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.

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

All these classes will meet on the same schedule:

Friday, February 14th, 2020
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 is $60 for BBU members
Early-bird tuition 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:

NOTE:  the classes below are for 2019.  The 2020 classes will be announced soon!

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


2019 Mid-Course Development Class Descriptions and Teacher Bios

August Watters – Mandolin Mid-Course Development Class (intermediate)

Get ready for the Joe Val Festival at the intermediate bluegrass mandolin class! If you have at least a basic facility with bluegrass chords and tunes, this class can help you take the next steps forward. We’ll work on jamming skills, improvising, learning tunes, ear training, and/or other skills identified by class participants. Mando-centric devices such as double-stops and crosspicking will also be explored, along with other tools to help extend your personal style such as voice-leading arpeggios, pentatonics, and phrasing. We’ll survey class interests and needs, and make sure everyone goes home with specific plans for future practice and study, according to each individual’s learning goals. Join us!

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

August Watters’ Bio:

August Watters grew up in the bluegrass culture surrounding Bean Blossom, Indiana. Deeply influenced by Bill Monroe, Watters moved in 1981 to San Francisco to join the burgeoning New Acoustic (Dawg) music scene. Learning bluegrass traditions led to a closer study of the roots of the American mandolin, meanwhile studying jazz at Indiana University and Berklee College. As a Professor of Ear Training at Berklee for 18 years, he trained jazz and bluegrass improvisers for fifteen years (2000-2014) through his roots-designated ensemble, originally known as the Acoustic String Project.

As a clinician and soloist, August has performed in Italy, Germany, England, the Czech Republic, Canada, Holland and the United States. His work as an interpreter, improviser, composer and arranger bridges bluegrass, contemporary classical music, jazz, folk music traditions, and the historical concert mandolin repertoire. Watters founded the Festival of Mandolin Chamber Music, Cape Cod Mandolin Camp, Boston Mandolins and the New England Mandolin Ensemble. He holds a Masters of Music Education from Boston University, and a Bachelor’s of Music from Berklee College, majoring in Jazz Composition and Arranging, summa cum laude.

Banjo publicity pic cropped

Rich Stillman – Banjo Mid-Course Development Class (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.

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

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.

Betsy Rome – Guitar Mid-Course Development Class (intermediate)

For guitarists who can already change open chords, keep time, play simple short leads, and who would like to take their playing to the next level. Areas we will cover:

– Right-hand technique – edit the stroke, getting a good tone, stroke variations
– Bass runs, connecting, count-off’s
– Chords, scales, charts, some music theory – just enough to be dangerous!
– Songs – dynamics, guitar’s role in bluegrass vocals
– Tunes (instrumentals) – developing your own version
– Jamming etiquette, band dynamics
There will be handouts!

Review from a previous student: “Outstanding…The time went by so fast and I got so much out of it. I can’t believe what a difference the pick angle makes and I learned the bass runs that I wanted to…Your teaching style is amazing.”

To register for Betsy’s Guitar Class email her at email hidden; JavaScript is required

Betsy Rome’s bio:

Betsy Rome is well-known for her flatpicked guitar, blending bluegrass, old-time, Celtic, & swing infuences. Noted for her rock-solid rhythm and inventive leads, she has won or placed in numerous band and instrumental contests. Betsy teaches guitar and mandolin, both in person and online via Skype. She has taught workshops at Grey Fox, Joe Val, Podunk, Winter Village, Thomas Point Beach, Music Camp North and Marist College. A founding member of Too Blue, one of the Northeast’s most respected bands, Betsy is also an occasional member of The Bluegrass Characters, and plays mandolin in the Walkingwood Mandolin Quartet. “Betsy plays with a direct, highly effective approach…Everything about her playing is catchy and infectious, the sign of a total pro.” – Dan Miller, Flatpicking Guitar Magazine feature article.

Tony Watt – Jamming Mid-Course Development Class (for beg & int)

Have you ever wondered how two or more bluegrass musicians who have never met before and might not even know the same songs can start jamming together immediately and not stop for hours, days, or even years? It’s because they know the underlying assumptions that bluegrass musicians make while jamming. This jamming class is open to all bluegrass instruments: banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, bass, and Dobro (a.k.a. resophonic guitar), and is geared towards beginner and intermediate musicians who are interested in learning how to play with other musicians. We will focus on the basics of bluegrass jamming including collaboration, ear training, keeping time, non-verbal communication, and jam etiquette. The primary goal is to provide the students with the skills and experience needed to participate in bluegrass jams. There are no pre-requisite songs, and you don’t need to be able to play solos on your instrument, sing, or read music. Guitar, banjo, and mandolin players should be able to switch between the chords G, C, D and A smoothly. This class will focus on the skills necessary to play songs you’ve never heard before, including how to follow a guitar player’s chords.

To register for Tony’s Jamming Class (for beg & int) email him at email hidden; JavaScript is required

Tony Watt’s bio:

Award-winning flatpicking guitarist Tony Watt has performed throughout the United States and Europe, on the Grand Ole Opry, and beyond. He has been featured in Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Now, and four separate times in Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, but is perhaps best known for his version of Cherokee Shuffle on YouTube with Noam Pikelny and Andy Falco, which has been viewed roughly 200,000 times (https://youtu.be/vbrhbmx2OxQ). Tony has toured with Rounder Recording artist Alecia Nugent, with Leigh Gibson, guitarist for The Gibson Brothers, and with Jenni Lyn Gardner, mandolinist for Della Mae. He is a graduate of Leadership Bluegrass, has served on the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Education Committee and the IBMA Board Selection Committee, and is currently the Vice President and Education Co-Director of the Boston Bluegrass Union (BBU).

Tony has taught bluegrass for over 20 years and is a visiting artist at the Berklee College of Music’s prestigious American Roots Music Program. He is also the Camp Coordinator for Ashokan’s Bluegrass Camp (Ashokan.org/Bluegrass-Camp), and Ashokan’s First-Ever Flatpicking Camp. Tony is also the director of The Bluegrass University, which has offered classes for adult beginners at many of the largest bluegrass festivals in the Northeast. The Bluegrass University also presents JamVember, a weekend-long bluegrass jamming “non-festival” held the weekend before Thanksgiving at the Sheraton in Framingham, MA (JamVember.com). Tony currently teaches lessons, classes, workshops, and jam sessions throughout the Boston area and anywhere in the world online via Skype video conferencing (further details at TonyWattBluegrass.com).