Convention and discovered the haunting sounds of old-time music. Taking up the clawhammer banjo, she quickly mastered it and won first place at Galax several times. She has also won prizes at most of the major fiddler’s conventions in the south.

Website

Marsha Todd


Photo by Hobart Jones

Marsha Todd lives and breathes old-time music. All her life, she has traveled with her family to dances, festivals, conventions and music gatherings around the region with her parents’ band, the Slate Mountain Ramblers. Marsha plays the banjo, her main instrument, but she has also learned to play most of the other instruments in the band. She is an accomplished flatfoot dancer and has won first place at every area festival at some point in time. She currently leads Traditional Music at the Surry Arts Council.

Laura Turner


Photo by Hobart Jones

Laura is a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago, working on a dissertation about old-time music. She holds a BA and Masters in Musicology from Oxford University, plays old-time fiddle, classical violin and viola, and has done field work in both Mount Airy and other North Carolina towns.

Website


Photo by Hobart Jones

Jim Vipperman
Facilitator

Jim Vipperman will be facilitating the workshops on Friday. He is an award-winning fiddler and has taught in the TAPS program for the Surry Arts Council since its beginning. Vip is the recipient of the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society for teaching and passing on the area’s music traditions.

Website

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This project is supported in part by the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.