Once again, this year we have some wonderful classes lined up during the day on Friday, February 14th, immediately before the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival begins.

All of the Friday-daytime classes at Joe Val meet on the same schedule as always (from 11 am until 4 pm with an hour-long break at 1 pm), but the prices have been updated slightly:

until Jan 15th: $65
Jan 16th to Feb 1st: $70
after Feb 1st: $75

Class size is limited to 15 and preregistration is strongly encouraged. To sign up, all you need to do is e-mail your instructor directly at their e-mail address listed below.

Fast Track (beginner)

Bruce Stockwell (beg. banjo) [email protected]
Ellen Carlson (beg. fiddle) [email protected]
Mid-Course Development (including some beginner) click here for details
Betsy Rome (beg. & int. guitar) [email protected]
Rich Stillman (int. banjo) [email protected]
August Watters (beg. & int. mandolin) [email protected]

2020 Fast Track Class Descriptions and Teacher Bios


Bruce Stockwell – Banjo Fast Track Class (beginner)

To make the best use of our time, we’ll try to asses the general experience level of those in attendance and adjust our focus and pace accordingly.

Prep topics for first-time players
-Essential listening
-Playing with others
-Setup and accessories
-The key of G: G, C and D7 chords
-Right-hand finger/string assignments
-Our 3 “jobs”: rhythm, backup and solos

Fundamental techniques
-Basic rhythm pattern: with G, C, D7 exercises and “Shady Grove”
-“Pinch” solos
-Alternating thumb roll with “Shady Grove” arrangement
We’ll continue with more rolls and arrangements as time allows

Additional Topics
-Left-hand ornaments: slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs
-Chords: major, minor, seventh
-Nashville Number System
-Music Fundamentals

Our goal: by the end of our two sessions everyone will have had the chance to play (and sing) along with several simple standards and maybe even take a solo or two!

To register for Bruce’s class email him at [email protected]

Bruce Stockwell’s bio:

Bruce Stockwell has been playing bluegrass banjo since 1967 and teaching since the 70’s. By age 16 he had won banjo contests, recorded his first album and opened for Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, John Hartford and many others. In the late 70’s he worked with Phil Rosenthal and Mike Auldridge as “Old Dog’ with two albums on Flying Fish. Since the 80’s, Bruce has performed and recorded with his two brothers in various acoustic/electric formats. In 2005 he won the Merlefest Banjo Contest and was profiled in Banjo Newsletter. A New Hampshire Arts Grant led to a five-year stint with double banjo band “Hot Mustard”. Bruce now teaches at his home in Putney, Vermont, at Banjo Camp North, and at festivals around New England and plays progressive bluegrass with his brothers and wife Kelly as the “Stockwell Brothers”.

Ellen Carlson

Ellen Carlson – Fiddle Fast Track Class (beginner)

Ellen will guide you through the essentials to playing in a bluegrass band using the context of a tune like Long Journey Home, New River Train or Will the Circle Be Unbroken. She will cover introductory concepts like: What do you mean, “What key?”, How to play back up chords, Learning a basic melody by ear, Fancying up a melody, and Backing Up a Singer.

To register for Ellen’s class email her at [email protected]

Ellen Carlson’s Bio:

Fiddler Ellen Carlson has a strong grasp on several musical genres and has gained respect from her peers and students as an accomplished performer and teacher. Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine called her “an exceptionally talented musician” for her work with the acoustic roots group High Range and gave her a coveted highlight review for her solo album “People I Play With”. Fiddler magazine picked one of her tunes for publication in the annual tune contest. Pete Wernick of the bluegrass supergroup Hot Rize picked Ellen to be his fiddle instructor at his first Northeast jam camp. She has played with bluegrass, swing, western swing, country, Irish and square dance bands. She leads the NH Fiddle Ensemble (featured on WMUR’s Chronicle) with over 60 members, runs Fiddleheads Acoustic Jam Camp (in its 18th year), and has played with numerous bands.