MLAG 2019 Pre-Gathering Classes

MLAG will again present three Pre-Gathering workshops in 2019. Though the Gathering proper does not begin until Wednesday, these Pre-MLAG workshops will provide some wonderful options for early arrivals. The workshops will cost $130 per person. Instructors and levels are described below.  Effective October 1, you may register on-line for these workshops or use our downloadable form which will also be available as part of the registration print packet.  Please send your check (remember, made out to MLAG) and registration form to MLAG, c/o Michael Poole, 1050 Whippoorwill Lane, Chapel Hill, NC 27517 or call the MLAG Hot Line at 844-994-9939. We will be limiting the maximum number of students in each workshop to 20 so, if you’re considering taking one of these workshops, you should register as soon as you can.

The workshops will be conducted in three 3-hour sessions beginning at 9am on Tuesday, June 25 with locations to be determined at a later date. You will be notified prior to arrival. While the campground will be available, the regular meal program doesn’t begin until dinner on Wednesday. Tuesday and Wednesday lunch and Wednesday dinner will be available to all campers, including Pre-Gathering attendees. If you have registered for the Gathering proper and elected to purchase these meals, you are all set. If you are only attending a Pre-Gathering class and want either of the lunch options and/or the dinner option, then check the appropriate box or boxes and include the extra money per meal ($11.00 per lunch/$14.00 per dinner — spouses are also welcome) in your check made out to MLAG. Mail all Pre-Gathering materials to Michael Poole (address is above and on the registration form). You may certainly provide your own meals as well. 

IMPORTANT: Gluten-free and vegetarian meals are available by special request. Order and pay for your meals with your normal registration but then you must e-mail Laurie at or call her at 570-452-4057 (leave a message) to make your special meal arrangements. MLAG is not responsible for special meal arrangements.

These workshops provide a great opportunity for some hands-on training with three of the best autoharp players and teachers in the world. For at least the next few years there will be a Patsy Tressler Memorial Award. A random drawing from the names of all Pre-Gathering participants (who are registered for the full Gathering) will be made on Wednesday night and one lucky individual will be given a check to cover the cost of the class.E

Pre-MLAG Workshops
Tuesday 9-12 & 1-4 • Wednesday 8:30-11:30

Bryan Bowers’ Intermediate-level pre-gathering class is geared toward autoharp players who are getting comfortable with their playing and starting to think about ways to get to the next step and share their music. Bryan’s years of experience in performing have given him valuable insights, not only in playing but in presenting music to others, and he is very excited about giving his time-tested tips to you!

Bryan will generously share what he has learned about such things as the importance of being in tune; making sure your repertoire fits your individual voice with his “key checking” technique;  and improving playing techniques to make your music project well to your jam buddies or an audience, while you learn such songs as “Let It Be” and Bryan’s own “Friend for Life” to practice performance techniques.

This class will also enable you to draw on Bryan’s vast experience in playing for audiences and situations of all kinds – informal groups of friends, church services, short concerts, nursing homes, background music, and more – and how to construct a set list that will fit the specific occasion and keep the audience engaged.

If you’d like to spend a few hours with the one autoharp player who has the most experience at making a living with music, is an astute observer of what works, and has soaked up knowledge and stories along the way, Bryan has loads of information and wisdom to give you!

Tom Schroeder – Beginners: Do you enjoy singing but struggle with rhythm accompaniment patterns for the songs? Is your left hand frequently lost resulting in pushing down the wrong chord? Are you tired of just playing rhythm accompaniment for singing and want to learn how to play melodies? Have you started playing basic melodies but need help with accuracy? If any of these questions are true, then this class will benefit you.

We will cover the ten essential skills you need to become a good autoharp player. You will learn the skills needed to accompany singing whether it is your own voice or someone else’s. You will learn how to play a steady rhythm. You will learn the basic dynamics of the autoharp which you can use to make your accompaniment stand out. But wait, there is more!

You will also learn how to organize your left hand over the chord buttons using good hand posture and the home position. You will learn simple exercises that will strengthen the muscles needed to play the autoharp. You will learn anticipation and rehearsing the pattern. And if that is not enough, there is even more!

You will learn the basics of melody playing either to get you started right or to correct the bad habits you have picked up along the way. You will learn the elements that will make you an accurate melody player. You will learn how to accompany a song and then play a melody break just like those fancy musicians do. And if you think that is all we will do, well then you would be wrong!

You will be learning melodies that are universally recognizable and are part of a basic autoharp repertoire. The music will help train your brain to recognize common note patterns that are used in many different melodies. You will be learning song accompaniments that can be applied to any standard song no matter what style you sing.

Finally, you will be having a fun time with people who are part of a small subculture that loves this instrument and the people who play it. You will be learning from someone who started teaching the autoharp and writing instructional magazine columns back when the political scandal was Jimmy Carter having impure thoughts. I miss those days.

So what are you waiting for? Join us!

Bob Lewis – All Things Diatonic: Wouldn’t you like to learn about “All Things Diatonic” from one of the most respected voices in that realm? Past MLAG and Winfield champion Bob Lewis will take students through his pre-gathering class exploring diatonic autoharp setups, conversions, unusual chords, open noting, how chord choices are affected, picking and chording strategies, some tuning, tunes especially well suited for diatonic autoharps, and how to play more smoothly.

While the open noting technique usually requires lock bars or a single key instrument, this can be “faked” for the class by temporarily tuning down some notes for a second or third key, if you’re not sure you are ready to make the permanent commitment. It will be a good chance for you to try open noting under a master’s direction!

For example, a G/D ‘harp could have its Cs tuned up to additional C# notes, possibly a triple, leaving only a D scale and the ability to try open noting without any clinkers. It would help for students to have a G/D autoharp or some combination to include D (GDA, CGD, DAE, DA, etc.), but not absolutely necessary. Bring the autoharp you have in pretty sociable tuning but not necessarily exact equal temperament. If you’re interested in taking the class but don’t have an instrument with the key of D, it may be possible to have some instruments offered on loan.

Bob’s diatonic playing is noted for its smoothness, accuracy, and careful tuning tailored to sound the best in each configuration. His expertise is well known by folks who follow his writings on the internet and his wonderful playing on his YouTube channel. He will help you get the most from your diatonic autoharp and is eager to share his broad knowledge with you!