Detailed information about the Master Classes for 2019 will be available early in the New Year.

Master Classes (advanced) are geared towards musicians who are beyond beginner and intermediate-level classes.

Mid-Course Development (intermediate) classes are geared towards those who are beyond Fast Track (beginner) classes, but not quite ready for Master Classes.

All three levels of classes will meet on the same schedule:

Friday, February 15th
from 11 am until 1 pm
and then from 2 pm until 4 pm
(with an hour-long lunch break from 1 until 2 pm)

And the prices are the same as well:

Early-bird tuition (before Jan. 25th) is $60 for BBU members
Early-bird tuition (before Jan. 25th) is $65 for non-members

Regular tuition (after Jan. 25th) is $70 for BBU members
Regular tuition (after Jan. 25th) is $75 for non-members

Class size is limited to 15 participants and preregistration is strongly encouraged. To sign up for a Master Class or Mid-Course Development class, you must e-mail your instructor directly at:

  Master Class (advanced)   Instrument   e-mail address
  David Davis   Mandolin  [email protected]
  Greg Cahill   Banjo  [email protected]
  Rick Faris   Guitar  [email protected]
  Mid-Course Development (intermediate)   Instrument   e-mail address
  Caleb Klauder   Mandolin  [email protected]
  Avril Smith   Guitar  [email protected]
  Rich Stillman   Banjo  [email protected]
  Tom Gray   Bass*  [email protected]
  Roger Williams   Dobro*  [email protected]
  Mary Maguire   Singing*  [email protected]

*only intermediate level offered which is appropriate for everybody other than beginners

Master Class Descriptions and Teacher Bios

David Davis – Mandolin Master Class (advanced)

We’ll discuss and demonstrate a whole lot of the Bill Monroe mandolin technique and how to apply that foundation to your own style or tastes. We’ll consider the foundations of the style and how to build from that and create something on the mandolin that is more personal to you. We’ll consider and demonstrate different two-finger (double stop) positions for different chords throughout the neck and realize the importance of this in forming a break and how foundational it is to the style. We’ll use these double-stop positions while discussing and demonstrating turnarounds. We’ll consider ways and places to back up a singer, and we can take questions on singing if you’d like. We can discuss falsetto, how to get in and out.  We’ll demonstrate different Monroe breaks for you and also different ways they could be played staying in that same style. We’ll discuss right-hand technique or anything else that would be helpful to you.

I’ll have an interesting and hopefully educational framework ready for you but most importantly, I want you to come ready to ask the questions that are most important and helpful to your mandolin situation. I’ll have some very helpful points, but hopefully answering your questions and shedding more light on your advancement on mandolin is my chief desire. We can talk and demonstrate on everything Monroe, singing and playing, our own style and how we use Monroe as our foundation. So bring your mandolins, video camera’s, etc. and a whole lot of questions. We’ll get to know each other, learn from each other and I’ll guarantee we’ll have a whole lot of fun together!

David Davis’ bio:

David Davis is an Alabama native and a member of the Alabama Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and National Oldtime Country Music Hall of Fame. He was the 2017 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in Music, given by the National Oldtime Country Music Association.

David has traveled and performed as frontman for the bluegrass group, David Davis and the Warrior River Boys since 1984. He is recognized as one of the foremost practitioners of the Monroe Mandolin technique. His interest in Oldtime and Bluegrass music grew organically from a musical family, both his Father and Grandfather were players and singers. His uncle, Cleo Davis, was Bill Monroe’s original Bluegrass Boy.

Greg Cahill – Banjo Master Class (advanced)

The primary focus of this class will be to offer suggestions about how to create licks, solos and compositions, and how to play backup behind vocals and other instrumental solos. The concepts of improvisation and integrating the use of various banjo playing styles will be an important part of this presentation. We will cover a variety of subjects including some or all of the following:

– Thoughts on how to find the melody and create a solo for vocal and instrumental selections; this will include studying various intros and endings in different keys and positions in addition to an overview of Scruggs, melodic and single string style licks and passages.

– A brief review of basic chordal theory, including Circle of Fifths, Nashville Numbers System and the “4-3-5” formula for connecting the three major chord positions over the fingerboard. See how playing basic scales can lead to creating licks and tunes in different chord positions and keys.

– A demonstration of how interchanging licks and passages from tunes/songs with similar chord progressions can lead to improvising and transposing solos to different keys and positions.

– And suggestions for playing backup behind singers and other instruments using common down-the-neck and up-the-neck licks and patterns.

Greg Cahill’s bio:

Greg has been playing bluegrass banjo since the early 1970s. He formed The Special Consensus in the Chicago area and the band became a full time touring (nationally and internationally) and recording entity in 1975. Greg has appeared on all eighteen of The Special Consensus recordings (one received a GRAMMY nomination and two others received multiple International Bluegrass Music Association [IBMA] awards). He has also released three solo recordings, one European bluegrass music recording and four banjo instructional videos/DVDs and he has appeared on numerous recordings by other artists and on countless national television and radio commercials (jingles). Greg conducts workshops and master classes at bluegrass camps and festivals worldwide, has taught bluegrass banjo at The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago for over 40 years, and he became the first adjunct professor teaching banjo as a member of the Columbia College Strings Department in Chicago in 2011. He has released two banjo tablature books and is a regular contributor of banjo tablature and interviews with notable banjo players for Banjo Newsletter.

Rick Faris – Guitar Master Class (advanced)

Rick is a thoughtful and engaging teacher with lots to give. His main goals are to answer students’ burning questions and have fun. Topics explored during his workshop will include:

Advanced Rhythm Techniques with a Band: Good solid rhythm is the foundation to excelling at what you add to your arranged band and the dynamic your playing adds to the unit.

Working Out Solos: Using formulas to layout your solos and execute them with an arsenal of tools such as double stops, syncopation, etc.

Practice Regimen: Utilizing the metronome, scales, right-hand practices and warm-ups.

Improvisation: Knowing your fretboard positions, up- and down-the-neck, well enough to connect your creativity into cohesive solos that bridge the gap and complete your ideas.

Instrument Setup: Rick is also a master luthier and will be happy to answer questions about getting the most out of your instrument through setup.

Rick Faris’ bio:

Rick Faris has been playing guitar since the tender age of seven. He has taught numerous workshops and classes at festivals and camps alike in the US and Europe. He also has been a staff teacher at the Americana Music Academy for six years. Rick was the mandolin player for Special Consensus for 6 years until in 2015, he moved back to guitar. He learned mandolin to play in the band and in the art of learning the instrument fast he has become proficient at both playing and teaching it.



Mid-Course Development Class Descriptions and Teacher Bios

Caleb Klauder – Mandolin Mid-Course Development (intermediate)

My goal of this class is to look into the early styles of bluegrass mandolin as related to the fiddle. We will find a clear melody for a tune or a song and give it lift with the right-hand pick and shuffle technique. I will teach common mandolin tunes and focus on the nuances of picking, as related to old time fiddle bowing. We will learn and work on solos for some common bluegrass songs. I will demonstrate some options for backup and rhythm playing and talk about getting great tone. Students should have a good feel for scales and arpeggios and have put some time into using the pinky finger on the 7th fret. The class will be taught aurally and there will be no sheet music or tab so please bring a recording device.

Caleb Klauder’s bio:

Caleb Klauder has been playing mandolin in the traditional styles of bluegrass and old time for over 20 years and performs with the Foghorn Stringband. Caleb also fronts his own honky-tonk country band, and you can also hear him in a duo with Reeb Willms.

Caleb’s Mandolin style most closely resembles old-time fiddle playing in a way similar to Bill Monroe’s style. The shuffle of the pick and good left-hand technique lend to a clear old time Bluegrass sound. Being a fiddler, singer, and guitar player, as well as a mandolinist, Caleb has a well-rounded sense of traditional music, both classic Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddle music, and as a teacher, Caleb puts focus on the importance of melody and rhythm.

Avril Smith – Guitar Mid-Course Development (intermediate)

We will work together to improve your bluegrass guitar skills, as both a rhythm and lead player. We will learn a few standard songs and tunes, working on rhythm playing ideas to vary strumming patterns and bass runs in ways that best support the song or soloist. We will also practice finding melodies by ear and work on approaches to building melodic solos.

Students should already be able to play a handful of fiddle tunes and bluegrass songs and have some experience playing in a group setting. Please bring a capo, tuner, and a pick. You may also want to have a notebook, a folder for handouts and a portable audio recording device so you have an easy way to reference new tunes, songs, and practice exercises.

Avril Smith’s bio:

Avril Smith is a teacher and award-winning multi-instrumentalist. Avril’s mastery of a wide range of styles makes her a sought-after on-stage and studio performer. Her musical palette draws from country, rock n’ roll, bluegrass, jazz and old time music. A founding member of Della Mae, Avril has played with Emmylou Harris, Pete Seeger, the Indigo Girls, Hazel Dickens, Tom Morello, Darol Anger, Joe K. Walsh, Dar Williams, Jill Sobule, and Frank Solivan, among others. Avril has performed at top venues and festivals across the country including the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival (Oak Hill, NY), the Birchmere (Alexandria, VA), the Knitting Factory (New York, NY), Freight & Salvage (Berkeley, CA), the Rock-n-Roll hall of fame (Cleveland, Ohio), and on the south lawn of the White House. Avril also teaches private guitar and mandolin lessons online and in the Washington, D.C.-area in a range of styles.

Banjo publicity pic cropped

Rich Stillman – Banjo Mid-Course Development (intermediate)

What separates a beginning bluegrass banjo player from an intermediate? Mostly, it’s the ability to improvise. Improvisation skills allow you to play tunes you haven’t played before and play tunes you do know in unfamiliar keys and ways. Improvisation is also closely related to the vital jam skill of backup, and learning either skill will get you a long way toward learning the other. In this four-hour session, we’ll work on techniques to help you recognize melody and chord flow and to translate ideas into fully-formed breaks – and, with practice, to do it in real time. Once we’re done, you’ll have the whole weekend to practice these skills in jam sessions around the festival. Topics we’ll cover include recognizing chords and chord progressions, hearing melodies and incorporating them into breaks and creating and maintaining banjo-friendly rhythms for lead and backup. We’ll work on applying these techniques with a practice jam at the end of the session.

Rich Stillman’s Bio:

Rich has been a banjo player-about-town in the Boston area for many years. Among other acts, he founded and led the progressive bluegrass band WayStation and played and recorded for Adam Dewey and Crazy Creek, The Bogus Family and currently Southern Rail. His banjo playing has appeared on a number of studio releases by other bluegrass folk and acoustic artists as well. He is a six-time winner of the bluegrass banjo category at the Lowell Fiddle and Banjo Contest, and winner of the 2002 and 2003 New England Banjo Championship held at Maine’s Ossipee Valley Bluegrass Festival. Rich has taught bluegrass banjo for forty years. In addition to private lessons at The Music Emporium and other places, he is on the faculty or staff of Tufts University, Concord Academy, the Concord Conservatory of Music and Banjo Camp North, and has written the book Bluegrass Banjo from All Sides for Mel Bay Publications.

Tom Gray – Bass Mid-Course Development (intermediate)

In this bass class, we will cover the fundamentals of taste, timing, and tone. We will start by discussing the role of the bass in a band and how to support other members of the band. We’ll focus on left- and right-hand technique to enable the student to get the best tone. There’ll be things to keep in mind to help you keep rhythm. Then we will discuss the choice of notes to create tasteful bass lines, such as runs to lead into the next chord or the next line of a song. To help students play solos, I’ll have plenty of advice as well as some tablature and notation. To register for the class, or ask any questions, email Tom at [email protected] or text or call 301-704-3681

*please note: there will only be one bass class offered, which is appropriate for everybody other than beginners

Tom Gray’s bio:

A two-time inductee into IBMA’s Bluegrass Hall of Fame, Tom Gray was voted the best bassist in bluegrass eight times by the readers of three magazines. He is best known for his years as the bassist with two groundbreaking bands, The Country Gentlemen in the 1960s and The Seldom Scene in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s and 2000s, Tom played with Hazel Dickens, John Starling, and Emmylou Harris, among others, appearing on over 140 recordings with numerous artists. He is currently performing with Eddie & Martha Adcock, as well as Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike. In his youth, Tom was famed for his aggressive “walking” bass. The passing years have made him more judicious as to when to play those extra notes, but you can still count on Tom to lay down a strong bass line.

Roger Williams – Dobro Mid-Course Development (intermediate)

The workshop will begin with a collection of one-measure dobro licks from the repertoire of some of the pioneers of traditional bluegrass dobro. Tablature for these will be provided. We will also look at examples of how they are used in songs and instrumentals. The class will then move on to a sampling of 1 to 4 (i.e., from G chord to C chord) and 1 to 5 (i.e., from G chord to D chord) progressions and given examples of how they are used in context. Again, tablature will be provided for these.

The second half of the workshop will be geared toward answering requests/suggestions from pre-registered participants who have e-mailed me their particular needs. These could include a difficult lick, part of an instrumental that proves difficult to decipher, or variations on a melody.

*please note: there will only be one Dobro class offered, which is appropriate for everybody other than beginners

Roger Williams’ bio:

Roger Williams started playing the resophonic, Dobro style guitar in 1963 when he was just a young teenager. Within the first year, he had already debuted with the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover at the Hillbilly Ranch in Boston, Mass., where they had performed for nearly two decades. Since then he has gone on to perform and/or record with many well-respected bluegrass and folk acts on the national and international circuit, including Joe Val, White Mountain Bluegrass, and Southern Rail. Career highlights include thirteen overseas tours with various artists, including a performance at the prestigious Dobro Festival in Slovakia and teaching workshops during Bluegrass Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV. Roger has recorded two solo projects, ‘Fireball’ and ‘Rt. 2 to Amherst’, and three collaborative efforts: ‘River of No Return’ (with long-time friend and musical associate Ray Legere), ‘Williams Squared’ (with son JD Williams), and ‘Something ‘Bout You’ (with partner Amy Gallatin). You can learn more about Roger at his website:


Mary Maguire – Singing Mid-Course Development (intermediate)

You’ve been singing and now you’re ready to boost your creativity, comfort, and confidence. Whether you’re increasing your performance skills or the ‘joy factor’ in your jams, THIS is the place to be! Mary invites you to let her know what you’d like to work on. Some ideas: Leading your song in a jam, Arranging your song with bandmates, Singing Harmony, Song Choice, Saving your song during impending Train-Wrecks (…and how to laugh afterward!) Visual aids and handouts will be provided. Mary suggests bringing water, note-taking/audio recording tools, your songs, and your desires to get inspired!

*please note: there will only be one singing class offered, which is appropriate for everybody other than beginners

Mary’s bio:

Long-time soloist, songwriter, and lead singer with several northeast bands, Mary Maguire is known for her warm and welcoming ways. She enthusiastically presents her popular bluegrass harmony and lead singing workshops at Joe Val, Grey Fox, Ossipee Valley, Pemi, Podunk, and Thomas Point Beach bluegrass Festivals. One of the Northeast’s most engaging singers of contemporary folk, bluegrass, and swing, Mary Maguire’s six albums and appearances on several other musicians’ recording projects reflect her enthusiasm and skill. Returning to Joe Val to guide singers on, Mary is excited to respond to students’ interests.  Please contact Mary Maguire at [email protected] or text 603-455-0238