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

The Surry Arts Council welcomed over 50 people who made time for old-time in Mount Airy during the Tommy Jarrell Festival. We celebrated the rich contribution of women to old-time music and dance, past and present. We learn from some of the most esteemed and respected women in the field through classes, presentations, workshops, and performances.

The classes were held in venues at the Andy Griffith Playhouse and Historic Earle Theatre.  Classes included fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, mandolin, flat foot dance/square dance calling, and harmony singing. There were also clinics for old-time band, influential women in old-time music, and other topics.


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

12:00-1:30 Keynote Address by Alice Gerrard

1:30-2:30 Lunch

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 Concert: The Becky Buller Band with introduction by Terri McMurray, 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 well known nationally and beyond for her traditional music. She learned the nuances of old-time fiddling from visiting 80-95 year-old southern fiddlers. She has made her home in the Blue Ridge for ten years. Erynn teaches and performs at festivals and music camps around the globe and has appeared in five films. She coordinates the Swannanoa Gathering Old-Time Week near Asheville, NC. Erynn won 1st place fiddle at "Clifftop" The Appalachian Stringband Festival and was the first woman to do so. She and multi-instrumentalist Carl Jones are married in life and music. They tour and teach internationally and also perform concerts with the Galax Bogtrotters. Please visit her Website.

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 has been playing music since her childhood in Arlington, VA, where she started out on fiddle, piano, uke and guitar, as well as singing and song writing. She came to southwestern Virginia in the early 70's as a college student at UVA-Wise (Clinch Valley College) in pursuit of traditional mountain music. She met Thornton Spencer in 1975, and began a new incarnation of the Whitetop Mountain Band, which continues to this day through many life changes. She began teaching Mountain music in 1980 in a community music program we formed in Whitetop, VA. From that, she started working along with the late Albert Hash and late Thornton Spencer at Wilkes Community College teaching clawhammer Banjo in Jefferson, Sparta and Wilkesboro, NC. In 1982, a traditional music program was started at Mt. Rogers School. She has been involved teaching since its inception. The program is now in Grayson County schools at Grayson Highlands and GCHS. Eddie Bond and Martha Spencer are also current instructors. She has taught fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, dulcimer and bass in the school system and am a certified PK-12 instrumental music teacher. She has also been teaching for the past few years through Wytheville Community College at their Crossroads location in Galax, Virginia.

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.


Guitar (Hilary Dirlam)

Always wanted to learn what goes into playing solid backup guitar with fiddle, banjo, and vocals? Then this is the class for you! Right hand chord shapes and left-hand picking will be included as well as what chords are common in fiddle tune keys, and using a capo. If there’s time, we will go over some bass runs too. Along with your guitar, please bring a pick, a tuner, a recording device, and your questions.

Bass (Hilary Dirlam)

Prepare to play along in a jam with just a few simple instructions! We'll learn the names of strings and alternates, and how to find the notes you need up the neck. For the right hand, we’ll learn a picking technique that gives a good sound and doesn’t wear out your hand. No playing experience necessary and all levels welcome. If you don’t have a bass, Hilary will be bringing an extra and participants can take turns.

Guitar (Caroline Noel Beverley)

If you’ve always wanted to be able to back-up fiddle tunes and vocal songs in an open jam setting, this is the class for you! You will learn chords and strumming patterns - no playing experience necessary and all levels welcome. Students will need their own working guitar, picks and tuners.

Mandolin (Caroline Noel Beverley)

We will learn chords and strumming patterns to be able to back-up fiddle tunes and vocal songs as well as learn how to play lead melodies by ear in an open jam setting. No playing experience necessary and all levels welcome. Students will need their own working mandolin, picks and tuners.

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 II (Terri McMurray)

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. We’ll focus on the space, style and timing that make this music recognizable.

We’ll go at a comfortable pace in a safe, fun, and encouraging environment. We will spend some time during each class listening to the masters playing the tunes we are studying. For the most part, we’ll play in the keys of A and D. Please bring a capo, extra strings, a strap and a recording device.

Fiddle I (Debbie Yates)

Self-taught from listening to her brother, Brian Grim, and playing many years with the Konnarock Critters, Debbie can help you learn, too! In this class we will cover the basics of the fiddle and begin learning about the fiddle keys and tunes. We will be learning by ear. No playing experience necessary and all are welcome. Please bring a recording device.

Fiddle II (Debbie Yates)

Love playing fiddle but need to know more? You’ve found your class! We will work to expand your song repertoire and fine tune your fiddle skills. We will be learning by ear. Please bring a recording device.

Harmony Singing (Debbie Yates & Molly Yates)

Molly, Debbie’s eldest daughter, has been singing since a very young age. Molly and Debbie are looking forward to sharing their love for singing with you in the harmony workshop!

Flatfoot Dance/Square Dance Calling (Barbara Bowman)

This class will cover basic steps of free style flat foot dancing in Surry County and surrounding areas. You will learn various calls and dance routines of this area. At completion of the class, students should feel comfortable participating in a square dance as well as calling a dance.

Harmony Singing (Emily Spencer & Martha Spencer)

In this class we will explore differing low and high harmony parts through both simultaneous singing and call and response songs. Demonstration as well as class participation will be part of the workshop.

Banjo I (Beverly Cotten Dillard)

This class is beginning clawhammer banjo taught in the "Mt. Airy Style" as learned from the legendary Tommy Jarrell. We will be learning to play by ear the way Tommy taught, focusing on the rhythm, wrist and thumb position, and playing up on the neck. There will be discussions on "To Scoop or Not to Scoop the Neck." Also, the use of pull offs, hammer ons, and slides will be addressed. We will focus on learning these basics and applying them to a couple of local banjo/fiddle tunes. Tunings will be open G and double C, but bring a capo because we will actually play a lot in A and double D. No playing experience necessary.

Banjo II (Beverly Cotten Dillard)

This class is for folks that already have a basic understanding and playing ability in the clawhammer style. We will look at what is different in the Mount Airy/Galax style, i.e. rhythmically, playing on the neck, "popping." We will focus on singing with clawhammer, and chording versus playing the tune, featuring songs by well-known traditional artists. Beverly will also be demonstrating and discussing using the clawhammer banjo as both a feature and accompaniment in music genres other than old-time.

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!

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