Red Hot Strings music workshop at Centrum

ProgramMusicRed Hot Strings

About Red Hot Strings

May 15-19, 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

Registration is Now Open!

Red Hot Strings Workshops

Red Hot Strings Facts

  • Director: Matt Munisteri
  • Established in 2016
  • Musical traditions of hot jazz, swing, ragtime, blues, classical, and Creole
  • Instrumentation: guitar, 5-string banjo, mandolin, violin, steel guitar and upright bass

Experience Red Hot Strings

Red Hot Strings Concert

Saturday May 18, 7:30 PM

The Wheeler Theater

Tickets: $35.00


In-person instruction ranges from Hot Jazz to Western Swing, Rags to Beguines, for guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin, steel guitar, and upright 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, 

2024 Class Descriptions

(* indicates that the class is suitable for any instrument)
Whit Smith
This class will teach how to use multiple chord voicings over basic progressions to animate and colorize your style.  This is inspired by and deeply rooted in the rhythm accompaniment of Eddie Lang and Eldon Shamblin. This class begins with stringing together common chord shapes over a tune then adds additional related chords and melody notes to produce harmonically rich and exciting chordal lines!
This class will touch on everything involved in Swing/Western Swing soloing, from melodic concepts and handy mechanisms to tone and making your own signature sound. Included will be some simplified strategies in getting more out of the fretboard to immediately give the player a fresh batch of ideas.  We will apply these ideas as we jam on a few popular tunes (Honeysuckle Rose, Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone, My Window Faces the South) and in this way we’ll cement the ideas, gaining confidence and inspiration along the way!
Charlie Burnham
In this class we’ll focus on making the violin sing and swing.  We will investigate the the music of Stuff Smith and his approach to blues and jazz as played on the fiddle, with special attention given to bowing techniques and how the right hand brings our music to life.  Using blues forms and a jazz standard or two we will address both how to make a swinging solo and how to invent accompanying parts on your fiddle.
Have you ever found yourself repeating old licks when you’re improvising on a tune? Feel like you don’t know where to start when it’s your turn to play a solo?  Let’s take the time to remember the elements of true improvisation and how to use them.  In this class we will discover how to solo in your own voice and how to avoid cliches and copying other peoples old licks.  Not just for fiddlers, all instruments are welcome to join.
Zoe Guigueno 
A walking bass line is an art form. In this class we'll look at the construction of bass lines from theoretical, conceptual and improvisational perspectives. We'll look at the circle of fifths, chord scales, arpeggios, and interval patterns - fun!  We'll consider how to shape what we play over the course of an arrangement, leaving room for dynamics and development. And maybe most importantly, we'll talk about how these strings of quarter notes can react in the moment to the music being created, serving as a playful, improvised, and fully supportive asset all at once.
It's great to have hundreds of tunes memorized, and it's also an invaluable skill to be able to 'wing it'. Having a strong ear is crucial especially as a rhythm section player. In this class we'll drill our ears by learning to recognize chord movements and progressions; then we'll look at ways to quickly memorize new forms and hold large chunks of information in our heads as it's happening in real time. Of course we'll do this by learning some rad tunes!
Matt Munisteri
This is a real “brass tacks” (ouch) guitar class, and it’s designed for the long-term player who might not have a “jazz” background, but who wants to be more familiar with navigating the guitar neck and the fundaments of western harmony. The idea to be able to have the tools to figure out where we are anywhere on the neck, so we can navigate common harmonies easily. We’ll start with the major scale and the concept of diatonic harmony, and we we will wield them like our sacred cross and shield, like our compass and sextant, as we set out to illuminate the dark recesses of the “Satan’s Playground” that is the neck of the 6-string guitar. 
“Ragtime guitar” is generally thought of as a “finger-style” pursuit, and most of the guitarists from the 1930’s though the present day, who we’ve been told are “ragtime players” use their fingers to play bass lines and harmonies along with the melody. If you’ve only used a pick, you might not have much experience with compositions from the exuberantly creative ragtime era. I’m equally comfortable with either pick or fingers, but I’ve found that the melodies of Ragtime compositions are often well-served by using a pick. The pick gives the player a chance to phrase with punch and clarity, and to carefully chose those moments in which to incorporate harmony. What’s more, sometimes the pick is BETTER for the job, and there’s a long history of horn players adapting Ragtime melodies to work in a traditional jazz band. We’re going to learn to play the melody of one ragtime composition, concentrating on our phrasing and the composition’s rhythms, while also looking for moments to insert harmony. We’re then going to scavenge that melody like wild dogs for phrases to steal that will add context and style to our improvising vocabulary. This class is open to any instrument, and standard notation and tablature for our arrangement will be provided. 
Jerron Paxton
1) Ragtime Banjo
During the original heyday of ragtime music in the very late 1800s and the very early 1900s, banjos were in common use in minstrel shows and as the accompaniment for individual folksingers. At that time just about all American banjos had five strings with the drone fifth string attached to an outrigger tuning peg set at the fifth fret. Though known first as a piano genre, the earliest recordings of ragtime feature five-string banjo.
Dennis Lichtman
1) Ragtime Mandolin
Ragtime is not just for pianists - mandolin has been right in there all along.  Mandolin orchestras of the late 19th to early 20th century, early New Orleans proto-jazz string bands, "raggy" jug band romps, and countless ragtime arrangements by our heroes Tiny Moore, Jethro Burns, Dave Apollon, etc. are all proof that our instrument of choice is prime for playing ragtime.  Let's explore some classic rags on mandolin, such as the Black and White Rag (George Botsford), The Entertainer (Scott Joplin), and Russian Rag (George L. Cobb).  Dang, those tunes have a lot of notes!  When it's time to give our fingers a break we can discuss the finer points, such as: "What makes ragtime ragtime?"
2) Western Swing Mandolin
We'll explore all things western swing mandolin, using classic tunes as a springboard.  As in years past, there will be a heavy dose of Tiny Moore (the patron saint of western swing mandolin) - but we'll listen to and be inspired by other players and instruments, as all the greats have done before us.  This class will focus on melody playing and improvising on standard western swing material, including many of the same tunes the other instructors will be teaching.  When it's time to give our fingers a break we can discuss the finer points, such as: "How is a western swing solo more western than a swing solo?"
Jonathan Stout
1) SWING ERA RHYTHM GUITARAlthough it's often just talked about as "four to the bar", we'll talk about the subtitles of time-feel and rhythmic variations that will make those quarter notes actually swing, using the examples of Freddie Green (Count Basie), Allan Reuss (Benny Goodman) and John Trueheart (Chick Webb). We'll cover the right voicings for the job, especially in how to choose the right voicings for a given size/style of band, and we will 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. 
2) 1930’s CHORD-MELODY SOLOINGWe'll 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'll start with some "bread and butter" chord- melody basics, before adding some hipper and more complex tricks ala George Van Eps, and then finally concentrating on secrets behind the "Swashbuckling" super- swinging (yet super economical) style of Allan Reuss. 
Mikiya Matsuda
In this course, we’ll explore one of the most important yet challenging aspects of playing the steel guitar--making the instrument speak with expression and emotion. 
Has anyone ever fallen in love with the steel guitar because they heard a player use an esoteric three-string reverse slant or execute an Olympian feat of speed picking? Probably not. Most of us were drawn to the instrument because of the rich tonal colors it can produce--from glissandos to expressive vibrato, p-taws, chimes, harmonics, left hand bar articulations, and other effects. In this session, we’ll turn to the recordings of some of the masters of touch and tone and investigate how their right and left-hand techniques gave their playing so much depth and character. Participants will walk away with a tool-kit of techniques they can use to express their own personal voice. 
So much of steel guitar education focuses on navigating the fretboard, finding ways to voice chord changes, or just how to wrap one’s head around the nearly infinite number of available tunings for the instrument. But what about rhythm???!!! This course aims to address this crucial, yet often neglected topic of steel guitar. In this course, we’ll dive deep into the rhythmic language of a few of the most swinging players in the history of steel guitar. Through a close study of their playing, we’ll work through exercises and approaches to deepen and improve our own rhythm and time feel.
Albanie Falletta 

1) Hot Fingers - The Hot Guitar of Lonnie Johnson

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1899, guitarist, violinist and vocalist Lonnie Johnson grew up in a musical family and went on to become one of the most popular recording artists of the 1920's. He toured and recorded with countless early blues and jazz legends, like Bessie Smith and Duke Ellington. Johnson pioneered the guitar solo, influencing countless others who came after. In this class we'll be learning a few of Lonnie's solos direct from the recordings that brought him worldwide acclaim, and changed the role of the guitar forever. 

2) Hotter Than That - The Early Music Of Louis Armstrong

If one person could encapsulate all the goodness and brilliance of New Orleans music and culture, it’d be one Pops Louis Armstrong. Born and raised in the birthplace of America’s best music, Louis ascended from poverty and hard luck to international stardom and becoming a household name and beloved personality everywhere. In this class we’ll be focusing on his genius trumpet solos from the Hot Fives and Sevens recordings of the 1920’s. 

Red Hot Strings Faculty

Photo of Charlie Burnham

Charlie Burnham


Charlie Burnham is an American violinist and composer. He has a unique highly imaginative style that crosses genres, including bluegrass, delta punk, free jazz, blues, classical and chamber jazz. He often performs with a wah-wah pedal. He initially became renowned for his work on James “Blood” Ulmer’s Odyssey album. The musicians on that album later performed and recorded as Odyssey the Band, sometimes known as The Odyssey Band.…

Photo of Albanie Falletta

Albanie Falletta


A native of Monroe, Louisiana, Albanie Falletta was in their formative years exposed to the local music of Louisiana: the sounds of cajun, zydeco, blues and gospel musics at festivals and backyard parties. After relocating with their family to San Marcos, Texas at the age of nine, Albanie began taking guitar lessons. They began their love and study of early American Jazz when hey were exposed to the Parisian Romani guitarist Django Reinhardt.…

Photo of Zoe Guigueno

Zoe Guigueno

Upright Bass

Zoe Guigueno (GIG-an-oh) is a bassist and songwriter headquartered in New York City. While jazz trained, she can also often be found playing klezmer, Americana, or indie-rock. She has performed with Steve Martin, busked in a pink gorilla costume, and played upright bass while whitewater rafting. Her most recent solo album, We Were Radar Stations, came out on Fiddlehead Records in October 2022.

Photo of Dennis Lichtman

Dennis Lichtman


Dennis Lichtman is a multi-instrumentalist (clarinet, mandolin, fiddle, and more) who has
been living, performing, composing, and teaching in New York City since 2002. He is a
Selmer Paris Artist as an endorser of their Signature Clarinet. His music was recently
used in director David Simon’s The Plot Against America (HBO) and he has appeared this
year as a clarinetist on Succession (HBO) and The Blacklist (NBC).…

Photo of Mikiya Matsuda

Mikiya Matsuda

Steel Guitar

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 Jerron Paxton

Jerron Paxton

New York

Jerron Paxton is a skilled interpreter of Black traditional music, having spent his life learning the multifaceted musical dialects of blues, old-time, ragtime, and Cajun music and playfully dressing them up in their brightest hues. He is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, banjo, piano, fiddle and other instruments with deep histories and ties to Black American music — each with a master’s touch.…

Photo of Whit Smith

Whit Smith


Whit Smith is a guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of the highly acclaimed Western swing trio, The Hot Club of Cowtown. He is known by guitarists for his driving rhythmic style, and for his ability to move through chord progressions employing endlessly creative variety harmonies. After nearly 30 years of vigorous touring, performing and recording, Whit has arrived at a style that pays clear homage to a variety of influential guitarists from the 1930’s and 40’s, while serving as the perfect vehicle for his own bracingly original ideas.…

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

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: $475 (non-refundable deposit to hold your place $100)
  • Tuition Under-18: $375 (non-refundable deposit to hold your place $100)
  • Room & board: $510
  • Meals only: $240
  • Airport shuttle (optional): $120 round trip or $60 one way

Workshop tuition includes admission to everything including great seats at the public performance. Your meal ticket is good for three meals per day starting with dinner May 15 ending with breakfast on May 19th.

To get the best musical community experience, we encourage you to stay in either a quiet dorm room in Building 225, or a jam dorm room 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 5, 2024 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 5, 2024. If your full payment is not made by April 5, 2024, your registration will be canceled; $100 of your deposit is nonrefundable.
Any fee that includes a room: no refunds available after April 5, 2024.

If you have purchased a meal plan, meals are served at Fort Worden Commons. The first meal is dinner on Wednesday, May 15; the last meal is breakfast on Sunday, May 19, 2024.

Red Hot Strings shuttle schedule:
Arrive – Wednesday, May 15, 2024, pick-up at SeaTac airport, 2:00pm, Pacific Time.
Depart – Sunday, May 19, 2024, depart Centrum at Port Townsend, 9:00am sharp, 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, banjo, mandolin, violin, steel guitar, and upright 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 15
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 16-17
Four one-hour class sessions

Thursday–Saturday, May 16-18
Faculty-led ensembles

Saturday, May 18
Two one-hour class sessions
Artist faculty public performance

Every evening
Faculty presentations and jam sessions,

Red Hot Strings Events


Jazz in the Clubs
Jul 25, 2024 7:30pmJazz, Music, Performance
Free Fridays at the Fort
Jul 26, 2024 12:00pmCommunity, Free, Music, Performance
Friday Mainstage Concert
Jul 26, 2024 7:30pmJazz, Music, Performance
Jazz in the Clubs
Jul 26, 2024 10:00pmJazz, Music, Performance

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