Veterans Memorial Park Inc. and the Surry Arts Council are offering free workshops and demonstrations on Friday, June 2, at the Indoor Grandstand as part of the annual Mount Airy’s Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddlers Convention.
The workshops offer those attending the opportunity to learn from area award-winning musicians and dancers in an informal, relaxed setting.
Workshops begin with banjo at 11 a.m. with Nancy Sluys and Marsha Todd. Sluys has won numerous clawhammer banjo awards including first place at Galax Fiddlers Convention in 1995, 2002 and 2004. She’s also won prizes at most of the major fiddlers conventions in the south, including first prize at Elk Creek and Mount Airy. Sluys also plays fiddle and is leader of the Pilot Mountain Bobcats with her husband Bill who plays bass.
Todd has been performing since age 9 with her family band, the Slate Mountain Ramblers. She plays banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, and a little fiddle, “it just depends on who’s around and what is needed” she says. Here she will be assisting Nancy on guitar. Todd is also an award winner on banjo and dance, winning multiple prizes including first place at Galax Fiddlers Convention in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
At noon, Jim “Vip” Vipperman will facilitate the Surry County Old-Time Music Demonstration. Vipperman is a multi-instrumentalist and teacher with a long career in music, including winning more top-ten awards than any other fiddle competitor in the history of the Galax Filler’s Convention and being recognized as a Brown-Hudson Folklore Award winner for teaching excellence and passing on the tradition.
The demonstration features NC Folk Heritage award winner Verlen Clifton along with Wes Clifton, Richard and Barbara Bowman, Marsha Todd, Andy Edmonds, Steve and Diane Bowen, Jacob Bowen, Chester McMillian, and Laura Turner, among others. Verlen Clifton played mandolin for the Camp Creek Boys, the Smokey Valley Boys, Ronald Collins’ Blue Ridge Entertainers, and the Toast String Stretchers.
Wes, Verlen’s grandson, became interested in traditional music in his mid-twenties and played guitar and mandolin with Benton Flippen’s Smokey Valley Boys for some of the group’s later years and currently plays with the Buckstankle Boys. Award winning Richard and Barbara Bowman’s Slate Mountain Ramblers have been a mainstay of the dance and festival culture in central and western North Carolina and southwest Virginia for 30 years.
Andy Edmonds played guitar and banjo with Benton Flippen’s Smokey Valley Boys for over a decade, but the fiddle became his primary focus. He has won numerous prizes at area fiddle contests. Steve, Diane, and Jacob Bowen are three of the four members of Zephyr Lightning Bolts Old-Time Band. They’ve won numerous awards both as a band and individually. Chester McMillian, the fourth member of Zephyr Lightning Bolts Old-Time Band, is a Brown-Hudson Folklore award winner. He has played with legends including Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Whit Sizemore, Benton Flippen and Fred Cockerham. Laura Turner’s pursuit of a PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago led her to Mount Airy to study the Round Peak style and she fell in love with it.
At 1 p.m., there is a Flat Footin’ and Traditional Dance workshop led by Aaron Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe has competed and won at numerous conventions and also led the workshop in previous years.
The Surry County Old-Time Fiddle workshop begins at 2 p.m. Jacob Bowen and Richard Bowman will lead with assistance from Chester McMillian.
At 3 p.m., the Surry County Old-Time Frolic wraps up the workshops and demonstrations. Bill and Nancy Sluys and Andy Edmonds will lead the Frolic, where everyone is invited to jam, dance, and enjoy Surry County old-time music.
Veterans Memorial Park Inc. receives partial funding for these workshops and demonstrations from the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
For additional information, contact Marsha Todd firstname.lastname@example.org. 336-786-7998