Skip to main content

Doug Unger to Host Clawhammer Banjo Workshop at Blue Sky Folk Festival, Sept. 16

Doug Unger and his work.
Master banjo builder Doug Unger will be presenting a clawhammer banjo workshop Sept. 16 at the Blue Sky Folk Festival, in Kirtland, Ohio. Unger is a former Kent State University art professor and an Ohio Arts Council grants and fellowships recipient, as well as an accomplished banjo player in his own right.

Unger will be leading a clawhammer banjo workshop with Paul Kovac under the "Small Tent" from 2 to 2:45 p.m.

Established in 2010, the Blue Sky festival is hosted at the East Shore Unitarian Universalist Church on Chillicothe Road in Kirtland. The event features concerts, workshops, community jams, family crafts and other fun activities. Tickets are $15 at the gate or $12 if you purchase online. Get a $3 discount at the door if you bring and instrument to join in the various jam sessions. Youths age 12 and under are free.

Attendees are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets. With multiple indoor and outdoor jam areas and an inside main stage, visitors will have plenty of opportunities to play, sing, dance and listen.

Prior to Unger's workshop, there is an organized old-time jam under the "Big Tent" from 1:15 to 2 p.m., led by local musicians Joel Specht and Ken Roby. In addition, Dave Rice is co-hosting a harmonica workshop focusing on blues and old-time music, and there is a fiddle workshop. View the master schedule here.

The Blue Sky festival is organized by the Northeast Ohio Musical Heritage Association, which also organizes the Lake Erie Folk Fest (in collaboration with the Shore Cultural Centre).

Unger was previously featured at the Glory-Beaming Banjo in 2015 in the post titled, "Master and Apprentice: Banjo Builder Workshop in Historic Peninsula, Ohio." He'll be conducting a similar event on Sept. 23 as part of Peninsula's annual Music on the Porches. Stay tuned to preview of that event in the coming days.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Getting Blitzed with Tom Collins

A little more than a year ago, Salem, Massachusetts-based banjo player and teacher Tom Collins embarked on a yearlong project he called Banjo Blitz. The weekly YouTube series provided short banjo lessons on technique. Each video is about five minutes long, give or take, and presents a short pattern — or “ostinato” — designed to teach and improve a specific aspect of banjo playing.

The mission was to get the audience “to practice clawhammer in discrete chunks every day without the burden of trying to memorize tunes,” Collins says. He wanted to build skills rather than repertoire.

“Let’s take the tune off the table,” says Collins, who has been teaching banjo for 11 years. “Let’s focus on a simple, mantra-like ostinato that can train your body how to execute a technique properly, while training your ears how to hear it properly. Let’s also make it so that you can do this every day without it sucking every spare minute from your life. The big dirty secret about learning how to play an ins…

Clawhammer Picks and You: A Review

Clawhammer picks are a useful tool for increasing volume or to overcome fingernail challenges, such as broken, too short or weak nails. There are all sorts of commercial and homemade solutions available for banjo players, but it can be difficult to decide which options to choose. Thankfully, I've already done some of the work for you.
Just to be clear, I prefer my natural fingernail for frailing. However, there was a time when I experimented with regularly using a pick, and there are instances now where I find that a pick is necessary. Today, I'll take you through the five options I've tried. These are all available online at prices ranging from about $1 to $13.

Reversed/Reshaped Dunlop Pick ($0.75)
This was the most common suggestion before other companies started addressing the gap in the clawhammer pick market. Take a bluegrass pick, flatten it out and wear it backwards. The problem is that it's hard to get the fit right. While Dunlop picks are cheap and readily avai…

The Ongoing Search for Ohio's Old-Time Fiddle Repertoire

Since the beginning of my journey into old-time music, I have sought to find a connection to my home state. After studying the recorded repertoire of a dozen old-time fiddlers who spent a majority of their lives in Ohio, I have compiled a master list of more than 300 tunes. By cross-referencing this list, there were 12 tunes that I identified as “common,” based on their appearance in the repertoire of at least three fiddlers. The results of my findings follow.

This is far from a scientific method or academic study. I do not claim to be a musicologist or folklore scholar. I welcome any feedback.

Common Tunes:
Arkansas Traveler BirdieCumberland GapDurang’s HornpipeForked DeerGrey EagleJune AppleLeather BritchesMississippi SawyerRaggedy AnnTurkey in the StrawWild Horse At some point I would like to put together a list of tunes that are unique to Ohio or have a particular connection to an Ohio locale, such as Lonnie Seymour’s “Chillicothe Two-Step” or Arnold Sharp’s “Anna Hayes.” However,…