Workshops for All Ages


Workshop Programs

The thrill of dance music, the power of a cappella singing, and the joy of obscure or novelty songs are all touchstones of our educational workshops. Each student’s heritage connects them to America’s living traditions, so we include songs and activities that highlight this fact: young people get involved by either clapping, singing, or stomping along with us. With input from the school or community we serve, our programs can focus on a wide range of American stories: fiddle & banjo music of the 1800s, African American work songs, Woody Guthrie’s life and music, Appalachian ballads, or the folk music of the Pacific Northwest are just a few of the programs we offer.

Our duo has spent 7 years developing a range of workshop programs, see four such programs outlined below, or contact us at with your questions.



When time and setting permits, each workshop concludes with an open jam session!

Rhythm & Hamboning

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Your voice isn’t the only instrument you take with you everywhere. It’s important to remember that you can play a lot of wonderful rhythm through just claps, stomps and thigh slapping. Folks will learn new songs as we explore the fundamentals of rhythmic accompaniment through the use of body percussion. Time permitting, we’ll teach folks how to rattle the bones!

We have delivered variants of this workshop to high schoolers in Aberdeen, Washington and to folks of all ages at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, IL.

Outcomes & Themes: Students strengthen their abilities to identify and physically express concepts including “downbeat,” “off beat,” “pulse” and “polyrhythm.” Through participatory activities, students have the way paved for rhythmic improvisation, creating inroads towards improv with instruments. Students celebrate the spontaneous nature of many forms of American music.


Fiddle & Banjo

March 19, 2015 - photographer Aris Vrakas - img890

This workshop leads participants through an exploration of two instruments at the core of American string band tradition.  After we trace the history of fiddle and banjo through American dance music of the 1800s, participants will listen to live interpretations and recorded examples of African American duos such as Nathan Frazier & Frank Patterson. The evolution of this instrumental pairing is then discussed in terms of our approach to interpreting fiddle and banjo music for audiences today. Intermediate and advanced students are welcome to bring their instruments for a jam session that will conclude the workshop!

Outcomes & Themes: Students learn terms such as “downbeat,” “offbeat” and “fills” through observing the role of both the fiddle and banjo in jazz, old time, and bluegrass music. Students gain an appreciation for the diverse sounds that are possible on each instrument through bowing techniques for the fiddle and right hand styles of playing the banjo.

Available Material:

South Georgia Fiddle Tunes of Frank Maloy


Northwest Folk Songs

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Discover the connections  between Woody Guthrie’s Northwest compositions, such as “Pastures of Plenty” and “Grand Coulee Dam,”  with local logging, fishing and sawmill ballads composed by working people of the Pacific Northwest. Through singing and discussing these tunes together–and sharing the stories about how and where they were composed–we will reflect upon the ways and which folk songs are tied to specific places. This class is adaptable to all skill levels and acoustic instruments!

Ben & Joe have taught this workshop in multiple settings. For instance, in Spring of 2015 they shared it with middle schoolers at Open Window School in Bellingham, WA with a special focus on the connection between the Works Progress Administration and Woody Guthrie’s songwriting for the Bonneville Power Administration. In 2014, the Grays Harbor Community Foundation provided grant funding for this program to be delivered in public workshops that were free to people of all ages in the Grays Harbor region.

Outcomes & Themes: Students learn about the history of industry in the Pacific Northwest while learning to sing or play the traditional songs that document that history. Emphasis can be shifted to either the industrial or the environmental aspects of this tradition. Older students are encouraged to reflect upon the role of the harvester as a protector of his or her resources.

For schools where logging, fishing, or sawmills provide jobs, students learn to connect their own communities stories with the thriving tradition of Northwest folk songs.

Available Material:

“Columbia River Collection” Recordings – Woody Guthrie

“Timberbound Songbook” – John & Kim Cunnick

“Songs & Dances of the Oregon Trail” – Phil & Vivian Williams


Please feel free to contact us with questions about any of the workshops outlined above.


Creole & Cajun Music

Acadia Map

Students strengthen their geographical knowledge while learning about the exile of the Acadians and their migration to southern Louisiana.

Explore homegrown music of Southern Louisiana through learning the songs and dances of masters such as Sam McGee and Dewey Balfa. The Creole and Cajun traditions stem from a clash of cultures:  the Acadian migration to the American South, and the melting pot of culture created by a Caribbean Slave migration, as well as other European influences already found in Louisiana’s long and rich cultural history. Students are taught basic pronunciation of Creole French so they can sing along with one of the iconic recordings of accordionist Amede Ardoin. Then, everyone gets on their feet and learns the basics of the waltz and the two step!

Outcomes & Themes: Students are introduced to the history of Acadian and Creole culture, and connected with the thriving musical traditions of Southern Louisiana. Students gain familiarity with the Creole style of French spoken outside of New Orleans, while deepening their knowledge of geography through the use of maps (see above). Lastly, clapping, stomping and dancing activities build musical skills while getting students up and moving!

Available Material:

Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People – a songbook edited by Ann Savoy

Louisiana Music Timeline – courtesy of the Oxford American

Cajun Music: Alive and Well in Louisiana – article from Folklife in Louisiana


Past Programs

In addition to our regular programming in the greater Seattle area, we deliver workshops and residency programs across the United States. While most of our work takes place with students ages 10 – 17, our ideal program draws in folks of all ages to facilitate cross-generational interactions through the medium of American roots music.

For instance, we were awarded grant funding in 2014 to deliver a week-long residency in the communities around Aberdeen, Washington. This allowed us to provide a few of the workshops described below in middle schools, grade schools and a local college during the day, and then present all-ages workshops to the public each evening. At the end of the week, we performed for the entire community on Friday evening. Students at each school were encouraged to attend the evening workshops, so that those interested could deepen and broaden their understanding of our musical heritage and gain the opportunity to join us onstage to perform one of the songs they learned for the culminating concert.

See below to learn specifics about our various workshop offerings. We are experienced with adapting each of the offerings below for a particular age or skill-level as desired. The Rhapsody Project is a program of Community Arts Create, our non-profit.