September-October 2018

The 47th Santa Barbara Old-Time Fiddlers' Convention and Festival

By David Bragger

Goleta 2018 300pxFor lovers of traditional music, something wonderful is on the horizon: The Santa Barbara Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention & Festival on Sunday, October 14th and the official pre-festival concert on Saturday, October 13th. This is my third year as the artistic director for one of my all-time favorite old-time festivals. Needless to say, I’m fired up to share the great events and performers with you. The Fiddlers’ Convention was founded 47 years ago by musician and folklorist Peter Feldmann who envisioned a festival dedicated to sharing traditional music with the community. Nearly five decades later, it is still going strong, attracting musicians and traditional music lovers from all around the country. It’s now hosted by the Goleta Valley Historical Society who strongly believe in preserving the history and living culture of old-time music. The festival will present performances and workshops with master musicians, hosted jam sessions, an instrument petting zoo, a raffle, folk art & music vendors, a pre-festival concert the day before and the “beating heart” of the festival itself: The Contest.

This contest’s purpose is to expose our music to all the musicians (and non-musicians) who attend the festival. This contest doesn’t have an aggressive competitive vibe at all. Musicians of all levels, including beginners, are highly encouraged to sign up and show their peers (and judges) what they’re working on. It inspires so many people to see others play old tunes and songs of early America. Often spectators transform into musicians once they see how much fun the contestants are having. The categories include: fiddle, youth fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, singing, youth singing, misc, instruments (dulcimer, autoharp, jaw harp, etc.), band performance and best backup instrument. The contest now has early registration online to avoid the sign-up line at the festival, however you can still sign up at the festival. Contest Pre-Registration Here.

On the Performance Stage, old-time legend Brad Leftwich will be performing in classic old-time duo form with rhythm powerhouse Linda Higginbotham. Brad’s fiddle and banjo playing has inspired scores of musicians from around the world. The talented and enigmatic old-time performer Frank Fairfield will be performing with guitar/mandolin/banjo legend Tom Marion. Frank Fairfield was recently featured in the American Epic documentary series and Tom Marion is known for his playing with Robert Crumb’s Cheap Suit Serenaders as well as several traditional jazz and string bands in Los Angeles. The Bay Area string band Skillet Licorice, who are masters of repertoire from the East Texas Serenaders and the Skillet Lickers, will be strutting their rags, waltzes and hoedowns too. Two of my favorite award winning fiddle and banjo players Maxine Gerber and Karen Heil (of the Bucking Mules) will be performing as Plaid Strangers. Every lover of banjo/fiddle duets will be totally mesmerized. Also, Los Angeles’ Have More Fun Stringband will be kicking off the day with a set of high energy songs and fiddle tunes.

For those who spend the weekend in the area, the festival now presents an Old-Time Concert on Saturday the 13th from 3PM-5PM to get things started. It’s Free. This year’s pre-festival concert will feature Los Angeles old-time band Echo Mountain who were a huge hit at last year’s festival as well as fiddle duets from David Bragger & Susan Platz. They’ll be performing several pieces from their latest release: King’s Lament: Old-Time Fiddle Duets, the first double fiddle CD in old-time music! Also, Kentucky-born old-time multi-instrumentalist Clinton Davis will be performing tunes and songs on guitar, banjo, harmonica and fiddle. Clinton has recorded CDs with the G Burns Jug Band and is in great demand as a solo performer.

Brad Leftwich
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Throughout the day, there will be Hosted Jams by the wonderful staff of jam leaders: Jim Mueller, Joe Wack, Andy Denes, Echo Mountain, and Susan Platz. Additionally, there will be many other areas for impromptu jams to take place. This will also be the third year of the Instrument Petting Zoo where children and adults can try out instruments and see what makes them tick. It’s a great judgement-free area for people to get their hands on instruments with support and guidance from the petting zoo staff.

This year’s RAFFLE will feature a Pisgah “Woodchuck” banjo valued at $1195. Pisgah Banjo Company is one of my favorite modern banjo makers. Currently I have several banjo students who own their banjos. Pisgah has made quite an impact from coast to coast in the last few years with their beautiful sounding old-time banjos. The festival is honored to have one of their instruments for the raffle. Spring Fed Records will also be donating an assortment of CD releases from their prestigious catalog. Spring Fed Records preserves and documents the traditional music of Tennessee and the Mid-South region. They are one of the great traditional labels we have today. Old-Time musician and artist Howard Rains will be donating an original piece of art this year. Here's your chance to own art from one of old-time music's most popular folk artists. We're also proud to announce that the Grammy award-winning label, Dust-to-Digital, who have put out some of the greatest box sets of historical American popular music, gospel, country and jazz are donating to the raffle as well!

The festival will also be offering instrumental and dance workshops to musicians and cloggers of all levels! We’re so excited to have workshops led by Brad Leftwich, Eric & Suzy Thompson, Ruth Alpert & Rebecca Stout, Chris Berry, and Pat Mac Swyney. I will also be teaching a fiddle workshop! Here’s the schedule:

Old-Time Banjo Workshop
with Chris Berry

Old-Time Mandolin Workshop
with Pat Mac Swyney
The workshop will be geared for both novice and seasoned mandolin players alike. We will focus on applying fiddle-friendly ornament and chording to a few classic Old-Time fiddle tunes.

Oklahoma Fiddle Tunes of Tom Fuller
with Brad Leftwich
Brad will teach "Jan's Tune," a version of "Oklahoma Run," a lovely and unusual tune in the key of C from the pioneer days of Indian Territory. Brad learned it from his mentor Tom Fuller, who was born in the Chickasaw Nation of Indian Territory in 1890. Tom's family participated in one of the colorful "land runs" that opened up the territory to settlement, which gave the tune its usual name. Tom called it "Jan's Tune" because it was his daughter's favorite. Tom Fuller's field recordings are available HERE.

Old-Time Fiddle Tunes & Bowing Workshop
by David Bragger
This workshop is for all levels! The objective is to get the fiddler playing some incredible tunes with a focus on rhythm and interchangeable variations. I’ll be drawing from a vast repertoire of Kentucky, West Virginia and North Carolina fiddle tunes that are 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.

Freestyle Flatfooting Workshop
by Ruth Alpert and Rebecca Stout
Flatfooting, Buck Dancing and Clogging are related, but different styles, of foot percussion. Freestyle flatfooting is improvised, in which every dancer finds their own expression. I will start by teaching you some basic steps to get you going, and then we will focus on playing the tune with our feet!

Old-Time Fiddle--Old-Time Country Blues Fiddle in Any Key
with Suzy Thompson
Learn how to play old-style country blues fiddle, in the style of 1920s blues violinists like the Mississippi Sheiks or Eddie Anthony, in any key! Suitable for all levels. All material will be taught by ear.

Old-Time Guitar: The Many Facets of Mother Maybelle Carter
with Eric Thompson
We’ll delve into her bluesy finger-picking, and flashy single note breaks, as well as her elegant melodic stylings, on choice gems from the Carter Family’s vast repertoire.

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. The Old Time Tiki Parlour


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