Teachers

Teachers

Keith Berland

Keith Berland

Keith grew up in the Midwest, playing music from a young age. He started on piano, and played trombone in orchestras, wind ensembles, and jazz combos for almost 20 years, including through his college years as a physics major. He played trombone semi-professionally in the Swingtime big band and lead a Dixieland combo. A college course in ethnomusicology led him to country dancing, which sparked an interest in string band music and a love for acoustic ensemble music.

Keith played a variety of guitar styles for many years, which included a stint in an old-time contra dance band. In exploring a variety of world music styles he discovered Irish Traditional Music and immediately fell in love with the tunes and the culture. He especially loved the Irish fiddle, which he began learning as an adult.

Over the years he has studied fiddle with many world-renowned Irish fiddlers at the Willie Clancy week in Miltown-Malbay, Ireland, and at the Swannanoa Gathering in North Carolina – including masters such as Rose Flanagan, Liz Carroll, Liz Knowles, Brian Conway, Martin Hayes, Gerry O’Connor, James Kelly, Kevin Burke, and many others.

Keith is a member of the traditional Irish trio, Celtic Brew, and plays regularly at sessions around Atlanta.

Teachers

Brennan Breed

Brennan Breed

Brennan has played guitar since the age of 13, and made his way through college and beyond playing in various Funk, Britpop, and Grateful Dead-style jam bands. He discovered the worlds of old-time and bluegrass music in 2018 when a friend invited him to a raucous and joyful backyard hootenanny. After the night was over, Brennan asked, “Where can I learn how to play like this?” In response, several hootenanniers in attendance mentioned the Frank Hamilton School. One musician suggested learning something other than guitar, and offered to let Brennan try a mandolin, which was a joy to play from the very beginning. While taking classes with Mick Kinney and Max Godfrey at FHS, Brennan fell in love with traditional American music and learned to play the mandolin, clawhammer banjo, bass and fiddle. Brennan now plays mandolin and fiddle in two local bluegrass bands, What Showed Up and The Hot Dill Pickers, and plays occasionally at churches and chapel services across the Atlanta area. He loves playing old-time fiddle tunes, bluegrass breaks, and ragtime. Brennan is a dedicated teacher, having worked as an educator since 2001, and enjoys most of all the excitement of a classroom filled with learning. If you can’t find him at FHS, he’s probably across the street at Columbia Theological Seminary, where he serves as Associate Professor of Old Testament. 

David Cooper

David Cooper

David Cooper grew up in a family of musicians and was influenced by the varied musical cultures represented in Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania. He studied numerous instruments in formal and informal settings and graduated from the University of Illinois with degrees in Ethno-Musicology and Social Work. While at Illinois, he was a member of the famed University of Illinois Russian Folk Orchestra, the Persian Orchestra and the Wind Ensemble.

Since moving to Atlanta in 1979, David has appeared internationally with the World Music Consort, Troika Balalaikas, Czar Balalaikas, Massenkoff Russian Folk Festival, University of Pennsylvania Balalaika Orchestra, the University of Illinois Russian Folk Orchestra, and was selected for a fellowship at the Glier Institute in Kiev, Ukraine in 1987. David studied prima balalaika with Anatoli Ryabinin and Yuri Alexsi.

As a freelance musician in Atlanta, David has performed with The Atlanta Opera, Atlanta Ballet, The Alliance Theater, The Atlanta Civic Center, and Theater of the Stars. As a member of the Great American Gypsy Band he performed for more that 10 years in the Sundial Restaurant of the Peachtree Plaza Hotel. He recently performed with the Atlanta Opera production of “Caberet” and “Don Giovanni.”

David has served as music director of the Atlanta Balalaika Society since 1986 and as director of the “Balalaika Fantasie” ensemble since 1998. He travels throughout the United States and Canada to teach members of other balalaika ensembles, as well as to conduct and lead workshops at the annual BDAA convention. He is currently vice-president of the Balalaika and Domra Association of America (BDAA) and was co-chair of the BDAA 2022 annual convention in Asheville, NC.

Glen DeMeritt

Glen DeMeritt

Glen hails from Wichita, Ks where he studied with the great Craig Owens and other accomplished composers and teachers at Wichita State University. He started teaching in 2004 and quickly found joy in helping others find their musical voice. Whether he’s playing in his band, The Pour Downs, or helping someone else get it together, Glen is grateful to share a musical experience with you.

George Eckard

George Eckard started writing songs when he was in college and has had a passion for it ever since. His musical explorations began when his parents bought him a little red ukulele and he taught himself to play it. Today he plays and writes songs on guitar, banjo, mandolin, and harmonicas, and he has led FHS’s songwriting lab since 2019. George has played at various local venues solo, with the Unusual Suspects, and with the 4 Man String Band. His second collection of original songs, Love the Land, was released in 2021.

He lives in the Decatur area with his wife, Phyllis Mueller. Together, they organize and host the Sundays in the Garden concerts at Woodlands Garden.

Vikki Ganger

Vikki Ganger

After an early fascination with music making, beginning with a plastic recorder in fourth grade, a guitar during the Beatles era, and a largely unsuccessful stab at the autoharp (too many strings and a lack of electronic tuners), Vikki’s musical journey began in earnest when she found an Appalachian dulcimer in a Sears Surplus outlet in Houston, Texas. Priced at $12.00, the affordability of this treasure was likely based on the fact that no one in Texas, let alone Sears, knew what it was. Despite a broken scroll, missing strings, and a missing fret, the instrument was finally made playable and sparked a lifelong journey into traditional folk music.

Vikki helped found the first Dulcimer club in Houston, and later moved to East Tennessee where she played with the dulcimer trio Mountain Laurel.  Along the way she picked up various other folk instruments, but her love of the dulcimer remained. After moving to Georgia, she became a member of the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association, and has played with the Red Top Porch Pickers, presenting period music at living history events sponsored by the Georgia State Parks. Her dulcimer collection currently includes several Appalachian lap dulcimers, a hammered dulcimer, a banjo dulcimer, and a bowed dulcimer.

Brad Gilmer

Brad Gilmer

Growing up in New Mexico, Brad picked up the classical Spanish Guitar, which he studied for over six years. During this time, he also played the harmonica, but never could figure out how to unlock the power of the instrument.  After six years of effort, Brad was supremely frustrated. He could not play a note without sheet music. Like many would-be musicians, he quit playing music for the next twenty-five years.
 
Years later, Brad decided he wanted to play again, and concentrated on music that moved him, rather than the tunes he found in method books. The blues harmonica called out to him again after so many years. With the invention of the internet, he found online lessons and was able to learn by ear.

Brad finally discovered how to unlock the power of the harmonica, with techniques such as bending and overblowing, and he has never looked back.  Brad has played in Savannah with several groups, but now in Atlanta, he enjoys playing with the Nitty Gritty Goat Band.  He truly loves communicating with others through that special language called music.

Max Godfrey

Max’s first love is traditional American music. He has led workshops on worksongs and other call-and-response songs at colleges, farms, and community centers all over the northeast, including Sheepscot General, Whitefield ME; Williams College; Full Plate Farm Collective, Ithaca NY; Common Ground Farm, Beacon NY; Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, Williamstown MA; SUNY New Paltz; and Billings Forge Community Works, Hartford CT.  He has also taught worksongs and old-time fiddle at the Folk Music Society of New York Spring weekend 2014.

Max’s vision is to give his students the tools they need to play by ear, play with others, improvise, and teach themselves. He makes it fun and easy for people learn together by using a call-and-response teaching method that develops a strong connection between ear, voice, and instrument. Then it’s natural to learn new music and join in with any group, and to play or sing well, too!

Max regularly performs in Atlanta at Freedom Farmers Market at the Carter Center, Grant Park Farmers Market, East Atlanta Farmers Market, Root City Pop-up Markets, and The Pullman in Kirkwood. Max’s essays on worksongs have been published in Taproot (Issue 13) and on Bennett Konesni’s worksongs.org.

Facebook pages for Max’s current projects:

Max teaches Old-time American fiddle styles, clawhammer banjo and country-blues and folk guitar privately. You can contact him about lessons at mgodfrey218@gmail.com, or 404 218 4707.

Alan Gordon

Alan Gordon grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and went to one of the two high schools that specialized in music, where he concentrated on vocal music.

It wasn’t until his forties that he started playing stringed instruments and took up contra dancing. Now, he plays multiple instruments, some well, some he’s still learning.  He leads a contra dance band called Snapfinger, which plays for contra dances in the southeast.

Alan gravitated towards English Country Dance as a favored genre, both for dancing and playing. The tunes are often more gentle, allow more emotion, and highlight what is called “comportment” in the dance. Which is not to say that he does not enjoy most of the genres in folk music and dance, of course. In Michigan, he played in a contra/klezmer band, Twas Brillig and the Mazel Tov’s. He currently plays in various Irish sessions around Atlanta. 

With English Country dance, Alan plays a short scale cittern, specially made for melody, and back up piano.

When not playing music, he is a professional astrologer, frequents Renaissance Festivals, and keeps a part-time day job as a registered EEG technologist, watching brain waves remotely all across the country from home in Pine Lake.

Frank Hamilton

Not that long ago, American folk songs were like copper or gold. Though you might discover a local musical gem crackling over the airwaves on late night radio, you had to mine the hills and valleys of this country to find the bulk of authentic American folk music. The general listening public had never heard the real stuff, the music made by real Americans, music with real American origins.

That is until people like Frank Hamilton came along. Like Alan Lomax, Peter Seeger, Jack Elliott and Guy Carawan, a man Frank hitchhiked clear across the lower 48 to meet, the young Frank Hamilton combed the country in the early 1950’s, finding and learning songs that remained unpretentious, songs that grew uncontaminated in pockets of expertise, music played by community folk with regional idiosyncrasies, music with deep roots and meaningful lyrics.

Geoff Hohwald

Geoff Hohwald

Geoff Hohwald started his musical journey playing guitar in Columbus, Ohio, but switched to banjo after hearing Earl Scruggs play. He played in many local bluegrass bands in the Columbus area which helped to pay his tuition while attending Ohio State University. 

Geoff originally studied with John Hickman and Robbie Robinson, and later came under the influence of other legendary perfumers such as Earl Scruggs, Bill Keith, J. D. Crowe, and Sonny Osborne.

Geoff has played with quite a few talented musicians in his career. In Atlanta, he has played with Bear Creek in Underground Atlanta, the Alliance Theater for The Robber Bridegroom, the Atlanta Pops Orchestra, and is a founding member of the Greater Atlanta Bluegrass Band.

He is the author of Banjo Primer Book and the Beginning Banjo Warm-Up Series.

Geoff has been teaching banjo now for over 40 years. Geoff teaches children at Georgia Pick and Bow in Dahlonega and leads workshops at John C. Campbell Folk School. He also happens to run a banjo shop in Dahlonega. He’s made it his mission to help people become the banjo player they dream of being.

Intro to Clogging

Andy Howard

Andy Howard is the Director of the clogging and string band performance troupe American Racket (a Georgia-chartered 501c3, @americanracket) and Sautee Stomp Clogging Weekend in North Georgia. He plays fiddle in Atlanta-based string band, The Sugar Gliders (@thesugarglidersot). In 2021, Andy and Maura Nicholson launched the Oldtime Jam Repertoire classes at the Frank Hamilton School for musicians interested in plugging into local and festival jamming opportunities.

He earned a Masters of Arts in American Dance Studies from Florida State University, authoring a thesis on the origins of American Team Clogging in North Carolina. He also earned a Masters of Arts in International Business from the University of Florida. He worked professionally in arts administration for Orlando Repertory Theatre, Orlando Opera Company, and the University of Florida College of the Arts. Currently, he manages two 501c3 organizations that support research at Georgia Tech.

He is a leader in the clogging community, a regular featured instructor at clogging events throughout North America and a clogging competition judge. His troupe, American Racket, has performed throughout the U.S. and in South Korea, Italy, Brazil, Canada and Costa Rica.

He has taught credit-earning dance courses in tap, clogging and world dance at Florida State University and Santa Fe College, worked as an entertainer at Walt Disney World Resort and past dance instructor for the University of Florida’s Dance for Life program for people with Parkinson’s Disease and their caregivers.

Melissa Kacalanos

Melissa Kacalanos

Melissa grew up in New York City, listening to her father’s drumming for international folk dance and belly dance groups. She later studied Middle Eastern percussion and explored various folk traditions and instruments, particularly hurdy-gurdy, which can play both melody and percussion.

She has performed in contra dance bands such as Jiggermeister, belly dance bands such as Djinn, early music ensembles such as Istanpitta, and the Cornell University Klezmer Ensemble. She was part of the orchestra in Mother Courage, starring Meryl Streep, at the Delacorte Theater. The Village Voice declared her the Best Hurdy-Gurdy Busker in NYC.

She now lives in Decatur, where she enjoys being part of the local music community.

Evan Kinney

Evan Kinney

Evan Kinney grew up in a family of old time music in his native Kennesaw, Georgia. He learned from his father at an early age and has continued to hone his skills by studying the eccentric playing of 20’s recording artists such as John Dilleshaw, The Skillet Lickers and Earl Johnson. Evan has performed with bands such as The Griddle Lickers, Georgia Crackers and Dixieland Squirrel Skinners and has taught and performed traditional music at The Blue Ridge Old Time Week in Mars Hill, John C. Campbell, The Alabama Folk School, Festival of American Fiddle Tunes and The Brooklyn Folk Fest.

Mick Kinney

Mick Kinney

Mick Kinney enjoys fiddling a variety of styles including Appalachian, Cajun, Celtic, Blues and Swing. A professional musician since 1978, he has played the 1982 World Fair, McCabe’s, House of Blues, Bluebird Cafe, Rendez vous des Cajuns, and NPR’s Mountain Stage. Mick has performed with John Hartford, Victoria Williams, Michelle Malone, Atlanta blues man Frank Edwards, and 1920s recording artist Stranger Malone. Recent collaborations as a folklorist have been with the Smithsonian New Harmonies exhibit, Georgia Humanities Council, Carpetbag Theater, Dust to Digital Records and Northwest Georgia Textile Heritage Trail. Currently, Mick appears often with Elise Witt, jazz clarinetist Dub Hudson, and the Kinney family old time dance band “The HickHoppers.” He has been an instructor at Swannanoa Gathering, John C. Campbell Folk School, Mars Hill College, Alabama Folk School, and Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. His class will focus on traditional fiddle technique and musical concepts such as scales, modes, and harmony.

Abi Klima

Abi grew up in Murphy, NC, and fell in love with folk music when she joined the first John C Campbell cohort of the Junior Appalachian Musician’s program in 2016. Since then, Abi has played with the UNC Greensboro Old Time Ensemble, the Glen Echo Open Band in Maryland, and countless jams across Washington DC, Virginia, North Carolina, and Atlanta.

Abi values the tradition of togetherness and inclusivity in folk music. Not being able to sight read sheet music, when she joined a fiddle class that taught by ear, she breathed a sigh of relief and wondered why she ever thought to play the formal ‘violin’ rather than the fun-filled fiddle. Recently, Abi learned of her family history, and how her great grandmother was a dulcimer player that attended Berea college. The fact that many of the tunes she currently plays are the same tunes her great grandmother played long ago brings Abi much joy. Now, Abi and her dad come to jams and take classes together to reinvent their family tradition of folk music.

Having moved to Atlanta in 2021, she has been taking classes and joining jams and workshops of the Frank Hamilton School ever since. During the week, Abi leads and teaches an after-school tutoring program for a DeKalb County elementary school. Abi is excited for her two worlds of music and teaching to meet together and begin to inspire the next generation of folk music players.

Jordi Lara

Jordi Lara

Jordi Lara grew up just outside of Atlanta. He first picked up a guitar at age 9 which was overshadowed by the cello a year later – an instrument which he studied throughout his undergrad years at the University of Georgia.

Using the tools he’d learned from years of playing guitar and cello, Jordi picked up the electric bass to accompany college bands and play in jam sessions. He fell in love with the instrument and all of the harmonic and rhythmic capabilities he uncovered with it.

While in Athens, Jordi and two friends tried on various musical outfits before landing in bluegrass music and forming The Afternoon Raccoons. Not long after the music went acoustic, so did the bass – the electric bass and the upright position of the cello had prepared Jordi to swing right into playing upright bass.

Jordi continued to play bluegrass music with his friends and to study bass in the jazz program at UGA, giving him the opportunity to play upright in a wide variety of settings around Athens.

Now back in Atlanta, Jordi continues to learn and grow on both bass and cello, branching out to new styles and focusing primarily on developing his improvisational skills while maintaining his classical chops and technique.

David Leonard

David Leonard

David Leonard is a lifelong guitar player, with questionable taste on full display as a wannabe metal shredder in his early days, followed by his swoon worthy James Taylor coffee house collegiate period, and now residing in the bluegrass and Americana glory land for the past 20+ years.  

He spent many years playing and teaching marching and concert percussion, and this sense of precision, execution, and drive informs much of his guitar playing.  David can be found performing solo gigs at Porchfest or local churches, and is a member of the Hot Dill Pickers, an award winning bluegrass band, if you count the fresh pressed apple cider we got at one of our gigs as an award. 

Richard_Liebman

Richard Liebman

Richard has been playing guitar since elementary school, inspired by his Uncle Irwin who was one of the early students and, later, an instructor at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. During the summer of 1971, Richard studied at the OTSFM under Ray Tate for an intense summer guitar program. He became a song leader at summer camps and for many youth group activities. Richard returned to playing regularly after a long hiatus in 2016 when he began classes at the Frank Hamilton School. He has since caught the performing bug after joining many of the school outings and the busking class performances at various events.

After spending much time flubbing the words, singing out of tune, missing the beat, changing tempo, and hitting wrong notes and chords, Richard wants to share the joy of finally nailing the performance of a song. When it all comes together—with everyone playing in unison, interacting, sharing parts, and pouring their hearts into a song, it’s an amazing feeling. His class will focus on all the preparation that goes into performing together and hopefully will include some opportunities to play and sing for others.

John Maschinot

John Maschinot

John put down guitar and took up penny whistle as a young lad in the 1970s after realizing there were just too many Jimmy Page, Ace Frehley and Doc Watson wannabes to compete with. After meeting the great Chicago uilleann piper Joe Shannon, he added the pipes and Irish wooden flute to his instrumental arsenal and set off on a lifelong musical journey. In the late ’70s/early ’80s John was keen to destroy a few good tunes with fellow beginners at whatever establishment or street corner would be fool enough to have them.

But by the mid ’80s he found his way and started The Buddy O’Reilly Band, for many years the big cheese of the Atlanta Irish/folk music scene. “The Buddies” have produced 3 albums and a whole lot of great music and fun!

John has since gone on to a solo career and participate in many bands and collaborations. His latest venture is with the music and dance trio, Ah Surely. And he’s been involved with productions big and small. He created and produces Atlanta’s annual Celtic Christmas concert, celebrating 27 years in 2018.

He’s a leader at The Marlay House Trad Tuesday night in Decatur – 10 years of trad music!

John’s been teaching Irish music workshops and privately for about half of his 58 years.

And he discovered, though he couldn’t quite match Jimi Hendrix’s guitar on uilleann pipes, he could at least come close to his soul!

Jenna Mobley

Jenna Shea Mobley is a touring and studio musician based out of Atlanta. She plays mostly fiddle and upright bass these days, though her first instruments were banjo, guitar, and piano. She has been a teacher of each of these instruments to students of all ages over the past 15 years, in both individual lessons and group classes and workshops.

While she was trained classically from middle school through college, she now plays more old time and folk styles and teaches primarily ear training, improvisation, and folk/popular repertoire. Her degree in Early Childhood Education and her career as an elementary school teacher strongly influence her pedagogical approach and her deep love for building a community of learners and creatives. Her goal is for her students to be life-long musicians with the skills to learn songs they love and connect with others through music. 

Maura Nicholson

Maura Nicholson

Maura grew up in a family inclined to musical talents, in a city inclined to supporting the arts. Piano, violin, and singing were her hobbies all through school. She majored in music at Emory with a vocal concentration. The years after college brought a family of five, all of whom participated in music of one kind or another. During that time, Maura’s love of the violin became a hobby, something she dabbled at periodically. But once she found the Frank Hamilton School, her love returned to a passion, and the school inspired her to switch from violin to fiddle, a change that has kept her playing almost every day, more for the enjoyment of playing than to perfect the music for performance. Maura retired from teaching high school and found herself returning to teaching, only this time, to share her love of fiddle playing for anyone who believes it’s too hard. She finds her motivation in the joy the students receive in learning to play.

Barbara Panter-Connah

Barbara Panter-Connah

Barbara grew up in Atlanta in a musical family from Copperhill, TN, a copper mining town on the GA/TN line. Her fiddling grandfather, John B. (“Uncle Bert”) Panter played for house dances, barn raisings, and other community gatherings, often alongside Fiddlin’ John Carson. After surviving a mine cave-in where his brother was killed, Barbara’s grandfather declared that no son of his would work in the mines. Thus the whole family including Barbara’s grandparents, parents, and all but two of her father’s siblings moved to Atlanta in the 1940s after WWII, providing a large extended family. Barbara’s father, John Panter Jr., one of 7 brothers and 2 sisters, was a fine singer with a beautiful tenor voice and a keen sense of harmony. Some of Barbara’s earliest memories are of falling to sleep at family gatherings listening to gospel singing with beautiful harmonies. At the age of 3 Barbara began playing piano and singing and strumming her little ukulele and sang her 1st solo in church at the age of 4. Her grandfather gave her his fiddle when she was 8 years old and told her he expected her to become a fiddler, further setting her on course for a lifetime of music. Barbara has played with several bands and performed throughout the southeast, in the northeast, southwest, British Isles, and even Serbia. She played and sang for over 40 years with her late husband, Whit Connah, in the band, Hurt Dog, that began in the 70s as an acoustic hillbilly, honky tonk, old time, Cajun band that evolved into Hair of the Dog with drums, and electric guitar, bass, and pedal steel; and continues with her son and daughter-in-law John and Audrey Ferguson, among others. Barbara is currently a member of The Rosin Sisters with Ann Whitley and Jan Smith, three fiddling “sisters” who love playing fiddle tunes and singing early country songs, with close attention to harmony! Barbara loves teaching and facilitating others to find their way on fiddle or guitar, and delights in guiding harmony singing in a supportive fun environment. Barbara, with the Rosin Sisters, has had considerable experience leading harmony workshops at Blue Ridge Old Time Music Week at Mars Hill, NC; at Bear on the Square Festival in Dahlonega, GA, and the Dulcimer and Old Time Festival in Palestine, TX.

Jeff Pearlman

Jeff Pearlman

Jeff has been playing music since taking up the trumpet in middle school.  Highlights of his four years in the high school marching band include a stint on tuba and meeting his wife.  Jeff also began playing guitar in high school.  When Jeff’s children were younger, neighbor Frank Hamilton recommended the ukulele for them.  The kids didn’t learn the instrument, but Jeff did.  The ukulele led to banjo and then a return to guitar.  Over the years, Jeff has spent countless hours sharing music with school-aged children and adult peers.

Jeff approaches music lessons as a collaboration between teacher and student. By nurturing a rapport with his students, he can shape his classes to satisfy the individual tastes and goals of everyone in the group. In his class you’ll develop not just as an instrumentalist, but as a musician; learning by ear will give you the both the ability to play the songs you’ll learn from Jeff, but the capacity to play along with songs you don’t know!

Dave Soleil

Dave Soleil is a multi-instrumentalist from Decatur Dave grew up in Chicago in a musical family. He started playing blues harmonica at age 16 studying under harmonica expert and instructor at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Joe Filisko. Dave had the pleasure of being invited to play multiple times at the Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival in Greenville, MS as well as participating in Howard Levy’s first Harmonica Summit. Dave has also been a student at the Frank Hamilton School since the early days in Candler Park where he has learned to play both guitar and mandolin across multiple genres. He organizes the FHS bluegrass jam, along with FHS instructor Brennan Breed. Bluegrass music is a passion for him and he’s excited to share his love for bluegrass music with others.