Learn How to Play Nice Together

I secretly took this video perched on the second floor of the Blacksmith Shop on a pretty typical evening at the Folk School. Who are these folks? A new hot old time band? A group of old friends playing from a chosen repertoire? Nope. They are a group of students, instructors, and Folk School folks who heard the word at dinner that a music jam was happening that night in the Blacksmith Shop. I am sure that this particular group had never all played together previously and have never practiced this tune as a group.

Observe, below, jammers in their natural habitat:

OFM027HYou might ask: How can this be? How can the tune sound so good? This is the magic of a jam! Musicians of all levels can come together to play music and create magic. You can find string/acoustic jams all over the place, not just at the Folk School. From small towns to large urban cities, there are thriving jam communities all over the map. There is most likely one in your area too.

Jams are a fun and unique way to connect and communicate with other musicians. It may seem intimidating to jump in and join the group, especially if you don’t know the tune. The Folk School is offering a great line-up of classes to get you playing well with others. Gain confidence to join in jams, learn about keys, tunings and chord changes, and understand etiquette. Take a class focused on playing with other musicians, and soon you’ll be jamming with confidence!

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Around the Keith House with Irish Set Dancing

I took this photo from the Rock of Cashel in Ireland. On this trip I actually had the confidence to jump in a dancefloor and do what I learn in Irish Set Dancing at the Folk School. It was magical!
I took this photo from the Rock of Cashel in Ireland. On this trip, I had the confidence to jump into a community dance and practice what I learned in Irish Set Dancing at the Folk School. It was magical!
Irish Set Dancing in the Community Room
Irish Set Dancing in the Community Room

The last time Irish Set Dancing was offered at the Folk School, I decided to sign up to try something new. I love to dance and I am half Irish in the ancestry department, so I thought it would be a good match. As a beginner to the style, I didn’t know what to expect, so the anticipation built as I walked into the Community Room on Friday night. What happened for the next 12 or so waking hours was joy, revelry, laughter, community and fun!

If you are familiar with American Square Dancing at all, Irish Set dancing is like the distant Celtic relative waving at you from across the Atlantic. Both Irish Set Dancing and Square Dancing derive from quadrilles, so they are a little similar. Jim Morrison is an excellent teacher who will break down the moves and figures patiently and clearly. The music is jumpin’ and lively and keep you in the St. Patty’s spirit for the rest of March.

Jim's Irish Set Dancing class takes advantage of the nice weather and dances in Open House, our open air pavilion, by the garden.
Jim’s Irish Set Dancing class takes advantage of the nice weather and dances in Open House, our open air pavilion, by the garden.

Irish Set Dancing
Jim & Owen Morrison (March 20-22 Weekend)

The border between counties Cork and Kerry witnessed the rise of a unique style of Irish music and dance. Here polkas and slides still dominate the dance tune repertoire, and musicians trace their roots to music masters Padraig O’Keefe or Tom Billy Murphy, active a century ago. The dances are descendants of the 19th-century polka quadrille. They are fast-paced, exciting, and so easy to pick up that you’ll leave the weekend able to show a set to an unsuspecting group of friends. Register on our website.


Watch a video of an Irish Set Dancing Class Performance at Show and Tell:

Corinna Rose and Leah Dolgoy to Play Special Monday Night Concert

Leah & Corinna Rose. Image is a video still from a project byl Grace Glowicki.
Leah & Corinna Rose. Image is a video still from a project by Grace Glowicki.

Please join us Monday March 2nd at 7 p.m. in the Keith House Community Room for a free Monday night concert that welcomes Montreal acoustic folk duo Corinna Rose and Leah Dolgoy for their first appearance together at the Folk School.

While this will be Corinna’s first Folk School experience, we are delighted to welcome back two-time student host, Leah Dolgoy and to see how her Folk School mountain musical education weaves its way into her Montreal-based indy-folk project. I caught up with Leah to ask her a little bit about this:

Cory Marie: Leah! We are so excited that you are coming to see us. We’ve missed you! Tell me about your band and what you’ve been up to.

Leah: Corinna and I have been playing together for five years and have been touring together for nearly as long. We’ve recorded two studio albums with a larger ensemble and one acoustic EP that we put together live of just the two of us. We are heading back into studio to record our second acoustic EP at the end of March. I love the direction of Corinna’s songwriting and it’s been inspiring for me to push the boundaries of my main instrument (autoharp) as well as to incorporate my Folk School musical knowledge and training on folk harp into her new material. I think the sweet little Campbellin I made in John Huron’s class last year might even make an appearance on the new record. The Folk School has had such a profound influence on my life and way of seeing the world. I know that this is reflected in the music we play in all sorts of ways. Next Monday, we’ll probably even play a few tunes that I learned in Brasstown and taught to Corinna.

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Strumming Along on the Uke

Want to play an instrument to accompany singing?
Don’t want to sing?  Just have fun strumming along.
Four fingers, four strings… the ukulele was made for you!

Try Beginning Ukulele with instructor Peter Thomas February 22-27.

Learn basic chords, keys and styles like Hapa-Haole, Tin Pan Alley, old timey, bluegrass, folk, and rock – the uke can handle them all!

Thomas_Peter_MU_BA_ 2_BIO


Peter has fond memories of his dad playing the ukulele. Peter says his dad only knew three chords, but could sing and play any song with just those three cords. Peter grew up singing old songs to the the strumming of the uke.

Time went by and Peter learned to play guitar and bass. In the early 1990’s his brother mentioned he had a ukulele and that he should get one too, and they could play along with their dad.

Peter bought his first ukulele at a flea market. It was a nice Aloha Royal Hawaiian ukulele for only twenty bucks. With the old instruction manual, he tuned up the uke to A,D, F#, B (what he now calls the mainland tuning) like the manual told him to do and learned the chords.

The family didn’t form a band together, but he and his dad enjoyed playing songs like “Moonlight Bay,” “Pretty Baby,” and “Dark Town Strutter’s Ball.” He fell in love with the ukulele and brought it with him everywhere he went.


In 2002, Peter founded the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz with Andy Andrews. From that time he has been leading ukulele bands, selling ukuleles, ukulele books and teaching ukulele lessons.

Peter Thomas will be teaching Beginning Ukulele, February 22-27 at the Folk School.

For more information or to register, please our visit the website: folkschool.org

Visit Peter Thomas’ website.

Kick Your Heels Up for Clogging

Folk School Cloggers perform on the Fall Festival Barn Stage
Folk School Cloggers perform on the Fall Festival Barn Stage

With the arrival of 2015, exercise, learning, and self-improvement are on all our minds right now. A clogging class at the Folk School is a great way to learn something new, all while getting your heart rate up at the same time. Clogging is unique because you move to the rhythm and also interpret the music to create percussion with your feet… we like to call clogging “old-time aerobics” up here in the mountains.

Come learn more about these traditional percussive dance styles in three exciting weekend clogging classes scheduled in 2015:

Emolyn clogs on the Fall Festival Stage with Jamie Laval
Emolyn on the Fall Festival Stage with Jamie Laval

Appalachian Clogging
Emolyn Liden
(February 27-March 1)

Start a joyful hobby that is great exercise, too. Join Emolyn, who has been dancing her entire life, to learn a variety of percussive steps and short group routines to wonderful, live fiddle music. You’ll soon be dancing to your heart’s content! The only requirement is a basic level of fitness to stand and be active for a couple of hours at a time.

Emolyn is a Brasstown native. Exposed constantly to traditional music and dance, she started clogging and contra dancing at a very young age and has not stopped pursuing her love of different forms of dance. She has danced with the Cane Creek Cloggers of Chapel Hill, the Green Grass Cloggers of Asheville, with fiddler Jamie Laval, and with Cape Breton step-dancing team, The Twisty Cuffs. Enjoy her blog at www.emolynknits.blogspot.com.

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