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Sing Behind the Plow lampshade by Ron Nichols

Sing Behind the Plow lampshade by Ron Nichols

Blacksmith Work Week is an annual Folk School tradition bringing 20 professional blacksmiths/instructors from around the country together to volunteer their time for the purposes of 1) beautifying the Folk School campus with functional ironwork; 2) repairing and creating new tools and infrastructure for the Blacksmithing program; and 3) spending a week learning and exchanging in the company of peers and mentors.Work Week was started by Clay Spencer (namesake of the new blacksmith shop) in the early 1990s and is currently coordinated by Paul Garrett, resident artist blacksmith. I had the chance to visit the shop and interview some of the blacksmiths as they put finishing touches on their projects and reflected on their connection to this very special community and yearly opportunity to participate in Work Week.

Leah Dolgoy: Paul, how’s it gone this week? What were your priority projects and what’s been accomplished during Work Week?

Paul Garrett: There were many priorities this year. One was making chandeliers for upstairs. They won’t get done this year but we’ll keep working on them next year. The shop is named after Clay Spencer so I gave Clay free reign on the design and he chose something very contemporary and out of the ordinary. Other priorities included work in some of the studios. We mounted some equipment for the Jewelry studio. We built a pot rack for the cooking studio. And we finished installing the door latches I made for the main door to the new blacksmith shop. We made two treadle hammers, and two treadle torches. We fixed a lot of tools – hammers and tongs, punches and grips. We also do whatever else pops up. I really wanted to do the Keith House door so that got done this year. We etched and epoxied the bathroom floor in the shop so that housekeeping can come in and clean it more easily now. Then there are all the little things that come up. I have these little job sheets that I put out and I find that works well. People pick their jobs based on their area of interest and expertise.

LD: What does it mean to be the coordinator of this thing that everyone regards as so special?

New door hardware for the Blacksmith Shop made by Paul Garrett

New door hardware for the Blacksmith Shop made by Paul Garrett

PG: For me, it’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of Work Week. I just love having everyone here. As the coordinator, it’s up to me to make the most of it. We have 1000 hours of volunteer labor every year. My role is to keep everyone else working, and to make sure that they can get what they need to get the job done. Funny story – 13 or 14 years ago I came here as a student, and I asked Clay if I could come to Work Week. And basically he said no, because he had enough people and he didn’t really know me that well. (laughs) It wasn’t to be mean or anything. He just had his team that he needed. I understand that now that I am on the other side of it. I believe this is my 10th year as the Work Week coordinator.

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A group of victorious girls show off their bounty from this year's Egg Hunt

A group of victorious girls show off their bounty from this year’s Egg Hunt

Carrot triumph!

Carrot triumph!

The Annual Easter Egg Hunt at the Folk School this past Saturday was a merry affair. A frisky and frolicking group of young ones with empty baskets in hand congregated with their families at Open House around 1 p.m. Egg hunters waited patiently behind the red tape for the sign to start. When the signal was given, fun-loving chaos ensued as children raced to find hidden treasures. Baskets were filled and it was smiles all around. A big thanks to David Brose, Host Bonnie and other volunteers for making the best a big success! We hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend! Enjoy our photos from this fun day:

The egg hunters waited patiently with empty baskets and buckets behind the red tape for the signal to start the hunt.

The egg hunters waited patiently with empty baskets and buckets behind the red tape for the signal to start the hunt.

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Dance Musicians Week students serenade folks as they enter the Dining Hall for lunch.


Student learn to play together as a dance band.

In 2001, I received a message from Bob Dalsemer asking if I would join the instructor team for Dance Musicians Week at the John C. Campbell Folk School. Lifelong mentor, fiddler, caller and instructor extraordinaire David Kaynor had thrown my name out to Bob, the music and dance coordinator at the school at the time. At that point I was living in Western Massachusetts playing with David and the Greenfield Dance Band and had been devoting much of my time to being a touring singer songwriter. I had been in the contra dance scene picking tunes for about a decade. My musical influences were a woven patchwork of the folks that had surrounded me growing up in New York—Jay Unger, Lyn Hardy, Molly Mason, Sonny Ochs, Pete Seeger. Being born into a family of activists and labor organizers, community was most important and music was (and is) the vehicle and the glue that tied it all together. We were raised to believe that music and dance for music and dance’s sake is not enough. Community first.


A band of DMW students takes the stage for one of the nightly contra dances.

“Sing behind the plow!” is one of the great mottos of the John C. Campbell Folk School. Upon first look into the Folk School it seemed to be a kind of Brigadoon, a place stuck in time. Of course, I mean that in the best way. At that point in my life I was lamenting the waning of “community” in “community dance” and was excited to see a place nestled in the far west mountains of North Carolina, founded in the 1920s by the grandmother of the twentieth-century folk music revival, Olive Dame Campbell. Mrs. Campbell based the philosophy of the Folk School on the Danish tradition of folkenhojskolen which aims to foster culture and tradition through noncompetitive adult education—metalwork, quilting, woodwork, photography, cooking—happening alongside a rich tradition of music and dance, with folks from the surrounding Brasstown community invited to weekly concerts and dances and given special admittance into classes. I heard a student once comment “This place is like a kind of Whoville!” referencing the idealistic village from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. This is exemplified best by the very fact that each dance ends with a short goodnight song, sung with hands joined in a circle. The facilities are surrounded by hills, rivers, lush gardens, outdoor folky sculptures and paths through the woods. Best of all, the dancers are not contra “dancers”—they are mostly just folks from the community. Their gauge of a great experience is more based on who they got to see that night, not how slick the floor was or what tempo the band had played. I had found my place, or maybe the place found me! [click to continue…]


Calling all Dance Callers

by Annie Fain Barralon on April 1, 2014

in Featured Classes, Featured Teacher, Music! Dancing!

Former Dance Caller's Workshop student Leah Dolgoy calls a dance in the Community Room. Photo by Lee Depkin.

Leah Dolgoy, a former Dance Caller’s Workshop student, calls a dance in the Community Room. (Photo by Lee Depkin)

Have you already done some contra or square dance calling, are an experienced dancer and looking to take your skills to the next level?

Join not one, but TWO dance calling masters for a week of all day, hands on, calling experience and mentorship.

The Dance Callers Workshop (June 15-21) emphasizes program planning, teaching techniques, working with beginners and effectively using live music. Individualized instruction can also include various styles of traditional square dance calling. Two daily practice sessions with a group of real live dancers and nightly public dances ensure plenty of microphone time, particularly because the class is limited to 6 students.

Meet your instructors:

Caller-BobBob Dalsemer

Bob Dalsemer has been calling square, contra, and English country dances for more than 40 years. He has called throughout the U.S. and in Canada, England, Denmark, Belgium, Russia, and the Czech Republic. Bob’s original dance compositions are danced at contra dances throughout the country. He is the author of “West Virginia Square Dances” and has collected traditional square dances in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. In 2011, Bob received the Country Dance and Song Society’s Lifetime Contribution Award. Visit Bob’s website.

Caller-DianeSilverDiane Silver

Diane Silver has been a die-hard contra dancer, swing dancer, and kitchen flat-footer for over 10 years. As an instructor and a caller, she loves sharing high-energy dancing that allows everyone to “play” with the band. Highly acclaimed for her clear, efficient teaching, positive energy, and spirit of community building, Diane is great at breaking down moves and adapting to individual learning styles. Her motto: “I can’t believe this much fun is legal!” Visit Diane’s site.

On top of it all, your live music for the week are the renowned Folk School favorites, Steve Hickman & John Devine.  

Steve Hickman on fiddle and John Devine on guitar

Steve Hickman on fiddle and John Devine on guitar

They have performed as staff musicians for a number of Folk School music and dance programs over the years. Steve has toured with numerous bands singing and playing fiddle and harmonica for more than 25 years.  He is especially well-known for his basters of the art of “hambone” or body percussion.  John Devine specializes in contemporary folk songs as well as standards from the 1930s and 1940s.  Together, they play a wide variety of country, folk, bluegrass, Irish, swing and traditional old time music.

Register for the Dance Caller’s Workshop today.


Here are a few details of a Christening Gown handcrafted by heirloom certified seamstress, Connie Foley.




Phone The Craft Shop for more information or come by and see Connie’s exquisite work! 

You may even get to meet Connie too!


The Craft Shop Hours:

Mon., Tue., Wed., Fri., Sat. – 8am-5pm
Thu. – 8am-6pm
Sun. – 1-5pm
Phone for pricing and shipping info: 828-837-3899
Or, stop by, we’d love to see you!

Handcrafted Merchandise Arriving Daily
At John C. Campbell Folk School Craft Shop!

Bottom floor of the Olive Dame Campbell Dining Hall. Campus Map