Bluegrass & Gee's Bend 2023

April 20, 2023 4pm - April 23, 2023 1pm

One of our most popular workshops is back with great bluegrass music classes and Gee's Bend quilting. This four-day workshop provides a truly immersive experience with a fun and enthusiastic community of musicians and artists. This year join us for bluegrass music classes, famed Gee's Bend quilting with Mary Ann Pettway and China Pettway, and more!


Tuition & Lodging: All music classes are $255.00. Quilting and other craft classes are $275.00. Total registration cost is dependent on your choice of lodging:

  • Lodge room for one: $420.00
  • Lodge room for two: $550.00
  • Cabin bed for one: $145.00
  • Commuter fee: $75.00

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Banjo I with Herb Trotman

Herb Trotman is a master banjo and guitar player who has owned and operated Fretted Instruments, an acoustic instrument store in downtown Homewood, Alabama since the early 1970s. In the past, Herb performed with the Spaulding Brothers band and the Front Porch String Band. His band has made appearances at festivals and the Acoustic Café in Hayden, Alabama and plays for groups such as the Birmingham Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance.

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Banjo II with Scott Anderson

Florida native Scott Anderson began his professional banjo career with the traditional bluegrass sound of Tom Henderson's Bluegrass Parlor Band in 1989. Shortly thereafter he co-founded Endless Highway, releasing one CD project and showcasing at IBMA. Following the critical success of his first solo project Rivers in 2001, he put together the powerful acoustic sound of The Scott Anderson Band. He then followed with stints in The Jim Hurst Band, Keith Sewell Band, and a breakthrough CD project with his daughter Amanda which led to the formation of The Amanda and Scott Anderson Band. In 2013 with an All-Star cast, Scott dredged up a swampy soup of originals and favorites on his second solo project, Tales from the Swamp and added those songs to the setlist. In 2019 he joined forces with some very talented old friends and family to form his current band, Medicine Springs. Scott began teaching banjo as a teenager and teaches private lessons and classes at music camps across the country. Scott has also performed with Claire Lynch, Vassar Clements, Larry Rice, Byron Berline, Adam Steffey, Clay Hess, Newtown, Chubby Wise, Allen Shadd, Shawn Lane & Richard Bennett, Chief Jim Billie, and the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra (yes, with a banjo!) Scott has been featured in Banjo Newsletter and has contributed many articles to the magazine as well, including articles and interviews with Béla Fleck, Tony Trischka, Bill Evans, Barry Abernathy, Greg Cahill, Scott Vestal, Cory Walker and Ron Stewart among others.


Fiddle I with Robbi Podrug

A Milwaukee, WI, native, Robbi spent time in Cincinnati, OH, and Birmingham, AL, soaking up the local musical cultures and playing in various bands (Brew County Rounders, Herb Trotman Band), before landing in the Twin Cities in 2008. A friend once commented that you can always tell what she's feeling while she plays. The emotion comes right through the fiddle. She's been fortunate to play with a lot of bands in several genres (bluegrass, western swing, country, singer-songwriter duo) in different parts of the country. The result is a playing style that is textural as well as musical. Her current band is King Wilkie's Dream.


Fiddle II with Christian Ward

Native Californian Christian Ward is recognized as one of the best young fiddle players in the country. He currently tours with The Grass Is Dead and The Suwannee Mountain Boys among others.

Since his professional debut at the early age of twelve, Christian has performed all over the world with his family band including brother Austin and dad Eric Uglum, Sierra Hull and Highway 111, Brothers Barton & Overdrive, Chris Stuart & Backcountry, The Amanda and Scott Anderson Band, Rebecca Frazier and Hit & Run, Bradford Lee Folk and the Bluegrass Playboys, and occasionally other bands including guest appearances with Billy Strings. He has also shared the stage with some legendary musicians including Ricky Skaggs, Earl Scruggs, and Bela Fleck. In 2012, Christian was honored with the “Momentum Award” by the International Bluegrass Music Association, which recognizes key up and coming contributors to the music industry and in 2013 he was named the winner of the Florida State Fiddle Contest. Christian holds a degree in creative writing and is a prolific songwriter, most recently co-writing (with Jarrod Walker) three cuts on Billy Strings' "Renewal" project. One of those tunes, Red Daisy, was won IBMA Song of the Year in 2022.


Mandolin I with Jason Bailey

Mandolinist Jason Bailey has been performing and teaching professionally for 20 years. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Jason relocated to Nashville shortly after completing his third solo album release, Mandolbug in 2010. This record, produced by mandolinist extraordinaire Matt Flinner, expresses Bailey's talents in new grass, jazz and celtic inspired genres. Bailey currently has five album releases. He has taught at the Alabama Folk School annually since it began fifteen years ago. For more information, visit his website at www.baileyjason.com.

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Mandolin II with Mike Compton

Befriended and mentored by Bill Monroe, the acknowledged Father of Bluegrass Music, Mike Compton is one of today’s foremost interpreters of Monroe’s genre-creating mandolin style. Mandolin students from around the world make the pilgrimage to his annual Monroe Mandolin Camp in Nashville, TN, where Compton and a select handful of other experts teach everything from the basics of bluegrass mandolin to the most intimate details of Monroe’s endlessly inspiring mandolin style.Mike Compton’s decades of touring and recording with musical luminaries ranging from rockstars Sting, Gregg Allman and Elvis Costello, to straight-from-the-still acoustic legends like John Hartford, Doc Watson, Peter Rowan, Ralph Stanley, and David Grisman, have established Compton as a true master of the modern American mandolin and a premier interpreter of roots and Americana musical styles.Compton’s mastery of mandolin is at once effortless and exceptional. A compelling entertainer either alone or with a group, his skills as a singer, arranger, instrumentalist, composer and accompanist also make him in-demand as a band member and ensemble player at festivals, clubs and concert halls, recording sessions, music workshops and as a private instructor. With more than 140 albums in his discography, including work with Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Patty Loveless, Compton has helped keep mandolin a cool, relevant sound as the modern musical styles ebb and evolve to reach an ever broadening audience.


Guitar I with Allen Tolbert

Allen Tolbert has toured professionally in the southeast for nearly 20 years. A veteran of Birmingham-based Glenn Tolbert & Company for 17 years, Allen has made hundreds of appearances ranging from festivals, weddings, churches and private parties to radio and television appearances. He appeared as a featured guest on a special youth edition of the nationally-syndicated radio broadcast of the Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, as well as performing numerous times on the Country Boy Eddie TV Show with many guests including Hank Williams III. His festival appearances include Horse Pens 40, opening for such acts as Ricky Skaggs, The Del McCoury Band, Peter Rowan, Jerry Douglas, Blue Highway and The Whites. Allen also performed at the Foggy Hollow Bluegrass Gatherin’ nearly 20 different times, opening for acts such as Alison Krauss and Union Station, The Tony Rice Unit, J.D. Crowe and the New South, IIIrd Tyme Out, the Osborne Brothers and Claire Lynch.


Guitar II with Kenny Smith

Kenny Smith has twice been named Guitar Player Of The Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA). Over the years Kenny has worked with Claire Lynch, the Lonesome River Band , the Kenny and Amanda Smith band (2000 through present), and now, most recently, with The Band of Ruhks. He has maintained a high-profile presence on the bluegrass circuit and flatpicking guitar scene since the mid-1990s. Kenny is a well respected guitar player and is in great demand at guitar workshops and master classes across the country.


Vocals with Stephen Mougin

Stephen Mougin is a seasoned musician and industry professional. Since moving to Nashville in 2002, he played music with a variety of artists until 2006 when he joined his current employer, The Sam Bush Band. He has written, tracked, and produced for countless artists within the bluegrass, Americana, and country music genres, including Dark Shadow Recording artist Becky Buller since 2014. In addition to starting a successful record label, Stephen has won many awards during his time working with other artists over the years as a producer, a mentor, and a songwriter.


Dobro with Roman Locklear

In this course we will focus on the techniques of playing “squareneck resonator guitar” as it pertains to Bluegrass music. Players from beginner to intermediate will benefit from this course as we will cover a range of topics including; but not limited to:

  • Tunings

  • Scales

  • Rolls

  • Blocking

  • Basic slants

  • Intros and fills

  • Rhythm and chops

  • Constructing a break

  • Practice drills

We will deconstruct some of the greatest Bluegrass dobro breaks ever played by renowned artists such as Jerry Douglas, Rob Ickes, and Andy Hall. Students will be provided an abundance of practice material as well as shown how to make the best of their practice time.

Originally from the small town of Tellico Plains deep in the mountains of East Tennessee, Roman Locklear has been raised on healthy doses of music all his life. Coming from a musically talented family he first began playing bass guitar in church then moved on to drums, but it wasn’t until he reached his 30’s that he picked up the squareneck resonator guitar and he hasn’t looked back since. Playing with multiple bluegrass and southern gospel groups over the years including The Reagon Family, The Uplander Singing Band, Crimson Journey, Blackrock Station, Canaan’s Crossing, and Valley Road just to name a few, his love for the resonator guitar is evident in every note. Roman has been teaching the resonator guitar in class and private settings for a number of years and finds a personal enjoyment from sharing his knowledge of this fairly obscure instrument. He was just recently named the Alabama State Champion Dobro player in 2018, and has been featured in the Alabama Bluegrass Music Association BamaGrass monthly editorial.

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Gee's Bend Quilting with Mary Ann Pettway and China Pettway

The Gee’s Bend Workshops at the Alabama Folk School provide a rare opportunity for quilters of all levels to sew alongside two of Alabama's famed Gee's Bend Quilters. China Pettway and Mary Ann Pettway are available to assist with hand and machine-stitching, and share tips for creating in the style of the Gee's Bend tradition. While everyone works, they sing gospel style spirituals and tell stories from their lives in the community of Boykin, Alabama. Students bring works in progress or fabric scraps to start something new. Depending on skill level, students go home with some quilt blocks or a full pattern and many good memories.

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Mary Ann Pettway is the manager of the Gee's Bend Quilters Collective. She made her first quilt for the collective in the summer of 2005. The seventh of 12 children, Mary Ann Pettway was born and raised in Gee's Bend. After graduating high school in 1975, Mary Ann took college bookkeeping and accounting classes before working in a sewing factory for 20 years. Pettway is one of the lead singers of the Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church and began quilting again after hearing about the trips the quilters of the community went on. "Before I started back to quilting, I was with (friend) Sabrina's grandmother Arlonzia a lot and heard about these trips they would go on (to other cities through The Quilts of Gee's Bend traveling exhibition.) So I told her, "I'm tired of hearing how good of a time y'all are having. I want to start having a good time too." So she told me, "well then start quilting!" And Mary Ann is, thankfully, still quilting today.

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In addition to being a famed quilter, China Pettway is one of Gee's Bend's leading gospel singers. Singing is her beloved hobby. She is one of the few Boykin locals who attended college and returned to live in the community. Now a home healthcare provider, Pettway enjoys working with the elderly. "I love my patients and I think they are the most sweet and beautiful people you can meet." China was taught to quilt by her mother, Leola, at the young age of eleven. "We had to quilt until ten at night. Then, she would let us stop and get to bed. That was every evening except Saturday and Sunday. I made my first quilt, it was a 'Star.' And I still have it,” she says. She and Mary Ann began teaching at the Alabama Folk School fifteen years ago.

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Introductory Blacksmithing with Brady Jackson

Brady Jackson was born and raised in Alabama and is a graduate of the University of Alabama. Brady has been a full-time professional blacksmith for ten years. With an educational background in archeology, he appreciates the intersection of form and function that is expressed in the blacksmith's craft. After managing an ornamental metal shop for 6 years, Brady opened his own shop, Jackson Forge, in Birmingham Alabama, specializing in forged architectural work in steel and bronze.

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Save Alabama's Hemlocks - Conservation Through Art

This class will explore the eastern hemlock forest ecosystem at Camp McDowell. Participants will make their own nature journal and learn journaling prompts and techniques, watercolor painting including making paint from natural materials, and drawing. This will be a great class for educators to learn techniques they can share with others. The class will begin indoors and then move outside among the beautiful hemlocks on camp property! No previous art experience needed. All art supplies and journal-making materials will be provided.


  • any portable art supplies you have for nature journaling that you'd like to use in addition to the ones provided (watercolor pencils and paints, colored and graphite pencils, pens). We will be making our own nature journals.
  • A pad or small folding chair or something to sit on outside after a short walk to the hemlocks.

The instructors

Starr Weems enjoys designing colorful, dreamlike paintings and illustrations with watercolor. Her work has been displayed at Kentuck Museum, Birmingham Public Library and Lowe Mill (among others) and has been featured in various publications throughout the southeast. When she isn't painting, she is working with teens at Ardmore High School, where she has taught for 21 years.

Jillian Sico (she/her) is a papermaker, printmaker, and bookbinder who makes artists' books under the imprint Frogsong Press. Her work is inspired by wild places, natural processes, and the human cultures that connect with them. Her work has been exhibited nationally and is held in numerous special and private collections. She currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where she works from her home studio and teaches college-level courses in fine and interdisciplinary art.

Allison McElroy is an artist who systematically observes the psychological cycle/existence of text– written, found, and published. Personality is based on genetics overlaid by all that we have experienced and through her recent body of text-based artwork McElroy is excavating her personal history for understanding. The work is process based: mantras written and whispered become a material remain of a mental state.

The work consists of mixed media constructs and a collection of the objects themselves frozen in state of decomposition for audience viewing. She has exhibited work in galleries and museums throughout the United States as well as shown internationally.

McElroy has completed artist residencies at The Vermont Studio Center where she received a Fellowship for Artists and Writers and an international graduate school residency in Lacoste, France where her focus of study was On-Site Installation. In Lacoste she was very fortunate to study under visiting artist Jesuit Friedhelm Mennekes.

McElroy holds an MFA degree from Savannah College of Art and Design and is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Jacksonville State University.

Janice Barrett is primarily a plein air and still life painter working in oil and watercolor. As Outreach and Education Coordinator for Wild Alabama, she organizes and leads community science and volunteer projects in the Sipsey Wilderness and Bankhead National Forest, leads activists to protect forests and water on our public lands, guides hikes and field trips and forest bathing walks. Janice weaves trees, forests, and water into her drawings and paintings and incorporates art into her non-profit work as a vessel for education, constantly deepening her relationship with forests and all of nature.

Alabama’s Eastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) are in danger of extinction if we do not prevent the spread of the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). The HWA is an invasive insect with no local natural predator. It has recently been reported in east Alabama. Early detection of the insect is key. That’s where you come in! You can learn more about Wild Alabama and their efforts to save the eastern hemlock population in Alabama HERE.