NOTE:  the information below is for last year’s festival.  Information for the 2020 Master Classes will be posted soon.  Please do not contact the teachers list below until we can finalize the classes for the 2020 festival.

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

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

Fast Track (beginner) classes are geared toward novices, beginners, and advancing beginners, or those looking for a review of the fundamentals.

All these 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 (EXTENDED UNTIL FEB. 5th) is $60 for BBU members
Early-bird tuition (EXTENDED UNTIL FEB. 5th) is $65 for non-members

Regular tuition (AFTER FEB. 5th) is $70 for BBU members
Regular tuition (AFTER FEB. 5th) is $75 for non-members

Class size is limited to 15 students (with the exception of Claire Lynch’s class, which is limited to 20) and pre-registration is strongly encouraged. To sign up, all you need to do is e-mail your instructor directly at their e-mail address listed here:


  Master Class (mostly advanced)   Instrument   e-mail address
  Claire Lynch (for int & adv)   Singing
  Bryan Sutton   Guitar
  Jim Van Cleve   Fiddle
  Matt Flinner   Mandolin
  Jeremy Stephens   Banjo
  Todd Phillips (for int & adv)   Bass
  Roger Williams (for int & adv)   Dobro
  Mid-Course Development (mostly int)   Instrument   e-mail address
  August Watters   Mandolin
  Rich Stillman   Banjo
  Betsy Rome   Guitar
  Tony Watt (for beg & int)   Jamming
  Fast Track (beginner)   Instrument e-mail address
  Bruce Stockwell   Banjo
  Ellen Carlson   Fiddle


2019 Master Class Descriptions and Teacher Bios

Claire Lynch – Singing Master Class (for int & adv)

Three-time International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year, Claire Lynch is an award-winning tunesmith and one of Bluegrass’s most beloved acts. She’s thrice been nominated for a GRAMMY and is the 2012 recipient of the United States Artists Walker Fellowship. Claire grew up in Alabama and is a charter member of the Alabama Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. After seven years as a Music Row writer and eighteen years on the Rounder Records label she co-wrote and recorded “Dear Sister” for Compass Records, and garnered IBMA’s 2014 Song of the Year.

Claire’s Singing class (for int & adv) will include many or all of the following:
– Identifying bluegrass style. (The sound of your voice – how it relates to bluegrass
– Vocal vocabulary (bluegrass and otherwise)
– Vocal stylizing
– Enriching your tone (resonance, brightness, nasality, loudness)
– Ear training exercises
– How to sharpen your sense of pitch (smile when you sing that!)
– Rhythm & Meter
– Rehearsal
– Stage Presence

In addition, as she covers harmony singing and group dynamics, she will explain and
– blending voices (proper volume relationships, phrasing, consensus, difference & deference)
– intervals/chord construction
– duet and three-part harmony
– How to hear your part and stay on it
– Listening to other parts as you sing

To register for Claire’s Singing Class (for int & adv) email her at email hidden; JavaScript is required

Bryan Sutton – Guitar Master Class (advanced)

Bryan Sutton is the most accomplished and awarded acoustic guitarist of his generation, an innovator who bridges the bluegrass flatpicking traditions of the 20th century with the dynamic roots music scene of the 21st. His rise from buzzed-about young sideman to first-call Nashville session musician to membership in one of history’s greatest bluegrass bands has been grounded in quiet professionalism and ever-expanding musicianship.

Bryan will cover bluegrass guitar from the ground up for advanced players. A believer in building strong fundamentals, Bryan will work with each member of the group in classic master class format to determine individual needs and outline a specific path that will help you reach your goals. Topics likely to be covered are pick and fret hand essentials, rhythm, speed, improvisation, and the “mental game”.

To register for Brian’s Guitar Class email him at email hidden; JavaScript is required

Jim Van Cleve – Fiddle Master Class (advanced)

Jim VanCleve is a fiddle player, a Grammy-winning session musician, Grammy-nominated solo artist, and a multi-award winning producer. After spending a year with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver at the age of 18, he eventually left that band to become a founding member of the popular group, Mountain Heart, where he spent 17 years and played a major role in the success and popularity of the band, as well as becoming a driving force in creating more complex musical arrangements. VanCleve has also had success as a record producer in Bluegrass, Americana, and Country music. After a recent 3 year stint touring with Country music star, Josh Turner, (fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar, and harmony vocals), he joined with one of his old Mountain Heart bandmates (Barry Abernathy) and one of his oldest friends (Darrell Webb) to form the Appalachian Roadshow. He’s a gifted communicator and instructor and has taught at various camps all over the world. Jim has a Grammy-nominated solo project and a 4+ hour Acu-Tab Instructional DVD which will be available at the festival.

Jim enjoys “teaching students to fish”, rather than “giving them a fish”! Thus, his teaching style is actually “improvement-focused” rather than “tune-focused”. In his extensive teaching experience, he’s found it a common theme that many aspiring students will tend to hyperfocus on learning tunes, but neglect the REAL hurdles standing between them and being able to perform ANY piece of music at a higher level. Therefore, technique assessment and improvement, tone production, ear training, basic music theory, and numerous skills and drills for improving facilities for speed, accuracy, and tone are common points of emphasis. Jim likes to engage students and meet them at their actual greatest point of need, and often as a result, many of his students learn how to learn their best, and become empowered to get out of their own way and make great leaps of improvement with their new practice techniques and points of emphasis. In addition to the above, Jim often is asked about Bluegrass and old time fingerings, bowing, rhythm, back up, lead solo development, useful musical phrases in any key, melody, double stops, and developing speed, and is happy to expound on these during instruction time.

To register for Jim’s Fiddle Class email him at email hidden; JavaScript is required

Matt Flinner – Mandolin Master Class (advanced)

Matt Flinner, mandolin Grammy-nominated mandolinist Matt Flinner has made a career out of playing acoustic music in new ways. Whether it’s with his own Matt Flinner Trio or with Phillips, Grier and Flinner, the Frank Vignola Quartet, Darrell Scott, Steve Martin, Robbie Fulks, the Ying Quartet, Leftover Salmon or the Modern Mandolin Quartet, Flinner’s style and compositional ability have established him as one of the most accomplished and musically diverse mandolinists in the world. Starting out as a banjo prodigy who was playing bluegrass festivals before he entered his teens, Flinner later took up the mandolin, won the National Banjo Competition in Winfield, KS in 1990, and won the mandolin award there the following year. Matt now tours regularly with the Matt Flinner Trio, which is known for its off-the-cuff compositional daring, writing music the same day it’s performed on most of their shows. Flinner currently lives in Ripton, VT.

Matt’s Mandolin Master Class will start with fundamentals: some picking exercises, fingering exercises and double stop exercises. We’ll start with picking exercises for developing speed and improving tremolo, double stop exercise or two for developing tone and learning more of the fretboard and fingering exercises to improve dexterity. We’ll also look at creating solos on common bluegrass songs. We’ll learn a standard bluegrass song and then try out various ideas for improvisation and/or creating new solos. Various approaches will be taken, including licks and patterns, double stops, using different octaves and playing in various positions. We’ll also look at playing in several keys that are common to bluegrass: G, C, A, D, B, E, F, and Bb. We’ll touch on a bit of music theory, looking mainly at arpeggios and chord tones as building blocks of soloing. Handouts will be provided and a log cabin will be imagined.

To register for Matt’s Mandolin Class email him at email hidden; JavaScript is required

Jeremy Stephens – Banjo Master Class (advanced)

Jeremy Stephens is a native Virginian who grew up in an area with a rich history of bluegrass and old time music. He began playing music at age 5 and quickly realized the 5-string banjo is what he wanted to be his primary focus. Jeremy has studied the 3-finger banjo stylings of the greats such as Don Reno, Allen Shelton, Earl Scruggs, and many others, but has made his primary focus the advanced techniques brought to the banjo world by Don Reno. Jeremy has played music professionally since his teens. In 2010, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to further his career. Since that time, he has worked with the famous Chuck Wagon Gang, Ray Stevens, Jesse McReynolds, David Peterson & 1946, and many others. Today he is a full-time member of up and coming bluegrass band, High Fidelity, where he plays guitar and banjo.

This class is geared toward intermediate and advanced players but all skill levels are welcome. Special focus will be given to introducing and exploring the advanced 3-finger bluegrass banjo stylings developed by the late Don Reno, with a focus on the single-string, double-roll, brush-stroke, and other techniques. Other styles and needs may be explored as desired by the class participants. Special attention will be given to individual player’s needs and advancement. As is common in a master class setting, there will be opportunity for students to perform and receive evaluation and critique (positive reinforcement) from the instructor.

To register for Jeremy’s Banjo Class email him at email hidden; JavaScript is required

Todd Phillips – Bass Master Class (for int & adv)

Todd Phillips is the bassist of choice for many of the most innovative, as well as traditional, acoustic instrumental and bluegrass recordings made since the mid-1970s. A two-time Grammy Award winner and founding member of the original David Grisman Quintet, Phillips has made a career of consistently performing and recording with acoustic music’s finest and most creative artists. His tone, timing, and subtly intricate bass lines make him one of the few real stylists on acoustic bass, and he is among the very best practitioners of the instrument on the scene.

The instructional videos that Todd has made for Homespun, will be the basis of what he will cover in the class for intermediate and advanced musicians. The bass is a very physical instrument to tackle, and he feels that the mechanics and techniques you develop are crucial to being able to execute anything and everything you’d like to be able to play. Intermediates need these basics, and advanced players never stop exploring better technique… especially as it applies to pitch and rhythm and easing the physical stress of gripping a 42″ string length with no frets! In the class, he will apply this approach to teaching and playing to all levels and types of music, and will customize the class to each individual’s desires and abilities.

To register for Todd’s Bass Class (for int & adv) email him at email hidden; JavaScript is required

Roger Williams – Dobro Master Class (for int & adv)

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:

In this Master Class (for int & adv), we’ll take a look at practice techniques, such as:

· Different ways of practicing scales (i.e., G scale from the 5th fret, etc.), includes ‘Scales’ handout

· The ‘neighborhood’ on the neck – Scales behind/ahead of – bar – with harmony

· Practicing with pre-recorded backing tracks

· Practicing with a metronome

The Master Class (for int & adv) will also include:

· A review of several one-measure dobro licks in different keys

(tablature provided)

· Participants will be taken through 1-4-5-1 chord progressions utilizing the aforementioned dobro licks

· Soloing based on melody

· Improvised soloing

· Soloing using both octaves

· Utilizing open strings in keys other than open G

· A look at some classic bluegrass tunes such as ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’, ‘Foggy Mountain Rock’ (tablature provided).

There will also be time provided in the second half of the workshop to answer specific needs/requests that have been provided to me by the participants via e-mail prior to the day of the class.

To register for Roger’s Dobro Class (for int & adv) email him at email hidden; JavaScript is required