New folk music school seeks to build lasting bonds between students

New folk music school seeks to build lasting bonds between students

September 21st, 2009 by Casey Phillips in Entertainment

For a craft that's traditionally passed on in a social context, there are few organizations set up to teach folk music in a classroom setting.

About a year ago, local musicians/teachers Christie Burns and Matt Evans decided to try to change that. The result of their efforts, the Mountain Music Folk School, will begin its first eight-week semester Sept. 28.

Everything about the school's operation, from the local musicians who comprise its teaching staff to the way the courses are taught, ties into the fundamental goal of building Chattanooga's musical community, Ms. Burns said.

"I'm really excited about that possibility of the social mixing that could go on in these classes," she said. "People will come from all kinds of backgrounds and be pulled together by their interest in music."

The classes will meet weekly for 75-minute sessions at three Southside venues, the Bluegrass Grill (55 E. Main Street), Area 61 (61 E. Main Street) and GreenSpaces (63 E. Main Street).

Courses are available for a variety of instruments and styles, from African guitar and clawhammer banjo to harmony singing and a world-music ensemble. Additional one-day workshops throughout the semester will offer intense studies of more specific styles.

Based on participation during this first semester, Ms. Burns and Mr. Evans said they hope to offer four or five semesters a year, the next one slated for January.

In June, Mr. Evans and Ms. Burns used money from CreateHere's MakeWork Grant program to bring the executive director of the Folk School of St. Louis, Colleen Heine, to Chattanooga to help them hone their ideas.

Ms. Heine and Latitude Advisers' Mike Harrell, the school's business consultant, have played key roles in making the project a reality, Mr. Evans said.

"Mike Harrell has been a huge part of helping us figure out how to make something like this work," he said. "There's no way this would be happening without the grant and specifically the part that's paying for the business consulting."

Like the Folk School of St. Louis, the Mountain Music Folk School's structure will emphasize the importance of group learning over private instruction.

In a group setting, the pace is slower, but the participants are more likely to form meaningful bonds with one another. That community building is at the core of the school's mission, Ms. Burns said.

"It just makes the music better when there are more people working at it and challenging each other and encouraging each other to improve," she said. "My biggest hope is that the community embraces it and makes it their own."


Dates: Sept. 28-Nov. 20.

Cost: $140 for eight weekly classes, $45 for one-day workshops.

Registration: through Sept. 28.

Class size: 4-10 students

Phone: 827-8906.

Web site:


"Obviously, (the school) provides people with a chance to learn music, but being able to participate in that, actually learning it and playing it, adds a lot of benefit to people's lives. It's a great community builder." -- Twin-fiddles teacher John Boulware

"I think it's a wonderful thing. It's great as a resource for people in the community. Some of the events they've done already have done a lot to make people aware (of this music). It's a good thing." -- Irish-fiddle workshop instructor Robby Hilliard


* Youth traditional ensemble -- Mondays, 6 p.m.

* Ukulele/mountain dulcimer -- Tuesdays, 6 p.m.

* Fun music theory -- Wednesdays, 6 p.m.

* Guitar I -- Thursdays, 6 p.m.


* Fiddle I -- Wednesdays, 5 p.m. /Fridays, 6 p.m.

* Upright bass I -- Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.

* Hammered dulcimer -- Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.

* Clawhammer banjo -- Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.

* Mandolin I -- Fridays, 5 p.m.


* Twin fiddles -- Mondays, 7:30 p.m.

* African guitar -- Mondays, 7:30 p.m.

* Guitar II -- Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m.

* Slide guitar -- Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m.

* World music ensemble -- Thursdays, 6 p.m.

* Harmony singing -- Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.

* Traditional music ensemble -- Fridays, 6:30 p.m.


Oct. 31 -- Dobro/dld-time and bluegrass bowing techniques

Nov. 7 -- Cumberland Plateau banjo styles/Irish fiddle

Nov. 14 -- Old-time fiddle/bluegrass banjo