Fiddle, Guitar, Banjo Classes offered at Cherokee Youth Center

by Sep 29, 2018General Announcements


The Traditional Arts Program for Students (TAPS) will offer free classes at the Cherokee Youth Center beginning October 10. Classes in fiddle, guitar, banjo, and traditional dance will be offered once a week on Wednesday afternoons at 3:30 throughout the school year. Space is available for about twenty students, from 3rd to 12th grade, no more than ten students per class. Adults are welcome if their children are in the program. Instruments will be loaned to participants for a deposit of $25, or they can bring their own.

To sign up, contact Carmaleta Monteith and fill out a registration form. Her email is Her phone is 828-497-2717. This program is funded and supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and the Cherokee Youth Center.

“The Cherokee fiddle tradition dates back to at least 1762,” said Barbara Duncan, Education Director at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. “On at least one occasion Cherokees on a diplomatic mission entertained London crowds by playing the fiddle.” By 1800, Cherokees had a well-developed fiddle tradition and fiddling was heard at national council meetings along with traditional Cherokee dance songs. Some people say that Junaluska played fiddle and wrote at least one tune that is now part of old time fiddling, “Snowbird on the Ash Bank.”

In the 1900s, Cherokee fiddlers were well known in western North Carolina and Oklahoma, and one of the most famous was Manco Sneed, whose original tunes and versions of traditional tunes were recorded by the Smithsonian. His descendants, Carmaleta Monteith and Sarah Sneed, are part of the steering committee for the TAPS program, along with Matt Hollifield, Director of the Cherokee Youth Center; Brett Riggs who plays old time claw hammer-style banjo and works as Sequoyah Professor at Western Carolina University; and Barbara Duncan, also a musician. The program coordinator will be Carmaleta Monteith; instructors will include Rob Fong, John Duncan, and others.

Cherokee people have also played banjo and guitar for a long time. Respected elder and traditional dance leader Walker Calhoun played banjo tunes and sang songs in Cherokee language accompanied by banjo. Banjo legend Raymond Fairchild claims Cherokee heritage. Guitar playing has long been a part of singing gospel songs in Cherokee language and is carried on today. Other Cherokee musicians play blues, country and other styles on the guitar. This program will help continue those traditions.