Bluegrass & Gee's Bend 2024

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.


Made possible in part the Alabama State Council on the Arts.


All music classes are $255.00

Craft classes are $275.00 (additional small supplies fee for blacksmithing paid upon arrival)

Lodging prices (including meals) range from:

  • Lodge Room & Meals for 2: $550.00
  • Lodge Room & Meals for 1: $420.00
  • Cabin Bunk Bed & Meals for 1: $170.00
  • Commuter Fee & Meals for 1: $80.00

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Beginner Bluegrass Banjo I with Jack Hatfield

In this class, Jack will cover proper position, tuning, basic right and left hand techniques, and practice regimen - a method to arrange simple songs using one roll and one left hand finger. He'll offer a recommended course of study for your first six months of bluegrass banjo playing.

Jack Hatfield began his teaching career in 1973. Over the next seventeen years he taught hundreds of private students in Knoxville TN before he quit to perform at Dollywood theme park in nearby Pigeon Forge, TN. He published the first of over thirty banjo instruction books in 1976 through his own company Hatfield Music, and subsequently authored several banjo books for Mel Bay Publications. Jack contributed to Banjo Newsletter magazine monthly for thirty-plus years and was on the faculty of the very first acoustic music camp, the Tennessee Banjo Institute in 1988. He has taught workshops all over the USA and in four other countries. Jack was Bluegrass director for Banjo Newsletter’s Maryland Banjo Academy banjo camps. He founded his own Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy banjo camp in 2004 in a barn he renovated and has directed the annual SPBGMA banjo workshop in Nashville for thirty-two years. At these camps and workshops Jack has worked with dozens of the most gifted banjo recording artists and authors in the world and has gleaned many insights he passes on to his students. Along with his publications, Hatfield Music also offers several banjo related products he designed such as his Banjo Board practice simulator and the Jones-Hatfield banjo pickup. In his youth Jack placed in several banjo competitions and was a finalist in the National Banjo Competition in Winfield. Kansas in 1989. He currently performs around East Tennessee with his bluegrass group True Blue and his Americana group Hatfield’s Heathens, as well as an eclectic instrumental group he organized featuring cello master Dave Eggar.

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Bluegrass Banjo II with Alan Munde

This class will address the common musical phrases (licks) of bluegrass banjo, how the rolls work, creating solos to songs, and back up strategies, how to organize the fingerboard through the diatonic chords (aka harmonized scale), and how to use them in creating complex and beautiful solos (especially for slow songs) and advanced backup. Also to offer approaches to discovering interesting harmonic movements and creating single string melodies. Included will be time to address questions and concerns of students not stated above.

Alan Munde's career as a bluegrass banjo performer and teacher has recently been noted and celebrated with his induction into the American Banjo Hall of Fame, and receiving of the prestigious Steve Martin Banjo Prize 2021. He has had a long and successful career in bluegrass music with special emphasis in banjo instruction teaching in the Creative Arts Music Program at South Plains College, Levelland, Texas, and at numerous banjo camps over the past 40 years. His new CD, Excelsior on the Patuxent label, has wide-spread acclaim from fans and peers alike.

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Bluegrass Fiddle I with Gretchen May

In Bluegrass Fiddle I Gretchen will give helpful tips on holding your fiddle to support healthy left hand position, discuss bow hold and movement to produce tone. You’ll work on fiddle tunes addressing rhythm fundamentals to achieve Bluegrass style bowing, drive, and speed. You’ll have fun with basic shuffle, Georgia shuffle, and double shuffle. Gretchen will also work on how to approach a fiddle solo on vocal repertoire.

Gretchen Priest: Born in SB IND; Living in Nashville since 1995. She recorded and toured with Celtic rock band, “Ceili Rain”, with bluegrass band, “Crucial Smith”, performed on the Opry with Mike Snider, and with various artists shows including Kathy Mattea, Joy Lynn White, Manhattan Transfer, Lyle Lovett, Moody Blues, Charlie McCoy, and she played for the Pope! She has taught at many camps over the years including Acoustic Alaska Camp, Texas Acoustic Music Camp, Nashcamp, CO Roots Camp, Steve Kaufman’s Camp, and Mark O’Connor’s Fiddle Camp. She is the founder, Director, and a Music Educator at the Musical Heritage Center, AKA... the Fiddle & Pick since 2008. MHC is enthusiastic on history, hosting workshops, traditional music events with performances by instructors with expertise in various genres. Gretchen teaches private lessons and leads inclusive multi-level jams, sessions and classes. She loves fiddling for dancers: Contra, square dance, flatfoot, Irish dance & waltzes. Her most recent recording release called “Roadside Distraction”, with mandolinist Emily Wilson featuring Old-time, Irish, and wacky tunes! She plays in Nashville area with Nashville Irish Trio, eclectic writer and bluegrass artist, Erinn Peet Lukes, and local Bluegrass band BLUFFGRASS. Gretchen’s long time band and brand, “PLAIDGRASS” CD shows her fiddle skill in Bluegrass, Old-Time & Irish.


Bluegrass Fiddle II with Justin Branum

Justin Branum is a fiddler and multi-instrumentalist whose expertise lies in teaching music, recording sessions/overdubs, and touring.

Growing up playing western swing, bluegrass, country music, contest/Texas style and old-time fiddle, he was frequently playing in various instrument contests and has won the Grand Master Fiddler Contest, National Fiddle Contest, Tennessee State Fiddle Championship, Tennessee State Mandolin Championship, Texas State Fiddle Championship, Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree, Twin Lakes National Fiddle Championship, and Alabama State Fiddle Championship.

During his performing/studio career based out of Nashville, TN, Justin has played with a wide range of acts and artists including: Lee Ann Womack, Sons of the Pioneers, Son Volt, Pokey LaFarge, Bobby Flores and the Yellow Rose Band, Roland White, The Jim Hurst Trio, Marty Haggard, Jeannie Seely, John Conlee, Sara Evans, Russell Dickerson, Kane Brown, Steven Curtis Chapman, Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Val Storey, Mo Pitney, and many more. Most recently you may have seen or heard Justin in the house band for the Merlin Gene Show on RFD-TV, the Smithville Jamboree's nationwide PBS broadcast, and on 650 WSM subbing in the Grand Ole Opry house band.

Justin holds a masters degree in jazz studies from Webster University and served as an adjunct professor of music at Washington University, Webster University, and East Central College. Justin, his wife Angelica, four step-kids, and newborn twin sons, live outside Nashville, TN where he and Angelica operate their home teaching/recording studio and gig locally with the ocasional tour.

In his free time Justin enjoys fishing, hiking, and camping, especially in the Smokey Mountains.


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, Mandobug 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.


Bluegrass Mandolin II with Casey Campbell

In Mandolin II instruction will focus on discovering new fretboard patterns, advanced right hand rhythm exercises, double stops, and in-depth conversation about taste and musicianship. This is an advanced class and students should be able to play basic chord changes in tempo and have knowledge of scales.

Nashville native Casey Campbell has become one of the most influential young voices in bluegrass mandolin and a respected teacher of traditional and modern mandolin styles. Born into a bluegrass family – he literally took his first steps backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in Bill Monroe’s dressing room – Campbell is a fourth-generation musician on both sides of his family.

Inspired by his parents, relatives, and musical friends, Campbell started playing guitar at age seven and moved on to mandolin at 11. By the time he was in high school, he was already touring and recording with multiple groups, notably Green On The Vyne, a group of young musicians formed and managed by Deanie Richardson. Campbell continued to rise through the ranks while earning his B.B.A. in Music Business at Belmont University. There, he helped form the Vickie Vaughn Band along with fellow classmates Vickie Vaughn, Zack White, Maggie Estes, and Justin Hiltner. Their self-titled album released in 2014 was produced by Ronnie McCoury.

His performing and recording resume includes gigs with bluegrass legends Ricky Skaggs, Bryan Sutton, Del McCoury, Roland White, David Grier, the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Chris Stapleton, John Oates, Mac Wiseman, Vince Gill, Dierks Bentley, Roland White, Jim Lauderdale, Noam Pikelny, Becky Buller, and many more. He’s performed for audiences at major venues and events including the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, The Station Inn, A Prairie Home Companion on National Public Radio, Bonnaroo, Walnut Valley Festival, GreyFox, DelFest, ROMP Festival, RockyGrass, Merlefest, Strawberry Music Festival, IBMA World of Bluegrass, and more.


Guitar I with Allen Tolbert

Guitar 1 will be a comprehensive course that will cover all the essentials necessary for the beginner to learn to play to guitar, while also touching upon advanced techniques and ideas to help foster long term growth in the individual student. Students will learn chord structures, basic improvising techniques, how to properly tune and maintain a guitar, how to properly change strings and many other essentials for the aspiring guitarist. The objective will be for the student to be able to play multiple songs proficiently at the conclusion of the camp and be well versed in the essentials of the guitar. The hope is this will create new guitarists to enrich all of our musical futures!

Allen Tolbert has toured professionally in the southeast for over 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 Show on WBRC TV in Birmingham 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. His debut solo CD is scheduled to be released soon. Allen also teaches guitar and mandolin in the greater Birmingham metropolitan area, as well as throughout the world via Skype and FaceTime.


Advanced Flatpicking Guitar with Tim May

In this class we will look at how the flatpicking greats approached the style ( Doc Watson, Clarence White, Tony Rice, Dan Crary and others) and try to steal their ideas. You'll get the tools you need to create solos and improvise: targeting chord tones, crosspicking, harmonized scales, and blues scales. We'll work on some advanced rhythm techniques and look at how players like Maybelle Carter and Norman Blake took rhythm ideas and incorporated them into their solos. A comprehensive class with lots of playing time.

Tim May is a performer, studio musician, producer, side man and teacher in Nashville, Tennessee. He toured for many years with his progressive bluegrass band (Crucial Smith) and currently tours with Steve Smith, with fingerpicker Richard Gilewitz, with his wife Gretchen's 'Roadside Distraction' and with country artist Kathy Mattea. He was a regular for many years on the Grand Ole Opry with Mike Snider, toured with Patty Loveless, John Cowan, Rodney Dillard, Eddie Rabbitt, and was solo guitarist on Charlie Daniels' grammy nominated 'I'll Fly Away' cut off the album 'Songs From the Long-Leaf Pines'. He is co-author of the eight-volume series Flatpicking Essentials and of the the Flatpicker's Guides to Irish and Old-Time. Tim is a contributing writer to Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine.


Bass with Ashleigh Caudill

In this class we'll cover pulling good tone, timing and groove, tasteful walks, how to lead and guide a band, understanding the circle of 5ths and how it helps when moving a tune from key to key, and what to do when the band drops out and it's time for a bass solo! All skill levels are welcome as there's something for everyone from the beginner to the seasoned bassist.

Folksinger, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Ashleigh Caudill, will draw you into the tales she spins. Shaped by the sounds of her family’s Appalachian heritage she’ll take you on a lonely train ride through the mountains, a drive along the countryside, or back in time with warm, dancing melodies and spacious, acoustic instrumentation. No stranger to bluegrass and country, Ashleigh has worked extensively as a freelance bassist throughout her career. You’ve likely heard her bass playing behind everyone from Charlie Sizemore to Angaleena Presley, or sang along to her compositions performed by Balsam Range, Jim Hurst, and many others. If you like your music sophisticated, fun and honest, you need look no further.

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Gee's Bend Quilting with Mary Ann Pettway & 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.


Natural Dyes with Aaron Sanders Head

In this 4 day workshop, Aaron will guide participants through the world of natural dyes. Using both garden-grown and foraged plants--including marigolds, sumac, black walnut and indigo--we'll learn the basics of bundle dyeing, flower pounding, and manual resist dyeing techniques for creating patterns on fabric. Participants will learn to prepare their fabric for dyeing, and how to employ pH shifts to increase their natural palette.

Aaron Sanders Head is a Southern, Alabama-based textile artist. Aaron was raised in rural Grady, AL and Hope Hull, AL, as the youngest of three children from an artist mother and an agricultural worker father. His grandparents were both rural mail carriers, and the times Aaron spent accompanying them on those trips cemented early on a fondness for rural areas and the importance of connection however it can be found. That learned sense of observation combined with inherited family traditions of textile and agriculture inform the unique visual language Aaron works in today, that exists in the worlds of quiltmaking, handwork and natural dyes. Aaron creates quilts and hand-stitched, naturally dyed textiles that explore the lived experiences of rural Alabamians.


Goat Soap Making with Laura Spencer

In this fun and educational class, you’ll begin by making “melt-and-pour” goat milk soap. You’ll then move on to the more involved method of creating cold process goat milk soap, as well as a small bottle of goat milk lotion. We’ll also incorporate an artistic flair as you’ll each create your own felted soap, and rolled beeswax candles. Each participant will leave with a small lotion, several candles, felted soap, and at least 10 bars of soap for sharing!

Laura owns and operates a family farm and homestead in Marion Junction, Alabama. Simply Making It offers goat's milk soap, skincare products, beeswax candles, and more. Laura crafted her first batch of soap in 2010. What started as a simple next step in her family's effort to become more sustainable, slowly grew beyond family and beyond soap, into a small business that continues today. Every product is handmade using natural ingredients, including milk from Laura's goats, herbs from her garden, and pure essential oils.


Blacksmithing with Quinn McKay

Students will first get a lesson in proper form with hand-hammers, tongs, and sledge-hammers and will go over the plan for the class. Next they will each make a nail and hook. Once students finish this, they will each make a spoon which can be hung on a wall using the hook and nail.

Quinn is an artist blacksmith working at Iron Horse Metalworks in Birmingham, AL and working independently as McKay Forged Metals.

Quinn McKay’s creative energies are rooted in a love of Architecture from an early age, blended with a deep connection to nature. Elements of his designs are inspired by the clean lines we surround ourselves with and the natural forms outside of that. Throughout much of his work, the use of nature’s proportions are present.

Attending the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, SC solidified Quinn’s love of forging metal. He celebrates the material in his pieces by preserving its natural displacement when forged, leaving the evidence of each manipulation of the material. Acting with this sense of preservation is his homage to the tradition of forging. Through his time spent here, Quinn explored many different styles within his ironwork taking the most influence from Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement.