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Sisters Folk Festival expands educational programs

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SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Registration is now open for three of Sisters Folk Festival’s brand-new educational offerings planned for this fall, including two multi-week virtual songwriting and performance workshops and an in-person Americana Fiddle Club for students in grades 9-12.

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.

“Dynamics in Performance” is a 4-week course taking place on Tuesday evenings from 7:00-8:30 PM (Pacific Time), November 10 through December 1.

The course is geared for 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. Participants will learn tips and tricks to help increase their confidence and polish their delivery to an audience. Cost is $100 for all 4 weeks.

“Writing the Songs Only You Can Write” will delve into the creative elements of songwriting. The limited class size will allow for personalized learning, interaction between participants, and a variety of energizing exercises to inspire maximum songwriting creativity.

The 6-week course takes place from 7:00-8:30 PM (Pacific Time) on Monday evenings from November 9 through December 14. Cost is $150 for all 6 weeks.

Both of those courses will be taught virtually by Beth Wood, a gifted singer-songwriter and winner of the Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Beth will be teaching the weekly online sessions from Studio 111, a brand-new livestream studio located in the Sisters Folk Festival office suite in the Sisters Art Works Building.

The Americana Fiddle Club for students in grades 9-12 will take place at Sisters Art Works on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:00 - 6:00 PM, November 9 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.

dOther 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 all levels, from total beginner to experienced. Students will learn to play by ear, without sheet music. Cost is $110 for all 12 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 says, “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.”

For registration and more information, please visit

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