Getting your hands on acoustic music

For those who want to do more than just play around when it comes to their music, Western North Carolina abounds in spring and summer with many varieties of acoustic-instrument workshops. Below is a short list of what’s available.

Acoustic Corner (105-F Montreat Road, Black Mountain)

This store features unique acoustic instruments popular with Celtic, old-time, bluegrass, and other folk enthusiasts. Acoustic Corner also occasionally sponsors events such as the Irish Fiddle Workshop on Friday, May 21 with Kevin Burke, to be held at the nearby Watershed venue (1-3 p.m., limited to 20 participants). For more information, call (828) 669-5162, e-mail to, or visit

Blue Ridge Music (828 Hendersonville Road, Asheville)

This store specializes in bluegrass instruments, selling high-end banjos, mandolins, guitars and fiddles. They occasionally offer workshops and open jams. For details, call 277-5588, or visit

Blue Ridge Old Time Music Week (Mars Hill)

This annual, week-long event — to be held from Sunday, June 6 through Saturday, June 12 on the Mars Hill College campus — strives to offer something for beginners and experts alike. Enthusiasts can study banjo, mandolin, dulcimer, guitar and fiddle. This year, local Grammy-winning bassist Eliot Wadopian will offer a class in technique, and fiddle prodigy Josh Goforth will stretch his wings and teach an advanced-guitar class. Don’t have an instrument? Check out Song Catching & Story Weaving with seventh-generation Madison County native Sheila Kay Adams. Room and board is provided with tuition. Some events will be open to the public. For more information, call (828) 866-MHC-4-YOU, or visit

Celestial Mountain Music (16 W. Main St., Brevard)

This enticing store deals in fine stringed instruments, emphasizing folk, old-time and world music. They occasionally offer workshops. For details, call (828) 884-3575, or go to

Chimney Rock Park (Highway 64/74A, Chimney Rock)

Saturdays on March 13, and on April 17 and 24, this North Carolina landmark will host several mountain-music workshops on hammered and mountain dulcimers, focusing on chording, harmonizing and learning songs. Info: (800) 277-9611.

John C. Campbell Folk School (1 Folk School Road, Brasstown)

Workshops in building and playing traditional acoustic instruments happen year-round at this veteran craft school at the western edge of the state. Join weeklong or weekend events exploring everything from the usual suspects (mandolin, banjo and guitar) to bagpipes and Native American flutes. Typical workshops include Shape Note Singing and Dulcimer Building. Room and board is provided with tuition. For information, call (800) 365-5724, or go to

Lake Eden Arts Festival (Camp Rockmont, Black Mountain)

Happening twice a year (May 7-9 and October 15-17 in 2004) on gorgeous grounds, LEAF rises above the typical summer arts festival in its extensive menu of “healing arts” workshops, many focusing on music themes. These are offered alongside contra dancing and performances by top-tier world-music groups. Instruction typically runs the gamut, from Sufi dance to West African drumming; many instructors are local, and new workshops are constantly being added. Call (828) 68-MUSIC, or visit

Mountain Dulcimer Week (Cullowhee)

Held on the Western Carolina University campus Sunday, June 20 through Friday, June 25, this annual event offers classes on building and playing the instrument; jam sessions; staff concerts; and even a marketplace. Twelve-hour morning courses offer in-depth study (don’t miss Kenneth Bloom’s “Bowing the Mountain Dulcimer”). Room and board is provided with tuition. To learn more, call (828) 227-7397, or visit

Stecoah Valley Center (Hwy. 28, Schoolhouse Road, Robbinsville)

This educational center offers year-round, ongoing workshops in bluegrass and mountain music, clogging and flatfoot dancing, Cherokee Indian song and more. For additional information, call (828) 479-3364, e-mail to, or visit

Swannanoa Gathering (Swannanoa)

Located on the Warren Wilson College campus, this veteran, monthlong event happens this year from Friday, June 18 through Saturday, July 24. The variety of weekend and weeklong workshops include old-time, swing and string bands (including African-American gospel and blues), Celtic, contemporary folk and more. Events include instrument instruction, dance lessons, music theory and jam sessions. Room and board is provided with tuition; some concerts are open to the public. For more information, call (828) 298-3434 or 771-3761, e-mail to, or visit

— Alli Marshall

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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