Teachers and Classes (2020)

Joe Craven

Mandolin Right Hand Rhythms

Joe believes that (to a large degree) the fretting hand reveals what you choose to say…the rhythm hand reveals how you choose to say it! The personalization of your sound is kept in “the engine room” of your music. We’ll look at different ways of rendering grooves, dynamics, timbre, tone and dexterity with picks and fingers.

You’re On! Performance Critique

You want to feel that your music “speaks for itself” but your ability to connect that music to your audience can play quite an important role in telling your story to others. Some call it “vibe”, some call it “presence”, some call it “sales” and one can say it’s all these things and more. Joe will facilitate the group in a very supportive, encouraging session of learning from each other while addressing fears, confidence and connection through communication. And that’s more than just playing the music “correctly”. So come on down…’cause ya can’t win if ya don’t enter!

Fiddle – Feelin’ The Blues

The Blues exists as a genre. It also lives as a melodic feeling and expression in vernacular music – worldwide! We’ll feel the grooves – from ballads to stomps, rumbas to shuffles, hand jive to swing. We’ll reference the melodic guidepost of the human voice, bending long and short tones and learn some tunes/songs that reflect them. We’ll also tackle how to translate the ‘feel’ of the grease, the groan and the growl of the blues to your instrument, and importantly, we’ll address taking your time sayin’ a bunch – without playin’ a bunch – of notes. Playin’ the blues suggests the ‘technique’ of clarity over correctness – of intuition, release and expression of your personal emotion. Surrender to the feeling and you’ll do it!

Vocal Percussion

With or Without String Instruments! – For over 35 years, Joe has incorporated mouth percussion into his rhythm toolbox. The most portable, versatile and amazing instrument you’ll never buy is the human voice. Combining the variety of sounds that can come from that “inside instrument” with other instruments – or not – can create unique and yet familiar sounds that can be part of your musical expression.

About Joe

Joe wears a lot of hats as an award-winning instrumentalist, music producer, creativity educator, noisemaker, music fest Master of Ceremonies and fashion “insultant”. For over 35 years, this former museologist has made a living playing forward folk tradition and process by mashing up ideas and sound tools from a variety of unexpected places, creating new music altogether. Joe has made and/or recorded music with Jerry Garcia, David Lindley, David Grisman, Alison Brown, Howard Levy, Vassar Clements, Rob Ickes and many other innovative artists. From Carnegie Hall to street-corner busking around the world and back Joe is a featured artist/educator in the PBS television series, Music Gone Public, and he has created music and sound effects for commercials, soundtracks, computer games and contributions to several Grammy-nominated projects. As an award-winning educator, Joe has taught with jazz vocalist Inga Swearengen, bassist Victor Wooten, children’s music innovator Paul Reisler and jazz percussionist Jason Marsalis. He’s the Executive Director of Vocáli Voice Camp and RiverTunes Roots Music Camp in California, the recipient of a Folk Alliance Far-West Performer of the Year Award and the Swannanoa Gathering’s Master Music Maker Award in North Carolina where Joe has taught for well over a decade during Fiddle Week and, more recently, Contemporary Folk Week.

“Joe Craven is magical.” – San Francisco Chronicle


Kimberly Ford

Finding Your Voice

Explore and find your personal voice(s)! We will explore what our voices can do and what makes them unique through speaking, laughing, sighing, making animal sounds, music games and yes, also musical expression. Making friends with our voices is the first step toward learning to work together. Expand your comfort zone plus a healthy approach to vocalizing.

Creating Harmonies

Learn some of the fun and simple strategies for harmonizing with others. From the “high lonesome sound” of Bluegrass, to folk and pop including the Carter Family and the Everly Brothers. It also gives us one more way to participate and jam with other musicians.  Learn to sing parallel harmonies, stationary one note harmonies, and strategies with slight moves up and down (at the right time) to create contrasts to the melody line.


Vocal improvisation is one of the ultimate forms of free vocal expression. We’ll learn what vowel shapes work best and how to execute ideas that create meaningful solos just like the instrumentalists do. We’ll also explore wordless singing with syllables over chord changes, background patterns, call & response singing and circle singing with the voice as an instrument in the band. Kimberly will teach you how to duplicate the parts that the various instruments play; bass, drums, guitar, piano etc.  You can create songs on the spot with just your voices.

Singing Across Genres

Let’s have fun with our inner June Carter, Tina Turner, Mel Torme,  Bonnie Raitt, Sting and/or  Gillian Welch.

From Bluegrass to R&B to Jazz to Folk to Rock; all of these genres have distinct styles and communicate different feels. Let’s explore these different styles of music and learn to use our voices in ways that enhance and bring out the soul of these styles in more authentic ways.

By changing the timbre of our voices and learning some of the basic characteristics of these styles we can learn to cross genres and get in touch with more of the soul of the song. The influence of the lyric in the song also guides the musical components for us. Fun.

Singers will develop more tools for crossing over genres in an authentic way to more deeply communicate the style of a song

About Kimberly

Kimberly Ford is a jazz vocalist whose talent, taste and sensibility both honor, and venture beyond, The Great American Song Book with a stylistic range that effortlessly flows from ballads to Free Jazz. She is is also a committed Educator, and current President of the Santa Barbara Vocal Jazz Foundation. Both Singing and Speaking, her voice can be heard in numerous Films and TV Shows and NPR.

“Her joyful, alluring voice, brings out not only the beauty in lyrics, but also their story.” – Scott Yanow  / The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide


Sylvia Herold

Adventurous Folk Guitar


Explore lush alternate chord voicings, power chords, and melodic motifs. Great for songwriters who want to spice up their arrangements, and for those who want to discover new ways of playing the basics!

60’s Pop-Rock Guitar-orama!

(Advanced Beginner – Intermediate)

Riffs, bass lines, and rockin’ strums will be covered as we sing and play the exuberant songs that started a musical revolution.

Sylvia’s Potpourri

(Confident/Advanced Beginner – Intermediate)

We’ll cover a honky-tonk song, a swing song, a cowboy song, and take a look at each one to see how they work.  This class is geared for guitarists, but all are welcome to play along!

Essential Strumming Patterns For Guitar

(Confident Beginner – Intermediate)

We’ll tackle at least several strumming grooves and apply them to easy songs. Get your right hand movin’ and groovin’ as we rev up our rhythmic engines.

About Sylvia

San Francisco Bay Area singer, guitarist, and song sleuth Sylvia Herold mines the motherlode of American popular song from the 1930s through the 1960s.  A highly respected educator, she brings to RiverTunes a deep enthusiasm, knowledge and understanding of the deep groove of guitar playing as it relates to song. Researching songs and developing guitar arrangements fuels her artistic passion. With more than 30 years teaching experience, Sylvia has developed a unique method to help students advance.

“…a mesmerizing voice.” – SF Examiner


Rita Hosking

The 5 Minute Song Start

(All levels)

This will be a wild and daring workshop where you’ll be asked to make up as many verse-chorus combinations as we have time to write and share, with only 5 minutes to construct each.  Topics will be assigned during the class (nope, you can’t prepare for this.) Get ready to laugh and/or be dazzled with your and your friends ideas under pressure on-line, and wind up with some damn good song starts.

Lyric Tricks

(All Levels)

Easy approaches for coming up with strong lyrics.  For instance, in the title of this class — notice repetition of the sound “ric” in the two, adjacent words?  That little bit of repetition makes it more memorable.  We’ll do good stuff to get you writing.

Anatomy of a Song, Part I

(All Levels)

What are the various parts of a song, and how do we put them together, or apart? What’s the shape of your song, and how can your performance effect that? Bring a song of yours along, especially one that might need some help.  We probably won’t be able to get to everyone’s, but we’ll all learn from each other’s work.

Anatomy of a Song, Part II

(All Levels)

This will be more of what Part 1 covers. Topics can vary from writing suggestions to singing or playing styles, but mainly we will revolve around song shape and structure, arrangements, dynamics, and presentation.

About Rita

Northern California’s Rita Hosking sings of forest fires, culture clash, dishes, rivers, black holes and hope.  An award-winning and prolific songwriter characterized as “here and now” by The Observer, her stories, songs and soul-stirring, country-folk voice are partnered with longtime collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Sean Feder on dobro, banjo and guitar. Together, they deliver what Acoustic Magazine calls “timeless, unhurried elegance.”

“Arresting lines and images come thick and fast. Her songs are observational, political and philosophical in an unaffected, organic way.” – Songlines Magazine


Don Julin

Improve Your Groove / Increase Your Speed


This workshop focuses on how to use your metronome to improve your sense of time and space, allowing you to play faster, smoother, and more musical in any style. This workshop covers essential timing concepts and will get you listening for the beat, dividing beats, counting rests, and feeling two and four-bar phrases like you never have before. You will learn about a practice app that can make practice more fun and a metronome practice technique that will change your playing forever! This is open to anyone that wants to improve their groove and ANY instrument is welcomed to participate in this timing-based workshop.

Melodic Improvisation: Improvising Based on the Melody

(Confident Beginner – Intermediate)

We will look at the art of improvising/embellishing while using the melody as a starting point. First, we will analyze a few familiar tunes and determine the basic shape of the melodies. Next, we will look at the phrasing and identify the defining melody notes or target notes. The goal is to be able to improvise on a tune using the target notes, or the phrasing that define the melody. With a little practice, this approach will add a purpose to your playing. Your band-mates will likely play with more confidence during your solos as they will hear the melody in your solo. Students should already be able to learn simple tunes by ear and have a basic understanding of major scales.

Introduction To Blues Mandolin

(Confident Beginner – Intermediate)

A wise old musician once told me, “There are only two songs ever written; one was the blues, and one wasn’t.”

This class will introduce mandolin players to the basic 12 bar blues progression, the use of “blue notes,” shuffle rhythms, the minor blues scale, and more. Once you gain a basic understanding of blues harmony, you will be able to add some “blues” into anything you play. 

Playing Some EZ Fiddle Tunes 

(Advanced Beginner – Intermediate)

This class will learn a standard fiddle tune or two that every mandolin player should know. In addition to sounding great on the mandolin, fiddle tunes are a great way to hone your left and right-hand skills. These tunes get played at bluegrass, old-time, and Irish sessions, making them popular mandolin tunes. 

About Don

Don is the author of the best selling “Mandolin For Dummies” and creator of Mandolins Heal The World (online mandolin school). He has developed a reputation for being one of the most eclectic mandolin players/teachers on the scene today. Don’s hands-on workshops focus on developing good left and right-hand skills, along with a bit of ear training and music theory. Don believes that music is a conversation, not a contest, and encourages his students to join the conversation.

[Like his former duo partner Billy Strings], “Don Julin picks, strums and plucks with fingers like unbroken horses that have jumped the corral and are stamping and striding and frothing a rootsy path to musical freedom and organic expression.” –  No Depression


Evie Ladin

Clawhammer Banjo Drills & Thrills

(Confident/Advanced Beginner – Intermediate) 

Practice tone, accuracy, rhythm, techniques and tips for Clawhammer banjo. An hour to dig into the foundation that supports better tune playing.

Clawhammer Banjo: From the Neck Up

(Confident/Advanced Beginner)

Demystifying the banjo neck to enable more fluid playing in different octaves, and a general understanding of how to move around the neck with ease. We will look at moveable chord shapes, how and why they move, the musical relationships between them, and how to apply to your clawhammer playing and tunes. Especially great for folks who don’t understand why you put your fingers where you do.

Carter Family Song Session

Lyrics and chords provided, we’ll sing / play through some familiar and perhaps unfamiliar Carter Family songs, with as much harmony as we can muster.  Come ready to sing and jam!

Body Music / Rhythm Training

(All Levels)

Practice essential rhythm ideas on your human instrument.  Getting the rhythm in your body helps understand how to put it into your music. Slap yourself (gently)!

“Highly Recommended!” – Joe Craven

About Evie

Evie grew up thinking that playing music, dancing, singing with others was what people do. Some of her adventurousness comes from early hip hop in the high school cafeteria and Evie’s early attraction the African roots in Appalachian music and dance. She created an African Studies In Dance major at Brown University, then studied dance in Eastern Nigeria on a Fulbright Fellowship. Evie is an avid educator and community facilitator to all ages and levels and in diverse communities.  Music is meant to move. Music is to do. In listening, live or on record, Evie keeps bringing you back to these basics.

“Evie’s mastery of the clawhammer banjo is an absolute wonder, and the soulful, salty tanginess of her voice grips the listener and refuses to let go as it narrates some wild musical tales.”   –  WOMAD Festival


Megan Lynch

Fiddle – Details, Details, Details!

(All Levels)

In this workshop Megan Lynch will show you how to take your playing to the next level – from any level! It’s all about the details. How can you achieve better intonation? How can your bowing be a little more precise? How can your tone be a little more pristine? The answers to these questions and more will be revealed in this workshop. Learn how recording yourself can make a huge difference and more importantly, what to do with what makes you unhappy about your playing. This workshop is about conquering the little things – and we all know, the little things can add up to one big thing – being a better fiddler! This workshop is best for advanced beginners to advanced players.

Fiddle – The Right Arm – Bowing Secrets Demystified

(Confident/Advanced Beginner – Intermediate)

Learn how the bowing arm holds the secret to being an authentic sounding fiddler, but it doesn’t have to be a secret anymore. You will learn fun techniques for improving your bow arm, get that fluid motion, learn several bowing styles and how they relate to various traditional fiddle styles, and learn to play with great volume and tone. This workshop is best for intermediate players who would like to improve their bowing and timing. 

Fiddle – So, What Does the Fiddle Do In a Jam Again?

(Confident/Advanced Beginner – Intermediate)

Often, fiddlers are left out of bluegrass, folk, and singer/songwriter jams. They stand in the back, looking lonely and sad, mustering a measly long bow here and there, but otherwise barely contributing at all. Megan Lynch is ready to change all that. The fiddle can be a great rhythm instrument, a fantastic accompaniment to a singer, and an all-around asset to any jam. Learn how to chop unique rhythms, play behind a singer, and kick off songs Understand how chord changes actually matter in the life of the fiddle player and even better, what to do with that knowledge. This workshop is best for advanced beginners all the way to advanced players.

Fiddle Workshop – Double Stops and Drones – Take Your Playing to the Next Level

(Advanced Beginner – Intermediate)

In this workshop National Fiddle Champion and professional bluegrass fiddler Megan B. Lynch will show you some great double stop patterns in many common keys (as well as some uncommon ones!) as well as how to add droning strings to give your playing a fuller sound. Megan will cover double stops in several positions, but never fear, the entire fingerboard will be worry free when you get done with this workshop!

About Megan

Seven time national fiddle champion, touring musician, recording artist, teacher, singer, and flat footer dancer, Megan Lynch has fiddled, sung and released a series of entirely solo fiddle albums. She has taught fiddle and vocals at prestigious camps such as Augusta Heritage Week and the British Columbia Bluegrass Workshop among many others. Megan has also judged the National Fiddle Championships three times. She’s the co-director (with her husband, Adam) of the IBMA-award-winning Nashville Acoustic Camps.

“Megan understands what it means to play music. It’s not just about the notes – it’s everything else.” – Chris Stuart


Adam Schlenker

Fundamentals of Flatpick Guitar Technique

(Advanced Beginner – Intermediate)

We will look at practice routines and methods for developing strong timing, tone and expression. From solid backup playing to playing tunes and solo breaks your picking technique sets the bar for your success.

Topics: Why do we alternate pick single note lines? How does the melody line relate to pick direction? Developing expression through accenting notes/beats. When and why would we use a double down stroke?

Decoding the Fretboard of the Guitar


The fretboard is often overwhelming and doesn’t always seem to make since. Through discovering some fundamental truths and learning about interval relationships, we can map out the fretboard in a way that not only makes since but is very useful and logical. You’ll never complain about that B string being tuned to a different internal again!.

Topics: Using the degrees of the scale/triads to connect the fretboard. Looking for reoccurring patterns. Transposing phrases. Building chord voicing’s and extensions.

The Architecture of The Tune


Whether you are learning a new tune or constructing a solo break for a vocal song, understanding the structure of a melody/break will allow you to make more informed decisions. We will look at the building blocks: themes and turnarounds and the “job” that each phrase is supposed to accomplish.

Topics: Parts of a verse/chorus. Resolving and idea verses not resolving. The function of each note in the scale. Developing pathways within the a group of notes that allow you to create multiple outcomes for a lick/phrase.

Putting It All Together


Based on the topics covered in the first three workshops, we will work through the process of developing an arrangement/approach/style for a song and a tune. We will develop the tempo and feel of the rhythm part, add ornamentation, plot out the lead/melody line. For the instrumental we will explore examples of how to organize your various takes on the tune. Ending up with a completed arrangement for each.

About Adam

Adam is an educator, performer, composer and arranger of American Roots Acoustic Music from southern West Virginia and is currently based near Columbus Ohio. Along with performing, recording and touring, he is the Coordinator of Bluegrass Studies at Denison University and the founder of 5th Fret Productions combining online lessons with one on one instruction. Adam’s private student base stretches across the US, throughout Europe and Australia.

“Adam is an exceptional musician but you would never know it by his low-key and humble approach. I have had several other guitar teachers over the years that were good players but they seemed more interested in showing me how good they were rather than helping me improve. In my opinion, this is what sets Adam apart from other teachers. He has the rare ability to adapt to students with varying skill levels while maintaining patience, offering encouragement and making the lessons challenging and fun.”  – Student in Denver, CO


Jonathan Stoyanoff

All Basses; Upright, Electric, and or Acoustic Bass Guitar 

Bass Jam 101

(Advanced Beginner – Intermediate) 

Have you ever wanted to jump into a jam session, but were afraid you wouldn’t know what to play? This class will provide instruction on some of the classic jam tunes so you can join in the fun with confidence!

Bass Groove 

(Advanced Beginner – Intermediate) 

Two-beat, funk, Latin, jazz, reggae…there are so many unique styles to learn from, but they all share a common thread: groove.  We will look at bass lines in a variety of styles, and talk about how the bass serves the groove in each context.   

Walkin’ Bass 

(Advanced Beginner – Intermediate)

Walking isn’t just for jazz!  In this class you will learn how to incorporate a jazz-style walking concept into non-jazz music, as well as what makes a strong walking bass line.  WARNING: You may be required to play a jazz tune lol.  

Bass – Learning from the Masters


One of the most important things to do if you want to improve your playing is to listen to those who have come before you.  In this class we will learn bass lines from some of the most influential bassists in bluegrass and Americana music.  We will also dig a bit into their biographies, and discuss what elements of their playing made them so great.

About Jonathan

Jonathan has over 20 years of combined teaching experience – analog and online – and he welcomes students of all ages and ability levels. He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA on a performance scholarship. Jonathan’s playing is formidable and his expertise on both upright acoustic bass and electric bass has garnered him an impressive legion of fans performing in a wide variety of music projects, including Joe Craven & The Sometimers. 

“Jonathan Stoyanoff is a tour de force of musicianship in just about any category of music making. He is calming and encouraging in a ways that are memorable and inspiring.”  – Peter Berkow, PBS Music Documentary Producer


Heidi Swedberg

Easy Pickings

(Confident Beginner – Intermediate)

You have made it over the hump of learning your first few chords – congratulations. Now to make some music! Rhythm is the magic spell, and the province of the right hand. Find an alternative to the numb strum in simple picking patterns: accompany your voice and connect to your strings! In this class we will focus on the right hand while playing familiar one- and two-chord songs.  No matter your skill level, adding interest to your “speaking hand” gives you game.

F’ing Around 

(Confident Beginner to Intermediate)

The key of F has so much going for it; besides being a great vocal key, it sports great passing tones, variety in voicings, and opportunities for modulating and understanding chord shapes in a whole new way. (Did you realize that the F shape and the G shape are the same?)  Plus you’ll add a bunch of great songs to your repertoire that you’ll want to sing and share….from Minnie Ripperton and McCartney to the Muffin Man….and you will conquer your fear of the dreaded Bb.

500 miles in every key


The folk standard “500 Miles” provides a blank canvas for learning about chord shapes.  Light bulbs will go on in your head as you move familiar first-position chords up the neck and see them in a new light. The possibilities are exponential when we play this 5-chord song with 7 shapes in 12 keys with 3 variations.  Sound complicated? It’s not! …The simplicity may be the most stunning realization.

Make It Your Own

(All Levels)

How is it some performers can stand up and sing a well-known song, yet you feel you are hearing it for the first time? They make it their own. In this class we will explore ideas that will help you bring your own voice to a song, including modes, voicing, time signature and interpretation.

About Heidi

Born in Hawaii, Heidi is the daughter of a high school English teacher and a laser physicist. She is an American film actress and musician, best known for her role as Susan Ross, the fiancée of George Costanza, on the television sitcom Seinfeld. The Director of RVC, Joe Craven, is also impressed and quietly thrilled that Heidi also had regular appearances on the television series Star Trek; Deep Space Nine. She is a well respected educator and ambassador for the Ukulele and, with her partner Daniel Ward, engages many creative projects tied to the instrument and beyond.

“Always a delight, a multi-faceted and joyous trip across assorted musical landscapes, for ears of all ages.  ‘In fact, somebody please get Ms. Heidi Swedberg a gig hosting her own variety show, pronto.’ Signed, the Universe.  Definitely recommended.” – Amazonian Zooglobble