News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Folk festival expanding online programming

Sisters Folk Festival (SFF) has announced a new session of winter programming to expand virtual education outreach programs for adults and youth during COVID-19.

Registration is now open for educational offerings planned for this winter and spring, including multi-week songwriting and performance classes, instrumental music and engineering workshops, and three separate Sisters Songworks offerings taught by both regional and nationally-recognized instructors and musicians.

In response to the global pandemic, SFF redesigned many of their traditional offerings in 2020. The cultural nonprofit is now looking to build on the success of those reimagined programs with a slate of online music education courses and workshops rolling out this winter.

“Dynamics in Performance” is a four-week course taught by Beth Wood taking place Thursday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m., January 28 through February 18. The course is geared toward musicians of all levels who are interested in improving their performance skills, whether their intentions are playing open mics, improving their professional stagecraft, or simply improving the delivery of their songs. Cost is $100 for all four weeks.

“Writing the Songs Only You Can Write,” also taught by Beth Wood, will delve into the creative elements of songwriting. A limited class size will allow for personalized learning, interaction between participants, and a variety of energizing exercises to inspire maximum songwriting creativity. The six-week course takes place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday evenings, January 26 through March 2. Cost is $150 for all six weeks.

Wood is a gifted singer-songwriter and winner of the Oregon Book Award for Poetry.

Pete Kartsounes, known to many as the “hardest working musician in Central Oregon,” will teach “Fundamentals of Bluegrass Guitar.” The class will dive into different techniques of playing bluegrass guitar as well as the etiquette of “the jam” and “the songs.” Participants will learn a variety of bluegrass-specific skills including flatpicking and cross-picking, in addition to learning a variety of traditional fiddle tunes to use as a basis for honing bluegrass guitar skills.

This class is geared towards advanced-beginner or solid intermediate guitar players of all genres, who are interested in learning or developing more with bluegrass guitar. Cost is $150 for all six weeks. The course takes place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday evenings, January 25 through March 1.

Kartsounes will also offer the workshop “Bringing your Songs to Life” on Saturday and Sunday February 27- 28. During this two-day workshop, participants will learn the steps in the process from the first song idea to a recorded, mixed, mastered, packaged and produced product ready for distribution. Whether your goals include creating a CD for friends and family, marketing and selling recordings or inclusion on various streaming platforms, Kartsounes will offer the know-how and skills to put your best musical foot forward in order to meet your goals. This workshop is geared toward songwriters and those interested in recording and distribution, whether for personal or professional use.

Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jenner Fox is offering a four-week “Americana Song Share” for high school students (grades 9-12) on Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8 p.m., January 21 through February 18. Participants will listen together to their favorite songs and talk about what makes them so lovable, then make up their own songs in a supportive environment. All musical styles and ability levels are welcome and there will be no homework as the writing will be done as a group. Class size is limited to 12 students and cost is $50, with scholarship support available through SFF.

When traditional courses in songwriting needed to switch to a virtual format, Beth Wood designed and implemented a successful three-day songwriting workshop in October 2020. This workshop proved to be the catalyst for developing Studio 111 at the Sisters Artworks building from which Wood will host and offer three new Sisters Songworks weekends this winter and early spring — one each in February, March and April — with exceptional instructors.

Sisters Songworks is an intimate and intensive virtual writing retreat celebrating and exploring the art of songwriting in community. The weekend workshops will bring in noted songwriters and poets, facilitated by Beth Wood, to delve into the magic of songwriting.

Sisters Songworks is an opportunity to learn from professional singer-songwriters, connect with others who share a love of songwriting and poetry and share your work in a nonperformance focused, supportive environment. Cost is $175 per person and class size is limited:

• February 5-7: North Carolina Songwriter Jonathan Byrd and the SFF veteran teaching artist Ellis, with a masterclass offered by award-winning songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman.

• March 5-7: SFF longtime friend Johnsmith and acclaimed songwriter Susan Gibson will serve as instructors with a masterclass session with multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Susan Werner.

• April 9-11: Tom Prasada-Rao plus one more instructor (TBA), will serve as the core instructors, with Martyn Joseph teaching a masterclass from Wales in the UK.

“I cannot overstate my excitement about our early 2021 virtual offerings,” Wood said. “I was so amazed, sparked and comforted by our virtual classes and retreats in 2020. Those precious things that music-lovers and songwriters and artists lost in 2020: connection, community, learning from and inspiring each other — we found through our virtual offerings. Songs may sometimes be born in solitude, but they can’t live and thrive there. They need to be heard, to be shared with others in order to grow into their full power and purpose. It’s amazing how effectively we can do that virtually. I believe in our model and our team, and I can’t wait to do more!”

For registration and additional information visit


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