October Old-Time Week focuses on West Virginia’s rich traditions of old-time music. Classes meet 9 a.m. – noon, with an afternoon cultural session each day and afternoon classes. Presentations from master artists, late night jam sessions and much more fill out the week. Stay for the Old-Time Fiddlers’ Reunion, October 20-22, a celebration of West Virginia fiddlers. The Reunion kicks off Friday night with a square dance and continues Saturday with performances by West Virginia’s master fiddlers, a flatfoot dance contest, instrument vendors and the Augusta Store. On Sunday, the week wraps up with a gospel sing in the Robbins Memorial Chapel.
Housing for October Old Time Week is available at the Graceland Inn and Conference Center as well as in the city of Elkins (https://augustaheritagecenter.org/lodging). Meal cards for the week may be purchased online when you register, or you may also purchase meals individually as desired at the Dining Hall.
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As a member of The Fox Hunt, Old Sledge, The Iron Leg Boys, The Hackensaw Boys, and now as a solo performer, Ben has traveled across the country and around the world spreading his unique take on West Virginia regional old-time music. Born and raised in Romney, West Virginia, multi-instrumentalist Ben Townsend has studied Appalachian traditional music extensively. He is also a successful engineer, whose label, Questionable Records, has released popular traditional albums, as well as albums of music from genres across the board. Ben’s most recent record, Deep End Sessions, Volume 3: Ben Townsend and Friends, has recently been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Folk Album category.
Kirk Judd has lived, worked, trout fished, and wandered around in West Virginia all of his life. Kirk was a member of the Appalachian Literary League, a founding member and former president (and JUG recipient) of West Virginia Writers, Inc., and is a founding member of and creative writing instructor for Allegheny Echoes, Inc., dedicated to the support and preservation of West Virginia cultural heritage arts. Author of three collections of poetry Field of Vision (1986), Tao-Billy (1996), and My People Was Music (2014), and a co-editor of the highly acclaimed anthology, Wild, Sweet Notes – 50 Years of West Virginia Poetry 1950 – 1999, he is widely published. Kirk was honored to be one of the 5 readers selected for the installation ceremony of Louise McNeill Pease as Poet Laureate in 1979 at the WV Cultural Center on the Capitol grounds in Charleston, and currently sits on the board of the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation headquartered in Hillsboro, WV. He is internationally known for his performance work combining poetry and old-time music, and has performed poetry in Ireland and across West Virginia at fairs, concerts, and festivals for the past 35 years.
Kim Johnson is from Clendenin, West Virginia, and has been playing banjo since about 1978. During that time, she has played at countless music festivals throughout the Appalachian region and has performed and recorded with several of West Virginia’s older generation of master fiddlers. Kim performed extensively with renowned Clay County, West Virginia, fiddler Wilson Douglas from 1981 until his death in 1999. She recorded a CD and three cassettes with Wilson, whose soulful, mountain style of fiddling is still sought after today. Kim was also fortunate to be able to play with Calhoun County fiddler Lester McCumbers. In 2002, Kim and Lester recorded a CD with Lester’s wife Linda, a lifelong traditional West Virginia mountain singer. In 2004, she accompanied Lester when he entered the fiddle contest at the Appalachian String Band Festival at Clifftop. Lester won the blue ribbon that year, taking first place among 95 fiddlers of all ages. Since Lester’s passing, Kim has been playing music with a younger generation of musicians, and was invited by Jesse Pearson and Cody Jordan to join their band, the Modock Rounders. The band has performed at several festivals and events during the last few years, including the Vandalia Gathering, Clifftop, the WV Folk Festival, the Jewel City Jamboree, and Augusta’s Fiddlers’ Reunion. The Modock Rounders released Old Tunes & New Blood: Legacy of Wilson Douglas in 2015 and Home Music in 2016.
Since this is a beginning class, it’s not necessary for anybody to know any tunes at this point, but knowing some of the basic clawhammer motions would be helpful. Since banjo is partly a rhythm instrument, it’s very helpful for beginners to learn to play in time with others right from the start. Playing with other people will help your timing. The emphasis in the beginning class will be on getting started out right and also learning some basic West Virginia tunes. Kim learned to play by accompanying Wilson Douglas, and his method was to “try and get some of the notes that the fiddler plays. There’s no way to get all of them, just get what you can.” She never learned from tab, so participants won’t be doing any of that. After Wilson passed away in 1999, Kim started playing with Lester McCumbers. His Calhoun County style was a little different from Wilson’s, but still in the same central West Virginia family. Each fiddler plays differently than the others, and participants need to learn to listen to and follow what the fiddler does, unless their goal is to be a solo banjo performer.
Participants should feel free to bring any recording devices, video recorders, cameras, etc. so they can get the most from the class. And also…a banjo.
Rachel Eddy was born and raised in rural West Virginia near Morgantown, where her father got her started playing fiddle as a little girl. Pretty soon she realized that it was more fun making old-time string band music than just about anything else, which she has done pretty much full time since. Rachel performs on fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, and bass, as well as singing and telling stories throughout the eastern US and Europe. She has recently relocated back to West Virginia after living the last 5 years in Stockholm, during which time she invigorated the Swedish old-time scene, inspiring dozens of people with Appalachian music and dance. Rachel has taught fiddle, banjo, and guitar at Augusta; Sore Fingers Summer school in the UK; and various weekend workshops from the hills of West Virginia to Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, London, and Wales. From the connection of working with a dedicated student or performing solo in front of small audiences to the collective charge of leading large jam sessions or tight ensembles in front of thousands of festival goers, Rachel’s love for traditional music comes from the heart! Over the years, she has had the honor of sharing stages, workshops, and recording sessions with the likes of Tim O’Brien, Erynn Marshall, Dirk Powell, Adam Hurt, Rayna Gellert, Russ Barenberg, Bruce Molsky, Mark Schatz, and a month-long tour in Germany with the g’earls from Uncle Earl. She has four full length albums: The Morgantown Rounders (2006), Hand on the Plow (2008 solo), Chilly Winds (2010 duo with Kristian Herner) and Nothin’ But Corn (2014 solo). Rachel’s most recent news is that she’s teaching Appalachian music and dance at West Virginia University and has just been picked up on their label.
This banjo workshop will focus a lot on how to use your thumb to make the banjo swing in different percussive rhythms. Participants will study common interchangeable phrases on the banjo and learn how to vary and utilize them in different ways. Very importantly, participants will work toward good economy of motion with their claws. This will not be a repertoire heavy workshop, but will rather use a handful of tunes that offer certain helpful techniques. There will be lots of playing as fingers on strings is the best way to learn! Being able to bum-ditty is required, and having some experience with drop thumbing will be very helpful. The class will be taught by ear. Audio recording is encouraged, and limited video recording is allowed.
For more than three decades Bob Shank has been a benchmark for American banjo players. Not bluegrass or old-time, or classical or ragtime, but all that and more. A sixth-generation West Virginian, Bob began his musical journey at age 5 with drums and piano and by age 13 he was firmly hooked on banjo. And then guitar. And then hammered dulcimer. And an abiding rock and roll sensibility. That all led to the formation, with Sam Morgan, Mark Walbridge, Pete Tenney, and Glen McCarthy, of the successful crossover band, Hickory Wind. Hickory Wind’s fusion of various traditional musical forms over (and under) layered with rock rhythms and fills got them all the way to opening for some of the best known acts of the time, including Steely Dan, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, and Jackson Brown. As Flying Fish recording artists, the band toured 30 American states and 20 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, recording three very favorably reviewed albums in the process. A new compilation of previously unreleased Hickory Wind material, No Fish Today, is available from CD Baby.
This workshop will cover more advanced clawhammer techniques. In it, participants will explore songs in a variety of tunings that showcase more difficult melodic passages up and down the scale, sometimes going above the 5th fret. Additionally, we will look at how basic elements such as rhythm, chords, scales, and harmony work together to make your playing richer and more musical. Want to play with others, perhaps in a jam session or a band? We’ll spend some time learning about the dynamics of performing in group settings. Finally, we will spend some time on improvisation. Working out a tune on the fly is an important skill, so early in the week we will find a new tune that the fiddlers are learning and work on it together. After all, fiddle players can always use some banjo players to keep them grounded in jam sessions.
Joe Herrmann is a singer and multi-instrumentalist. He co-founded The Critton Hollow String Band with his wife, Sam Herrmann, in 1975. He has toured internationally and recorded 8 albums. Joe plays music that draws from his background in traditional, folk, and old-time traditions.
This workshop is designed for complete beginners, or those that have just gotten a toe in the water (or even a foot). The workshop will build from the bottom up, through the basics and on to learning tunes. Joe loves to help people get started. Participants will leave the class with some tunes, practice techniques, and an inspiration and confidence to follow their desire to play. Participants should be sure to bring a recording device. Feel free to contact Joe about any concerns or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave Bing’s first Augusta experience was in 1983 when he and his brothers performed in concert for Old-Time Week. Two years later, he began teaching beginning fiddle and has taught every year since, developing his style of teaching to include all aspects of West Virginia fiddling. Dave began playing guitar at five years old, banjo in his mid-teens, and fiddle soon after. He was lucky to learn from several old-time fiddlers who had different styles, and he incorporated them into what has become his own style of fiddling. Dave has performed and taught old-time fiddle and banjo internationally with annual workshops in Spain and England. His style of teaching focuses on the rhythmic bowing techniques, different left hand methods, dynamics, and timing that make an old-time fiddle tune more appealing to listen to and more fun to play. In addition to teaching, Dave currently plays and performs with the trio High Ridge Ramblers. He now lives in Roane County, West Virginia, with his wife. He plays on his tractor on their farm, plays and teaches old-time West Virginia music, and builds violins.
In this workshop, Dave Bing will use local tunes as a tool for explaining bowing rhythm, left-hand technique, dynamics, and all the things that make a tune fun to play and listen to.
Bobby Taylor is a fourth generation West Virginia fiddler. He plays several styles of old-time and contest fiddling, but got his early start from the legendary Clark Kessinger, who influenced a world of fiddlers. He has a melting pot of old-time fiddle styles including the styles of his father, Lincoln Taylor (1911-1995), Ed Haley, Mike Humphreys, Benny Thomasson, Reece B. Jarvis, Doc Roberts, French Carpenter, and scores of others. He was the 1977 West Virginia State Open Fiddle Champion. In 2003, Bobby received the Footbridge Award. This award was presented by FOOTMAD (Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance) for his contributions to old-time music. Bobby was presented the 2010 Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor, by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. When fiddle enthusiast West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd passed away in July of 2010, Bobby was honored to be chosen to play Senator Byrd’s favorite fiddle tunes during the public visitation in the West Virginia Capitol rotunda, for the official memorial service, and for the private funeral services for the Byrd family. He was inducted into the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair Hall of Fame in Ripley, WV, in July of 2012 for his musical contributions to the State of West Virginia. Bobby has been the coordinator of West Virginia’s Vandalia Gathering contests at the State Capitol in Charleston since 1979. He was the contest coordinator of the Appalachian Open Contest from 1984 through 1987 and he has been the contest coordinator of the Appalachian String Band Music Festival contest since 1990. All of these events are sponsored by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Bobby retired as Library Manager of the West Virginia Archives and History Section of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History after 37 years of service. Bobby is a certified national fiddle judge. He is a nationally recognized consultant on rules and judging procedures for heritage music competitions. He has judged the Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia state championships and is a judge at the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, Virginia. He is a former judge of the Grand Master Fiddle Championship in Nashville, TN. He was selected to judge the 2007, 2010, and 2012 Western Open Fiddle Championship in Red Bluff, CA. He was a judge at Jana Jae’s Grand Lake National Fiddle Fest in 2006, 2007, and 2009 in Grove, OK. He judged the Grand National Fiddle Championship in Weiser, ID, in 2008. In addition to judging, Bobby has a long history as a fiddle instructor. He has taught fiddle workshops at Augusta and Allegheny Echoes in West Virginia, the 2012 and 2015 Midwest Banjo Camp in Michigan, and the 2013 Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, WA. He has performed on musical tours in Australia and Ireland. He was a featured performer at the National Folk Festival in Australia in March of 2008and at the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center on August 16, 2012. The Library of Congress show was recorded for their permanent collection.
This workshop will focus on bowing techniques and noting patterns for playing old-time fiddle styles. The goal of these sessions will be to share techniques that will be useable in other tunes. Bobby will provide avenues for playing both smooth and spirited styles. Learning some new tunes and just having fun, participants will go over passages many times to try and lock in the feeling and soul of the tunes. At the end of these sessions, participants will leave with new ideas on how to pull good tone and to create easier flow within tunes. Some tunes may be written out, but it is necessary for everyone to have a recording device. It is always good to have these recordings for future reference so the tunes are not lost.
Sam Herrmann has played hammered dulcimer since building her first one in 1975. Co-founder of Critton Hollow Stringband in 1976, she has toured extensively in the US, Canada, and the UK, performing and teaching workshops at many major festivals. Her band was considered the “house band” in the early years of the Augusta Heritage Workshop, and Sam taught the hammered dulcimer repertoire class for many summers. Sam’s dulcimer playing has always focused on traditional fiddle tunes.
This workshop is for folks who have some experience playing and learning tunes. There is no need to have a huge bag of experience, but the class isn’t for folks with no experience. The workshop will focus on a rhythmic approach to playing fiddle tunes using tunes with roots in West Virginia and the surrounding region of Appalachia. Being part of October Old-Time Week will allow you to surround yourself with an undeniable wealth of inspiration for the tradition of fiddle and banjo rhythms.
Beckley native Hunter Walker has been in demand as a teacher and performer in Appalachia and surrounding areas in recent years. He has performed at prestigious venues such as Theatre West Virginia, the Vandalia Gathering, and Mountain Stage. While proficient at guitar and mandolin, he is best known for his virtuosity and innovation on the banjo and mountain dulcimer. His skill on the dulcimer has merited him the titles four time WV State Dulcimer Champion, TN Open Grand Youth Champion, three time Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention Dulcimer Champion, Mid-Atlantic Regional Dulcimer Champion, as well as numerous other first place finishes at Fiddlers’ Conventions. When Hunter is not teaching, you may spot him jamming at festivals. He is excited to see the rich Appalachian music heritage passed on.