Piedmont Blues Intensive

John Dee HolemanWorkshop: October 15-18, 2009
Concert: 7:30pm, October 16, 2009 – Wheeler Theater
Purchase tickets today!

It’s All Piedmont, All Pickin’, All The Time…

One of the most popular components of the Centrum summer blues gathering is the Piedmont picking track. In fact, we happen to like it so much, we’ve decided to build an entire intensive around the Piedmont style.

…and we’d like you to join us.

Artistic Director Corey Harris has asked three of the best to lead the charge:

Plectrum is not spoken here. The right thumb lays down the bass line, and fingers independently play the melody, chords, fills, and other treble voices – much the way ragtime pianists divided their right and left hands into different functions. The approach worked for Delta and country-ragtime blues as well, but reached it’s apex in the Piedmont style.

The intensive begins on Thursday afternoon, October 14, when participants and faculty check-in to their restored, Victorian-era Officers Housing at historic Fort Worden State Park. The first event is dinner–expect specially-prepared, gourmet cuisine throughout your stay. After dinner, we’ll introduce the faculty, answer any questions, and get down to jamming. There will be individual instruction on guitar each morning and afternoon. Faculty will be leading jams throughout the entire weekend.

We’ll be focusing on Piedmont blues at this gathering. Guitar will be featured for sure, but if you play harmonica, ukulele, or mandolin, you will still find this experience extremely rewarding.

On Friday night, Centrum will present John Dee, Michael, and Lighntin’ in a concert at Fort Worden’s Wheeler Theater. You’ll depart mid-day on Sunday, October 18, after a closing breakfast. We expect that you’ll be tired, and yet also completely energized.

This workshop is geared towards guitar players at an intermediate and above level, who have had some experience playing Piedmont style. Students will hone their skills, add to their repertoires, and broaden their musical horizons, all while meeting some great fellow musicians.

We hope you can join us. This is a premium experience, and as such, we will limit the gathering to 30 participants. Your total cost is $550. That covers tuition, housing, and food.

Register online, or call Peter McCracken at 360-385-3102 x127 with any questions.


John Dee Holeman John Dee Holeman
John Dee Holeman is a master bluesman and buckdancer. He lives in Durham, NC, a tobacco town that has long attracted talented and influential bluesmen such as Blind Boy Fuller, Reverend Gary Davis, Arthur Lyons, and Thomas Burt. The deep blues tradition created by these local musicians constitutes the roots of the music that John Dee plays.

Born near Hillsborough in rural Orange County in 1929, John Dee has been singing blues and picking the guitar since the age of fourteen. “I’d sit around the barn, keeping the fire to cure the tobacco,” he remembers. “For my entertainment–with this guitar, you know–I’d bang on it. I kept on doing that [and] picked up a few chords. He has been “kind of apt,” he says, at “catching on.” He soon began entertaining at birthday celebrations, corn shuckings, wood choppings, and house parties. After a move to Durham in 1954, he began incorporating more modern blues into his repertoire.

John Dee has traveled throughout North Carolina as part of the “Black Folk Heritage Tour,” worked throughout the South in a highly successful “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” tour, and twice traveled overseas where the Arts America Program of the United States Information Agency sent him as part of a folk music tour in Southeast Asia and Africa. John Dee received a Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988.

Michael Roach Michael Roach
Michael Roach sings and plays guitar in an East Coast style of blues that dates back to the 1920s. He spent several years learning directly from such well known figures as John Jackson, John Cephas and Jerry Ricks.

Over the past 20 years, Michael has conducted numerous workshops throughout the USA and Europe. He has promoted African-American culture through the use of blues music. He has lectured for the Smithsonian Institute (USA), Oxford University (UK) and more recently at the University of Metz (France). In July 2004, he was involved in the organization of a conference held at the University of Gloucestershire (UK) called ‘Overseas Blues – European Perspectives on African American Music’. The University Press of Mississippi published the papers from the conference in 2007.

Michael is the founder of the European Blues Association and serves as its Director of Development, Secretary and Newsletter Editor. He is the Director and Guitar Instructor for the annual Blues Week 2000 – 2008 program at the University of Northampton. Michael also presented ‘Deep Blue’, a three part series on blues music featured on BBC Radio 4 in March 2003. It is Michael’s communication skills together with his musicianship that has enabled him to bring about a greater understanding of blues music and the Black experience.

Lightnin Wells Lightnin’ Wells
Mike “Lightnin'” Wells breathes new life into the vintage tunes of the 1920s and depression era America employing various appropriate stringed instruments in a dynamic style which he has developed in over thirty years of performing experience. Raised in eastern North Carolina, Wells learned to play harmonica as a young child and taught himself to play the guitar as he developed a strong interest in traditional blues and folk music. His many years of public performance began in Chapel Hill, N.C. in the early 1970s. During the following decades he has presented his brand of acoustic blues throughout North Carolina, the United States and Europe.

Lightnin’ Wells produced the first commercial recordings of the N.C. blues veterans Big Boy Henry, Algia Mae Hinton and George Higgs. He has traveled and performed extensively with these musicians and has documented their backgrounds and musical histories for future generations. He is also a life-long student and devotee of the pioneering performers in the piedmont blues tradition which once thrived in the Carolinas, including such artists as Blind Boy Fuller, Rev. Gary Davis and Elizabeth Cotton; deceased musicians whose influence seems only to grow with time.

Lightnin’ remains an insatiable student and researcher, studying the various forms of American roots music from bygone eras. He plays a number of instruments besides the guitar including the harmonica, ukulele, mandolin and banjo. He has taught blues guitar at most of the leading “Blues Weeks” sponsored by universities and teaching organizations throughout the country. He served for ten years as a board member for the Music Maker Relief Foundation which assists elderly blues and old-time musicians to meet their basic needs and continues to serve this organization in an advisory capacity. He is presently included in the North Carolina Arts Council’s Touring Artist Roster, as well as the American Traditions National Roster through the Southern Arts Federation.