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.

2023 Schedule – the 2024 schedule will be posted in April

In Hancock Park


2:00 p.m. Storytelling in a CLAP! with Deborah From

Do you want to learn how to tell a great story to your children or grandchildren? Or maybe it’s a story for a work presentation? Or perhaps it’s for a storytelling program in front of a live audience? Well then this is the workshop for you! Deborah will share a few tricks and tips that will help you craft the polished story you want to tell.

3:00 p.m. Play Better Bluegrass Banjo Today with Geoff Hohwald

Geoff Hohwald is one of the leading Banjo Teachers in the world and has taught thousands of banjo students world-wide to become better and more knowledgeable banjo players. Over the last 40 years he developed step-by-step learning materials starting with the raw beginner and progressing through advanced. His Banjo Primer Book has sold over 200,000 copies and is available through Amazon and hundreds of music stores in the United States. He has content on YouTube, Facebook, Banjo Compass, and countless other sites. Geoff gives private lessons. He also teaches week-long classes at John C Campbell Folk School and at his facility in North Georgia. He is also an instructor at the Pick and Bow a program that teaches students to play Old Time Music, Bluegrass and Acoustic Music in Dahlonega, Ga.

4:00 p.m. Guitar Accompaniment and Arrangement for Songwriters with Wil Maring and Robert Bowlin

Workshop will give options of song arrangement for players of all skill levels,  showing how the arrangement and organization of the parts of a song can serve the meaning of the song, and provide tips on how to keep a listener’s attention, by using dynamics and variation of rhythms.

5:00 p.m. Uke Jam with Cindy Olsen

The ukulele is a wonderful instrument to learn, especially if you have never played another instrument. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to transport and have only four nylon strings so very easy to play chords and sing along. Come join the fun! Bring your own ukulele if you have one, but a few loaners will also be available.


1:00    Ballad Singing with Sarrah Ellen

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 and kitchens, all over North Georgia and even parts of North Carolina. She teaches at the Woody Gap school in Suches, GA.

2:00 Clogging with Cindy Barnes

Local clogger Cindy Barnes will teach some basic steps. Come prepared to dance! No experience necessary.

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 Sunday 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 get a quick introduction to note-reading in the four-shape tradition before having the opportunity to sing some favorite songs. Sheet music will be provided, but the melodies can also be learned by ear. There will be experienced singers present to help lead the way. If you have your own book (1991 Denson revision), please bring it!

12:00 noon   Bluegrass Slow Jam with Dan Daniel

Join Dan Daniel in playing your favorite bluegrass tunes! Dan is a virtuosic multi-instrumentalist and President of the SouthEastern Bluegrass Association (SEBA).

1:00 p.m. Old-Time Banjo 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 old-time banjo techniques and repertoire. Don’t miss his Main Stage performance at 10 am on Saturday!

2:00 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!

3:00 p.m. Fiddle Evaluation and Maintenance with Doug Olsen

As proprietor of the fiddle restoration business Fit Fiddles, Doug Olsen collect, restores, and re-homes instruments. He will provide insight into how to tell a good fiddle from a bad one and how to take good care of an instrument in your possession. Doug knows fiddle inside and out—this is a great opportunity to tap his wisdom!

4:00 p.m. Appalachian/Irish Crossover Tunes with the Swamp Rabbit Ceili Band

This group of friends from Georgia and South Carolina will present a program of tunes that thrive in both the old-time and Irish music scenes. Come hear your favorite tunes in a different style! The Ceili Band performance is always a favorite at Bear.

5:00 p.m. Irish Jam

Stick around to jam with the Swamp Rabbit Ceili Band. The playing will continue into the evening. All are welcome.


2:00 p.m. Old-Time Fiddle with Sarah Adams

Sarah Adams is a Dahlonega native who has taken prizes at the Georgia State Fiddlers’ Convention and been a featured performer at the Rockbridge Mountain Music and Dance Festival. In this workshop, she will introduce old-time fiddle techniques and repertoire.

3:00 p.m. Bluegrass Instrument Workshop: mandolin, guitar, banjo, and upright bass with the Thomas Cassell Band

Members of the Thomas Cassell Band will provide insight into techniques for each of the major bluegrass band instruments.

Pick & Bow Tent on the Square

Saturday from 12 noon – 1 p.m.

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 20-21, 2024

Live & Silent Country Auction
April 19, 2024, at 5:00 p.m.

2023 Festival Program

Mailing Address

P.O. Box 1015
Dahlonega, GA 30533