Appalachia Music

Dance Musicians Week At JCCFS

One of the highlights of Chatter and Chitter’s summer has been attending the Dance Musicians Week Class at the JCCFS. Actually they enjoyed it so very much-they might tell you it was a highlight of their entire life.

I’ve wanted them to take the class for the last few years, but a few things got in the way. Actually-only 2 things. The girls didn’t meet the age requirement-and even if they had-we couldn’t afford to send them both.

Remember earlier this year when I co-taught the Mountain Flavors cooking class at the folk school? One of the bonuses of teaching a class for the folk school-is you get to attend a class for free. Well over a year ago when I was first asked to teach the class-that was my first thought-one of the girls can use my free class to go to Dance Musicians Week!

So this was the year-I taught the class and they were finally old enough. I had one paid for and one to go. Chitter took my class resource and then we applied for a scholarship for Chatter-and she got it!

The week is intense. They start class first thing in the morning and go until late afternoon. Along with classroom instruction there are individual workshops with one on one lessons. In addition to all that-there are contra dances every night during the week to give students an opportunity to sit in and play with the band. Once the learning begins in earnest, the class is broken up into small ‘bands’ and by the end of the week each band plays for at least one contra dance, square, or waltz totally on their own.

In years past, we usually attended some of the nightly contra dances that are held in conjunction with the week, so we’ve seen the instructors around but this year the girls got to know them in a more personal way-and loved them all.

There was Naomi Morse-amazing fiddle player-and full of encouragement for each student. On the night Chitter’s band played, Chitter said she felt like a miniature Naomi sitting up there playing.

David Kaynor-fiddle player extraordinaire and one of the best dance callers I’ve ever heard! By the end of the week, the girls felt like they had made a lifelong friend in David. And David even had a vision for The Pressley Girls-and it was a good one too.

Sue Songer the sweetest lady ever-who just happens to be the rock star of contra dance piano playing. Sue was willing to work with Chitter on the piano-even though she hasn’t been playing it much since she picked up the fiddle.

Peter Siegel an awesome mandolin player, folk singer, song writer, and super student encourager. Peter even helped Chatter write a song. She’s keeping it top secret for now-but I’ve heard it-and I think it’s pretty good.

I think playing for dances would be harder than playing for an audience. For one thing the songs last much longer so the dances can play out. The caller calling out the moves and the noise of the dancers would probably distract me too-but it didn’t even phase the students from the class.

The video below is long-but you can see how Chitter and her band did when it was their turn to perform for a dance. Chitter even got to show off some of her fancy footwork.

Each band of students named themselves-check out The Ready Or Nots doing a medley of Kitchen Girl and Waterbound. (*Before you watch the video you need to stop the music player-the music controls are along the top of this page on the far left side-just above the Blind Pig logo. Click the center round button to stop the player)

I hope you liked the video as much as I did-it’s hard to watch it and not tap your feet at the same time.

Chatter and Chitter learned so much during the week. The instructors were top notch-and the other students treated the girls as equals, even though they had all been playing a lot longer. It was a win win for the girls-they learned from the instructors-they learned from their fellow students and they had a ball of fun all at the same time.

For me, the most poignant moment happened after the last contra dance of the week. As I sat on a bench waiting for the girls to say their final goodbyes, Martin, one of my folk school friends came and sat beside me. I told him the girls had just finished up Dance Musicians Week. Martin said “Tipper the community and the folk school’s paths don’t always cross. Sometimes they run in parallel lines. But it warms my heart when I see kids like your girls who were born and raised right here in Brasstown being part of the folk school in a real way.”

Earlier in the week, I had learned some of the history surrounding the old blacksmith shop on the folk school campus so I had Olive Dame Campbell in the back of my mind already. As I drove the short distance home late that night I thought about Martin’s words-and I thought how right he was. Olive Dame herself would be thrilled beyond words to know her school was still doing what she meant for it to-educate the people of Brasstown in ways that enrich their lives.



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  • Reply
    July 31, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Loved the video! Keep up the good work!

  • Reply
    David Kaynor
    July 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    I could not put it better than Peter Siegel did. Fortune and fame have much to recommend them, but when one’s music celebrates and brings out the good in people, this, to me, is music doing and being its best. Growth as a musician can be intimidating, even downright scary, and so, too, growth as a teacher. During Dance Musicians’ Week, we *all* grew. I believe everyone benefited powerfully from the friendliness, warmth, generosity, humor, enthusiasm, and willingness to take the emotional risks of extending oneself which “Chitter” and “Chatter” shared in abundance throughout the week. At the same time that they inspired me to strive to be a good teacher, they softened the shields and guards between me and the inner kid who I too often forget is still within. I will always cherish and be thankful for this.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    What an awesome times for the girls. I know it will be a week they will never forget!

  • Reply
    Peter Siegel
    July 23, 2012 at 10:53 am

    I want to say that the girls made the class so great for everyone. Their deep understanding of their place and a sense of tradition and their personal connections made teaching them a growing experience for me. Whether they become famous or not means little compared to the role they will have in bringing a tradition to the next generation with a smile on their faces 🙂

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 23, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Great job Chitter!! Your playing is excellent, your your presentation above excellent. You sit and stand straight wit your attention focused on playing.
    I love that little smile at the end when you knew you had done a good job.
    Way to go Chitter!!

  • Reply
    July 22, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. Brought tears to my eyes…happy ones!

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    July 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    What wonderful talent those girls have and your whole family. I never get tired of listening to the Wilsons..

  • Reply
    July 22, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    How wonderful the girls got to attend! Enjoyed the video. And you’re correct, from what I learned about the Folk School when I got to attend in May, Olive Dame Campbell would be pleased that the school is still serving the community. Glad I got to meet your daughters then, too!

  • Reply
    July 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I can see it all now! Soon the D Js will be talking about the girls and that “Brasstown Sound.” All the Mommas and Daddys will be bringing their kids to see the Pressley girls so they can pick up some tips. They probably will be saying things like, “Now when the Pressley girls take the stage, try not to look too awestruck, be sure to roll your sleeves all the way down so they can’t see your goose bumps either. Also try not to sit there and scratch them either. We need to stay cool.”
    Seriously Tipper, its just a matter of time now. They are something!

  • Reply
    July 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    You and your family are blessed indeed!Thanks, as always for serving up another slice 🙂

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    July 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    After reading today’s post, I feel like a “blind pig that found an acorn…”

  • Reply
    July 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I have goosebumps! My goodness. Nearly speechless!

  • Reply
    July 22, 2012 at 11:44 am


  • Reply
    July 22, 2012 at 9:57 am

    What a wonderful experience for the girls and such a great resource for the community too! I know they had a blast. There is nothing quite like having access to successful people in a chosen field to improve your skills and learn the little things that a book can never teach you.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 22, 2012 at 9:39 am

    No Bill, Ain’t no young Doug Kershaw. That’s a young Chitter Pressley in the making. I see her as someone to be compared to. I see myself fighting my way to the front to get her autograph. I see myself pointing to the stage and telling my grandson “see, that’s what you could be if you stay with it and practice.”
    I watched Chitter’s face throughout the video and saw the range of emotions that played out. I saw when she was scared, when she was annoyed, when she was elated. I saw little grins burst into big smiles. I watched no knees bouncing, one knee bouncing, both knees bouncing. I watched as the stressed expression changed to one of comfort when she reached the more familiar clogging segment where she knew she was the best on stage.
    So now how in the world is Chatter going to top that! But being a girl twin, I’m sure she has something waiting in the wings.
    I sure hope Miss Cindy was there to witness this event. I’ll bet there is pride splattered all over Brasstown and it’s suburbs.
    Tipper, do you realize poignant is pignant if you run out of o’s?

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 22, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Mighty fine, mighty fine indeed! If the other musicians in the video are an indication of the general age of the students, then Chitter and Chatter no doubt brought some much-needed youth to the proceedings along with the joys of blossoming (dare I say burgeoning) talent. Sounds like a wonderful week of the kind which make lasting memories.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    July 22, 2012 at 9:19 am

    How wonderful that it worked out for the girls to attend. I am sure they enjoyed the week. Looking forward to joining and doing something they love surely was one of the highlights of their summer…I get a feeling that Mama enjoyed herself as well…Not that you attended every moment with the girls, but that you knew how much it meant to them with a expanded opportunity to include more learning experiences in their musical career…
    Thanks Tipper, It seems the girls are already taken to the stage and loving it…as much as we are enjoying watching and listening to them. Great work Mama!

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    July 22, 2012 at 8:35 am

    You have such an incredibly talented family. It’s not just the girls and your son, but both you and your husband have given so much to the area with your stories and daily written information. I thank you for taking the time and putting forth the effort to educate. God bless you and your family! Be proud!

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    July 22, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Excellent job.. I thought for a minute she was going to play the fiddle and dance. John Hartford use to do this and I don’t know how he could, it takes what little brain cells I have left to just concentrate on getting the noting right. I’m going to make a prediction that not to far off in the future Chitter will be playing the fiddle and doing the fancy foot work, I think she can do it.. Enjoyed it very much, would have loved to have had the opportunity when I was her age…

  • Reply
    July 22, 2012 at 8:06 am

    She’s a very talented young lady, as is the rest of her family.

  • Reply
    July 22, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Mercy, Chitter looks so professional just being herself.
    I could tell the piano lady was
    so proud of her abilities. Both
    of your girls are so pretty and
    polite. You and the Deer Hunter
    have done well! Thank you for
    sharing Family with the other
    family of the Blind Pig. My oldest
    granddaughter tells her friends
    down in Georgia she has some
    really talented “cousins” up in
    the Mountains…Ken

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 22, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Your family is truly blessed to live so close to the John Campbell School.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    July 22, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Great Job! Do we see a young, female Doug Kershaw in the making?

  • Reply
    Joy Newer
    July 22, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Everyone of you are an inspiration to me,God bless you all.
    Grandmother Joy.

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