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.

Master Classes (mostly advanced)

Alan Bibey (adv. mandolin) [email protected]
Jeff Scroggins (adv. banjo) [email protected]
Greg Blake (int. & adv. singing) [email protected]
Mark Schatz (int. & adv. bass) [email protected]
Mark Simos (int. & adv. songwriting) [email protected]
Bronwyn Keith-Hynes (adv. fiddle) [email protected]
Roger Williams (int. & adv. Dobro) [email protected]
Tony Watt (adv. guitar) [email protected]

2020 Master Class Descriptions and Teacher Bios


Alan Bibey – Mandolin Master Class (advanced)

Since first hitting the scene in the early 1980s, Alan has made a name for himself as one of the most technically gifted mandolinists in bluegrass and acoustic music. He was an original member of such ground-breaking bands as The New Quicksilver, IIIrd Time Out, BlueRidge and, for the last 12 years, Alan Bibey & Grasstowne. He has been voted Mandolin Performer Of The Year by SPBGMA five times, including 2018 and 2019. Alan most recently won 2019 IBMA Mandolin Player Of The Year as well as previously for Instrumental Album Of The Year, Album Of The Year and Recorded Event Of The Year, just to name a few. Alan Bibey & Grasstowne’s Bluegrass Gospel single “Gonna Rise & Shine” has been #1 twelve times and in the top ten for 34 weeks and their latest single “When Jesus Swings The Wrecking Ball” has been in the top ten for the last 50 weeks! Alan was included in the Mel Bay book, “Greatest Mandolin Players Of The Twentieth Century”, and in 2004, the Gibson Company put into production the Alan Bibey Signature line of mandolins, reaffirming his status as one of the most influential mandolin players in bluegrass and acoustic music history.

Alan’s Master Class will focus on some advanced techniques in bluegrass mandolin and mandolin in general. We’ll look at some standard bluegrass songs as well as some classic bluegrass mandolin breaks. We will pick them apart to discover how we can these licks and approaches in many other songs and add them to our bag of tricks so to speak. We will also explore how to “play around the melody” tastefully with traditional as well as more modern approaches. We will talk about the journey to true improvisation as well as discussing how to alter some of your favorite licks to get much more out of them. This will be an exploration of the mandolin that will help you on the road to creating your own style! Bring all your recording devices and plenty of questions. There will also be handouts in this class as well as learning by ear.

To register for Alan’s Mandolin Master Class email him at [email protected]

Jeff Scroggins – Banjo Master Class (advanced)

Jeff Scroggins is an internationally acclaimed 5-string banjo player who has taken his fiery 5-string banjo style to stages around the world. Jeff has won numerous contests and awards in his career, including the prestigious National Bluegrass Banjo Championship, and dozens of state, regional and local banjo contests. He has performed and recorded with many of the top names in bluegrass and has performed at many of the largest bluegrass festivals in the US and around the world. Jeff is also well-known as a banjo teacher, and he teaches regularly at music camps in the US, Canada and Europe. He is probably best known for fronting his own band, “Jeff Scroggins and Colorado,” with which he traveled the world for 10 years. The band and it’s members were nominated for and won IBMA awards and were well known for touring relentlessly.

Jeff’s Master Class will look at effective practice habits, including tips on what to practice and how to practice, as well as how to structure your practice in order to make progress in your playing. We will play through some exercises and a couple of examples of how to use the information immediately for improvising and arranging. We will also look at:

  • Visualizing and mapping the neck and moving around it more freely

  • Lick development and how to create your own with the information presented

  • Technique and Tone – a look at right- and left-hand technique and tips for improving both, and improving tone

  • Performance anxiety – how it impacts your playing and strategies for dealing with it

Students will have the opportunity to perform and be evaluated, as usual in a master class. The class will also be question-driven and topics can be added or expanded upon based on interest.

To register for Jeff’s Banjo Master Class email him at [email protected]

Greg Blake – Singing Master Class (for int & adv)

You’ll hear it in his voice immediately … the original strain of Appalachian mountain music that lies at the heart of all great modern bluegrass and country. Greg Blake grew up in the mountains of southern West Virginia, and when he sings, you can hear a voice that connects to the great old generations of mountain singers, invested with a rich twang and rumbling drawl, and the kind of eerily powerful high tenor cry that first inspired the “high, lonesome sound”. He has been nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year on multiple occasions by both IBMA and SPBGMA. He is one of the most sought after performers and instructors on the market today. Unfettered by genre divisions and unconstrained by tradition, he just follows his heart to find the deep mountain roots of the music, infusing everything he sings with a powerful, soaring spirit.

One of the most desired characteristics in a singer – both by the listener and the singer, herself or himself – is heart or passion. Heartfelt singing is more “caught” than taught – it comes from inspiration more than instruction. But Greg will do his best to inspire you to be a more soulful singer while he introduces and/or reminds you of good singing techniques and practices that will facilitate you in becoming a better vocalist.

Greg’s Singing Master Class (for int & adv) will include the following (time permitting):

– identifying bluegrass style and how your natural, unadulterated voice can fit within the specifics of historic, traditional “bluegrass singing”;
– improving your “phrasing”, tone, resonance and projection;
– vocal exercises and warm-ups that will also help you develop range and diction;
– tips on “delivering” a song in such a way that in addition to be palatable to the ears, its also pleasing to the heartIn addition, as he covers harmony singing and group dynamics, he will explain and demonstrate:
– blending voices
– intervals/chord construction
– duet and three-part harmony

To register for Greg’s Singing Master Class (for int & adv) email him at [email protected]

Mark Schatz – Bass Master Class (for int & adv)

Twice named IBMA Bass Player of the Year, Mark Schatz has toured and recorded with a stellar array of artists including Bela Fleck, Tony Rice, John Hartford, Tim and Mollie O’Brien, acoustic innovators Nickel Creek, The Claire Lynch Band, and Sarah Jarosz. Mark is the Musical Director for internationally acclaimed Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble which showcases other talents such as clawhammer banjo and Southern Appalachian clog dancing. This versatile multi-instrumentalist has two of his own solo recordings, Brand New Old Tyme Way and Steppin’ in the Boiler House on Rounder Records, which feature his own eclectic blend of original compositions on the banjo, and two bass instructional videos on Homespun. Mark is currently freelancing which includes touring, recording, instructional camps, and private instruction.

In Mark’s Bass Master Class (for int & adv) we will review the basics, then explore a range of skills that can be applied to bluegrass, old-time, country, and beyond. We will work on scales and positions in the left hand. We will learn exercises to increase dexterity, accuracy, and speed in the right hand. We will work on adding color, variation, and shape to our bass lines, and explore slap bass, walking bass, and three-four time. If anyone wants to get a head start on the class they can purchase my two Homespun bass instructional videos from me. I will waive the shipping charge and charge a total of $50 for both. These will provide a good follow-up reference after attending the class as well. We’ll cover a lot of ground so feel free to bring recording devices or note pads. Looking forward to digging in and having fun, too.

To register for Mark’s Bass Master Class (for int & adv) email him at [email protected]

Mark Simos – Songwriting Master Class (for int & adv)

Mark Simos is a respected songwriter in the bluegrass, roots, and Americana music communities. Over the past 30+ years, he’s had over 150 songs and instrumental tunes recorded by prominent artists including Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Ricky Skaggs, the Del McCoury Band, the Infamous Stringdusters, Doyle Lawson and many others. Since 2006, Mark has taught songwriting at Berklee College of Music (Boston), where he has mentored many of the fine young artists shaping today’s progressive acoustic scene. He is author of two books on songwriting for Berklee Press: Songwriting Strategies: A 360º Approach (2014), and Songwriting in Practice: Notebooks, Journals, Logs, Lists (2018).

In the first half of this 4-hr master class, Mark will offer specific songwriting exercises for each of the four “directions” of the “Songwriter’s Compass” described in his book Songwriting Strategies: rhythm, lyrics, melody, and harmony. Each exercise will draw on (“steal fire” from) an example song from bluegrass and its source traditions: from classics of the canon by Monroe and the Stanley Brothers to contemporary writers. In the second half of the class, Mark will share some useful “housekeeping” practices for working songwriters—idea capture, co-writing, managing revisions—and will demonstrate by leading a review of a few selected songs by participants.

To register for Mark’s Songwriting Master Class (for int & adv) email him at [email protected]

Bronwyn Keith-Hynes – Fiddle Master Class (advanced)

Bronwyn Keith‐Hynes is a Nashville-based bluegrass fiddler originally from Charlottesville, Virginia. Accepted on a scholarship to attend the American Roots Music Program at Berklee College of Music at age 16, she graduated in 2012 with a Professional Diploma in Violin Performance. She has performed with Peter Rowan, Darol Anger, The Milk Carton Kids, Anais Mitchell, The Deadly Gentlemen and Tony Trischka, among others. Bronwyn is a founding member of the IBMA Momentum Award-winning Boston-based bluegrass band Mile Twelve and can be found touring with them all over the planet.  In 2014 Bronwyn won first place in the Walnut Valley Old Time Fiddle Championship in Winfield, KS and in 2015 won first place in the Freshgrass Fiddle Contest. Bronwyn has been on staff at Berklee College of Music teaching string lessons at The Five-Week Program for several years.  She also teaches throughout the year at music camps around the world and offers private lessons through Skype.

This bluegrass fiddle class will offer a variety of topics for fiddlers who have at least a few years of experience on their instrument (no prior bluegrass experience necessary).  Topics covered will include: playing the melody of a bluegrass song and how to embellish it, melodic variations on a fiddle tune, tactics to improve improvisation and how to play backup to a bluegrass singer.  We will also cover techniques that are integral to bluegrass fiddle such as: how to shift accurately between positions, producing good tone, improving bow control and adding double stops to melodies. We will learn several scale patterns, arpeggios and double stops. We will also learn some music theory on the fiddle and gain some theory shortcuts that will help you think faster in the moment.  Material will be taught mostly by ear, so please bring an audio or video recording device.

To register for Bronwyn’s Fiddle Master Class email her at  [email protected]

Roger Williams – Dobro Master Class (for int & adv)

Roger Williams started playing the resophonic, Dobro style guitar in 1963 when he was just a young teenager. Within the first year, he had already debuted with the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover at the Hillbilly Ranch in Boston, Mass., where they had performed for nearly two decades. Since then he has gone on to perform and/or record with many well-respected bluegrass and folk acts on the national and international circuit, including Joe Val, White Mountain Bluegrass, and Southern Rail. Career highlights include thirteen overseas tours with various artists, including a performance at the prestigious Dobro Festival in Slovakia and teaching workshops during Bluegrass Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV. Roger has recorded two solo projects, ‘Fireball’ and ‘Rt. 2 to Amherst’, and three collaborative efforts: ‘River of No Return’ (with long-time friend and musical associate Ray Legere), ‘Williams Squared’ (with son JD Williams), and ‘Something ‘Bout You’ (with partner Amy Gallatin). You can learn more about Roger at his website: www.rogerreso.com

In Roger’s Master Class (for int & adv), we’ll take a look at practice techniques, such as:
· Different ways of practicing scales (i.e., G scale from the 5th fret, etc.), includes ‘Scales’ handout
· The ‘neighborhood’ on the neck – Scales behind/ahead of – bar – with harmony
· Practicing with pre-recorded backing tracks
· Practicing with a metronome

The Master Class (for int & adv) will also include:
· A review of several one-measure dobro licks in different keys (tablature provided)
· Participants will be taken through 1-4-5-1 chord progressions utilizing the aforementioned dobro licks
· Soloing based on melody
· Improvised soloing
· Soloing using both octaves
· Utilizing open strings in keys other than open G
· A look at some classic bluegrass tunes such as ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’, ‘Foggy Mountain Rock’ (tablature provided)

There will also be time provided in the second half of the workshop to answer specific needs/requests that have been provided to me by the participants via e-mail prior to the day of the class.

To register for Roger’s Dobro Master Class (for int & adv) email him at [email protected]

Tony Watt – Guitar Master Class (advanced)

Award-winning flatpicking guitarist and mandolinist Tony Watt has performed throughout the United States and Europe, including on the Grand Ole Opry. He has been featured in Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Now, and Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, but is perhaps best known for his version of Cherokee Shuffle with Noam Pikelny and Andy Falco, which has been viewed roughly 200,000 times on YouTube. Tony has toured with Rounder Recording artist Alecia Nugent, with Leigh Gibson, guitarist for The Gibson Brothers, with Jenni Lyn Gardner, mandolinist for Della Mae, and currently performs with Alan Bibey & Grasstowne. He is currently the Vice President and Education Co-Director of the Boston Bluegrass Union (BBU), as well as the Camp Coordinator for Ashokan’s Bluegrass Camp and Ashokan’s Flatpicking Camp. Tony is also the director of The Bluegrass University, which presents JamVember, a weekend-long bluegrass jamming “non-festival” held the weekend before Thanksgiving at the Sheraton in Framingham, MA. Tony currently teaches lessons, classes, workshops, and jam sessions throughout the Boston area and anywhere in the world online.

Tony’s Guitar Master Class will feature a wide variety of his favorite topics to discuss with students. Time permitting, these will include left- and right-hand technique, learning from recordings, practice techniques (including playing with a metronome or other timing device), critical listening (to yourself and others), jamming as a path to improvement, and more. Most recently, Tony has been teaching advanced bluegrass rhythm guitar techniques, and if there is interest among the students, Tony will cover these as well.

To register for Tony’s Guitar Master Class email him at [email protected]