The Boston Bluegrass Union sponsors and supports instrument and vocal classes for beginners to advanced, taught by our region’s best bluegrass musicians.


Classes by Tony Watt

Tony Watt is offering several classes  starting this March 2014 in Cambridge, MA:

(1) Wernick Method Bluegrass Jamming Class  —  Saturdays at 2 pm

–  for those who want practice jamming with other including teacher direction

–  open to all instruments and all levels

–  only requirement is that you must able to switch between G, C, D and A smoothly

–  classes held near the Cambridge/Arlington border

–  6 two-hour-and-fifteen-minute classes on Saturdays from 2 until 4:15 pm

–  March 1st, 15th, 22nd & 29th, April 5th and 12th

–  $145 tuition includes thirteen and a half hours of class time

–  visit for info and to register

(2) Beginning Bluegrass Harmony Singing  —  Mondays at 7 pm

–  for those who want to learn how to determine and sing harmonies

–  open to all instruments and all levels

–  co-taught with the fiddle player from my band, Laura Orshaw

–  classes held near the Cambridge/Arlington border

–  2.5 hour first class followed by four hour-long classes on Mondays (weekly)

–  March 3rd (2.5-hour class) and March 10th, 17th, 24th & 31st (hour-long)

–  from 7 until 8 pm (except for March 3rd which is from 7 until 9:30 pm)

–  $145 tuition includes a corresponding book and companion CD

–  course description included at the bottom of this e-mail

(3) Bluegrass Band Ensemble Class  —  Mondays at 8 pm

–  for those who want to play in a band with teacher direction

–  open to all instruments and all levels

–  co-taught with the fiddle player from my band, Laura Orshaw

–  classes held near the Cambridge/Arlington border

–  nine classes held every Monday from 8 until 10 pm

–  March 10th, 17th, 24th & 31st, April 7th, 14th, 21st & 28th, May 5th

–  you are expected to attend nearly all classes but can miss one or two

–  students must be able to attend both performances:

–  Tuesday, April 29th at 8 pm at The Cantab Lounge in Central Sq.

–  Saturday, May 10th concert TBD (possibly Marlborough)

–  $185 tuition includes eighteen hours of class time

–  course description included at the bottom of this e-mail

(4) Beginning Bluegrass Mandolin: Rhythm & Lead  —  Thursdays at 8:30 pm

–  for those who are new to playing mandolin or want a review of the basics

–  classes held near the Cambridge/Arlington border

–  five 90-minute classes, mostly every other Thursday from 8:30 until 10 pm

–  March 6th and 20th, April 3rd, 17th and 24th (last two classes are back-to-back)

–  held immediately after the weekly Thursday Beginner Jam which starts at 7 pm

–  includes a corresponding book and companion CD

–  course description available at

–  $135 for BBU members ($145 for non-members)

(5) Beginning Bluegrass Lead Flatpicking Guitar  —  Tuesdays at 7 pm

–  for those who are new to lead bluegrass guitar or want a review of the basics

–  classes held near the Cambridge/Arlington border

–  four two-hour classes, held every other Tuesday from 7 until 9 pm

–  class meets on March 11th and 25th, April 8th and 22nd

–  includes a corresponding book and companion CD

–  course description available at

–  $135 for BBU members ($145 for non-members)

These classes are all being held in north Cambridge, a half mile from where Rt. 2 hits Cambridge at the Alewife T station. This location is one block from the intersection of Rt. 16 and Mass. Ave., near the Cambridge/Arlington border. There is plenty of meter-free, permit-free parking on Mass. Ave., and it is also only a 10 minute walk from Alewife and 15 minutes from Davis Sq., but if you are going to take public transportation, please let me know so I can recommend how best to get here.

Thanks so much for your continued support, and I look forward to seeing you all sometime soon!



email: email hidden; JavaScript is required

Beginning Bluegrass Harmony Singing

I will be co-teaching the Beginning Bluegrass Harmony Singing class with the fiddle player from my band, Laura Orshaw. Laura and I will be focusing the class on two core skills: learning how to determine harmonies, and learning to teach yourself to sing harmonies using your instrument as a guide. We will focus on a handful of common bluegrass vocal tunes, and there will be homework each week including both singing and determining harmony.

There are no prerequisite songs, and you don’t need to be able to read music or play lead. The Harmony Singing class is open to all instruments, all levels – both rhythm and lead players – but it is geared towards those who have trouble finding harmonies on their instrument and/or with their voice. You will need to bring an instrument with you to class each week, and although it’s not required, I recommend you familiarize yourself with the G Major scale in the first position of your instrument.

Bluegrass Band Ensemble Class

Have you ever wondered why some bands sound so good when compared to some jams? Well of course it’s partially due to the rehearsal time some bands spend working on music together, but it’s usually a lot more than that. And what do bands work on when they get together to rehearse that makes them sound so good? In this class we’ll explore some of the aspects that make bluegrass in a band setting different from bluegrass in a jam setting. We’ll cover a wide variety of ways to arrange a song, from instrumental licks to vocal tricks, and then we’ll be putting that knowledge to good use…

We will be limiting the class to between 8 and 12 people, and we will be trying to get a mixture of as many bluegrass instruments as possible. Starting in our first class we will be splitting up the class in to two separate bands that will remain together for the entire course. These two bands will then work each week to create and learn arrangements to a limited repertoire of songs that they will perform at the completion of the course.

In this class we will spend time listening to classic bluegrass recordings, studying arrangements of well-known bluegrass songs, and then applying the concepts we learn to our two in-class bands. The bands will have time to rehearse together as part of the class time with Laura and me there to help facilitate, and will perform for each other as the course progresses. At the end of the class we will culminate our work with two performances, which all students must be able to attend.

There are no prerequisite songs, and you don’t need to be able to read music or play lead. The Bluegrass Band Class is open to all instruments, all levels – both rhythm and lead players – but it is geared towards those who are comfortable singing and/or taking solos.

To help us better split up the class, please let us know if you play more than one instrument (and if so what your primary instrument is), and if you sing lead and/or any harmony lines (and which ones). If we are short on bass players, I will be available to quickly train a guitar or mandolin player to play acoustic-electric (or full-electric) bass.

Guitar & Mandolin: Tony Watt

Award-winning flatpicking guitarist Tony Watt has performed at bluegrass festivals throughout the United States and Europe, on the Grand Ole Opry, and elsewhere. He has been featured in Bluegrass Now Magazine and Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, and toured and recorded with Nashville-based Cages Bend, east Tennessee-based Meridian, and most recently with Rounder Recording artist Alecia Nugent. Tony currently performs with his band, Southeast Expressway, and with Leigh Gibson, guitarist for The Gibson Brothers. He has taught privately for over 10 years, and now teaches courses for the Boston Bluegrass Union’s Bluegrass Academy. He has also taught guitar workshops and Kids’ Academies at bluegrass festivals including Grey Fox, Thomas Point Beach, Joe Val, and many more. Tony teaches guitar and mandolin lessons in Albany, NY, Cambridge, MA, and points  n-between. For more info visit or e-mail email hidden; JavaScript is required

Quotes from students in Tony Watt’s previous Bluegrass Academy classes:

“While I have studied bluegrass for a while, I have not taken a lesson or workshop yet where the concepts were so clearly laid out.”

“The handouts are great and the mp3’s are a nice asset.”

“Tony’s enthusiasm for the music and for the teaching process is infectious and will inspire any student to become a better picker.”

“I feel the amount of new material each week was great. It was beneficial to be grouped with appropriate skill levels and work on the tunes.”

“Overall this has been the best group or workshop format class I’ve taken.”


Banjo Classes by Rich Stillman

During the festival season just past, did you ever get the urge to learn banjo, or to improve your banjo skills?

Rich Stillman will be running two group banjo classes this spring: a Beginner class and an Intermediate class. The beginner class will follow the path Rich uses in his one-day Fast Track classes at the Joe Val festival. The goal is to teach good banjo technique, to get you started playing a few simple tunes, and to begin understanding how to develop your own musical ideas on the banjo. This class is for people just starting out, as well as folks who have spent a little time learning to play on their own but haven’t quite connected the dots.

The intermediate class is a continuation of previous classes, but there’s always room for people who are improving or just developing their skills. This round of classes will concentrate on how to build banjo breaks based on the most important notes of a melody. If you can play tunes from tab, but improvising makes you nervous, this class is for you!

If you’re not sure a class will be at the right level for you, but the descriptions look like something you might be interested in, contact Rich at email hidden; JavaScript is required to figure out if you should sign up.

Details for these classes:

Dates of Beginner class: 10/1, 10/15, 10/29, 11/12, 11/26, 12/10.
Dates of Intermediate Jam Prep class: 10/8, 10/22, 11/5, 11/19, 12/3 and 1/7/2014.

Time: 7:30 to 9PM.

Place: Real School of Music, 56 Middlesex Tpke, Burlington, MA 01803

Cost: $120 for BBU members, $125 for non-members.


Richard Stillman has been playing banjo for nearly thirty years, including stints with a number of influential Northeast bluegrass bands, including the Jersey Travelers (four years, one album), Southern Rail (four years, two albums), WayStation (seven years, one CD) and his current band, Adam Dewey and Crazy Creek (three years, two CDs). He has additional studio recording credits with New England folk artists John Burrows and John Michaels. Mr. Stillman was New Jersey banjo champion in 1983 and the 2002 and 2003 New England banjo champion. He is a six-time winner of the annual banjo contest held at Lowell, Massachusetts (1985-1995), where he has given the bluegrass banjo workshop every year since 1996.

Bluegrass Academy Objectives

Bluegrass Academy Objectives


With today’s resurgence of interest in bluegrass and traditional music, there is more call than ever for instruction. To meet this need, the Boston Bluegrass Union offers educational programs for children and adults.

BBU’s Bluegrass Academy offers group and individual instruction by some of the best instrumental teachers in the greater Boston area. Beginning classes are designed to give students a common repertoire and understanding of the roles of the respective bluegrass instruments, and to further their musical enjoyment and participation. Instruction is designed to deepen the musician’s understanding of the music, and to help the musician along the creative path, whether contemporary or traditional. Classes will help players to connect with their natural voice.

All classes will offer technical instruction as well as historical background. As the Bluegrass Academy concept evolves, the offerings will branch out to cover diverse areas of interest.

The Bluegrass Academy uses original materials and a variety of teaching techniques, including handouts, video, CDs, and internet support. All classes focus on the most practical techniques, with an eye toward the big picture: not just playing the instrument, but understanding its role in the bluegrass band, to build the ensemble playing skills which can enhance musical enjoyment.

The Bluegrass Academy is committed to unlocking bluegrass in all of its forms: traditional, contemporary, progressive, and everything in between! Together we will have fun and share music in the jamming tradition that has nurtured bluegrass from its earliest beginnings. Please join us!