Blue Sky Folk Festival Music Workshops

2018 Workshops

Please check back for workshop times and room locations! Coming soon . . .

Fiddle Tunes of Modern Day Folk Music
The synergy of traditional fiddle music doesn’t ever end, says workshop leader Bill Lestock. a creator of melodies for mandolin, fiddle and guitar. Writing tunes comes naturally from years of practice and a clear respect from learning good music. If you play tribute music, that is how you learn. Push forward with compositions that represent and honor the past. Bring something to the party!

Community Sing

This workshop will give you the opportunity to experience the power of song and community singing as well as give you the tools to start a singing tradition in your community. Song choice, song leading, and best practices will be modeled for the purpose of reminding us that singing is way too important to be left just to the professionals! The community sing will be led by Matt Watroba who is also emceeing and performing on the Blue Sky Main Stage today.

Hammered Dulcimer for All
A trained musician, Dennis Bowers started playing dulcimer eight years ago as a way to combine his affection for woodworking and music. Dennis was a second-place winner at the 2014 Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival competition in Winfield, Kansas. With his wife Kaja Jensen, Dennis is part of the duo Denja, a popular folk duo in Northeast Ohio who specializes in Celtic and American traditional tunes, with a bit of jazz sensibility.


Guitar Setup and Evaluation

Jim Kozel is a Cleveland-based luthier as well as a guitarist, songwriter and teacher. He has been setting up, repairing and building instruments for more than 50 years. He says your instrument needs to fit you like a comfortable old pair of jeans.



Fingerpicking for Those Who Only Strum the Guitar

Now a member of the band Long Road, Bob Sandham began playing guitar in the early ‘60s, when his mother brought home a used instrument and connected him with a neighbor, Cleveland folk music legend Dick Wedler, for some instruction. Wedler supplied him with records by Bob Gibson, Tom Paxton and Phil Ochs, and Bob was immediately hooked on folk music. Over the years he has played acoustic, electric, and pedal steel guitars in rock, country, blues, and pop settings, as well as continuing in the folk vein.

In the 1970s, Bob played with legendary Ohio singer-songwriters Alex Bevan, John Bassette and Pat Daily, and others in the region, and spent much time recording and performing in concerts, clubs and coffee houses and on radio and TV. In 2006, he joined Bevan and bassist Paul Hamman in a reunion concert at the Kent Stage, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Bevan’s Springboard album.

Bob serves as the pastor of the Little Church in the Vale in Gates Mills.

Ukulele Madness (Beginner/Intermediate)

Bring your own ukulele or borrow one of Sheela’s to learn lots of chords, strumming patterns, and songs. All ages welcome! Sheela Das directs Creative Concepts in Music and is the member of an Ohio Arts Council Touring band. She has created numerous commissioned performances and workshops for festivals and Cleveland based arts organizations serving senior citizens, youth and disabled adults since 2007.

Irish Fiddle Workshop
Samantha McNamara is a violin and viola teacher and performer with her studio, McNamara Strings, located on the south side of Cleveland. Besides classical music, Samantha enjoys the fiddle, specializing in traditional Irish music. She has performed in Indianapolis with her band Edge of Erin, and also with the popular Indy based band Ennis Clare. She competed with the Indianapolis Ceili band in the 2011 and the 2012 Midwest Fleadh Cheoil. In 2011 she traveled to Ireland to attend the South Sligo Summer School to further her knowledge of Irish music.

Clawhammer Banjo Techniques

Paul Kovac

Doug Unger

We’re thrilled that the one and only Doug Unger will host a clawhammer banjo workshop at Blue Sky Folk Fest with Paul Kovac. Doug is an accomplished musician, artist, Ohio Arts Council grants and fellowships recipient, master instrument builder, storyteller, and joke teller. Don’t miss this one! Thanks to blogger Brad Kramer and Glory-Beaming Banjo for the photo.

Blues Guitar
Cleveland native Bob Frank spent 18 years as the leader of the Hotfoot Quartet, touring throughout North America and recording several albums. As a sideman he has worked with Robert Lockwood, Wallace Coleman, fiddler Howard Armstrong, the Falls City Ramblers, and British bluesman Long John Baldry. During the day Bob works through Young Audiences, performing traditional American music assembly programs for children. He has done over 3,000 of these programs in schools throughout the United States. Bob is also one of the founders of the Cleveland Blues Society.

How to Play Rhythm Guitar
Brad Smedley of Hot DjangBrad Smedley has played music most of his life, starting with piano at age five years and moving to saxophone in junior high.  After discovering Bob Dylan, he took up the guitar and focused on folk, bluegrass and country music. He is a founding member of Hot Djang!

Fingerstyle Ukulele

Jim Kozel, left, with ukulele students

Jim Kozel, Cleveland luthier and teacher of ukulele and guitar, writes on his blog, “I saw Jake Shimabukuro’s ukulele arrangement of While My Guitar Gently Weeps nine years ago and immediately brought the ukulele into my family of stringed instruments.  Since that time I’ve composed with the ukulele, have built custom ukuleles and teach ukulele.”


Three-Finger Style Banjo

Paul Kovac has taught at many music camps, recently including Midwest Banjo Camp and Swannanoa Gathering. He coordinated Bluegrass Week at the Augusta Heritage Center for a decade, performed with Bill Monroe, Chubby Wise and Mac Wiseman among others, and sings and plays most of the bluegrass instruments. A Chardon native, Paul Kovac is active in recording and producing music, has played on countless albums, and considers himself a working folk musician.

The Versatile Harmonica of Blues and Old-Time, with Bob Frank and Dave Rice

Bob Frank of Blue Lunch got the blues bug when he heard artists such as Muddy Waters and Paul Butterfield on the first few “Blues Bag” programs on WRUW-FM. He went out and bought a harmonica, and played in various band through high school. While in college in Boston, he was able to accompany David Bromberg and Vassar Clements on his harmonica. In 1975 he began playing in bluegrass bands, continuing for about 20 years. Bob also enjoys solo work and writes his own music.

Dave Rice

David Rice grew up in Oklahoma and moved to the Cleveland, Ohio area in 1981. It was here that his passion for the harmonica’s role in Old Time music was ignited by hearing recordings of harmonica players Dr. Humphrey Bate and De Ford Bailey. Through the experience of playing in several local area dance bands throughout the 80’s and 90’s and the assimilation of the styles of many different traditional players, most of whom are fiddlers, he has developed an approach to harmonica playing that is both rhythmic and melodic. He is also a luthier on staff at Family Learning Center for Music in Twinsburg.

Discussion on Guitar Building and Repair

Pat Podpadec

Pat Podpadec, owner of Liam Guitars, builds guitars and other stringed instruments at his shop in Madison, Ohio.  He has been repairing stringed instruments since 1982, when he apprenticed with Luthier Rod Fitts. At his shop Pat custom handcrafts guitars, ukuleles, harp guitars and more in addition to providing instrument repair and repair lessons.

Fiddle Workshop   

Reed Simon of Hot Djang

Reed Simon

This is jazz violin oriented towards Joe Venuti and the roots of American jazz as it influenced Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. Reed Simon has worked with many of Cleveland’s top jazz musicians and national artists including guitarist Tony Mattolla, vibraphonist Gary Burton and as a special guest on a Duke Ellington program at Severance Hall.  This is jazz violin oriented towards Joe Venuti and the roots of American jazz as it influenced Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.

Brad Smedley of Hot Djang

Brad Smedley

Brad Smedley has played music most of his life, starting with piano at age five years and moving to saxophone in junior high. After discovering Bob Dylan, he took up the guitar and focused on folk, bluegrass and country music.

Mandolin Workshop

Bill Lestock will teach mandolin techniques and a different approach of playing. This includes mandolin as a solo instrument, compositions consisting of crosspicking, using a slide and playing with a new approach to a very old instrument. Bill is a multi instrumentalist and has been playing music in NE Ohio for several decades. His band The Bill Lestock Trio features his mandolin compositions, a variety of something new and different in folk music to the area.

Song Lyrics Writing

Scott Franklin of the band Lost State of Franklin has written nearly 1,000 songs and has authored poetry books, children books and joke books. He writes: “If I said I played music because I had to…that’d be the partial truth.  I write words because I have to.  I write songs, poems, paragraphs and fill up napkins and paper bags with words because I have to.  Music has naturally been the best way to filter those words into the world.”


Melody Writing

Scott Franklin is the winner of the 2013 Frank Brown International Songwriter Festival Contest. He is a frequent performer in the Mississippi Songwriters Festival. Scott grew up on the border of North Carolina and Virginia, then attended high school in Cleveland and college at Bowling Green.  He was raised on down home American music and grew up to travel the world as a jazz trumpet player. His longing for the roots music on which he was raised and a new-found love for poetry meshed with jazz, and he transitioned into a jazz beat poet and finally the frontman for Lost State of Franklin.



Please donate to Northeast Ohio Musical Heritage Association to help ensure the vitality of folk music in Northeast Ohio!