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Workshops announced for Old-Time Music, Ozarks Heritage Festival


Attendees at this year’s Old-Time Music, Ozarks Heritage Festival are encouraged to learn about traditional instruments by participating in workshops planned for both days of West Plains’ signature event. The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 7 and 9, with workshops held in Dogwood Room 1 at the West Plains Civic Center both days.

The annual festival celebrates Ozarks music and culture. Admission to all festival events is free.


Workshop topics, presenters, and times are listed to help your planning for the two-day event:

Harmonica – Seth Shumate – Friday, noon

Seth Shumate is an Arkansas native whose grandfather and great-grandmother played the harmonica or “French harp” in the Ozarks. Shumate said he acquired the habit in the seventh grade. Since then, he has played and studied the history of old-time harmonica and specializes in the fiddle-tune, country blues, and jug band styles of the harmonica masters of the 1920s-30s. He has played at this very festival as a member of the string bands Shout Lulu and The Ozark Highballers.  

He will give a presentation on the old-time harmonica techniques needed to transform a skinny melody into a wall of sound.    

Max Hunter, John Quincy Wolf and Mary Parler Collections – The Creek Rocks – Friday, 1 p.m.

The Creek Rocks are known for their unique arrangements of traditional Ozark folksongs. In this workshop they will talk about source material, share recordings of some of their favorite Ozark singers, and walk you through the process of mining these archives for gems and turning them into new and interesting musical compositions.

Folk Rhythms – Keith Symanowitz – Friday, 2 p.m.

Learn how to play the spoons, jig dance and more at this year's Old-Time Music, Ozarks Heritage Festival! Keith Symanowitz is an accomplished jig dancer, award-winning singer, musician, and folk percussionist. Keith plays percussion for The Creek Rocks and works as a Park Interpreter at the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mtn. View, Ark. where he often teaches folk dance and percussion for all ages and ability levels.

Ozark Traditions of Old-Time Fiddling - Shortleaf Band – Friday, 3 p.m.

The Shortleaf Band is a duet based in the Southern Missouri Ozarks. Michael and Tenley Fraser have immersed themselves into the culture and traditional music of the “Scots Irish” who became the first to settle the region.

Michael, an original member of the Shortleaf Band was instrumental in the founding of the Old-Time Music, Ozarks Heritage Festival. He served as an apprentice to the late Bob Holt of Ava learning how to perform Ozark Square Dance Music on the fiddle. He is also the author of the CD titled “Fiddles and Forests” that was produced by the Missouri Department of Conservation, as well as musical director on the CD “Voices of the Hills” also produced by MDC.

Tenley is a former musical stage performer who has moved into the folk music genre. She lived in Kansas City most of her life and has been performing for The Shortleaf Band since 2005. A singer/songwriter with a folksy alto voice; she plays keyboards, guitar, fiddle and mandolin.

They will be joined by bassist Lonnie Jones and will be performing on a variety of stringed instruments including fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and others as they weave a musical tapestry showcasing traditional and contemporary music from the Ozarks.

Old-Time Finger Style Banjo – Dance Tune Accompaniment – Clarke Buehling – Friday, 5 p.m.

Clarke Buehling is a well-respected and renowned banjo player. His forte is classic banjo, and he has file cabinets full of sheet music from the late 1800s to prove it. His previous band, the Skirtlifters, has been a staple of Ozark string band music since the 1980s. Buehling’s expertise extends to include the earliest stroke and finger-style minstrel banjo playing.

Learn to play in any key without changing tuning. In the 1880s, this new "guitar style" picking supplanted the old "stroke style" we call "clawhammer" today. It can be heard in many of the field recordings from the Ozarks in tunes such as Spanish fandango and Horses on the Bridge.

Beginning Dulcimer – Cleo Cockrum and Naomi Saunders – Saturday, 11 a.m.

Cleo Cockrum and her daughter Naomi Saunders will share tips on learning the dulcimer. Twenty-five beginner instruments have been purchased by West Plains Council on the Arts for this purpose and will be available to the first who claim them.

Cockrum bought her first dulcimer in Ohio in the 90s because her young daughter, Naomi, was introduced to it and learned to play a song at a festival booth. They played together for several years.

Dulcimer playing had taken a back seat for other life ventures, but now they have started again, including Naomi’s daughter, Kay. “Now we have 3 generations that sit around and have fun with our at-home jam sessions. The other grandkids (as young as 4) enjoy strumming along with us,” says Cockrum.

Mountain Dulcimer – Duane Porterfield – Saturday, noon

Duane Porterfield is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist. In 1997 he entered the Mountain Music Shop in Shawnee, Kansas and was introduced to the mountain dulcimer. He recalled as a young child watching his great grandfather strumming on a similar stringed box with a stick and feather. Duane left the music shop that day with his first mountain dulcimer failing to realize the impact this instrument would have on his life. “The mountain dulcimer has been the medicine that relieves my headache, has taken me back to a simpler time, and has introduced me to some of my closest friends,” he says.

Retiring in 2013, Cindi and Duane moved to their Arkansas home where they volunteer at the many various festivals in the region and at The Ozark Folk Center State Park. Duane now spends much of his time as a regular performer and emcee at the Folk Center’s live shows. He also assists with sales, promotions and the creation of McSpadden Dulcimers in Mtn. View, Ark.. 

“I want those attending my workshops to be able to take only what they need from my classes and combine it with what they can use from other instructors and/or resources to develop their own style and uniqueness with the mountain dulcimer. Then share your music. There’s room for us all.” Duane Porterfield   

Folk Rhythms – Keith Symanowitz – Saturday, 1 p.m.

Learn how to play the spoons, jig dance and more at this year's Old Time Music & Heritage Festival! Keith Symanowitz is an accomplished jig dancer, award-winning singer, musician and folk percussionist. Keith plays percussion for The Creek Rocks and works as a Park Interpreter at the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mtn. View, Arkansas where he often teaches folk dance and percussion for all ages and ability levels.

Ozark Ballads – Julie Henigan – Saturday, 2 p.m.

"I grew up in Springfield with old-time music virtually on my doorstep. Fiddler Art Galbraith lived a block away from where I grew up, the Max Hunter Song Collection was available from the nearby library; and, when I was older, music parties were just a short drive away," shares Henigan. "I learned many of the songs in my repertoire from the Max Hunter Collection when I was still in high school and was influenced by Ozark singers and musicians like Almeda Riddle, Glenn Ohrlin and Bob Holt — as well as by traditional Appalachian singers like Jean Ritchie and Clarence Ashley. I sing and play finger-style guitar, clawhammer banjo, mountain dulcimer, and fiddle — instruments I use for both song accompaniments and solo pieces, as well as for dances. I have performed solo nationally, internationally and in the Ozarks, as well as with Ozarks musicians like Kim and Jim Lansford, Bob Holt, Alvie Dooms, David Scrivner, Nathan McAllister and Steve and Lynn Scott. I have one CD out (“American Stranger”), as well as two guitar books with Mel Bay featuring my other musical love, traditional Irish music. I have a master’s degree in folklore from the University of North Carolina (1989) and a doctorate in English from Notre Dame (2009). Many of my publications are about traditional music and song."

Clawhammer Banjo – Van Colbert – Saturday, 3 p.m.

Old-time music has been a family tradition for generations for Colbert Brothers who hail from Willow Springs, Mo. “Mom and Dad instilled in us the love of their music, and to this day we play, sing and remember,” said Van, who is known for his unique “two-finger” roll style on banjo. 

Colbert’s father, Joseph Truett, who was named for a famous turn-of-the-century minister, taught himself to play a banjo he built by stretching a groundhog skin over the hoop for a head. He taught Van’s older brothers to chord the guitar and enjoyed playing along once they could carry a tune. 

Hammer Dulcimer Workshop – Stringfield – Saturday, 4 p.m.

This workshop will include a short history of the instrument, tips for playing as a duo or with a group and learning about chords and why you need them!

Introduction to Fingerpicking Guitar – Dusty James & Abalone Pearl – Saturday 5, p.m.

Dusty and Pearl will demonstrate the basics of Travis-style finger picking using alternating patterns to create bass and melody with thumb and fingers.

The Old-Time Music, Ozarks Heritage Festival seeks to celebrate, preserve, pass on and nurture an appreciation of the old-time music and folk life traditions distinctive to the Ozark Highlands. Admission to all festival events is free.

2024 festival partners include the West Plains Council on the Arts, the City of West Plains, the Ozark Heritage Welcome Center, West Plains Civic Center and Missouri State University-West Plains. Partial funding for the event is provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency. Additional support has been provided by Missouri Humanities and Missouri Department of Tourism.

For more information on the festival email info@westplainsarts.org, visit the website at www.oldtimemusic.org or follow @old.time.music.festival on Facebook.