Spend a month exploring the history and varied music and dance traditions unique to Appalachia. Learn about the importance of music and dance in the Folk School model. Immerse yourself in the history of African American music in Appalachia and its traditional tunes and styles. Study the history of old-time music through the banjo and dive deep into Appalachian traditions of music, dance and song. Best for multi-instrumentalists who are interested in expanding their repertoire and developing their career skills.

This session is part of our Traditional Craft Mentorship Program, a grant-funded opportunity for early to mid-career artists to spend a month at the Folk School this fall, learning from master artisans. To learn more, visit our About page. To apply for a spot in our Session 1 Music mentorship, visit our Slideroom application.

Week 1: September 20 – 26

Traditional Song and Dance and the Folk School Model

Annie Fain Barralon

Start this special month with a solid introduction to the Folk School model and the place of song and dance within. Try your hand at a few songs collected by Olive Dame Campbell, experience a sampling of Appalachian dance styles, and learn about their roots. Expect listening and video sessions, historical context, discussion, practice time, and room to explore your own interests. Join an instructor with a degree in Appalachian studies, who is a multi-instrumentalist and teacher and performer of traditional dance. Tap into her Brasstown beginnings, accented by a life-changing experience at a Danish folkehøjskole.

Week 2: September 27 – October 3

African American and Appalachian Musical Connections 

Kathy Bullock

Learn about African American musical and cultural connections in Appalachia. Through the study of historical context, the music of genres including spiritual, ragtime, blues, and gospel, and study of the music makers, gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the many African American musical contributions to Appalachia. Learn vocal and instrumental songs and dance, immersing yourself in rich and exciting traditions and styles. Instruments including tambourines, djembe drums, and shekere and other rattles are welcome, but not required.

Week 3: October 4 – 10

Clawhammer Banjo – Then and Now

Riley Baugus

Focus on the traditional clawhammer banjo style, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. Build from the ground up, learning songs section-by-section, and methods piece-by-piece. Explore tunes and techniques that will expand your banjo abilities and musical options. Also delve into some banjo history, including notable players of yesterday and today. As traditions change, discover how our opportunities to keep this unique instrument in tune with the times continue to grow.

Week 4: October 11-17

Playing, Dancing, and Singing Appalachian Style

Aubrey Atwater

Get ready for a week of Appalachian wonders! Learn freestyle flatfoot clogging and play-party dances, sing traditional songs, and play instruments – all as a means to explore the cultural history and heritage of Appalachia, north and south. As time allows, instruments will include mountain dulcimer, banjo, guitar, mandolin, and limberjack. When it’s time to rest your fingers and feet, learn from other folk musicians and dancers, and bend your ear for Aubrey’s radio segments on traditional music and dance. Add in some discussion on exciting career opportunities and call yourself well-versed in many Appalachian talents.

Annie Fain Barralon

Annie Fain Barralon is a native of the crafts and music/dance community of Brasstown and the Folk School’s former Music & Dance Coordinator. She teaches a variety of classes at the school including book arts, clawhammer banjo, and several styles of dance: Appalachian clogging, English waltz clog, Northwest Morris, and Bal Folk (learned when she married into a French family). Annie Fain plays banjo and banjo uke for the all-woman string band, Blue Eyed Girl, and has danced with both Loafers Glory Clog Morris and the Green Grass Cloggers. She sells her handmade books, gift cards, and original watercolors regionally and is a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild.

Visit Annie Fain’s website.

Dr. Kathy Bullock

Kathy Bullock is a retired professor of music at Berea College, who also provides workshops and other musical programs in African American sacred music throughout the United States, Europe, and Africa. A performer, conductor, accompanist, arranger, and scholar, she specializes in gospel music, spirituals, and classical music of the African diaspora, sharing the joy of this music-culture everywhere she goes. Dr. Bullock’s research in African and African-American music and culture and the African diaspora has afforded her the opportunity to provide presentations including Singing in the Spirit, African-American Sacred Music, and African-American and Appalachian Musical Connections.

Visit Dr. Kathy Bullock’s website.

Riley Baugus

Riley Baugus first discovered traditional music through his family and early exposure to church and ballad singing. He is now a much sought-after banjo player, maker, and instructor. Riley was the acapella singing voice of Pangle in the film “Cold Mountain,” followed by participation in the Great High Mountain tour. He has performed or recorded with the likes of Tim O’Brien, Dirk Powell, Alison Krauss, and Willie Nelson, and he teaches workshops both nationally and abroad.

Visit Riley’s website.

Aubrey Atwater

Aubrey Atwater from Warren, Rhode Island, is an award-winning folk musician, vocalist, writer, and dancer. A performer and teacher throughout the U.S. and beyond, she sings and plays mountain dulcimer, old-time banjo, guitar, mandolin, and Irish whistle, and thrills audiences with highly percussive traditional clogging. In a scholarly yet easy-going way, Aubrey conveys the heritage behind traditional folk music and dance, and has spent years around older, source players and singers from Appalachia and the Ozarks. Aubrey and her husband, Elwood Donnelly, have produced 13 recordings and 7 books.

Visit Aubrey’s website.

During these mentorships, our instructors will also be presenting a series of Virtual Demonstrations. These programs are open to the public and will cost $10 to attend via Zoom. Lean more: Traditional Craft Mentorships: Virtual Demonstrations.

Photos of Annie Fain Barralon by Terry Clarke. All Other Photos Courtesy of the Artists, or from the Folk School Archives.

John C. Campbell Folk School
About John C. Campbell Folk School

The Folk School transforms lives, bringing people together in a nurturing environment for experiences in learning and community life that spark self-discovery. Located in scenic Brasstown, North Carolina, the Folk School offers year-round weeklong and weekend classes for adults in craft, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography and writing.