Buffalo Grove, IL

Aaron Dorfman is a full-time freelance musician in Chicago, proud to make music education the primary focus of his career. Aaron played guitar for the well-known Chicago-based bluegrass band, Henhouse Prowlers for 3 years, touring the US, Europe, and with the US State Department in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Uganda, Kenya, Pakistan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan!

Aaron offers private and group lessons on multiple instruments, with the goal that all his students have as much fun as possible through their exploration of their instrument.

“Aaron has me doing things on the guitar that I only dreamed about doing. He is THE BEST.”
“Aaron Dorfman is an amazing musician and one of the finest teachers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I run an educational non-profit and the energy and passion he brought to our organization pushed the quality of the entire program forward.”
“I’ve worked with many guitar instructors and Aaron is by far the best.”
“Aaron is a wonderful teacher for both adults and children. He’s a talented musician and good guy.”
Aaron’s Classes

Raleigh, NC

Leslie Dare & Susan West have found great synergy in working together to teach others the essentials of bluegrass jamming.

Both grew up with music but after being musically inactive for many years, both joined the bluegrass community through their experiences at camps run by Pete and Joan Wernick, re-discovering the joys of music later in life. Leslie plays guitar and mandolin, and Susan plays mandolin, bass, and guitar. They are both active in the Raleigh, NC-area jamming scene, including regular participation with the Raleigh chapter of the Handsome Ladies and facilitating the Wolfpack Pickers.

“Susan and Leslie’s warm & welcoming teaching style helped me do something a little scary in each class which made me a better player.”
“The most enjoyable learning experience I have ever had.”
“I feel so much better equipped to jam now. Y’all are the best!”
“Leslie is a talented, welcoming leader who makes jamming fun for everyone, regardless of their level of proficiency.”
“Susan West and Leslie Dare are the best group music instructors I’ve ever experienced. I went from feeling nervous/uncomfortable about taking breaks and improvising, to feeling confident and capable.”
“Leslie and Susan were so organized and helpful. They do a great job of gently urging a student to try something new. I learned a lot and had a great time.”
Leslie & Susan’s Classes

Oakland, CA

Andy Lentz started on fiddle with the Suzuki technique, and has been jamming and performing bluegrass and other roots styles for over twenty years. Before recently relocating to Oakland CA, Andy performed in and around Austin TX with Silas Lowe, High Plains Jamboree, and various other groups. In addition to gigging on fiddle, Andy teaches private lessons, presents fiddle workshops, and plays guitar and mandolin.

Andy’s Camps

“As instructor for my daughter, he was encouraging, patient and got results.”
“Andy inspired me to play more, practice harder, and become a better player.”
“Andy’s workshop was amazing… a group with all different levels but he made us all feel equal. His excitement carried over. He was extremely patient which helped me relax and enjoy the class more.”
“Andy is extremely patient with new students, it was very easy to begin learning with him. He has a natural way of providing feedback, very friendly and encouraging.”

N. Liberty, IA

Annie Savage is an enthusiastic instructor and performer of bluegrass, as well as old-time and classical music. She believes that the art of music is most thoroughly enjoyed when shared with others.

A prize-winning contest fiddler from the age of 8, Annie has performed with Aretha Franklin, Ricky Skaggs, and as a member of Jeff Scroggins and Colorado. She holds degrees from the Interlochen Arts Academy and the Boston Conservatory/Berklee College of Music, as well as serving on the teaching staff of bluegrass camps from Tennessee to Canada!

Annie’s Camps

“Annie has patience, intelligence, talent and most importantly a passion for teaching music. Young or old are in great hands with her care for helping others. (Steve Kaufman, Kaufman Kamp)”
“Annie is fantastic and we really appreciate her commitment, talent, and joy of teaching!”
“Annie is fun and full of energy. It was a very positive experience.”
“Annie is a very patient and attentive teacher. She knows a lot but doesn’t overwhelm you.”
“She taught a difficult subject to many levels, with love, enthusiasm, patience, passion, and humor.”
“Annie is an excellent music teacher and delivers in a clear, concise and very understandable way. She has wonderful ability to put students at ease and make them believe in themselves and feel that they can learn.”
“Annie exudes positive energy and has a boundless belief in her students, which is quite contagious.”

Danbury, CT

Austin Scelzo was introduced to various fiddle traditions at Mark O’Connor’s early Berklee String Camps and over time picked up all the bluegrass instruments along with singing, songwriting, and jamming. While enjoying four years as a middle school music teacher. Austin’s bluegrass journey began with CT-based groups The Angry O’Haras and On the Trail, on fiddle and vocals.

Now performing with The Rock Hearts, respected New England bluegrass veterans, he is active in the bluegrass community, creating and managing the Bluegrass Coffeehouse performance venue, hosting jams, and launching the Connecticut Bluegrass Music Association.

Austin’s Camps

“Austin is a gifted musician, teacher and just all around good guy.”
“A dedicated and enthusiastic teacher.”
“Austin was a fabulous teacher. He was able to help everyone in the class, with all their levels of expertise.”
“The atmosphere among all of us was very collaborative, supportive and fun, and Austin did a super job of setting that tone and keeping up a strong pace of learning at the same time.”

Scotch Plains, NJ

Barry Mitterhoff has played bluegrass mandolin professionally for over 40 years, appearing in 49 states and 18 countries. He has toured with Peter Rowan, Jorma Kaukonen, Tony Trischka, Hazel Dickens, and many bluegrass bands, and performed from the White House to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and in Moscow and Brazil.

Barry has taught privately since the 1970s and at many leading camps and workshops throughout the U.S., in Canada, and England.

Barry’s Camps

“He’s a great teacher, patient, encouraging and easy to learn from.”
“He takes a genuine interest in seeing you develop.”
“Barry particularly impressed me with his ability to put his students at ease in a group with such a wide range of skill levels.”
“Exceptional in his patience, true interest in students individually, supportive and encouraging. He is a virtuoso, dedicated to music. Anyone who even has a chance to be his student, should grab it!”
“His personal style is warm, welcoming, gracious to a fault and he’s got a great sense of humor. I’ve never had a teacher that offers genuine encouragement as abundantly and sincerely as Barry does.”

Elk Rapids, MI

Billy Lee Farmer has been playing Bluegrass and traditional music for over 30 years, and performing with several bands including “Raisin Pickers” (Michigan) and “WhoYaSay” (Colorado), as well as cajun/zydeco bands.

Bill’s passion for Bluegrass jamming was ignited at his first Bluegrass festival in 1992, where he studied with Pete Wernick and others, leading him deep into the wonderful kinship of Bluegrass jamming. As an experienced Bluegrasser, Bill’s objective now is to share the joy and knowledge he has gained and, through the Wernick Method, to welcome new members into our growing, jamming Bluegrass community.

“Bill looked for ways to compliment everyone in the small groups.”
“Very helpful and informative.”
“Bill was very nice. Calming personality.”
“Bill was great!”
Billy Lee’s Camps

St Johnsbury, VT

Bob Amos was the lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter of the IBMA award-winning Front Range band from 1988-2003. The Colorado-based band toured America and Europe, and their 5 Sugar Hill records received airplay on bluegrass and Americana radio. Sing Out! magazine called Bob “one of the most consistently interesting and intelligent songwriters in American music.” Bob now lives in northeastern Vermont and enjoys performing with his daughter Sarah as a duo and in a bluegrass band format. He also enjoys teaching guitar, banjo, singing and songwriting.

“Bob’s talent allows him to play and teach in any style. More importantly, it was the most fun I ever had in a music lesson.”
Bob’s Camps

Fayetteville, NC

Buck Thrailkill was born in Meridian, MS and started playing banjo at age 12. Mentored by his big brother and Lee Jackson (Carl Jackson’s Dad), he grew up playing all over the south, touring on the Magnolia State Bluegrass Circuit at age 15. He played and taught banjo and guitar till joining the Army in 1981.

After his service Buck settled in North Carolina where he performs and records with several bands ranging from hardcore bluegrass to country, blues, and folk. Buck owns Fifth String Studio in Fayetteville, NC where he teaches and creates customized “Made in Carolina” leather instrument straps.

“Buck is a great instructor, in a way that even absolute beginners can understand. He took a group of various experience levels and little to no jam experience, and had everyone in good solid jams and coming together as a group.”
“Buck is the best, most patient, thorough, kind, passionate, incredibly knowledgeable and inspiring music teacher I have ever had… prompt, professional, and makes learning so much FUN!”
“He can impart ideas very clearly and concisely with attention to detail that puts him on the leading edge of his craft.”
“Mr. Buck equipped me not only to play, but also to teach myself how to learn. He instilled in me a love for the instrument and the music. I am beyond thankful.”
“An inspiring and effective teacher with a kind and easy-going demeanor. His love and passion for the instrument and for teaching is evident.”
“Buck is a great instructor. He really does an outstanding job teaching in a way that students, even absolute beginners can understand. He took a group of students of various levels of experience and little to no jam experience, and had everyone participating in good solid jams and coming together as a group. Great job! Can’t wait to do it again.”
Buck’s Camps

Henderson, KY

Chris Armstrong is a multi-instrumentalist who has performed and taught private and group lessons for over fifteen years, and is now teaching at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky. He can be seen playing guitar, banjo, mandolin or bass on the KET television program, The Lanham Brothers Jamboree and has played bass on the Kentucky Opry. Chris currently performs in the local production of the Steve Martin musical ”Bright Star.”

“An excellent teacher! As a professional musician he is passionate about music and knows his stuff! And is still patient with students.”
“Chris Armstrong really has a passion for music! He truly engages the learner, helping them to take their musical ability to the next level!”
“Chris is a great teacher! He believes in his students and does anything he can to help his students with their learning.”
“Amazing talent and patience. I would recommend anyone wanting to play a stringed instrument to him.”
“Chris is a wonderful instructor! He is able to teach a variety of ages, skill levels and instruments. We feel so lucky to have Chris as an instructor!”
Chris’s Camps

Amherst, MA

Chris Brashear plays fiddle, mandolin and guitar and sings lead and harmony parts. With over 25 years of professional experience as a performer, producer, teacher, recording artist and songwriter, he also maintains a veterinary practice! Chris has performed in numerous bands including Robin and Linda Williams, Kentucky Rose and the Maurizio Geri Swingtet.

He is a popular instructor at camps and festivals nationwide, including Augusta Heritage, the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, Banjo and Mandolin Camps North, Berea College Music Festival, and the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention.

“Best class at any camp I’ve ever been to.”
“Wow! Chris Brashear gives a lot of himself to his students. Really felt that he gave some thought to what he wanted to teach.”
“Chris is fantastic– articulate and eloquent. Great song choices, great singing, great guy, great advice.”
“A wonderfully warm and encouraging teacher. He conveyed so much passion and affection for the music that I am inspired to listen to this music more.”
“Very accessible class, great instructor! I loved the balance of singing and storytelling/ historical content.”
“Chris is a very likable and knowledgeable guy. Feedback to students was sensitive and insightful. Really nice class.”
Chris’s Camps

Denver, CO

Chris Roszell is a recent arrival in Denver from North Carolina. He has played bluegrass banjo professionally for over 15 years with many bands including Colorado’s Blue Canyon Boys, Scott Slay and The Rail, and Big Fat Gap. He spends a lot of time thinking about teaching and about music. Since picking up the banjo he has taught a wide variety of students, hoping to instill in them the confidence and ability to play with others and to foster a love for bluegrass music. During that time, he also spent 7 years as a middle school math teacher.

“Chris is a great guy, a fantastic teacher, and an awesome player. The lessons were fun and he was able to easily grasp my skill level and tailor the instruction to me.”
“Chris is a lot of fun and was able to hone right in on my skill level. I feel he is approachable for any skill level. He challenges me to become better but in a friendly way.”
“He is very professional and his enthusiasm is contagious! The progress is amazing: I started as a beginner. Now I can pick along full-speed to loads of bluegrass songs and regularly attend local jam sessions.”
“Chris made learning very easy and fun, he was very reliable and was an amazing teacher.”
Chris’s Camps

Matawan, NJ

Dan Whitener is from Washington, DC, and is currently performing on banjo in the New York / New Jersey / Pennsylvania scene. He has hit the Billboard Bluegrass charts with both the Emmy-nominated bluegrass-hiphop band Gangstagrass and Philadelphia’s own Newgrass Americana band Man About A Horse. Dan has taught banjo, guitar, mandolin, piano, and voice since 2008 up and down the East Coast and enjoys teaching bluegrass fundamentals.

“Dan Whitener was a spectacular teacher–approachable, friendly, and super encouraging and positive. It was a joy to learn from him.”
“I found Dan very encouraging, patient, and helpful. It was a wonderful experience.”
“Dan was thorough and had great, specific tips and suggestions for each of the jammers.”
“Amazing. Dan was a great teacher and very encouraging. I’d seek out another class run by Dan at anytime.”
Dan’s Camps

Louisville, KY

Dave Howard has enjoyed years of singing and playing mandolin throughout the U.S. with The 23 String Band – winners of the Louisville Music Awards Bluegrass Artist of the Year – and with the Louisville-based Relic Bluegrass band. He has played and sung on numerous television, radio, and feature film programs.

He recently apprenticed as a fiddler, supported by the Kentucky Arts Council. Dave directs the Louisville Folk School, a traditional music education community he founded in 2015, and sits on the board of Bluegrass Anonymous – Louisville’s Bluegrass Music Association.

“Dave does a great job of teaching to the appropriate level. Thanks to Dave I now have the confidence to participate in jams.”
“He is very approachable and easy to get along with. The Louisville Folk School is a great asset to our city!”
“A positive, encouraging environment that felt safe. I felt free to experiment and make mistakes.”
“The slower tempos allowed for layers of complexity to be added to my experience: sing while playing, paying WAY more attention to other pickers.”
“There are good teachers, and good players. Dave is rare in that he does both well. He understands the struggles new pickers face. Dave’s friendly and genuine demeanor is welcoming and makes people feel at ease and ready to dive in.”
“Dave and his fellow coaches were excellent, patient instructors.”
“A fun and productive weekend. True beginners were encouraged throughout.”
“I loved the way it made jamming seem much simpler than I had imagined. It inspired me to learn more music and practice more.”
“The instructors were fantastic. I feel lucky that they were willing and able to spend time sharing their amazing skills with us.”
“The FOLK SCHOOL is a great place and Dave and his assistants were all excellent teachers and experienced musicians who love the music and enjoy teaching it.”
“We all were brave and reached out beyond our comfort zone in order to get a little better at playing music.”
“The class was really fun. What the world needs now is more people playing music together. This class helps the cause.”
“It was my introduction to really learning how to play in a group. I enjoyed it tremendously. Great teachers and even got to sing several songs.”
Dave’s Camps

Eliot, ME

Dave Kiphuth became well-known for his banjo work with the respected Connecticut band Apple Country, performing throughout the Northeast and South in the 1970s and 80s. He went on to work with Lonesome Dave and the North Dixie Road Kings, Chestnut Grove, Walt Michael & Company, and the Red Hen String Band.

Dave has taught banjo and guitar extensively since the 1960s and ran a popular bluegrass jam in Ballston Spa, NY before moving to Maine.

“David has been a patient and thorough instructor. I feel very fortunate to have found him as a teacher.”
“He is patient and very sharing with his amazing musical knowledge. He makes everyone of all abilities feel welcome and encourages them to participate at whatever level they play. It is rare to find someone who is both a fine teacher and a fine musician all in one person.”
“My experience with Dave has been tremendous. I could not recommend more intelligent, talented, caring, and enjoyable teacher who serves his students.”
“He’s really helped me improve my playing. We also have a lot of fun! I’d recommend Dave to anyone.”
“Dave is a fantastic teacher and amazing musician. He made the class warm, comfortable and not intimidating. I learned more than I expected and even dared to lead a few songs.”
“Everyone left with a better understanding of the dynamics of playing music with others in a jam.”
“He was very professional, talented, welcoming, and provided a wonderful and warm jam setting.”
Dave’s Camps

Underhill, VT

David Benway started picking rhythm guitar and singing on tailgates, fields, and around campfires some 15 years ago. Bluegrass festivals throughout New England became a passionate summertime experience, with jamming always a highlight. In 2010 David formed the VT-based band “Chasing 440” from fellow parking-lot pickers who stepped out of the field and onto the stage, performing locally.

The transition to Wernick Method jam teaching is a natural evolution of his musical direction. David makes no pretense about his instrumental skills: he will tell you that he makes the most of the gifts he has.

“David always encourages folks of all ability levels to join in the jam with a big smile on his face. He wants everyone to enjoy themselves.”
“David was so encouraging! He convinced me to let go of my inhibitions and go for it!”
“I had a deer-in-the-headlight experience, David sang the notes in my ear as I played what he sang. Quick and effective!”
“David is a great fun leader of jams. Besides singing great he really makes sure everyone is on board understanding where we are in the jam”
David’s Camps

Appleton, WI

Debbie Wagner was introduced to guitar in grade school and quickly developed a love for the instrument. She has led jams for over 10 years, teaches guitar to beginning adults, and performs in a duo in her local community for charity events.

Debbie enjoys many different music styles, and bluegrass became a favorite in 2013 at her first bluegrass camp, which she attends each year. She has recently taken up mandolin, learning by Skype from another Wernick Method teacher in Tennessee. Debbie is thrilled to introduce the Wernick Method to the Fox Cities area.

“Debbie excels as a teacher and helper. Very patient and informative. I feel so much more comfortable playing my guitar.”
“Debbie was a great teacher. 
She was super-energetic, friendly, and very encouraging, but good at pushing us out of our comfort zone.”
“My husband and I have been attending her jamming get-togethers for over four years. Debbie accepts everyone at their own level and encourages us all to give our best, no judgement. The first time I attended, her enthusiasm and upbeat personality drew us back. Debbie is fantastic as a leader with musical skill, solid singing voice and an invigorated attitude that never wavered.”
“Debbie is a friendly, welcoming and effective jam leader. I didn’t know anyone at first but Debbie made me and everyone else feel very welcome. I like the way she runs the jam. I recommend her as a jam leader for any instrument, at any level.”
“All around good musician, leader, and organizer. 
I had a ton of fun in the class, way more than I was even expecting.”
Debbie’s Classes

Lebanon, TN

Derwin Hinson grew up in North Carolina playing and singing in his family’s gospel band. In his early 20s he joined Charlie Louvin’s band and the next week played his first time on the Grand Ole Opry. For years he worked as a sideman in Nashville and hosted a weekly bluegrass night at the Bell Cove Club, where Bill Monroe was a frequent guest.

A multi-instrumentalist, Derwin has taught lessons since 1977. For years he has toured as the “One-Man Gospel Band”, hosted a weekly bluegrass jam, and makes merry as a premier Santa Claus.

“He is a patient teacher and has endowed many of his students with a never ending love for music.”
“Derwin always takes an interest in each student and makes sure his teaching is tailored to each person’s desires and abilities.”
“Derwin – We should be a little intimidated by his talent, but he’s so good at sharing and encouraging.”
“Derwin Hinson is excellent, jolly, very informative, helpful, never made you feel out of place or less adequate.”
“Derwin is the best I have ever had as a teacher and makes you feel special.”
“Derwin is the best! Supportive, encouraging, has great stories. He makes sure EVERYONE in the group (jam and breakout) “gets it” and gives individual help where needed. He made my week!”
“I don’t understand how a man with his talent can listen and play with a smile on his face while his students fumble through the chords.”
“Derwin is well known throughout the area as an excellent musician and teacher.”
Derwin’s Camps

Traverse City, MI

Don Julin, founder of Mandolins Heal the World, is regarded as one of the top mandolin instructors on the scene today. Don’s patient, detailed teaching style is appreciated by students of all levels.

“Don is a great musician. Listens carefully and offers great tips and feedback.”
“Don Julin – awesome, offered great advice, helpful in all aspects.”
“Don was a jewel of a teacher.”
“Don was fantastic, I learned so much and enjoyed his teaching method tremendously.”
Don’s Camps

Marietta, GA

Duck Adkins has performed throughout the United States and around the world, including Lincoln Center in New York, the San Francisco Wharf, and the International House of Music in Moscow. Jim has taught banjo and led jams since 1975. He is also a world-class duck impressionist–thus his nickname ‘Duck’. Jim makes his home in Marietta, GA and performs with two bands, Cedar Hill and Atlanta BlueGrace.

“Jim is great at facilitating jams and bringing people together!”
“Generous, patient, kind and fun to be around.”
“He is good at bringing out the best in people in a very diplomatic way.”
“Jim has strong leadership skills and is very knowledgeable about bluegrass and jamming.”
“Jim is good with those of us that are new and coming along. I think he is great!”
“You would not believe what you did for me: for you and Pete Wernick. I just finished my first weekend in a play called Smoke On The Mountain. I don’t act but play backup on guitar, mandolin and banjo, I even have a banjo solo.”
Duck’s Camps

Fort Collins, CO

Ed Harvey has been playing, writing, performing and recording music since the 1990s, mostly on acoustic guitar and upright bass. He also plays banjo, mandolin, mountain dulcimer, autoharp, and fiddle at the beginner level. Ed is a geologist, water scientist, and former university professor, and now also plays upright bass with the Nebraska Bluegrass Boys band.

He’s released a CD, Stories Seldom Told, featuring his original folk and bluegrass music. Ed jams regularly, attends several bluegrass camps each year, and hosts a weekly bluegrass jam in Fort Collins for beginner and intermediate players.

“Ed has an extensive background in music and his knowledge and teaching style were educational and entertaining.”
“Ed is a helpful mentor who loves to share his enthusiasm for music with others.”
“He promotes a welcoming and friendly atmosphere where players can relax and have fun making music together.”
“Ed is an excellent and very supportive teacher and he always made the class fun, interesting and informative.”
“When I was struggling to understand chord transposing, Ed took the time to explain to me how it worked in a friendly and understandable way, without making me feel like a musical idiot.”
Ed’s Camps

Nottingham, NH

With a Master’s in Education and 15 years of teaching math, Ellen Carlson knows what it means to be accountable for students learning what she teaches. Having started fiddle at a young age, she is a versatile and in-demand performer as well as a sought-after teacher. She has taught bluegrass at Fiddle Hell, festivals including Grey Fox and Pemi Valley, and with Pete and Joan Wernick at their Jam Camps. She runs her own camp as well and leads the NH Fiddle Ensemble, a 100+ member “orchestra”. Ellen performs bluegrass with High Range, Rock Spring, and EC & The Darrellicks.

“An amazing teacher!”
“Her supportive and easy-going personality puts the nervous beginner at ease and helps build self-confidence.”
“Learning from Ellen has been such a fun, positive learning experience for me!”
“Ellen is quite skilled at knowing when to step in, what to expect, how to teach each individual.”
“Fine teaching skills and many years of music play and knowledge… a nice combination.”
“The most balanced class/workshop I have ever attended, with the right amount of teaching, playing, and material covered.”
“Our group “final” really showcased how everyone had improved and how much fun we all had.”
“The class was organized, expectations were discussed and made clear. We knew what was planned for each class, what we needed to do.”
“Ellen and this workshop have given me the confidence to sing in front of others. Ellen was always encouraging us as well as gently pushing us. This was a fun and rewarding experience for me.”
“I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone, knowing that it was a safe place to do it.”
“This is one of the best things i’ve done for myself. I have so much more confidence. I feel much more relaxed when I play and sing.”
“She did a great job working with the various skills levels.”
“Ellen was great fun but at the same time knew when to be stickler for the concepts.”
“Ellen is amazing! She is an incredible player and teacher! She is so encouraging, she explains things in a way that I am able to understand,”
“All the little details Ellen taught me mean so much when playing with others.”
“Thank you, Ellen, for leading the way!”
“She did a great job… very gentle and motivating with her feedback. It was a lot of fun.”
“Ellen has such an encouraging safe way of challenging me to stretch. I love that. She is also extremely knowledgeable about music. She is wonderful to learn from!”
“Very special instructor. Patient and yet encouraging to get the student to move to the next stage. It is obvious that she enjoys and is good at what she does, and relentlessly tries to move (some very reluctant) students onward.”
“It really is truly amazing how quickly I learned these techniques of how to jam in a Bluegrass session. All of a sudden I really understood patterns. Already, last week I was able to play with a new circle of musicians and follow the chords, and keep up on both my fiddle and mandolin. And I stepped forward and introduced a song to the group & it went very well.”
Ellen’s Camps

Nottingham, NH

Ellen Carlson and Melissa Bragdon Caron co-direct the New Hampshire Fiddle Ensemble. Ellen has been performing for 35 years, currently with High Range. She teaches fiddle, guitar and mandolin, privately and at major festivals.

Melissa, a versatile fiddler and music teacher, helped develop the 317 Main Community Music Center in Yarmouth. She teaches at her home studio, and plays with the Jerks of Bluegrass.

“Ellen is an amazing teacher!”
Melissa carries a vast knowledge of music and is easy to learn from. She lights a spark in her students that never leaves, and gave me countless opportunities to grow as a musician.
“Ellen’s supportive and easy-going personality puts the nervous beginner at ease and helps build self-confidence.”
“Melissa has a gift for teaching and playing music. She is patient, knowledgeable, encouraging and kind.”
“Learning from Ellen has been such a fun, positive learning experience for me!”
“Melissa is incredibly talented, and gifted working with all ages. I always felt encouraged. She makes it easy, and most importantly, she makes it fun! Melissa is caring, enthusiastic, and delightful to be around.”
“Ellen is quite skilled at knowing when to step in, what to expect, how to teach each individual.”
Ellen’s Camps

Melissa’s Camps

Oakland, CA

Erik Yates has been singing and playing the banjo for the past twenty years as a means of self-expression, a way of connecting with tradition, and surprisingly, as a way of making a living.

He tours nationally with California-based Hot Buttered Rum (a group he started in college), plays around Colorado with both his own quartet and the Lyons Bluegrass Collective, and has appeared with touring acts such as Rapidgrass, Railroad Earth and Peter Rowan. He also maintains an active schedule teaching banjo, rhythm guitar, dobro and vocals.

“Erik brings a mountain of knowledge, passion, and patience to his lessons, I highly recommend him.”
“Erik succeeded in giving me new tools to use.”
“I learn something new every time. He makes learning fun.”
Erik’s Camps

Reynoldsburg, OH

Fred Staunton was first taken by bluegrass in 1980 while attending the Skyline Bluegrass Festival in WV, seeing and hearing John Hartford and the Osborne Brothers. Twenty years later he was playing electric and acoustic guitar in a worship band at church.

Fred took up banjo in the early 2010s, playing in a group from his church playing Bluegrass arrangements of gospel hymns at nursing homes and various church events. He’s looking forward to sharing the Wernick Method for bluegrass jamming with like-minded pickers in the Columbus OH area.

Fred’s Camps

“Fred promotes a welcoming and friendly atmosphere where players can relax and have fun making music together.”
“Fred is an excellent and supportive teacher and he always made the class fun, interesting and informative.”
“I learn something new every time. He makes learning fun.”
“Fred is good at bringing the best out in people and a kind and encouraging way.”

Reynoldsburg, OH

Fred Staunton was first taken by bluegrass in 1980 while attending the Skyline Bluegrass Festival in WV, seeing and hearing John Hartford and the Osborne Brothers. Twenty years later he was playing electric and acoustic guitar in a worship band at church.

George Welling has played guitar and bass, and sung lead and harmony with various groups over four decades in over a dozen states. For fifteen-plus years he has taught bass, rhythm guitar and singing in Bluegrass Kids Academy classes at the Gettysburg and Delaware Valley festivals. He’s also played in big bands and led the Western Swing group the Oklahoma Twisters. Having recently moved to Ohio, he’s now active hosting and promoting bluegrass jams in the Columbus area.

Fred & George’s Camps

“Whether we’re performing, teaching a room full of kids, or just jamming, I can count on George to be upbeat, encouraging, funny, and full of musicianly wisdom.”
“Fred promotes a welcoming and friendly atmosphere where players can relax and have fun making music together.”
“George is an effective teacher and jam leader whose humble confidence is infectious and reassuring. He inspires me and pushes me beyond my comfort zone.”
“Fred is an excellent and supportive teacher and he always made the class fun, interesting and informative.”
“George’s open and friendly personality, his musicianship, and his organizational skills helped me regain my interest in playing music at jams.”
“I learn something new every time. Fred makes learning fun.”
“A gifted singer, guitarist, and bass player, George creates a hospitable and instructive jam.”
“Fred is good at bringing the best out in people and a kind and encouraging way.”
“George is always welcoming to players of different skill levels, and offers suggestions based on ‘what has happened’ for them to improve their playing. He helps everyone play their best without causing embarrassment or awkwardness. Both experienced and novice players come for this assistance. George has encouraged me to be more courageous in taking breaks. He sincerely wants people to get the most out of the jam and become the best musician they can be. I think I speak for others when I say we strive to do better because we want to make George proud!

Brighton, MA

Gabe Hirshfeld grew up in Newton, Massachusetts. At fifteen, listening to Car Talk on the radio he heard Earl Scruggs. The sound of the banjo spoke to him as no other and it changed his life. After obsessing over the banjo for several years and attending three Pete Wernick camps, Gabe started to play in bluegrass bands around Boston and studied at the Berklee College of Music.

While at Berklee he co-founded The Lonely Heartstring Band, which made successful records and toured nationally for several years. Gabe now lives in a house full of musicians in Brighton, Massachusetts.

“Gabe is a killer banjo player and an attentive teacher — knowledgeable about the music, skillful, and fun to study with. Great teacher!”
“Gabe’s ability to break down the crucial pillars of timng, tone and technique help foster growth as a musician.”
Gabe’s Camps

Worthington, OH

George Welling has played guitar and bass, and sung lead and harmony with various groups over four decades in over a dozen states. For fifteen-plus years he has taught bass, rhythm guitar and singing in Bluegrass Kids Academy classes at the Gettysburg and Delaware Valley festivals. He’s also played in big bands and led the Western Swing group the Oklahoma Twisters. Having recently moved to Ohio, he’s now active hosting and promoting bluegrass jams in the Columbus area.

George’s Camps

“George is an effective teacher and jam leader whose humble confidence is infectious and reassuring. He inspires me and pushes me beyond my comfort zone.”
“George’s open and friendly personality, his musicianship, and his organizational skills helped me regain my interest in playing music at jams.”
“A gifted singer, guitarist, and bass player, George creates a hospitable and instructive jam.”
“Whether we’re performing, teaching a room full of kids, or just jamming, I can count on him to be upbeat, encouraging, funny, and full of musicianly wisdom.”
“George is always welcoming to players of different skill levels, and offers suggestions based on ‘“what has happened’ for them to improve their playing. He helps everyone play their best without causing embarrassment or awkwardness. Both experienced and novice players come for this assistance. George has encouraged me to be more courageous in taking breaks. He sincerely wants people to get the most out of the jam and become the best musician they can be. I think I speak for others when I say we strive to do better because we want to make George proud!”

Boiling Springs, SC

Gilbert Nelson has been a regular on the jam scene for 30 years, with a passion for jamming, performing and teaching a variety of instruments. Gilbert’s teaching is action packed and always encouraging, emphasizing fun and success, providing a safe and supportive learning environment while still finding ways to stretch comfort zones and bring students to a higher level of musical maturity. Gilbert leads his own band “The Jam Town Grass” as well as coaching other groups in musicianship and stagecraft.

“I highly recommend the class and would do it again in a heart beat.”
“Why didn’t someone explain these things to me before?”
“Gilbert and Leigh, you have empowered me this weekend . . . I’ll have you to thank the rest of my life.”
“I can count on one hand the master teachers I’ve known and Gilbert is one of them.”
“You’ve given a 58 year-old guy with no “ear” who started with music less than 2 years ago, the belief that I can reach my dream of being able to play music with other people!”
“Gilbert has a fabulous touch and a way to bring a true beginner up to and over their comfort zone.”
“Jamming with Gilbert is one of life’s real pleasures. I’ve never met anyone so positive and interested in others’ success. He makes learning fun.”
Gilbert’s Camps

Igé, France

Gilles Rézard discovered bluegrass music at 16. He started learning guitar, then fell in love with the banjo. His two solo albums and recent cover feature in Banjo Newsletter magazine have brought him international acclaim. Based in Ige, Burgundy, music is his full-time activity, performing with Saga Trio as well as teaching. Gilles has taught hundreds of students (on banjo, guitar and mandolin) in more than 80 music camps since 2005. To improve connections between French bluegrass musicians, he has created a map locating all who register by emailing him.

“Gilles is a very good teacher, within reach and tuned to the students. He is very friendly and welcoming.”
“Thanks to Gilles I discovered the happiness of jamming.”
“Great teaching and attentive to each detail.”
“Relaxation, method, friendship, cordiality, theory, practice, serenity … it looks like happiness … Thanks to Gilles for all this!”
“The atmosphere was wonderful. The slow jam work benefits everyone (from beginner to advanced). Gilles demonstrates a great pedagogy [teaching method]. He is attentive to everyone.”
“Avec Gilles, la mise en confiance est immédiate et j’ai beaucoup apprécié les commentaires et encouragements faits à chacun. Chacun a sa place et est intégré, reçoit des conseils personnalisée, quel que soit son niveau. Je ne peux que remercier Gilles pour son écoute, sa compréhension et ses conseils qui m’ont beaucoup fait progresser et motivé à continuer à me faire plaisir en musique.”
“With Gilles, confidence building is immediate and I appreciated the comments and encouragement made to each. Each has its place and is integrated, receives personalized advice regardless of its level. I can only thank Gilles for listening, understanding and guidance that have made much progress and motivated me to continue to enjoy myself in music.”
Gilles’s Camps

Waverly, MN

Graham Sones is a more than forty-year veteran of the banjo, a Scruggs-style picker who enjoys his craft and helping students learn to play. Born in Rochester, MN with strong family ties in Des Moines and the Arkansas hills, he grew up with bluegrass music and festivals. His picking, singing, and recording experience includes three years with Monroe Crossing all over the Midwest at festivals, concerts, and fairs, as well as with bands such as DriveTime and No Grass Limit, and currently the Tony Rook Band.

“Graham was absolutely fantastic. As a nervous beginner, there was a great balance of advice, musts, must nots in a very accepting environment. It was really fun. I left very comfortable and knowing so much more than when I entered.”
“The instructor was great! I wanted to learn more in a hands on way. This class was just what I wanted.”
“I give Graham high marks for patience. I’m happy to recommend him to anyone interested in learning from a real expert.”
“Graham has great teaching skills. He keeps it fun.”
“I’ve learned from many teachers, and Graham is among the best. He is patient, forgiving, and inspiring which makes it easy to learn and fun.”
“Graham was very solicitous of our needs and very willing to accommodate everyone.”
“This is a very necessary element to link me from solo instruction and the woodshed to playing in a jam. Jams are scary and this course helps a lot.”
Graham’s Camps

Petal, MS

Gray Toney is a well-respected guitar and banjo instructor in South Mississippi. He has over 25 years’ experience teaching, and has students ranging from age 7 to 72. He currently teaches from his home studio, and via Skype, with students in Australia, England, California, Virginia, and Illinois. Gray has played in numerous groups and is currently playing with the bluegrass/gospel group Cross Creek. Gray’s friendly nature and ability to make students feel comfortable in a group situation make him an ideal

Gray’s Camps

Gray is a great teacher – patient and easy to learn from, and I feel like I’m progressing very quickly.
He quickly assessed my skill level and developed a course of instruction suited for me, and now I enjoy playing the guitar in my leisure time.”
Gray is a very knowledgeable, talented musician in a variety of stringed instruments who is very patient with his students.”
Thanks for all you’ve done. If anyone needs a guitar or banjo teacher, Gray Toney is the man!

Mooloolah Valley, QLD, Australia

Greg McGrath has been a bluegrass musician and teacher since 1990, teaching banjo and guitar during that time.

Since attending Pete Wernick’s 2007 jam camp in North Carolina, he has hosted numerous jam classes and camps in Australia for beginner musicians. Greg excels at giving students the skills and confidence needed to be a part of—and to feel welcome at—any jam session.

“So patient and encouraging!”
“Committed to bringing out the best in everyone!”
“Displays confidence but with kindness, humility and a natural sense of humour.”
“I have a rekindled enthusiasm and feel confident about my picking future!”
“An amazing, worthwhile experience.”
“Well done, Greg! Great value for the money.”
Greg’s Camps

Ridley Park, PA

Harry Gambrill was bit by the bluegrass bug early and began playing the banjo at age twelve. He plays banjo with regional bluegrass band The Jersey Corn Pickers. Harry also plays the bass, dobro, and guitar, and has been giving lessons for over 20 years.

“Great class…very challenging, but fun!”
“Harry is an excellent teacher. He exudes a true love for bluegrass music.”
“Harry was a helpful and encouraging teacher, even though I am a rank beginner.”
“A wonderful experience. I would highly recommend Harry’s class to anyone trying to learn the basics of bluegrass jamming.”
“I wish I had known of this course years ago. It was that good and that beneficial!”
“I had never jammed before, but now I am actively seeking out opportunities. Before I wouldn’t have tried. I learned that I wanted to be a committed banjo player. I just after received a new, top of the line banjo which I never would have bought unless I was committed.”
“A great musical experience!”
Harry’s Camps

Manasquan, NJ

Heidi Olsen has long been involved in the bluegrass scene in the Central New Jersey area, playing banjo with her band Heidi Olsen and The Night, and hosting the Bluegrass Jam radio program for 12 years. Heidi’s mission in life is to pass on her love of bluegrass by encouraging others to sing and play together.

To that end she started a workshop ten years ago which has introduced many students to the joys of jamming. Students praise Heidi’s patient teaching style and her ability to get everyone jamming in a non-threatening environment.

“If it wasn’t for Heidi, I don’t think I would even be playing bluegrass music.”
“Heidi is very enthusiastic, supportive, and encouraging. She makes you smile!”
“Learning with Heidi has allowed me to develop the confidence to play out with others — a dream I had all but forgotten.”
“Inspiring, positive and engaging attitude … the group wants to do well for themselves but also for you.”
“It was all a great experience for me. Heidi had just the right combination of toughness and sweetness to foster a perfect learning environment.”
“I especially appreciated her tips on jamming etiquette and feel I am comfortable enough to participate in a jam session.”

Email Heidi

Heidi’s Camps

Alexandria, VA

Ira Gitlin is widely known and respected in Washington-Baltimore music circles as a versatile multi-instrumentalist, teacher, and writer. A winner of the National Bluegrass Banjo Championship at Winfield, he has also performed with such nationally known performers as the Johnson Mountain Boys, Laurie Lewis, and Peter Rowan. Ira has taught at many camps and workshops, helping students master the basic skills that will make them a welcome presence at any jam session.

“A wonderfully engaging and informative instructor.”
“The best music teacher in the DC area, maybe even the entire world!”
“Not only knowledgeable but can teach and truly cares about the music.”
“The group jams were a great opportunity for everyone to get lots of practice with whatever they needed. Leading songs, taking breaks, singing harmonies, just building confidence with it all.”
“Ira’s extraordinary knowledge/mastery of 3-4 instruments means that he can accommodate ALL learners.”
“The no pressure teaching style was an unexpected surprise.”
“Lots of well articulated insights about jamming strategies and rules of the road .”
“Ira Gitlin is terrific!”
Ira’s Camps

Rogers, AR

Jeanette Curry began teaching 5-string banjo and guitar in the 1980s and now also teaches beginning mandolin. She has performed at bluegrass festivals and state fairs in the Midwest, and at Silver Dollar City in Branson, has played with bluegrass bands including Flint Hill Flash, Subject to Change, and currently plays with Gloryband, Stained Glass Bluegrass, and The Good Shepherd Pickers as part of an outreach ministry.

Jeanette studied music at the Hutchinson Community Junior College in Kansas and currently teaches at the Arkansas Music Conservatory in Bentonville.

“Jeanette is a gifted instructor who is willing to spend the time to teach the fundamentals. I could not have found a more knowledgeable instructor.”
“For a first-time bluegrass player the class was comfortable, positive, and a blast.”
“Jeanette has helped lift the “fog” that surrounds a beginning senior banjo player. I can recommend her as a skilled and positive teacher.”
“Jeanette’s positive approach took me from a total beginner to intermediate level playing. Her upbeat personality and general enthusiasm for teaching created an environment I always looked forward to. Some 30 years later I’m a veteran of of several bands and countless jams.”
“Really enjoyed the class. The ability to just sit in with a group and feel comfortable playing is great.”
“Jeanette has more than satisfied a lifelong desire to play guitar. I will never be a pro but I can play well enough to enjoy it.”
Jeanette’s Camps

Nashville, TN

Jeff Burke has been performing on mandolin, guitar, and banjo since 1999–a sought-after sideman who’s toured the U.S. and Europe with a variety of acoustic and bluegrass acts. A certified Wernick Method teacher, he has hosted bluegrass jamming classes in several states, including at the John Hartford Festival in Bean Blossom, IN and the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, TN.

His down-to-earth teaching style and positive approach to learning music have endeared him to students far and wide. Jeff splits his time between Nashville and Chicago where he currently offers jamming classes as well as private instruction.

“Jeff is a great, patient teacher.”
“Jeff is very passionate about music and it shows in the class. He offers positive and constructive feedback. I made huge strides in this class.”
“Great class, I have been recommending it to all my friends that play.”
“Jeff is able to convey difficult material into manageable lessons and encourages you to build on what you’ve learned, even if uncomfortable at first. I highly recommend him!”
“Jeff was very accommodating of people at different skill levels, patient with a group of varied talents.”
“Jeff did a very good job getting me out of my comfort zone with leading songs and attempting breaks.”
“Jeff was always enthusiastic about teaching the class, punctual and easy to follow with his instruction style. I would recommend the class for sure. Very impressed with his ability musically and to remember all our names after the 1st session…”
“Loved the level of folks who were in it. Even though I am still in beginner level,Jeff managed to blend us all in & push us just enough. I learned more in this jam class than I have in the 4 years or so I’ve had my banjo.”
“The best at helping all of us at all levels push ourselves, have fun, learn volumes of context in easy to understand manner. Jeff really is outstanding as a teacher & jam leader. Very positive, encouraging, approachable.”
“I went from a beginner who did not use a pick and knew only 8 chords to being able to jam, sing, and take solos in 8 weeks. Remarkable encouragement from Jeff moved me much quicker than I thought possible.”
“Jeff worked very hard to prepare for this class and his love of music was infectious.”
“We all had very different skill levels coming in and Jeff had something we could each learn every lesson.”
“Jeff’s positive energy and solid knowledgeability were a real inspiration. The class was fun and Jeff was a fabulous leader!”
“Jeff Burke is an amazing teacher. Positive, patient, encouraging. Never makes you feel your question is silly. Explains things clearly. Pushes us but if he didn’t we’d still be sitting at home, playing our instruments alone! He moves at a fast pace but always is ready to explain & the audio of class& info he emails is always on time & very helpful. Fantastic teacher.”
“I like the emphasize on action – teach and immediately in the next hour put it to work. Enough instruction to understand the theory but not seeking college level credit. Great format to have fun and learn quickly at the same time.”
Jeff’s Camps

Kansas City, MO

Jeff Elsloo has played and taught music most of his life, specializing in banjo, guitar, and steel guitar. Winning or placing in instrument contests from a young age, he progressed in many styles with bands including 3 Trails West, Hula Girl, and Salty Dog. He has run workshops on banjo and the history of bluegrass, and run jams at bluegrass music clubs in the Kansas City area.

“Jeff is a consummate musician. He will get out of that closet, and give you confidence, and get you jamming with others.”
“Jeff has a pleasant demeanor, emphasizing having fun and not taking yourself too serious. He has a great approach on how to practice, and attention to detail”
“Jeff is absolutely the best guy you could have in this situation.”
“He has been an extraordinary teacher, very patient and understanding. He has forced me out of my comfort zone into ear training and learning songs by ear. I would highly recommend him to anyone wanting to learn to play or improve their playing.”
“He always had time to answer my questions.”
Jeff’s Camps

Washington, DC

Jeff Harding sings and plays the guitar and dobro and has been playing and teaching bluegrass all over the world for the last 30 years. He’s performed, recorded, toured and taught in the USA, Guatemala, Egypt, India and Mexico where he played with the bluegrass band Chilangrass. “No matter where people come from or what language they speak, they quickly learn to love bluegrass music.”

“Jeff is a great bluegrass jamming instructor. He creates a relaxed but focused session that allows you to get practice singing and taking lead breaks even if you thought you were uncomfortable doing so.”
“Jeff was very encouraging, patient, and clearly lives for bluegrass. He is excellent teacher. Got us all doing what we told him we were there to work on.”
“It pushed me out of my comfort zone a little bit. Playing in front of people was a stretch and it was a very positive environment to do so.”
“Jeff was a knowledgeable instructor and very encouraging of everyone in the group. He greatly increased my comfort level to go out and join jams.”
“Our group “final” really showcased how everyone had improved and how much fun we all had.”
“Jeff keeps his teaching simple, always pitching himself at or just above the level of a student.”
“I’ve never had a better teacher.”
“I can’t say enough about his knowledge and teaching style!”
“A couple of us ventured out to a jam with his encouragement and had a great experience. Something that I would have never attempted without this class.”
“After taking lessons with Jeff, I was playing one of my favorite songs within the first month! It was fun, exciting, and motivated me to keep going!”
Jeff’s Camps

Arlington, TX

PensonStringWorks is the home of Jim Penson, long-time bluegrass musician, teacher, and luthier. He specializes in bluegrass banjo, having played since the 1970s, with The Bee Creek Boys, The Front Porch Boys, Whitehouse Harmony, Eazy Pickinz, and DeAnn Spence and Full House. He also plays rhythm guitar, lead and flatpick guitar, dobro, and a little mandolin. Born in Illinois, not exactly a hotbed of bluegrass activity, he moved south to Texas in the early 1980s.

“With Jim’s teaching and support I feel confident to try taking a break even on songs I am not familiar with. He is a patient, thorough instructor and his mentoring approach has been helpful.”
“Jim works well with every skill level and personality type. He definitely knows how to lead a class!”
“Jim is skilled on all bluegrass instruments.”
“I’m free from tablature and can actually solo. I must give a ton of credit to Jim Penson and his Wernick style jamming. Jim is extremely patient, focuses on everyone having a good time, goes slow, and sticks to the basics”
Jim’s Camps

Haddon Heights, NJ

Jimmy Heffernan is a multi-instrumentalist, specializing in resonator “dobro” guitar. In bluegrass and country music for over 40 years, he has performed and recorded with top names such as Larry Sparks, Red Allen, Brad Paisley, Charlie Louvin, and many more at venues including the Tonight show and the Grand Ole Opry. These days with the tour bus parked Jimmy focuses on teaching, sharing his music experience with pickers of all levels through workshops and videos.

It is rare when master musicians are master teachers. Jimmy is clearly both. Sometimes it was great to just hear him play. His sharing of the language, licks and ideas was top notch.
Jimmy was very adept at challenging all class members.
I loved his enthusiasm. I loved his willingness to help us all learn and feel comfortable and to not fear making a mistake.
Jimmy asked individually what we needed and made sure that we got it.
I feel I’m growing as a musician. Everyone is very positive and encouraging. It is a safe place to try new things.
Jimmy kept it fun and interesting with lots of insight and stories of his experience.
“I was able to hook up with some folks and started playing out over the weekend. Can’t remember when I have had this much fun playing music!”
“Fantastic class, it has already made a difference in my playing and confidence joining in on jams.”
“Jimmy was a great instructor for all levels. He was very patient and encouraging.”
“I can tell by the quality of presentation and the level of detail, you have put your soul into helping us.”
Jimmy’s Camps