A Legacy of Music at the John C. Campbell Folk School

May 20, 2019

Music and dance have always been a central part of the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C. Founded in 1925 by Olive Dame Campbell and Marguerite Butler along with the Appalachian community of Brasstown they created a unique school inspired by Denmark’s folk schools.

The traditional Scandinavian folk school model encouraged singing and dancing as a way for the staff, educators, and students to learn about one another. John C. Campbell offers experiences in non-competitive learning and community life that are joyful and enlivening. Through art, craft, music, dance, and agriculture, the school works towards its goal of bringing out the best in people. Campbell was a gifted musician and singer and the first to collect mountain ballads throughout Southern Appalachia. She collaborated with English scholar Cecil Sharp to produce English Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians (1917), an internationally celebrated text on American music.

Today, the Folk School continues its rich legacy of supporting traditional music by offering a diverse spectrum of music classes on many different folk instruments and dance styles. Adults from all over the United States and abroad travel to the school to attend weeklong and weekend workshops in banjo, fiddle, dulcimer, mandolin, guitar, autoharp, ukulele, folk harp, and dobro. The music programming complements the school’s renowned craft programs including over 800 classes each year in subjects ranging from blacksmithing to jewelry to writing. 

The school hosts a free Friday night concert series featuring local and regional musicians performing old-time, bluegrass, folk, and gospel. During the winter months, the concerts are held in the Community Room of historic Keith House and in the summer, they are in the Festival Barn. Anyone is welcome to attend. On the first full weekend of October, thousands of people flock to the annual Fall Festival, a celebration of Appalachian heritage showcasing traditional music and dance, craft demonstrations, and artisans selling their work.

Live music is also featured in weekly community contra and square dances, and on most Tuesday nights locals and students are invited to join in on a free "Learn How to Contra" dance. There’s also a weekly music performance by folk school staff.

For more information about the concert and dance events: Link

For more information about music classes: Link

The John C. Campbell Folk School is funded by the North Carolina Arts Council in a category that supports exemplary arts organizations that set standards of excellence for the state, providing high-quality arts programs, educational and outreach opportunities for children and adults.

The school is located at 1 Folk School Road in Brasstown, N.C. www.folkschool.org; 828.837.2775.