May-June 2014

Old Time Music and Dance Workshops
at the
9th Ever LA Old Time Social

By David Bragger


I'm all about old-time music. FolkWorks is all about folk music in Los Angeles. So, for me, it naturally all comes together at the 9th Ever Los Angeles Old Time Social. We're bringing in some great players from Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and New York this year! And of course, several awesome players from our own backyard! Each year we're getting bigger and better while keeping it a volunteer-only, community-driven event.

The routine goes as follows: Thursday, May 15 is the big kick off party with live music. This year it's at a new location: 1642 Bar at 1642 Temple Ave Los Angeles. Friday, May 16th is the formal concert featuring Spencer and Rains (KS & TX), Brian Vollmer & Ben Townsend (NY & WV), and Los Angeles super trio Triple Chicken Foot! We even have live intermission music by the ragtime duo, On The Ragtime! Finally, we have Saturday, May 17th, the big daddy of the OT Social. There will be workshops galore, a family dance, a cakewalk and an epic square dance featuring performers from the Friday Night Concert!

 I also have the pleasure to announce that several of my students and a "graduate" will perform this year!!! They deserve a shout out! At the Thursday kick-off party, old-time genius Nick Bachman (who designed this year's poster) will be playing with another musical wunderkind, Jonathan Shifflett as the White Chocolate Drops. As their bio states, "The two share a love for the African-American old-time tradition and play with a historical sense of crookedness and harmonic confusion! Joining them at the Kick-off will be the Smoggy Mountain String Band and the LA Bluegrass Hoppers. On Saturday, my wonderful fiddle student Heather Whipp will be fiddling along side guitar powerhouse Laura Osborn and veteran banjo stud Steve Lewis as The Turpentine Rug Stompers for the cakewalk. You don't want to miss the cakewalk!!

As a devoted old time music instructor, I'm honored to be involved in organizing the workshops of this event. If you have any interest in learning traditional fiddle, banjo, guitar, Italian/Mexican mandolin, clogging, square dance calling, etc., then you'll be in hog's heaven. Workshops begin at noon and go until 6:00 on Saturday.

You can email me directly for registration and questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Here they are! See you at the Social!

Italian and Mexican Mandolin Styles with Paul Rangell

Paul Rangell will introduce a selection of Italian and Mexican tunes on mandolin. Emphasis will be on learning the simple melodic lines, then gaining strength with support from adjacent strings and chords. Guitarists are encouraged to join this workshop too, as we will cover the guitar chord back-up through the nimble fingers and delightful rhythm guitar playing of Emily Abbink.

Paul Rangell has been playing guitar and pursuing traditional music since a boy in the 1960s. He plays guitar in several bands, focusing on rhythmic accompaniment to fiddle music of many lands. He also plays mandolin, violin, tenor banjo and guitarron in various configurations. Locally, you can hear him every Sunday morning at the Buttery Cafe with his family band, The Rhythm Rangellers, with The Percolators, with Adam Rose, and with Irene Herrmann in groups that specialize in selective instrumental repertoire. He is a regular at the Farmer’s Markets and plays Italian and Mexican mandolin tunes every Tuesday night at La Posta (Seabright) with his wife, Emily Abbink. He loves old-time American songs, Brother Duets, early country, Western Swing, and classic Mexican songs. He has taught many summers at The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes (Port Townsend, WA) and Lark in the Morning (Mendocino, CA) as well as private lessons for several years on guitar, mandolin and fiddle.

Fiddle & Banjo Duets Workshop with Brian Vollmer & Ben Townsend

Brian & Ben present mountain styles of playing fiddle & banjo. The workshop will examine fiddle tunes with banjo accompaniment.

Ben Townsend, of Romney, WV, was introduced to the world of old-time music by Paul Roomsburg of Hampshire County West Virginia. Since learning the basics, he has studied with Riley Baugus, Ron Mullennax and Paul Brown. He was awarded a Scholarship from the Augusta Heritage Center to further his studies on the fiddle with Dave Bing of Roane County WV. As a member of both The Fox Hunt and Old Sledge, Ben has traveled across the country and around the world spreading his take on West Virginia old-time music and has shared the stage with acts varying from Ralph Stanley to the Henry Girls of County Donegal Ireland to the Taiko drummers of Yamagata Prefecture, Japan.

Brian’s musical background started with his family. Born into parents who loved, listened and played Bluegrass and Old-Timey music, he went everywhere from festivals, shows, and “pickin’ parties” with them as a toddler, a youth, and eventually he picked up a banjo and started to perform in his father’s Bluegrass band (on the side of his punk band) when he was 14. His early banjo work (both 3-Finger and Clawhammer) was based on a weeklong study with extraordinary banjoists Reed Martin and Bill Keith at the same music camp. He practiced all the time back at his parent’s home in the thick woods off the Patuxent River in Howard County near Skaggsville, MD in a community known as Holiday Hills.

Fiddle Chording or How to Play Tunes You’ve Never Heard with Tricia Spencer & Howard Rains

Tricia Spencer will teach her technique for chording fiddle tunes, an ideal method for learning tunes on the fly. Fiddle chording also allows a fiddler to focus on bowing rather than those pesky notes and opens up a new way to play old time music in jam settings. Howard Rains will provide guitar accompaniment and humorous commentary.

Spencer & Rains play old time fiddle tunes and sing old songs in the style of their home states while also exploring other American regional styles of fiddling. Both multi-instrumentalists deeply absorbed in traditional music, Howard and Tricia preserve, present, and teach old time music while at the same time making it their own. Not only do they love to play dances, festivals, and house concerts, Spencer & Rains are highly sought after as instructors and love to teach old time music at camps, workshops, and private lessons

Old Time Crooked Fiddle Tunes and Bowing with David Bragger

This workshop is for all levels! The objective is to get the fiddler playing some incredible, crooked tunes that will rock any jam session. I’ll be drawing from a vast repertoire of Kentucky and West Virginia fiddle tunes that are crooked, rhythmic and easy to grasp. As always, my workshops emphasize the key ingredient to old time fiddle: bowing!! All workshop attendees will receive audio files of the tunes with phrase by phrase instruction. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for registration and questions.

David Bragger plays banjo, fiddle and mandolin in the old-time stringboard Sausage Grinder and in several local dance bands. David teaches old-time fiddle, banjo and mandolin to students of all ages and levels. He is also the host of the Old Time Tiki Parlour which showcases concerts and workshops by the best old time musicians alive, including Kirk Sutphin, Dan Gellert, Bruce Molsky, Bob Carlin, Bertram Levy, etc. His students have won awards at festivals from Topanga Fiddle Banjo Festival to Galax, Virginia. Most importantly, he shows you how to have a foot-stomping ruckus of a good time!

Carter Family Guitar with Chris Berry

Mother Maybelle Carter was one of the most influential old-time and early country guitar players. We’ll start with the “Carter Scratch” and move on to a few classic Carter Family songs and some techniques for picking up tunes on your own.

Audio and video recorders welcome and encouraged. Bring a thumb pick and/or flat pick; I’ll be teaching Maybelle’s thumb-and-finger style but the technique is easily adaptable to flatpicking. (Beginners: if you can play a song in C or G then you know enough to get something out of this workshop.)

Chris Berry, a native of Long Beach, California, has been playing country blues and old-time country music on guitar and banjo for over 20 years. He learned many tunes from the late legendary Illinois/Southern California fiddler Mel Durham and plays banjo on his CD “Skillet Fork.” He has taught and played at many Los Angeles-area festivals including the California Traditional Music Society’s Summer Solstice and Equinox Festivals, the Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest, and the Goleta Old-Time Fiddlers Convention. When Chris isn’t busy playing old music, watching ’60s British television or ’70s American game shows, he works as an editor and web designer.

Flatfooting with Ruth Alpert

Flatfooting is the traditional, solo percussive foot dance that goes along with Southern Appalachian Mountain Music. Your feet are a rhythm instrument, keeping the beat for the musicians with much room for personal expression and style. No previous dance experience is necessary. It’s easy and fun and very aerobic! We’ll start with basics, and add on for those who would like more complexity.

Please bring shoes that can slide, but that you won’t slide out of…. leather soles with a chunky heel, or worn out sneakers, etc. Cowboy boots or shoes with a narrow heel might thrust your weight too far forward onto the ball of your foot. If in doubt, bring a selection and see which work best!

COLUMN-OLD-TIME-ORACLE-PRize-winning-Cake-300pxwRuth Alpert has been flatfooting for 37 years. She has taught workshops, danced with old-time Appalachian string bands, busked (street performed) in various cities in at least 6 states. She currently is the percussion section of The Honeysuckle Possums, a local Santa Barbara all female Americana band.

Flatfooting 101 with Rebecca Stout

Straight from the mountains of Appalachia this beginner friendly class introduces the student to the funny stories, history, culture, styles, steps and all-out fun of Appalachian percussive step dance. There will be demonstrations, practice sessions, questions, and music for all to enjoy. No partner or dance experience necessary! The student learns the Soldier’s March, Jimmy, Mitchell, Bowman, Leaf Shuffle, Zig Zags, Chugs, Nashville, Coleman and Buck Step and more. 2hrs.

While no special shoes are required, Rebecca recommends a shoe with a hard, slick sole, such as a man’s business shoe, penny-loafers, cowboy boots, granny-boots, oxfords or simple slippers. Flip-flops, sandals and crocs are not recommended.

Rebecca began clogging as a child in Cordele, Georgia, as part of the precision dance team The Dixieland Cloggers. She went on to spend the next three decades developing and fine-tuning her unique “Tennessee Shuffle” style of free-form flatfoot, inspired by friends, relations, masters and mentors throughout Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. Today, Rebecca teaches traditional Appalachian Flatfoot focusing on dance as a percussive instrument.

How to Call a Square Dance with Susan Michaels

Learn how to call squares for your friends and family. Beginners welcome. Or just show up and get your dancing shoes on.

Susan Michaels is a teacher and a caller of traditional American dancing, especially contra dancing and square dancing. She has called and taught dances at local evenings, weekend workshops, week-long elementary school programs, week-long family camps and dance weekends throughout the U.S. and Canada.

David Bragger is a Los Angeles-based instructor and player of old time fiddle and banjo music. He also photographs, films, and collects the lore of traditional artists, from puppeteers in Myanmar to fiddlers of Appalachia


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