November-December 2012

Thinking about the Goleta Old Time Fiddler’s Convention

Fiddle Workshop: Boatin’ up Sandy

By David Bragger

SB_Old_Time_Fiddler_ConventionOn October 14th, the 41st Goleta Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention and Festival came around again. It’s a festival founded by west coast old-time/bluegrass legend Peter Feldmann: A stellar musician who believed an old time fiddle contest was the ultimate way to promote old time music and educate the non-converted. Over the years it has brought out many great artists and students of traditional music for competition, performance and jamming. When I started playing, I looked forward to it all year long. When I started teaching, I brought out my students, their families and friends. The contest always had a packed audience and there were jams in every nook and cranny. Great old time musicians were coming “out of the woodwork” from San Francisco, Oregon, Arizona and Utah to see what it was all about and take part!

In recent years, things have changed. Perhaps for the better? The contest has been moved to the sidelines, jamming occurs in only a few pockets, and the main stage is reserved for big acts that aren’t necessarily old time music. Bluegrass, gypsy jazz, Klezmer and French café music have taken over to bring in the throngs. I, personally, maybe even selfishly, have been disappointed. However, I can poo-poo its new mission all day long, but I’d rather be as constructive as I possibly can. There ARE a few workshops now at the festival that I have been part of since their inception. I’ve been teaching fiddle workshops for these last few years to get more musicians involved in old time bowing, repertoire and jamming. I’ve been doing my part and giving as much advice to the promoters, the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara Sunrise, regarding stellar old time acts to bring in. After all, there are currently more old-time bands around than there have been in decades. As most of you already know this revival is huge and nationwide! This is a wonderful thing.

Sadly, many old time musicians are no longer attending the Goleta festival. It has become a folk fusion festival. The heart and soul of this festival is clearly beginning to fade away, even though profits may not be. I firmly believe that we can put it on track again as an old-time music festival. This can only be done through attendance and making our fiddles and banjos heard. Not by boycotting. I have always been very passionate about the Goleta Old Time Fest and hope you can help me with this. It’s held at a beautiful location in beautiful weather with potentially amazing old-time musicians. We just need to be there.

My plea to you, dear old time music lover, is (1) to let me know what live participatory old time music means to you AND (2) what it would take for you to attend and help restore Peter Feldmann’s original vision of a not-for-profit old time music gathering that brings together a community of old time music lovers. The Rotary Club may listen!

Send me your thoughts at:

In the meantime, here’s a video fiddle lesson of a groovy modal tune by Kentucky fiddler Owen “Snake” Chapman. This is the tune I taught at the Goleta Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention this year. I hope for many more. Enjoy!

Boatin' Up Sandy


Tuning: GDAE, A modal

Source: Owen "Snake" Chapman, KY

Boatin' Up Sandy: Owen "Snake" Chapman

David Bragger is a Los Angeles-based instructor and player of old time fiddle and banjo music. He also photographs, films, and collects the lore of traditional artists, from puppeteers in Myanmar to fiddlers of Appalachia


All Columns by David Bragger