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.

Mid-Course Development (mostly intermediate)

Betsy Rome (beg. & int. guitar) [email protected]
Rich Stillman (int. banjo) [email protected]
August Watters (beg. & int. mandolin) [email protected]

Master Classes (including some intermediate) click here for details

Greg Blake (int. & adv. singing) [email protected]
Mark Schatz (int. & adv. bass) [email protected]
Mark Simos (int. & adv. songwriting) [email protected]
Roger Williams (int. & adv. Dobro) [email protected]

2020 Mid-Course Development Class Descriptions and Teacher Bios


August Watters – Mandolin Mid-Course Development Class (for beg & int)

Are you ready for what comes next? This year’s Mandolin Mid-Course Development Class (for beg & int) is designed to build practical skills, while helping you to plan future growth. Open to beginning and intermediate players, the class will dig into the musical vocabulary of bluegrass, connecting to both the underlying roots of American music, and music’s universal language through ear training.

We will begin with basic technique: Hand position, pick direction, and other crucial details to help you find the tone within your fingers. Experienced players will receive more specialized feedback on their progress, and suggestions for pursuing their individual musical goals. As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Next, we’ll explore essential chords and melodic patterns, fretboard layout, improvisation, and strategies for developing your own expressive musical voice. Participants will leave the ready to jam, and with specific tools to organize future learning.

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

August Watters’ Bio:

August Watters grew up in the bluegrass culture surrounding Bean Blossom, Indiana. Deeply influenced by Bill Monroe, Watters moved in 1981 to San Francisco to join the burgeoning acoustic music scene. Learning bluegrass traditions led to a closer study of the roots of the American mandolin; meanwhile August studied jazz at Indiana University and Berklee College. As a Professor of Ear Training at Berklee for 18 years, he trained jazz and bluegrass improvisers for fifteen years (2000-2014) through his roots-designated ensemble, originally known as the Acoustic String Project.

As a clinician and soloist, August has performed in Europe, Canada, and the United States. His work as an interpreter, improviser, composer and arranger bridges bluegrass, contemporary classical music, jazz, folk music traditions, and the historical concert mandolin repertoire. Watters holds a Masters of Music Education from Boston University, and a Bachelor’s of Music from Berklee College, majoring in Jazz Composition and Arranging, summa cum laude.

Banjo publicity pic cropped

Rich Stillman – Banjo Mid-Course Development Class (intermediate)

Intermediate players: Are you looking to make a break from tablature, and start building the skills to play what you hear? If the lure of jamming with others is strong but you can’t quite figure out how to get there, the Mid-Course banjo workshop at Joe Val is ready to help. The workshop will focus on ear training, a little music theory, and on developing right and left-hand techniques for improvisation, so you can apply your banjo skills to your ultimate goal: making music.

Depending on scheduling and turnout, we’ll try to cater the topics to people’s specific interests, so let us know your banjo goals when you sign up for the class.

Spend four hours with Rich Stillman on Friday, and you’ll come away with new things to play for the rest of the weekend!

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

Rich Stillman’s Bio:

Rich Stillman has taught literally hundreds of students to play banjo, both face-to-face and worldwide through Internet lessons. He played and recorded with New England bands Southern Rail, Adam Dewey and Crazy Creek, The Bogus Family and WayStation, and has memorably (at least for him) played sets with Peter Rowan, James Monroe, Boston Chorus Pro Musica, the Boston Saengerfest Men’s Chorus, and even the Arlington High School orchestra. Rich wrote “Bluegrass Banjo from All Sides” for Mel Bay, and one of his BCN workshops was turned into a chapter in the book “Banjo Camp”. He is a two-time New England banjo champion, a one-time New Jersey banjo champion, and a six-time bluegrass banjo winner at the Lowell Banjo and Fiddle contest. Rich teaches banjo at Tufts University, Concord Conservatory of Music and Concord Academy and at The Music Emporium in Lexington.

Betsy Rome – Guitar Mid-Course Development Class (for beg & int)

Gain confidence in your guitar playing! Techniques for rhythm and lead, right and left hand, to take your playing to the next level. Beginning to intermediate – for those who can already play open chords, change chords to the beat, and play some simple melodies. Learn how to immediately improve your tone with the flatpick. We will learn how to integrate bass runs into the chords, and how to play rhythm faster and cleaner. We’ll include a little basic music theory and jamming etiquette. Make your rhythm backup solid, consistent and dependable. Learn to play with better dynamics, and how to start in on lead flatpicking and developing your own leads. Whether you’re a developing beginner or an intermediate who’s stuck in a rut, we take a hands-on approach that will get you moving in the right direction. There will be handouts!

Review from a previous student: “The time went by so fast and I got so much out of it. I can’t believe what a difference the pick angle makes and I learned the bass runs that I wanted to.”

To register for Betsy’s Guitar Class email her at [email protected]

Betsy Rome’s bio:

Betsy Rome is well-known for her flatpicked guitar, blending bluegrass, old-time, Celtic, & swing infuences. Noted for her rock-solid rhythm and inventive leads, she has won or placed in numerous band and instrumental contests. Betsy teaches guitar and mandolin, both in person and online via Skype. She has taught workshops at Grey Fox, Joe Val, Podunk, Winter Village, Thomas Point Beach, Music Camp North and Marist College. A founding member of Too Blue, one of the Northeast’s most respected bands, Betsy is also an occasional member of The Bluegrass Characters, and plays mandolin in the Walkingwood Mandolin Quartet. “Betsy plays with a direct, highly effective approach…Everything about her playing is catchy and infectious, the sign of a total pro.” – Dan Miller, Flatpicking Guitar Magazine feature article.