Thursday, December 20, 2012

Austin Friends of Traditional Music 
Young Musician's Grant 

To do this, you got to know how. 

Whether it's Round Peak banjo, Swing guitar, , Piedmont blues, Bluegrass fiddle, or Old-time mandolin, the best way to learn traditional music is from someone who knows how.

The music has come down to us in an unbroken chain from one generation to the next, by hand and in person. That is still the best way to learn. The Austin Friends of Traditional Music is dedicated to helping keep the chain unbroken and preserving musical traditions as they evolve among those who still do know how!

In cooperation with Warren Wilson Warren College of North Carolina, the AFTM is proud to announce its Young Musician's Grant program for 2013. Anyone in the Austin area under the age of 26 may apply. Musicians will be selected from the entries to attend master classes at the annual Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, North Carolina, tuition and lodging-free. Swannanoa offers a rich variety of hands-on classes with masters of several different instruments and styles.

The grant will cover the cost of tuition and board for classes offered during one of several weeks during the year. Dates for 2013 are the following.

Traditional Song Week July 18-14                 Guitar Week July 29-Aug 4
Celtic Week July 15-21                                  Banjo & Mando Week July 29-Aug4
Old Time Week JulyY 22-28                         Fiddle Week July29-Aug 4

For more information on Warren Wilson College's Swannanoa Gathering, visit

To apply for the grant, please submit a description of your interest in traditional music, background, and why you think you ought to be chosen for a chance to learn from the masters.

Submit your entry for the AFTM grant by February 8, 2013, to: Austin Friends of Traditional Music, P.O. Box 49608, Austin, TX 78765.

Helping the next generation to learn the music, not so much as a way to make a living as to make life itself worth living.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2011 Austin String Band Festival Highlights

Thanks to Matt Bynum for making this video of the 2011 Austin String Band Festival.  It was a great festival!

Friday, August 24, 2012


Eliana Square Dancing
This is a note from one of our 2012 Youth Scholarship recipients, Eliana Salinas.  Thank you Eliana for such a nice letter!

Swannanoa is a place where people come together.  Whenever and wherever you look there will always be a jam going on.  At Swannanoa there is a strong community that is growing every year.

Nestled in the blue ridge mountains of Swannanoa, NC, Warren-Wilson College is the perfect environment for the gathering.  With all the the tall pines and natural flora, the peaceful environment puts you at home.  The meals are yummy and healthy with meat and veggies from the Warren-Wilson College farm. The Warren-Wilson Farm is about 275 acres.  They have many animals ranging from chickens, cows, pigs, plus a wide range of vegetables.  One tip is that late at night they have the BEST fried okra, hamburgers, and sausages for sale outside by one of the jam tents. 

The hardest part of the gathering is waking up and getting going.  You have to wake up no later than 8:00 every morning to get to breakfast and get ready for class, or earlier if you decide to go to tai-chi at 7:30.  After breakfast you have your first class at 9:00 and your second class at 10:45.  Then you eat a delicious lunch, made by the college students.  After lunch you can attend a guest master artist concert.  Following that is your third class.  After all your classes are over for the day there are potlucks, which are like mini classes or concerts that happen simultaneously so you choose which one to attend.  The night starts with a square-dance and following that are jams that last late into the night.
My time at Swannanoa made me so much more confident in my playing.  I have learned so many new techniques and tunes.  But most of all I have realized how much I love Old Time Music and how grateful I am for the people who I can share that with.

Hope to see you there next year,
Eliana Salinas

Friday, June 29, 2012

Surviving Music Festival Season

Surviving Music Festival Season
by Molly Johnson

Molly Johnson is a singer and oldtime banjo and guitar player who just moved to Austin from Missouri. Molly teaches the Alexander Technique, which is a method of self-care that reduces tension, stress, and chronic pain; improves posture, balance, and coordination; and enhances performance for musicians, dancers, actors and during daily activities and exercise. You can find more information about studying the Alexander Technique at

If you are like me, you look forward to summer - not because of the spectacular weather, but because of all the music festivals that spring up around the country. It is so exciting to drive off to far flung places and set up elaborate camp-homes. You find amazing jams and play all night, then catch a few hours of sleep. You get up, drink gallons of coffee, then do it again. But, there are often costs to the intensive festival lifestyle. Maybe you worry about the neck or back pain rearing its ugly head, the soreness creeping back into your wrists and shoulders, the general stiffness and fatigue that takes over. It is important to know that it is possible to take care of yourself, to make choices that minimize the risk of pain and discomfort. It is up to you to ensure that you survive festival season! Here are some tips to keep in mind while traveling, camping, and jamming:
  •  Stay upright and alert while you drive. Make your seat as vertical as you can and put towels or a pillow behind your back to you can sit upright without much effort. Hold the wheel as if you are shaking someone’s hand – not gripped, but not heavy. Use cruise control and sit with your feet symmetrical. Keep your mind alert, neck free, and head poised on a lengthening spine.
  •  Be an engaged passenger. If you really need to sleep, use a pillow and find a lengthened neck and back position (with your seatbelt on). Otherwise, try to avoid zoning out and collapsing into awkward positions. Sit upright and watch the view in front of you, listen to music, or think about something that is holds your attention without being stressful.
  • Set up camp intelligently. Park so you won’t have to haul your gear very far. Plan what to unload and where to put it so you don’t move your gear multiple times. If an object is packed deep in your vehicle, slide it close to you before lifting it. When you lift heavy objects, slowly transition to hold their weight before you start lifting, leaving your neck free and back long.
  • Haul your instruments with care. Bring a travel cases for instruments. Make gear as light as possible and carry instruments on your back or close to your body with the weight evenly distributed. Stay aiming up with your head and back and don’t tense your neck, back, or arms to carry heavy cases.
  • Choose your sitting position wisely. When you play, use a flat-bottomed chair. Sit upright, on the front of the chair, with your feet flat on the ground. Claim the full space you need to play; move your chair so you don’t have to modify your playing posture to avoid bumping the person next to you.
  • Sit with poise, not posture. Cancel your idea of what good posture involves. Do not try to find a certain position and hold it. Instead, choose ease over effort in your back and arms. Try to be dynamic, as if there is a stream of activity or energy flowing freely through you, aiming you up at all times. Always allow your head to be poised freely on the top of your spine and your back to lengthen and widen.
  • Use breaks to do less, not more. During long drives and endless jams, take short and long breaks before you start feeling tired or achy. Put your feet on the ground, sit up tall, without tightening your back or neck. You can lift your arms overhead to give your back space to lengthen up to its full height, making sure you don’t collapse your back when you bring your arms back down. When you can, find a flat spot to lie down with your head supported and your knees bent so your feet are on the ground. Think of quieting all the tension and activity and encourage your neck to be free, your head to aim out from your spine, your back to lengthen and widen, and your arms to lengthen to your fingertips. Avoid thoughtless stretching; instead, be still and think of yourself expanding without effort or movement.
  •  Never sacrifice yourself for the music. Prioritize how you use your head, neck, and back. If you pay closer attention to how you use yourself, you can keep fatigue and discomfort at bay and play with greater control, for longer periods of time. And you can make your festival experiences even more enjoyable!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

BREN KOCH - 2012 AFTM Youth Scholarship Winner

O.J. Laier & Bren Koch
My name is Bren Koch. I am 18 and have been playing banjo for 4 years. I started playing the banjo the summer before I started high school.  I started  taking lessons from OJ Laier. I fell in love with the instrument and have hardly had it out of my hands since. OJ has been a huge influence on me musically and all around. It was him that introduced me into the wonderful old-time  folk community in Austin  and the AFTM. I graduated this year from McCallum High School and will be attending Texas State in San Marcos this Fall. I'm majoring in Sound Recording Technology and minoring in piano performance, but my true love will always be the banjo (sadly they don't have a banjo department at TX State, believe me I asked). I am very excited to be attending Swannanoa Gathering this July. I've heard nothing but good things about it and I'm sure it will be a great opportunity to grow as a musician and further immerse myself in old-time music.

Monday, June 18, 2012


What a great open-mic!  We had a range of music on the stage - old-time, persian and traditional Spanish music.  Here is a Persian duet by Tayebeh & Ali Reza.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Marc Airhart is a contra dance caller here in Austin and he has just started a new podcast called, Four Potatoes Podcast. His 1st episode was an interview with AFTM's president, Tim Wooten.  It is a great interview and you can listen at this link,  Marc describes his podcast in the following way, "Marc Airhart interviews the people who keep traditional American music and dance alive in Central Texas. It's like Story Corps meets American Routes."   

Sunday, June 10, 2012


The Carper Family
We are so happy that our good friends, The Carper Family, are blowin' and goin'!  Congratulations on all your success in 2012.  Here is a nice article about them.