Another Group Class: Oldtime String Band, Levels 1/2

Thomas Sneed

For anyone who plays fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, ukulele, or autoharp, and singers are welcome too. This class is designed for musicians who want to get together with other musicians and have a great time while learning to play as a stringband. We will search out material together, gather ideas and lyrics from different versions of both songs and tunes and then practice the art of interpretation, looking at the mechanics of putting a song or tune together so that our “cover” of an old-time song or tune becomes unique. What can we bring to the music collectively, based on the study of certain recordings and our ability as a group? As we move along, we will cultivate our own set of music as a real live string band with the goal of creating a setlist of which we are proud. We will strive to put lots of ingredients from the old-time world into our set list. We will study elements of performing, including how to prepare a set, MC work and what it can add to the perfomance, using the power of all the band members, and what it means to bring historic music to a modern performance. 

Prerequisites: Students should have a basic knowledge of their instrument, the ability to tune their instrument, a handful of basic chords (guitar, mandolin) and know how to play some classic old-time tunes. Most importantly they should bring an interest in the history and performance of folk/old-time music. A desire to work well with other musicians for the common good of a band is helpful.

Bring: Your instrument and ideas, maybe a list of the fiddle tunes and/or songs that you like to play. This will be helpful in finding common material. Thomas will bring lots of songs and tunes, but will also look to include material that we all know. Bring a recording device—your phone or small recorder is fine. Please bring a strap for your instrument, capo, tuner, and music stand if you have one.

Thomas Sneed is a mandolin player and musicologist with a passion for American Roots Music. For over 30 years, he has participated in music festivals and gatherings around the world. In 1997, he was a founding member of the old-time stringband, Reeltime Travelers, which included work with producer T-Bone Burnett on the Down From the Mountain tour and the Cold Mountain movie soundtrack. Thomas's passion for old music led to friendships and collaborations with National Heritage Fellowship Award winning fiddler, Ralph Blizard (1918-2004) and field work with folklorist, Mike Seeger (1933-2009). He has performed at numerous festivals and venues including the Grand Ole Opry, Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the Kennedy Center. Currently, he performs with New Reeltime Travelers and as a duet with Ben Winship.  Based in Alta, Wyoming, Thomas has also been the Director of Targhee Music Camp since 2011.

    Thomas enjoys teaching and sharing his passion for music. He has created many workshops around American Roots Music, from folk song classes for elementary school students to music history presentations for senior citizens. He believes that everyone with an interest in folk music can make good music. He has worked in collaboration with, and taught classes and workshops for, the Archives of Appalachia, Center for Appalachian Studies and the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance, Nimblefingers Music Camp, Grass Valley Music Camp and the Alaska Folk Arts Music Camp. We are delighted to have him join us here at Walker Creek.

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