Women! Mount Airy Old-Time
March 1-3, 2018

Make time for old-time in Mount Airy during the Tommy Jarrell Festival. Celebrate with us the rich contribution of women to old-time music and dance, past and present. Learn from some of the most esteemed and respected women in the field through classes, presentations, workshops, and performances. All are welcome to participate, regardless of gender!

The classes will be held in venues at the Andy Griffith Playhouse and Historic Earle Theatre. Sign up for classes at the time of registration. Classes include fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, mandolin, flat foot dance/square dance calling, and harmony singing. There will also be clinics for old-time band, influential women in old-time music, and other topics. Registrants are free to change classes until class size limit is met.


Register online through the Surry Arts Council's secure Eventbrite site. Please contact Marsha Todd at 336.786.7998 or via email with any questions or for registration assistance.


Tuition is $350. Payment in full is confirmation of your registration. $100 is nonrefundable. The balance of the tuition is refundable if requested by January 31, 2018. Tuition includes classes, meals (lunch and dinner), event tickets, and a t-shirt.


A limited number of youth scholarships are available. Complete the scholarship application (.docx or .pdf), including a statement of need, and submit in person, by mail or email to antonia@surryarts.org. Young musicians are included in all of the classes. In addition, there are youth competitions at the Tommy Jarrell Festival and the Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention.


The retreat schedule for all three days is below. You may also download a one-page version that includes instructors for each class or lab.

Thursday, March 1st

10:00-Noon Registration

12:00 Lunch

1:30-3:30 Class in Fiddle I & II, Banjo I & II, Guitar, or Mandolin

3:30-4:00 Break

4:00-5:30 Class in Fiddle I & II, Banjo I & II, Bass, Dance/Square Dance Calling, or Guitar

6:30 Dinner and Jam

Friday, March 2nd

8:00-9:00 Breakfast (on your own)

9:30-11:30 Class in Fiddle I & II, Banjo I & II, Guitar, or Mandolin

Noon Lunch

1:00-2:00 The Becky Buller Band, North Surry High School student concert

1:30-3:00 Class in Fiddle I & II, Banjo II, Bass, or Guitar

3:00-3:30 Break

3:30-5:00 Class in Harmony Singing, Dance/Square Dance Calling, Fiddle I & II Lab, Banjo I & II Lab, or Guitar, Bass & Mandolin Lab

5:00-6:30 Dinner

7:00 Tommy Jarrell Dance at Historic Earle Theatre with Slate Mountain Ramblers and Whitetop Mountain Band

Saturday, March 3rd

7:30-8:30 Breakfast (on your own)

9:00-10:30 Fiddle, Banjo, Mandolin, Bass, Guitar, Band Labs rehearsal for Merry-Go-Round

10:30-11:00 Break

11:00-12:00 Merry-Go-Round Women's Group Performance

12:30-3:00 Lunch, Keynote Address by Alice Gerrard

2:30-3:30 Workshop with The Becky Buller Band

3:30-4:30 Harmony Singing, Fiddle - All Levels, Banjo - All Levels, Bass, Guitar, Mandolin, Dance/Square Dance Calling

3:30-4:30 The Becky Buller Band Open Soundcheck with Q&A

5:00-7:00 Dinner and wrap-up with students and instructors

7:30 The Becky Buller Band concert, Historic Earle Theatre


Marsha Todd


Marsha Todd lives and breathes old-time and bluegrass music. "The music is what it’s all about for me," she proclaims. All her life, Marsha has traveled with her family to dances, festivals, fiddlers' conventions, and music gatherings around the region, and she has been performing since she was nine years old. Today, she performs with her parents' band, the Slate Mountain Ramblers, the area’s premier old-time band. When she was four years old, Marsha's father, fiddler Richard Bowman, gave her a cello. "I learned to play it like a bass," she recalls. "Every weekend we would go to community events and festivals, traveling and playing. I was always around the music." At nine years old, Marsha started playing mandolin with the Slate Mountain Ramblers. The band's banjo player at the time played a two-finger style that was not allowed in old-time competitions at fiddlers conventions, "so I learned to play the banjo to compete... The banjo is my main instrument now." By the time she was fourteen years old, Marsha was the band’s full-time banjo player, and she has learned to play most of the other instruments. Marsha is an accomplished flatfoot dancer. She won her first ribbon at the age of three and has won first place at every area festival at some point in time including the Galax Fiddlers’ Convention. (Photo courtesy of Hobart Jones)

Laura Turner


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 works as an intern for the Surry Arts Council.

Caroline Noel Beverley
(Mandolin & Guitar)


Caroline Noel Beverley has been playing old-time, Celtic and klezmer music since 2005. She teaches mandolin, singing, guitar and string band classes at Alleghany JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians) in Sparta, NC and at Surry Community College in Dobson, NC. She is the mandolin player for the Virginia based old-time band, the New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters. She also plays her original music with a number of North Carolina based bands.

Barbara Bowman
(Dance, Square Dance Calling)

Barbara Bowman has played 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.

Becky Buller
(Youth Workshop, Open Sound Check, Concerts)


In 2016 Becky Buller made history by becoming the first person ever to win in both instrumental and vocal categories at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards. In addition, she has won three other awards including the 2015 IBMA Songwriter of the Year award. As is usually the case, Becky’s is an overnight success story almost 20 years in the making. Her songs, on the lips of the industry’s best, preceded this fiddling St. James, Minnesota native to prominence in the acoustic music world. Becky was introduced to the fiddle at a very young age. She studied classical violin in high school while participating in the Mankato Area Youth Symphony and the Minnesota All-State Orchestra. But her heart was always that of a fiddler. Becky has numerous recordings, numerous awards and honors, and numerous songs that she has written and entrusted to artists including Ricky Skaggs, Rhonda Vincent, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Josh Williams, and many more. Becky graduated in 2001 with a public relations degree from East Tennessee State University, where she took part in their Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music program. That same year, her songwriting nabbed a first-place finish in the bluegrass category at Merlefest. Becky plays guitar, clawhammer banjo, and bluegrass banjo, in addition to fiddle. (Photo courtesy of Shelly Swanger)

Beverly Cotten Dillard
(Banjo I & II)


Beverly Cotton Dillard is a native of Morrisville, North Carolina. She learned clawhammer banjo from Tommy Jarrell, Mount Airy’s great old-time fiddle and banjo player. She was a longtime member of the Green Grass Cloggers and performed in the early years at Carnegie Hall and the Disney Channel before bringing her “banjo dance” to the Hee Haw television show. Her 1981 “Clog In” is considered an American folk classic. Since marrying Rodney Dillard in 1983, Beverly has been an integral part of the Dillards’ shows. She also performed for many years with Buck Trent of Hee Haw fame. Beverly has represented in traditional music with the Grand Ladies of the Grand Ole Opry Show. Most recently she has been featured with The Dillards on Larry’s Country Diner television show and in two Song of the Mountain TV shows singing and playing her clawhammer banjo. She has also recently recorded two CDs on the Rural Rhythm Records label. Beverly is no stranger to Mount Airy as she performs with The Dillards during Mayberry Days each year with her husband, Rodney Dillard.

Hilary Dirlam
(Bass & Guitar)


Hillary Dirlam has been playing bass since 1973. During the 1970s, she toured the east coast with the Arm and Hammer Band, which was based in Vermont.

After moving to North Carolina in 1980, she was fortunate to be able to play bass with Banjo Master Carroll Best and the Carroll Best Band, as well as with the Luke Smathers Mountain Swing Band. Both Carroll Best and Luke Smathers were North Carolina Heritage Award winners. In the 1990s she was the bass player for the Freeman Family Band, an old-time group that sometimes included both Arvil and Grodon Freeman as fiddlers. Hilary was a member of Round Peak fiddler Otis Burris’s band, performing locally at the Ohio Folk Festival. In the meantime, Hilary played bass for several Asheville swing bands, including Satin Doll and Stormy Weather. Her present band, the Orpheus Supertones, has performed at major festivals here in the United States (the Philadelphia Folk festival, etc.) The band recently did a month-long tour of Australia.

Hilary’s teaching experience includes workshops, music camps, and private lessons. Music camps include the Blue Ridge Old-Time Music Week at Mars Hill University, the Alabama Folk School, and the Suwanee Music Camp. She also taught lessons in Brevard, NC at the Celestial Mountain Music Store for approximately seven years.

Alice Gerrard
(Keynote Address)


Alice Gerrard is a singer and songwriter who has performed and advocated for old-time and bluegrass music for over 50 years. She plays old-time fiddle, banjo, and guitar. Her recordings with Hazel Dickens during the 1960s and ‘70s influenced a generation of women musicians from Laurie Lewis to the Judds.

Besides the Harmony Sisters, she has also recorded and performed with Tommy Jarrell, Mike Seeger, Enoch Rutherford, Matokie Slaughter, the Strange Creek Singers, Otis Burris, 4 CDs with Tom Sauber and Brad Leftwich, and a CD reissue of her album with Mike Seeger, Bowling Green. Her solo recordings on Copper Creek Records, Pieces of My Heart and Calling Me Home garnered rave reviews in Billboard and Country Music, among other publications. Her recent recordings are Bittersweet, a recording of all-original songs, Follow the Music, which was nominated for a 2015 Grammy in the Folk category. Her most recent recordings are with the Piedmont Melody Makers (Wonderful World Outside), and Kay Justice (Tear Down the Fences). Alice’s song, "Agate Hill," was an inspiration for novelist Lee Smith as she was writing her latest novel, On Agate Hill. As Lee put it – "Alice has a haunting and distinctive voice and she can do anything – holler, shout, belt it out, swing a little, croon a little, and then flat-out break your heart."

Alice was the Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009. In September 2017, Alice was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame. She is founder of the Old-Time Herald old-time magazine, and makes her home in Durham, NC. (Photo courtesy of Irene Young)

Erynn Marshall
(Fiddle I & II)


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 and 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. (Photo courtesy of Moser-Jackson Photography)

Terri McMurray
(Banjo I & II)


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.

Emily Spencer
(Harmony Singing)


Emily Spencer plays banjo and sings in the Whitetop Mountain Band along with her husband Thornton and daughter Martha, and she teaches old-time music in the public schools near Whitetop.

Martha Spencer
(Harmony Singing)


Martha Spencer grew up on Whitetop Mountain in a musical family. Her uncle, Albert Hash, was a legendary fiddler and instrument maker who gained widespread attention for his music and craft. He had a great impact on old-time music and taught countless musicians and luthiers. Her parents, Emily and Thornton Spencer are the leaders of the Whitetop Mountain Band and are well-known and respected musicians and teachers of old-time music. Her great-grandfather, Bud Spencer, won many big dance competitions including the Whitetop Folk Festival in the 1930s. Martha began dancing and playing at a very young age. Martha currently plays fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, dulcimer, and sings. She has won competitions on the banjo, fiddle, and vocals. She has been widely recognized for her Appalachian dancing. She has taken part in master dance workshops at the National Folk Festival (USA), Woodford Folk Festival (AU), and Lowell Folk Festival (USA) and has been a featured dancer at several other festivals and workshops. In 2006, Martha and her father took part in the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities Master Apprenticeship Program for the Old-Time Fiddling Tradition. Martha has been very active in passing on the music and dance traditions to youth in her county and neighboring county schools. Since graduating from high school, she has been an instructor in the Junior Appalachian Music (JAM) program in Ashe County, NC. Martha currently plays with Jackson Cunningham in the Whitetop Mountaineers, the Whitetop Mountain Band, and with Larry Sigmon in the Unique Sound of the Mountains duo.

Debbie Yates
(Fiddle I & II, Harmony Singing)


Debbie Grim Yates grew up in a family of musicians, so it’s only natural that she would begin playing an instrument at a very young age. Before long she had mastered a dynamic, precise claw hammer banjo style that is distinctly her own as well as the ability to saw out a barn-burner on the fiddle. Her soft, yet amazingly powerful voice has a special quality that simply soothes the soul as you listen. Debbie really loves to perform, and her many years of picking and singing with the Konnarock Critters has helped mold her into one of the genre’s most entertaining performers.

Molly Yates
(Harmony Singing Assistant)


Molly Yates, age 15, has been composing and performing her original songs at a very early age. The unique style of her writing blends effortlessly with her captivating vocal range. The mandolin, guitar, and old-time banjo are the instruments that she plays the most on stage, along with the rest of her multi-talented family.

This project is supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.