Free Workshops

The Bear offers free workshops featuring some of the festival’s finest musicians, singers, and other artists who share their talent, experience, and knowledge.

The 2025 schedule will be posted at the beginning of April 2025.

2024 Schedule

In Hancock Park


2:00 p.m. Appalachian Sung Stories with Hannah Sage From

Step into the enchanting world of Appalachian ballads with Hannah Sage From. Hannah was introduced to the beauty of ballads and Appalachian music as a young Pick and Bow student. During the workshop, you will hear beautiful ballads, discover the history, and even learn to sing a ballad or two.

3:00 p.m. Foundations of Bluegrass Guitar with Reuben Agnew

From County Armagh, Northern Ireland, Reuben has paved his way to become one of the top bluegrass guitar players in the UK and Ireland. In 2018, Reuben was one of 16 chosen to attend the Savannah Acoustic Music Seminar, studying with world-class artists such as Julian Lage, Mike Marshall, Mike Block and Moira Smiley. He was also selected by the Panarts Belfast Nashville Singer-Songwriter Festival as one of three sing-songwriters to travel to Nashville. He performs regularly with his family trio, Cup O’Joe, as well as with 5-piece Anglo-Irish Bluegrass band, Pet Yeti. In addition to playing the guitar, Reuben spends his time songwriting for the various bands that he is in, as well as his own solo work. His songwriting can be heard throughout Cup O’ Joe’s newest album released in 2023, ‘Why Live Without’, their 2020 release ‘In The Parting’, as well as the Pet Yeti album, ‘Space Guitars’.

4:00 p.m. Children’s Book Reading Hour

UNG students will read from seven children’s books that they wrote, illustrated, and published as part of an English class. Come be the first to hear and see their work! The books were written for readers ages 6-10, but this reading hour is appropriate for children of all ages. This project was developed and supervised by Haley Hodges and Lyn Froehlich.

5:00 p.m. Guitar for Singers with Joe Newberry

Tracing musical DNA from Doc Watson, John Hurt, Maybelle Carter, Norman Blake, Leadbelly, this workshop will have your fingers doing the walking and you doing the talking. Great for pickers who like to sing, and vice versa.


1:00    Clogging

Learn some basic steps and be prepared to dance! No experience necessary.

2:00 p.m.   New(ish) Old-Time Tunes for All Strings with Andy Howard

Although the word “old” is right there in the name of this tradition, old-time musicians write and play new tunes on a regular basis. Atlanta fiddler and clogger Andy Howard will teach some of his favorite recent tunes and introduce you to a few of the folks who are producing great new old-time tunes today. Come collect some new repertoire! Andy is an instructor at the Frank Hamilton School in Decatur.

3:00    Pickin’ Porch Jam

All are welcome to join local old-time players for a jam. Members of Pickin’ Porch, who meet most Fridays at noon in the UNG Appalachian Studies Center, always look forward to sharing their music and community with visitors on the final afternoon of Bear on the Square.

Woodrow’s Tent


11:00 a.m. Sacred Harp Singing with Esther Morgan-Ellis

The collection of shape-note songs known as The Sacred Harp was first published in Georgia in 1844, but today people sing this wonderful music all over the world. In this workshop, you will be provided with a brief introduction to the history and practice of Sacred Harp singing and then have an opportunity to sing some favorite songs out of the book. Sheet music will be provided, but the melodies can also be learned by ear, and there will be some experienced singers in every section. If you have your own book (1991 Denson revision), please bring it!

12:00 noon   Performing as a Duo with Max Godfrey & Maggie Hall

Old time music is essentially a social phenomenon, played mostly with other musicians, who eschew the glamor of the big stage for the simple pleasures of a cozy kitchen jam with friends. But with a little performative flare, old time music can draw a big crowd, and will one day conquer the world! Join Max and Maggie in learning the ins and outs of vocal harmony, backup fiddle, guitar runs, and improvisation, and help your music stand out. You might just leave feeling inspired to grab your jam buddies and take your show on the road!

1:00 p.m.  Old-Time Fiddle with Max Godfrey & Maggie Hall

Join Max Godfrey and Maggie Hall as they break down some cool fiddle tunes you might not have learned before! Max and Maggie have been fixtures of the Atlanta folk scene since they started busking together at farmer’s markets over ten years ago.  Max has been teaching old time repertoire at the Frank Hamilton School since 2017. Max and Maggie also host a monthly jam in Decatur, and are excited to teach some tunes that don’t get played as much on the jam circuit!

2:00 p.m.   The Basics of Banjo: Everything from Clawhammer to Three-Finger Style with Josiah Tyree

Josiah Tyree is a native of Carthage, TN, and banjo player for The Kody Norris Show. Josiah credits his dad and assistant pastor for introducing him to old-time, bluegrass and gospel singing. With roots firmly planted in his love for old-time music, Josiah quickly picked up traditional 3-finger style banjo picking. In 2013, he won his first clawhammer banjo contest at Hillbilly Days in LaFayette, TN. With a little healthy competition in his veins, he entered and won every contest around including: Uncle Dave Macon Days, Smithville Jamboree, Bluegrass on the Harpeth and Wilson County Fair.

3:00 p.m.   Mandolin Technique with David Benedict

David Benedict is one of the leading figures and content creators in the mandolin world today. With a music degree in Mandolin Performance and three years experience in Nashville touring and recording with acclaimed bass player Missy Raines, David moved to Boston to join the bluegrass band Mile Twelve. The group received the 2017 IBMA Band Momentum Award, recorded three studio albums and won the 2020 IBMA New Artist of the Year Award before David stepped down from the band to pursue other projects. His most recent recording, The Golden Angle, produced by Grammy-nominated mandolinist Matt Flinner, displays a new level of musical maturity and individuality, featuring collaborations with a host of celebrated and award-winning bluegrass musicians such as David Grier, Mike Barnett, Missy Raines, Ross Martin, Stuart Duncan, and Wes Corbett. David received the 2018 IBMA Momentum Award for Instrumentalist of the Year, and in 2019 he was nominated for a Grammy as part of Missy Raines’ album, Royal Traveler. His YouTube channel, with 5 million views and growing, features the popular, long-running weekly series, Mandolin Mondays, featured on the Mandolin Cafe, as well as David’s prolific in-depth mandolin lessons. He now lives in Travelers Rest, SC, where he teaches full-time and performs regularly with his wife, Tabitha, in their new transatlantic folk project, The Foreign Landers.

4:00 p.m. Ballad Singing with Sarrah Ellen MacDonald

Local singer Sarrah Ellen McDonald will share unaccompanied ballads learned from family members. Don’t miss her powerful and expressive singing! Sarrah Ellen is a founding member of the Georgia Pick & Bow Traditional Music School, and formerly served as Site Director for the Lumpkin County Middle School. As a member of Barefoot Creek and a sometime Buzzard Mountain Boy (she’s the tall one), Sarrah Ellen has played and sung on porches & tailgates, in barns & kitchens, all over North Georgia and even parts of North Carolina. She teaches at the Woody Gap school in Suches, GA.

5:00 p.m. History of Appalachian Music and Dance with Barry Whittemore

Dr. Barry Whittemore is a Senior Lecturer at the University of North Georgia, where he specializes in religious and Appalachian history. He will provide a fascinating introduction to the history of music and dance in the Appalachians. Come learn about our local traditions!


1:00 p.m.   Song & Tune Writing with John Grimm

John Grimm is a champion fiddle and banjo player with a growing catalog of albums. He also owns and operates Vintage Music in downtown Dahlonega and offers lessons both in-person and online. In this workshop, he will introduce his approach to writing new songs and tunes in an old-time style and share some of his recent compositions. Don’t miss his MainStage performance at noon on Saturday!

2:00    Old-Time Mandolin with Brennan Breed

Brennan Breed will share mandolin tunes and techniques appropriate for all levels. Brennan teaches mandolin and fiddle at the Frank Hamilton School in Decatur, Georgia, and plays in the local bluegrass band The Hot Dill Pickers. For his day job, Brennan serves as Associate Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary.

3:00 p.m.   Bluegrass Jam with Matt Levine

This bluegrass jam is open to all. Participants can request their favorite tunes and songs, which will be led at a moderate pace. Matt Levine has been playing professionally since he was 11-years-old, and has been a mainstay in the Dahlonega music scene for over a decade. You can hear him perform at the Gospel Jam on Sunday morning!

Tents on the Square


1:00 p.m. in the SEBA tent      Bluegrass Open Jam with Dan Daniel

Join Dan Daniel in playing your favorite bluegrass tunes! This jam is open to all. Dan is a virtuosic multi-instrumentalist and President of the SouthEastern Bluegrass Association (SEBA). Dan is also the founder of Georgia Grass, one of the oldest bluegrass bands in Georgia. Founded in 1973 and still going strong.

2:00 p.m. in the Pick & Bow tent    Uke Jam with Cindy Olsen

Come prepared to play and sing! This jam is open to everyone, even if you have never touched a ukulele before. Cindy will provide chord charts, song lyrics, and everything else you need to get strumming and humming. Bring your own uke if you have one, but she’ll also have instruments to borrow.

3:00 p.m. in the Pick & Bow tent    Old-Time Slow Jam with Ann Whitley & John Day

Join Pick & Bow instructors and students in an old-time slow jam. We will play common tunes at an approachable pace. All are welcome!

Festival Dates:
April 26-27, 2025

Live & Silent Country Auction
April 25, 2025, at 5:00 p.m.

Mailing Address

P.O. Box 1015
Dahlonega, GA 30533