2021 Classes: 

Classes listed in blue are predominantly for fiddle. Classes in red type indicate instruments other than fiddle are welcome!

If you have questions about classes, your playing level or about festival logistics, feel free to contact our festival office. upperpotomac@gmail.com (304 263-2531)

Class 1 – Saturday 10am-12 noon

  • Beg +: Intro to Fiddle  (Ken Kolodner)   CANCELLED DUE TO LOW ENROLLMENT
    The course will help participants be efficient, effective and confident learners, and to enjoy the main groove of playing traditional old time music. It will include helpful tips on mechanics, techniques, and resources, as well as lots of individual coaching and feedback, while learning some great tunes along the way.

  • Int: Old Time Stringband Class (Erynn and Carl)                                                                                      In this old-time ensemble class, Carl and Erynn will play several of their favorite, southern, fiddle and banjo tunes at slow and faster tempos. All instruments are welcome. We will form an all-star stringband  having fun playing tunes from West Virginia, Round Peak, Mississippi and everything in-between. It will be like a jam with tips on old-time style, rhythm or chord back-up.  Repertoire will be taught quickly by ear during the workshop.  You are invited to join this group of merry music makers! 

  • Adv Beg - Int: The Essential English Fiddler (Sam Sweeney)
     If you play English fiddle music, you have to make your own style to a certain extent! But I am more than happy to go into that in depth and talk about how I have arrived at my style of playing, taking people on a journey from Playford through to players like Eliza Carthy, John Dipper and my own style with some examples of tunes for learning.

  •  Adv.: French Canadian Fiddle Tunes to Make Your Head Explode (Pascal Gemme)                          Some totally great tunes that are fun to learn!                                                                                            Class 2 – Saturday 2-4:00pm

  • All Levels: Old Time Favorites for All (Ken and Brad Kolodner with Alex Laquemont)                          A play-along jam session of all your favorite tunes, first played slow a few times and then stepped up to a more moderate pace.

  • Adv: Beg.- Int.  New England Fiddle  (Becky Tracy)                                                                        Explore the method of playing tunes from Ireland, Scotland, French Canada, New England and the Appalachians which drives the popular contra dances.    

  • Int.:  Introduction to Cape Breton Fiddle (Wendy MacIsaac) 

  • Int - Adv: Acadie-Quebec: the Gaspe Coast and northeastern New Brunswick (Lisa Ornstein)            Lisa will be teaching some beautiful fiddle tunes from the Gaspe Peninsula and northeastern New Brunswick, where Quebec and Acadie come together in lilting tunes with a distinctly regional swing and buoyancy. Please be prepared to play in two cross tunings: ADAE and AEAE.

 Mini Classes -4:30- 6:00pm 

Adv. Beg.- Int.  Saddle your Inner Pony! French Canadian Foot Percussion (Pascal Gemme)                     Learn the mechanics of the foot percussion that accompanies French Canadian song, fiddle, guitar and more.  Get your exercise without leaving your chair!  Join the million mile club!  

All Levels Fiddle Tunes on Old Time Banjo (Brad Kolodner)    4:30-6:30pm                                                  

 In this workshop geared towards players of all levels, discover the tools and methods to “clawhammerify” fiddle tunes and improving your ability to learn by ear. Many of the melodies we love in Old Time music ring through loud and clear on fiddle in jams or on recordings. However, it can be a challenge to learn how to adapt the melody for clawhammer. A tune will be taught on fiddle as a vehicle for understanding how to translate a fiddle tune into a banjo tune and how to improve your listening skills. Liberate yourself of tablature and gain the confidence you need to sit down in a jam and play along without knowing the tunes in advance!

Class 3 – Sunday 10am-12 noon

  • Int.  The Magic of Sligo Fiddle (Brian Conway)                                                                                  This class will focus on the relationship between bowing, phrasing and ornamentation in traditional Irish fiddling. Repertoire will mostly consist of traditional tunes rather than recent compositions with a particular focus on classic traditional tunes. Brian will teach one tune from each of the three main dance forms, jig, hornpipe and reel. This will be an interactive format in which questions from the students will be encouraged.. 

  • Int.: The Nitty Gritty of Old-Time Fiddle Bowing  (Erynn Marshall)                                                  In this class we will learn a tune that uses an array of old-time bowing including pulses, shuffle bow and a variety of bow rocks. Often ornaments in southern fiddling are achieved with the bow-hand but some noting-hand ornaments will be covered for good measure. We’ll talk about the “rhythmic skeleton” of the tune, how cool bowing accents are, and the back beat too. Come play with us or just listen if you are new to old-time fiddling but are interested what bowing fun lies on the horizon. 

  • Int. Quintessentially English Repertoire: Morris Jig and 3/2 Hornpipe (Sam Sweeney)                           Learn a few tunes that are an essential part of English repertoire, the morris jig and the 3/x hornpipe.                                                   

  • Int.-Adv  Exploring French Balfolk Music (Rachel Bell)                                                                                 French dances are enjoying a surge in popularity... learn some tunes to drive the popular dances from lively bourees to meditative andros from Brittany.

  • Adv Beg – Int: Old Time Guitar  (Carl Jones)   TENTATIVE DUE TO LOW ENROLLMENT                      An Old Time Guitar workshop exploring ways to back up fiddle tunes and songs using various techniques such as outlining parts of the melodies within the chords, exploring “up” and “down” bass walks, and using some basic theory to feel at ease using more of the fingerboard while we enjoy tapping into the guitars amazing supportive  potential.  A good basic chord knowledge and moderate changing speed would be beneficial as well.


Class 4 – Sunday 2:00-4:00 pm

  • Adv. Beg.- Int.  Exploration of French Canadian Fiddle (Pascal Gemme)                                               If you are enthusiastic or curious about the music of La Belle Province then this workshop is for you. You'll have the possibility of learning some hot sounding tunes that are easy to play from the Québécois repertoire which includes Brandys (3/4), Galops, Cotillions, Jigs, Marches and "straight" reels with even or odd number of parts.  Bowing and ornamentation will be discussed and taught as well as how to incorporate the music in your own personal style.  

  • Int.-Adv.  Old Time Fiddle Style Journey (Lisa Ornstein)                                                                 Classic Tunes from Tommy Jarrell and Wayne Perry. In this two-hour Zoom class we'll delve into two classic, but frequently ignored tunes: Soldier's Joy and Old Joe Clark. Tommy Jarrell had possibly best take on "Soldier's Joy" of anyone who ever lifted a fiddle. His version of Old Joe Clark is another treasure; so is Louisiana fiddler Wayne Perry. We'll dig deep into what makes these versions so compelling and I guarantee they'll go from the bottom of the heap to the top of your tune list! Please be prepared to play in two cross tunings: ADAE and AEAE.

  • Int. -Adv.: Put together a Cape Breton Set (Wendy MacIsaac)                                                          Learn three pieces and put together the classic Cape Breton set of March, Strathspey and Reel.       


  • Int – Adv Playing for the English Country Dance (Rachel Bell)                                                             We'll work on learning an English country dance tune and playing it well, with attention to phrasing and articulation. We'll talk a lot about how to make the music danceable-- both how to give attention to fitting the music with the choreography, and how to just make people want to dance! We'll talk about energy and drive as well as beauty and spaciousness. We'll talk about how to build an energy arc over the course of the dance and how to use simple tricks to create elements of excitement and surprise for the dancers. We'll talk about ensemble ideas such as harmonies, chords, and how to create variations on the melody. Sight reading is essential.