Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo


Hello everyone,


The following link (2011%20Music%20November%20Blank%20Registration_092711.pdf) will provide you with the essential information about the event I am co-organizing in Harpers Ferry, WV on November 12-13. Our capacity for this event is 20 people, so if you will be in the area and want to participate, please register!





19th century techniques for 21st century players

Featuring Greg C. Adams, Rowan Corbett, and Chuck Krepley 

Saturday and Sunday, November 12 and 13, 2011


This is the second in a series of workshops designed to bring together specialists, musicians, and interested individuals to discuss, explore, and play 19th century American popular music. The November 2011 event features three notable musical instruments in American popular culture in the 19th century—the violin/fiddle, rhythm bones (bone castanets), and 5-string banjo. Now in the 21st century, each instrument holds an iconic status in different revival and traditional music scenes, including bluegrass, old-time, Irish session music, Civil War reenacting, and living history circles. Become part of a growing community that inclusively seeks to understand how 19th century music reflects America’s diverse musical heritage and relates to our performances in the present. Workshops will include discussions about context, explorations of historical music and material culture, and tutorial sessions about period techniques and performance practice.        


FOR MUSICIANS and Interested Individuals: 19th Century Techniques for 21st Century Players: If you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced musician and have an interest in 19th century popular music, then you will enjoy learning about the music, history, and contexts that shaped America’s musical past. More importantly, you will have a chance to explore how this past relates to our musical practices now in the 21st century. If you play violin or fiddle music, percussion instruments, or the banjo (e.g., bluegrass, old-time, classic fingerstyle), then you can learn how the violin, bones, and banjo are depicted in 19th century sheet music and instructional materials, period images, and historical texts and reminiscences. Banjo scholar Greg C. Adams, bones player and multi-instrumentalist Rowan Corbett, and violinist/collector Chuck Krepley invite you to experience what makes 19th century performance practice similar to but distinct from popular 21st century playing techniques.  



REGISTRATION AND  TUTION: Tuition is FREE to registered participants, but limited to 20 participants.

Contact Park Ranger, Melinda Day (melinda_day@nps.gov  or 304-535-6063) and provide the following information:

  • Name 
  • Email Address
  • Mailing Address
  • Preferred Phone Number
  • Brief statement about your musical background as it relates to the violin/fiddle, bones, banjo, or other musical instruments


Music and Content-Related Questions: Contact Greg Adams (gregcadams@gmail.com

Logistical Information and Registration: Contact Living History Offices (304-535-6063) or Park Ranger Melinda Day (melinda_day@nps.gov)


  • Workshops (for individual instruments and ensemble settings)
  • Mentoring and jamming
  • Opportunity to publicly share in a group performance on Sunday afternoon


Saturday, November 12

  • Pre-Workshop Social: (9:00-9:30 AM) (Registered participants)
  • Workshop 1: Introductions (9:30-10:30 AM) (Registered participants)
  • Workshop 2: Presenting the Past and Present: The banjo as a case study (10:30-11:30 AM) (Registered participants)
  • Lunch: (12:00-1:00 PM)
  • Workshop 3: Exploring fundamentals (Bones): (2:00-3:00 PM) (Registered participants)  
  • Workshop 4: Exploring 19th century violin music (3:30-4:30 PM) (Registered participants)
  • Dinner, Discussions, and Jamming: (5:00-8:30 PM)

Sunday, November 13

  • Workshop 5 (9:30-11:30 AM)  (tbd) (Registered participants)
  • Lunch: 12:00-1:00 PM)
  • Pre-concert Preparation (1:00-2:00 PM) (Registered participants)
  • Public Concert (2:00-3:00 PM) 
  • Post-Concert Activities: Wrap up, Jamming, Discussion


Greg C. Adams, of Germantown, MD, is one of the driving forces behind the current revival of interest in the early banjo (ca 1620-1870). Greg is a highly-acclaimed player of nineteenth century stroke style down picking and Grand Prize winner at the 2009 Charlie Poole Music Festival (Eden, NC) for his classic ‘finger-style’ up-picking (ca 1866-1920). As a musician, archivist, and researcher, Greg’s focus is on information sharing between musicians, scholars, and the public. As part of his interest in the banjo’s African heritage, he has made two trips to West Africa to study the Jola ekonting (akonting) (2006, 2008) and was co-recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council FY2009 Apprenticeship Award to study the 4-string ngoni with renowned griot and historian Cheick Hamala Diabaté. Greg is currently a graduate student in the Ethnomusicology Program at University of Maryland, College Park and is also Project Director of the Banjo Sightings Database Project.

Rowan Corbett, of College Park, MD, is a distinguished bones player and multi-instrumentalist for the Celtic/Appalachian band Tinsmith. As a performance artist and collaborator, he regularly works with musicians in both traditional and modern performance circles, connecting the old with the new, and cross-pollinating idioms to find their common qualities. Rowan often interacts with music learners of all skill levels to instill an appreciation of how the rhythm bones tradition is being used in a wide variety of contexts. In addition to his bones playing, Rowan plays guitar, Irish bouzouki, and hand percussion as a member of the musical groups ilyAIMY, The Acacia Sears Band, Io, and The Great Outdoor Fight.

Chuck Krepley, of Waynesboro, PA, has been an historical reenactor for over 30 years and is also a collector of popular music of the 18th and 19th centuries. He has performed solo for many historical societies, presented historical music topics at universities, and was the music director for the French and Indian War documentary film, "Washington's First War: The Battles for Fort Duquesne," by Paladin Communications. Chuck was also the driving force behind the creation of the music program at Old Economy Village, a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission site in Ambridge, PA.  In addition, Chuck is a founding member of the 19th century music performance ensemble, Home Front, which was prominently featured in the 2010 Stephen Foster documentary, Doo Dah Days! by John Kirch (http://www.lhs15201.org/dvd.htm).


Thank you,


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Just a quick note to say that registration for our Harpers Ferry event has now reached capacity. We were originally only going to accept 20 registrants, but with the amazing response of interest decided to raise it to 30. We're looking forward to a GREAT WEEKEND!

Hope it is a fabulous weekend. Wish I was there.

Thank you everyone for an amazing weekend of engagement-musically, analytically, critically, and as a community. The music, interests, and willingness to participate in events like this demonstrates to me that these traditions and how we learn about them are vitally important. Hopefully some of the people from our Ning site who attended would be willing to write something about what the event meant to them.

More soon!

See if this link will take you to some of the pix from the weekend: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2487243867849.134584.14552...

Greg, I'm a facebook member, but I'm getting this message-


"The page you requested cannot be displayed right now. It may be temporarily unavailable, the link you clicked on may have expired, or you may not have permission to view this page"

Argh! I'll see what I can do! 

Must be a Caro thing. :)

Terry Bell / Bell & Son Banjos said:

Greg, I'm a facebook member, but I'm getting this message-


"The page you requested cannot be displayed right now. It may be temporarily unavailable, the link you clicked on may have expired, or you may not have permission to view this page"

Sugar Beet and Ethanol factory fumes screw everything  up!!

Greg, I can't see the facebook pics. The link here on Ning is incomplete, it has three dots at the end -

(my browser probably)



I think it might actually have to do with whether or not you are "friends" with Melinda Day (the NPS ranger who put them on FB. Hmmmm....


I would like to thank Greg Adams and everyone involved in staging the Harper’s Ferry workshop, for a most enjoyable and rewarding weekend.

This was my first time attending an event of this nature, and I was struck by how congenial, helpful and supportive everyone was.

The event was well-organized with a good balance between historical presentations, instructional sessions, dance demonstrations and jamming opportunities. The public concert on Sunday highlighted some of the very talented musicians and singers in attendance.

On Saturday morning I met Mr. Jim Hartel who brought me an absolutely beautiful copy of a skin-headed, gut-strung Boucher banjo. I can hardly stand to put it down. Mark Weems and I arrived at home around 10:30 Sunday night, and you could still hear the booming voice of that banjo echoing over the hills of Carolina until 2 a.m. Monday morning.

I also tried playing the bones, but was not having much success until Cory Rosenberg noticed my feeble attempts and instructed me on the proper method. Within minutes I was able to play triplets and now I have something besides the banjo with which to annoy my family.

From the viewpoint of a novice, I don’t believe I could have had a better introduction to the minstrel music genre and the wonderful people who comprise this community.

Thank you James, for your kind words about the event. I'm glad that you got one of Jim's banjos and the Cory ended up being able to help you with the bones. I hope we'll get to hang out once again in the near future. 


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