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Two Hundred Days! That's 2-0-0

One upshot of the coronavirus quarantine is that I've been able to push my playing streak to new heights. Usually, I would have had to travel for work by now, forcing me to take a break for a day or two. Not so in these days of COVID-19.

Yesterday, my string of consecutive days playing banjo and fiddle reached 200. That means I haven't taken a break since November 8, 2019. It seems incredible.

Despite being able to play at least a little bit every day during this pandemic, however, I've actually been falling behind the pace of my playing goals the last two months. With all of us stuck in the house all the time, I'm having trouble finding time to play for extended periods.

When I was going to the office for work, I would take my fiddle to play during my lunch break. It was easy to get at least 30 minutes per day.

Now, I'm working from home while also trying to manage my son's time, with school work and other activities so he's not staring at a screen all day…
Recent posts

Staying Connected: Michael Ismerio on Teaching Fiddle Online

Michael Ismerio is a fiddler and teacher based near Asheville, North Carolina. He's been teaching fiddle online for a number of years, and he recently launched an online fiddle course through his website. He spent the past two years developing the online course, which happened to launch shortly before the coronavirus pandemic forced us all to stay home.

Over the last month, Ismerio has been hosting a free webinar on "The Secret to Old-Time Fiddling," which showcases his teaching method that uses mnemonics to learn various bowing patterns.

Ismerio's next webinar it tomorrow, May 12, but he will be hosting the webinars every two weeks for the time being. You can sign up for the webinar at

GBB conducted an interview with Ismerio for our last post, "Going Virtual: Old-Time Music in the Time of COVID-19," but his answers seemed worth publishing in full. The following is a transcript of our email conversation.

How did the i…

Going Virtual: Old-Time Music in the Time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on every aspect of our lives. For those of us who enjoy playing old-time music, opportunities to play our instruments with others has been severely limited. No more going to jams at bars or coffee shops. No more festivals. No more workshops. No more lessons. Just sit at home and play alone.

Thankfully, technology can ease some of that pain.

In the last couple weeks, I participated in a couple of online fiddle workshops and a virtual old-time jam.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, video conferencing has hit the mainstream. People using the technology for everything from remote work meetings to virtual cocktail hour with family and friends.

Zoom has become the technology du jour. The online conferencing platform seems to have materialized out of nowhere with the advent of social distancing, stay-at-home orders and mass quarantines. While some old-time musicians have been offering lessons through Skype for years, many are now usin…

First Online Old Time Banjo Festival Streams This Weekend

As we all know, in-person old-time music festivals are endangered because of the global coronavirus pandemic. Many events have already been canceled, and I expect many others will follow suit as time goes one. To help fill the gap is the first-ever Online Old Time Banjo Festival, May 2-3, via Facebook, Zoom and YouTube.

Organized by Cathy Fink and Brad Kolodner, the event features a robust schedule of workshops and concerts on Saturday and Sunday. The lineup includes Adam Hurt, Evie Laden, Eden and Lukas Pool, Victor Furtado, Allison de Groot, Chris Coole, Frank Evans, and Frank and Allie Lee.

Banjos workshops will start at noon each day, aimed at all skill levels and featuring a wide variety of topics, such as adding texture, movable chords, learning melodies by ear and many more. The cost for attending a workshop is $25. Preregistration is required. Email with questions. Registrants will receive a private Zoom meeting link after submitting payment.

Concerts wi…

Exploring the Folk Process in Action: Five Versions of Tomahawk

Thinking way back to when I started exploring the fiddling style of Ward Jarvis, among the first batch of tunes I learned was "Tomahawk." Jarvis plays the tune in AEAE tuning, and the Milliner-Koken book includes notation for his version.

While researching and learning how to play the tune, I discovered that this fairly recent composition had gone through a few noticeable permutations. To my ear, the so-called "folk process" has yielded five distinct variations of "Tomahawk."

Folklorist David Brose recorded Jarvis playing "Tomahawk" in the 1970s, though the tune does not appear on either of the albums Brose produced for the Ohio Arts Council and Ohio Folklife in 1979. The late Red Mules String Band fiddler Jeff Goehring also recorded Jarvis playing the tune in 1977, according to the liner notes of the resulting Field Recorders' Collective (FRC) release.

Jarvis is on record saying he learned the tune from Tommy Jackson, a fiddling prodigy who …