News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

SFF expands educational programs

Registration is now open for Sisters Folk Festival’s brand-new educational offerings planned for this fall, including an in-person Americana Fiddle Club for students in grades 9-12 at Sisters Art Works, as well as a virtual Americana Song Academy for Youth, November 20-21, for high school students.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has redesigned many of their traditional offerings. Two recent successful examples are the Sisters Songworks virtual songwriting retreat that took place in early October and the Close to Home physically distanced concerts they produced over the summer. The cultural nonprofit is looking to build on the success of those re-imagined programs with a slate of programming that will be rolling out this fall, winter and in the spring of 2021.

The Americana Fiddle Club for students in grades 9-12 will take place at Sisters Art Works on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m., November 16 through December 16. The gathering space is large enough to allow a small cohort of up to 10 students to physically distance during COVID-19. Other safety measures will be taken, including no sharing of instruments and requiring mask wearing during class. The club will be hosted by instructor Melissa Stolasz, who started playing the fiddle as an adult beginner. Since then she has gone to numerous camps, been part of Ceilidh bands and is always striving to learn more on this amazing instrument.

In her travels around the world, Melissa started fiddle clubs in Korea, Texas and South Africa. She currently teaches math and science (and fiddle club) at Ridgeview High School in Redmond and is very excited to be part of expanding the musical community in her hometown of Sisters. The club is designed for all levels, from total beginner to experienced. Students will learn to play by ear, without sheet music. Cost is $95 for all 10 classes, and instruments can be rented for an additional $30 for the term. Need-based scholarships are available with the goal of no student being excluded due to cost.

These music education offerings are among several that Sisters Folk Festival has in the works, including a newly developed partnership with the Black Butte School, more virtual educational opportunities from Studio 111, and expansion of the Americana Project to include a virtual Song Academy for Youth and added Friday programming in music education.

Creative Director Brad Tisdel said, “The virtual world is helping us to reach folks outside the region with workshops and educational experiences, while we are simultaneously building capacity for safe, in-person programming during COVID-19 and beyond.”

More details will follow about the planned virtual Americana Song Academy for Youth, connecting high school-aged students through creativity, inspiration and a love for music creation.

For registration and more information, visit


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