Red Hot Strings music workshop at Centrum

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About Red Hot Strings

Spring 2024

Originally called Vintage Jazz in 2016, we upped the temperature in 2019 and renamed this fiery offering Red Hot Strings. Come celebrate the Jazz Age string players, those who were the entertainers of the 1920s and ‘30s, playing ragtime, blues, and popular music with us at this dynamic workshop.

We cover a lot whether it’s Hot Jazz and 1930s Swing; the string-related sub-genres of Western Swing, Hawaiian Swing; and even the jazzier jug bands of the American South. All of the musical traditions of ragtime, blues, classical, and Creole had a hand in the development of the harmonically and rhythmically compelling vocabulary of jazz, and stringed instruments were in the mix from the very beginning.

Five days and four nights combined with seemingly endless music with like minds at Fort Worden is a memory we hope you keep forever in your repertoire of learning experiences.

Red Hot Strings workshop at Fort Worden

Attend The Next Session

Red Hot Strings Workshops
2024 OPENS IN Nov

Red Hot Strings Facts

  • Director: Matt Munisteri
  • Established in 2016
  • Musical traditions of hot jazz, swing, ragtime, blues, classical, and Creole
  • Instrumentation: guitar, tenor banjo, mandolin, fiddle, steel guitar and bass

Experience Red Hot Strings

In-person instruction ranges from Hot Jazz to Western Swing, Rags to Beguines, for guitar, tenor banjo, mandolin, fiddle, steel guitar, and bass. Some classes are available for online audit. There is no audition to register.

You have your choice of four daily one-hour class sessions on Thursday and Friday, two on Saturday.

2023 Class Descriptions

The Melody is Your Friend! Or, Wait, How Does This Song Go? – Jeremy Wakefield
We’ll learn some standard Western Swing melodies as an avenue to training your ear and finding your way around the fingerboard. Knowing the melody helps lay the groundwork for improvising solos, composing ensemble arrangements, and just keeping things interesting! The steel guitar is uniquely suited to interpreting a melody – from emulating the natural slurs of a human voice to adding staccato punctuations, and we’ll dissect multiple fingering choices to make these melodies phrase the way you want. We’ll work on a few western swing standards, and maybe pick a few out of thin air. Possible selections: Right or Wrong, Sweet Jennie Lee, Liza Jane, San Antonio Rose.

Double-Stops for Steel Guitar! Or, But First, the Dyad!Jeremy Wakefield
A workshop on getting around the fingerboard using the all-important double-stop. Getting your double stops together can help you hear which notes in a harmonic progression are important, clarify your ideas when you consider adding another note, and provide a useful tool for mapping the neck. We’ll explore bar-hand moves in various tunings, a few useful slant positions, as well as some important double-stop technique for the picking hand.

Single-Line Soloing – Dave Biller
Examine the raw concepts necessary for improvising in a swing style, beginning with the basics – scales and modes, building chords out of those, and applying those items to common chord progressions in early jazz and swing. Take a look at common chord progressions, how they’re used again and again in swing standards, and start training our ears by transcribing parts of solos. The aim is not necessarily to write out complete solos, but instead to learn certain passages that catch the ear and apply them to other tunes.

The Advancing Swing Soloist: “Playing in the Bag” – Dave Biller
Obtain a deeper insight into realizing authentic sounding improvisations within the idiom. Junior Bernard and Eddie Van Halen had the same 12 notes at their disposal, yet they sound different. And that’s even without considering the amps and whammy bar! Why do modern jazz guitarists sometimes sound wrong when they’re playing early jazz or swing? Understanding that styles of music are like languages, and regional styles are like dialects, we understand the particulars of Swing and Western Swing, and learn to hear subtleties, is key. So we’ll be developing our ears as we work on our idiomatic vocabulary and phrasing, with the goal of finding a balance between book-learnin’ and honky-tonkin’.

Rhythm & Repertoire – Don Stiernberg
Take a look at chord voicings suitable to swing of all kinds. You’ll get all the
types of chords needed, boiled down to manageable amounts by function or family. Rhythm strokes for the pick hand are also examined, along with actual rhythms commonly used, and how to make everything swing. The end result is a batch of essential tunes we get a handle on and play.

The BIG 3 of Jazz & Western Swing Mandolin – Don Stiernberg
The BIG 3? Oh yeah, that would be (in alphabetical order) Jethro Burns, Johnny Gimble, and Tiny Moore. We’ll listen to and examine transcriptions of their solos with the goal of finding how they went about bringing the language of jazz to the fretboard of the greatest instrument in the world. The routes and sounds heard will illuminate our own individual approaches to improvisation. Or as Jethro himself once said, “Steal ever (every) chance you get, just steal from the best…”

Playing in a Band – Tyler Jackson
Want to be “the banjo player” in a traditional jazz band? Common comping styles, fills, and basic soloing are tackled. Students learn how to play solid rhythm and efficiently navigate through standard chord progressions used in traditional jazz through a series of commonly used chord shapes. Additionally, students also get several chord-melody solos to work on and take home.

Solo-style tenor banjo – Tyler Jackson
Take your playing to the next level by studying the masters of the past AND the present. Students are given arrangements which focus on both single-string and chord melody solos in the style of Harry Reser, Perry Bechtel, and Eddie Peabody. Improvisation, both single-string and chordal styles, are also covered. Check out the playing styles of current four-string banjo players such as Buddy Wachter, Don Vappie, and more. Proper technique is a major focus. Everything from figuring out difficult fingerings to mastering advanced right and left-hand technique are grappled. If you’re serious about the tenor banjo, then you don’t want to miss this!

Swing Era Rhythm Guitar – Jonathan Stout
Although it’s often just talked about as “four to the bar,” we’ll talk about the subtleties of time-feel and rhythmic variations that swing those quarter notes. Using the examples of Freddie Green (Count Basie), Allan Reuss (Benny Goodman) and John Trueheart (Chick Webb), we cover the right voicings for the job, especially in how to choose the right voicings for a given size/style of band. We learn to expand simple changes with walking inversions, passing chords/substitutions, and walking inner voices (and also when not to). Basics, tricks, and variations on what every swing guitar player actually spends 90% of their time doing.

1930s Chord-Melody Soloing – Jonathan Stout
Here we cover the voicings and vocabulary of the largely forgotten and mysterious Swing-Era chord-melody intros, solos and breaks. Using examples ala John Trueheart, Carmen Mastren and Dick McDonough, we start with some “bread and butter” chord-melody basics; add hipper and more complex tricks ala George Van Eps; and then finally concentrate on the secrets behind the swashbuckling, super-swinging, yet super-economical, style of Allan Reuss.

Transcription 101 – Mikiya Matsuda
Eliminate the mysteries of transcribing music for steel guitar. Where to start without the tuning or when notes are indistinct on a scratchy 78? There are so many Es on my guitar, how to know which one is being played? Do I need to write the music down? Why do I even need to transcribe in the first place?! Together, we tackle these questions and other common challenges when learning music from recordings. We also explore ways of transcribing that focus on things other than the notes. Finally, we address the inevitable question, “So you’ve learned your favorite solo, now what?” While the course will primarily focus on transcribing for steel guitar music, players of any instrument are warmly welcome.

Big Band Horns for Steel Guitar – Mikiya Matsuda
It’s long been speculated that some of the most iconic steel guitar tunings (A6th, C6th, E13th, and their variants) were developed to mimic the rich sounds of horn sections in the Big Band era. In this course, we test the claim by going straight to the source and learn to play some classic backgrounds, riffs, and shout choruses heard on recordings by Count Basie and other bands of the Swing Era. Through the process of adapting Big Band horn parts to steel guitar (something that all the great Western Swing and many Hawaiian players did themselves), we expand our knowledge of the fretboard and build a deeper vocabulary of rhythms and harmonies we can use as both accompanists and soloists.

Eddie and Eldon: The Art of Accompaniment – Matt Munisteri
A violinist who’s an old friend once said to me, “The guitar really is THE ULTIMATE ACCOMPANIST – I mean, it’s not only great at accompanying singers and instrumentalists, it also accompanies YOU, the guitarist. Unlike a piano, it can go with you, always be by your side, and unlike an accordion there’s always one somewhere at the ready!” Well, yes. And some of the most sophisticated guitar accompaniments ever brought to a pop song are heard on recordings from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Two of the most influential accompanists during these years, Eddie Lang and Eldon Shamblin, shared an ability to seamlessly weave together bass runs, chord fills, and trombone-like tenor lines into lush settings that managed to steal nothing from a song’s performance, a melody’s integrity, yet kept a happy light shining on the guitarist’s own creative eccentricities. Lang and Shamblin spent much of their working lives in the background, but careful listening reveals a thorough command of their instruments. By learning examples of their work, we gain fresh perspectives for understanding the fretboard, that hopefully leads to our own way of taking a song by the hand.

Rhythm & Repertoire – Matt Munisteri
This is an advanced class on swing rhythm guitar. We’re going to go beyond “knowing a few chord shapes that suffice,” as you’ll learn how to incorporate leading tones, internal movement, and counterpoint and contrary motion, into your rhythm playing. Hone your feel by working on touch, tone, and technique, so that your rhythm playing can inhabit that airy space in an ensemble that’s usually reserved for brushes on a snare, while still providing a meaty quarter note that is felt as much as heard. We’re going to move through a variety of songs pretty quickly, as we practice reading chord charts and gaining fluency in the voicings that facilitate fluid and appropriate harmonic movement (“passing chords”). Some of the fingering used is unconventional and physically demanding, so we’ll also learn about not hurting ourselves! In summary, you know the joke “What’s the difference between a large pizza and a jazz musician?” (A large pizza can feed a family of four.) Well, basically, my rhythm guitar playing has been my large pizza – I wouldn’t have a roof over my head without it! – and simply put, in this class I’ll be giving it all up!

Red Hot Strings Faculty

Photo of Dave Biller

Dave Biller


Dave Biller has toured and recorded with Wayne Hancock, Dale Watson, and Deke Dickerson and is mostly known as a professional pedal steel player, but his record, Hot Guitars of Biller & Wakefield, captured the ears of music lovers everywhere.

Photo of Tyler Jackson

Tyler Jackson


Tyler Jackson is a world renown tenor banjoist and upright bassist. Under the tutelage of Buddy Griffin, Tyler quickly learned the ukulele, tenor banjo, and electric bass. Tyler went on to study the double bass at the University of North Texas under Lynn Seaton and began to fine-tune his skills as a professional bassist.

Photo of Mikiya Matsuda

Mikiya Matsuda


Mikiya Matsuda is a steel guitarist and sometimes string bassist living in San Francisco, CA. He is the leader of the Alcatraz Islanders, a swing-era Hawaiian group, and a regular sideman with various traditional jazz and western swing dance bands in the Bay Area.

Photo of Matt Munisteri

Matt Munisteri

Artistic Curator, Red Hot Strings

Guitarist, singer, songwriter, and Brooklyn native Matt Munisteri grew up with early interest in American folk music that led him from finger-style Country and Ragtime guitar, through Blues, to Tin Pan Alley and Jazz. His own compositions, and lauded guitar playing, accurately reflect this life-long immersion in the history of American Popular Song; linking rural and urban, long-gone with contemporary.

Photo of Eva Scow

Eva Scow


Eva Scow is an American mandolinist and violinist from Fresno, California. She began studying music at a young age, starting on the piano and violin at age 4, and later adding the mandolin at age 8. Growing up she played in Classical orchestras and bands, exploring different kinds of music from Bluegrass to Brazilian Jazz.

Photo of Katie Shore

Katie Shore


Like many fiddlers, Katie was inspired at a young age by her grandfather. At six years old she told her parents she wanted to “play music you can clap your hands and stomp your feet to”. Hailing from Ft. Worth “Cowtown”, Tx, Katie grew up playing in a world of strong fiddle traditions, attending fiddle contests, music camps such as Mark O’Connor’s and Johnny Gimble’s, and with some classical training, was part of the Ft Worth Youth Orchestra

Photo of Don Stiernberg

Don Stiernberg


Don Stiernberg has been a professional musician for nearly 50 years. Along the way he has been involved in performing, writing, recording, producing, and teaching but is best known for his mandolin playing. His path was set very early on as he grew up north of Chicago. Emulating his older brother, he experimented with playing various stringed instruments, finally landing on the mandolin.

Photo of Jonathan Stout

Jonathan Stout


Los Angeles-based guitarist and bandleader Jonathan Stout is well-known to swing dancers everywhere for the wonderful dance orchestra he leads, but any fan of swing guitar currently stalking the internet knows him for the beautiful touch he brings to relaxed swinging versions of standards played chord-melody style on an array of prized old archtop guitars

Photo of Jeremy Wakefield

Jeremy Wakefield


Jeremy Wakefield is more like Speedy West fused with Jerry Byrd. And a little bit of Noel Boggs.” Those are the words used by Wayne Hancock to describe Jeremy Wakefield’s playing, and he isn’t far from the truth. Throw in a big dash of Joaquin Murphey and Jeremy’s own unique sensibilities and you’ve got one of the world’s best non-pedal steel guitarists.

Centrum has a variety of ways to be able to attend our workshops even if you’re on a budget. If you need financial assistance, Centrum has a robust scholarship program awarded on a first-come, first-served; and as-needed basis.


  • Tuition: $460 (non-refundable deposit to hold your place $120)
  • Room & board: $515
  • Meals only: $240
  • Airport shuttle (optional): $120 round trip or $60 one way

Workshop tuition includes admission to everything including great seats at all public performances. Your meal ticket is good for three meals per day.

To get the best musical community experience, we encourage you to stay in either a private dorm room in Building 225 if you prefer quiet, or the jam house for those who wish to keep the music going. Both options have private rooms and shared bathrooms. All rooms come with linens, blankets, and towels, but you should plan on bringing soap and personal toiletry items.


Apply online as you register. Please note that except in rare cases, scholarships are available for tuition only. Centrum requires a $50 deposit of scholarship applicants, which is fully refundable before April 10, 2023 if you are unable to attend. If you are interested in volunteering, or a work trade position, please contact Mary Hilts at

Cancellation/Refund Policy

Full payment is due by April 10, 2023. If your full payment is not made by April 10, 2023, your registration will be canceled; $120 of your deposit is nonrefundable.
Any fee that includes a room: no refunds available after April 10, 2023.
Tuition, meals, airport shuttle: no refunds available after April 10, 2023.

If you have purchased a meal plan, meals are served at Fort Worden Commons. The first meal is dinner on Wednesday, May 17; the last meal is breakfast on Sunday, May 21.

Red Hot Strings shuttle schedule:
Arrive – Wednesday, May 17, 2023, pick-up at SeaTac airport, 2pm, Pacific Time.
Depart – Sunday, May 21, 2023, depart Centrum at Port Townsend, 9am, Pacific Time.

If we haven’t answered all of the questions you may have, please contact Mary Hilts at 360-385-3102, x116, or mhilts@centrum (dot) org.

Find more answers - Centrum FAQs

There is no age or skill restriction however, to get the most out of the intensive, one should be familiar with your instrument and be able to move about at a good clip.

Workshops are created for guitar, tenor banjo, mandolin, fiddle, steel guitar, and bass players.

Most of our workshops are family events, and we welcome musicians of all ages and abilities to participate. Our programming has annually evolved to meet the needs of very young musicians, and we devote considerable resources to this end.

Info for Parents of Under-18 Participants
If under 18 and participating in the workshop, a parent or guardian over 21 years old must register and accompany the minor. If the parent or guardian is not participating in the workshop, there is a registration type for guardian with no cost. However, if the minor is staying on campus in the dorm, the parent or guardian will need to also stay on campus in the dorm, and there are costs associated with those accommodations.

You have your choice of four daily one-hour class sessions on Thursday and Friday, and then two on Saturday. Ensembles practice in the late afternoons. In the evenings, artist faculty present special topics and performances. Toward or on the weekend, ensembles perform, and on Saturday evening, artist faculty present a public performance. Playing music together happens in between everything else, sometimes replacing sleep.

Here is how you’ll spend your time:

Wednesday, May 17
4–5:30pm – Check-in, Centrum office
6–7:30pm – Dinner
7:30pm – Orientation in Wheeler Theater, followed by sign-up for ensembles in Building 204

Thursday & Friday, May 18-19
Four one-hour class sessions

Thursday–Saturday, May 18-20
Faculty-led ensembles

Saturday, May 20
Two one-hour class sessions
Artist faculty public performance

Every evening
Faculty presentations and jam sessions

Who leads the ensembles?
OG Western Swing – Brownies, Doughboys, Playboys – Katie and Don
The Hot Twin Guitars – Tiny, Eldon, Junior, Herbie etc. – Biller and Wakefield
Benny and Basie – Jonathan and Matt
Hula Swing – Mikiya and Matt
Mandolin Orchestra – Tyler, Eva

Coming Soon

Red Hot Strings Events

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Public Artist Talk: Courtney Desiree Morris
Oct 12, 2023 5:30pmArt

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