Where to Play Bluegrass In Appalachia

If you’re yearning to join a jam session in Bluegrass country, head to these workshops and camps first.

In our July/August 2012 issue, Emma John’s musical odyssey across North Carolina revealed the mysteries of the bluegrass genre. But if she made you want to pick up a banjo and join a jam session, you’re going to need to know the difference between the Clawhammer and Scruggs picking styles, among other things. These camps and workshops have got you covered. While we can’t promise a record deal, we guarantee you’ll have some good old-fashioned fun.

Camps and workshops occur at various times throughout the year. Check websites for dates and prices, as they tend to change.

Bear on the Square Mountain Festival, Dalonehga, GA
Join a bluegrass slow jam or learn how to launch your own band at these Saturday and Sunday workshops. There are intensive three-hour sessions for bluegrass fiddle with David Blackmon and bluegrass banjo with Greg Earnest, while intermediate players can attend group Master classes.

Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy, Gatlinburg, TN
15 instructors, including Kristin Scott-Benson of the Grammy-nominated band The Grascals, run this three-day overnight camp. Genres covered include bluegrass, jazz, minstrel, and classical. Each camper gets a one-on-one lesson with the instructor of his or her choice.

NashCamp Bluegrass, Nashville, TN
At this weeklong program in the Tennessee hills, singers and instrumentalists take instructional classes in the morning and electives in the afternoon like learning the ins and outs of the music business. The week culminates with a camper concert at the Station Inn in Nashville. If a full week doesn’t fit into your schedule, a three-day banjo camp is available for players of all levels.

North Carolina Banjo Clinic, Asheville, NC
This two-day camp accommodates everyone from novices to advanced players, with classes focused on Scruggs, Clawhammer, or Melodic-style banjo. Recorders and video machines welcome.

Peter Wernick Bluegrass Camp, Boomer, NC
Pete “Dr.Banjo” Wernick offers bluegrass jam camps nationwide. Wernick focuses on students’ desire to play music in a laid back social setting—teaching how to fit one’s ability into a jam session.

Swannanoa Gathering, Asheville, NC
In the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Warren Wilson College’s continuing education program offers weekly folk arts workshops on Celtic, Mando, and Fiddle music.

The Walker Family Band Music workshops, Greensboro, NC
Music classes, elective arts, and performances are all part of the Walker Family Band experience. Camps and workshops appeal to as many musical appetites as possible, with programs on a variety of stringed instruments along with songwriting and music theory classes.

Blue Ridge Old-Time Music week, Mars Hill, NC
There are over 20 summer courses to choose from at Mars Hill College, including Traditional Country Singing with Alice Gerrard, Advanced Ragtime Fiddle with Curly Miller, and Mountain Dulcimer with Margaret Wright.

Festival of Bluegrass, Lexington, KY
The Kentucky Horse Park Campground is the venue for a four-day concert featuring bands like the Seldom Scene and The Moron Brothers. Musicians-in-training, aged 6-18, may attend the three-day music camp prior to the festival for instruction on the guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and upright bass.

John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, NC
Opened in 1925 thanks to a 25-acre land donation from a local storekeeper, the Folk School offers over 860 weeklong and weekend classes year round from basketry to writing. The Music Studio boasts 37 classes from Beginning Hammered Dulcimer to Surviving and Thriving in Jam Sessions.

>>Next: A Locals’ Guide to Where to Go in Nashville Right Now

Born in the suburbs of New York, and educated in the not-so suburbs of Boston, my travels have taken me from Peru to Tonga. Having experienced everything from backpacking to studying abroad, and volunteering to WWOOFing, I love to find new ways to trek the globe. After a short stint as a teacher at a charter school in Brooklyn I changed course. I took up writing meshed with travel as a potential career path. Now, as an editorial intern at Afar, I am cutting my teeth at a prospering magazine.
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