September-October 2016

The Return of the Santa Barbara Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention

By David Bragger

FIDDLERS 2016The 45th Annual Santa Barbara Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention & Festival (located in Goleta) is coming! On Sunday, October 9th, history is about to be remade. I am so pleased and proud to announce that I’ve been appointed the artistic director of the festival. After a strange turn of events over the last few years, the festival is now under the patronage of The Goleta Valley Historical Society! With the GVHS takeover and founder Peter Feldmann’s full blessing, I’m bringing back the original vision of the festival: Old-Time Music!

What to expect:


 As the new director of the festival’s rebirth, I’ve chosen a specific direction for this year. I selected from an array of California-based old-time artists to celebrate the “local” tradition and engage our communities again. Many of these musicians have learned and studied the traditional music from southern, west coast and east coast masters. This year’s festival is a love letter to our local California old-time communities that have kept the musical torch alive in the Santa Barbara area for 45 years via the festival. 

Old-time artists will include San Francisco’s old-time/jugband/bluesy chanteuse Meredith Axelrod, old-time/country blues family band Thompsonia (Eric, Suzy and Allegra Thompson), Los Angeles’ old-time stringband Sausage Grinder, festival founder Peter Feldmann & The Very Lonesome Boys, San Diego/Kentucky old-time duo The Darling Brothers and Los Angeles’ Echo Mountain String Band. When the gates open, the local Santa Barbara traditional band The Salt Martians will heat up the grounds! Music and community go hand in hand!

Clinton Davis (of The Darling Brothers)
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The festival will also have several workshops at no additional cost. The workshops will be:

Old-Time Fiddle and Bowing-taught by David Bragger

Clawhammer Banjo-taught by banjo/guitar master Chris Berry

Mandolin—taught by string wizard Pat MacSwyney

Clogging (Flatfoot dancing)—taught by award-winning flatfoot master Ruth Alpert

and more to come!


Since the day I started playing old-time music, this festival was my favorite day of the year. The contest in particular has always been  the beating heart of this festival. It brought in musicians from all over the state as well as Arizona, Utah, Oregon, Washington and beyond. Unlike many “fiddle” contests, the atmosphere is totally relaxing, encouraging, intimate and embraced by the festival goers. The contest “vibe” lacks any sense of stress or competitiveness. Historically it has brought out great players and enthusiastic beginners who demonstrate their love for the music above all else. I’ve met many people and taught students who started playing old-time music after being inspired by this very contest. 

Categories include: Old-Time Fiddle, Old-Time Youth Fiddle (ages 4-12), Traditional Banjo, Old-Time Guitar (flat-pick or fingerpicking), Mandolin, Traditional Singing, Band Performance, Other Folk Instrument and Best Back-Up.

This year, you can pre-register HERE! I highly recommend you do.


At the core of every great old-time music festival, there is jamming. Musicians get together informally and play their favorite fiddle tunes and songs together just as they did over a hundred years ago. Today, jams can be anywhere from 2-30 people on fiddles, banjos, guitars, mandolins, bass, jugs, etc. There is plenty of space for jamming everywhere on the festival grounds. There will also be some organized jams for beginner and intermediate musicians to hone their skills and meet others! 


The festival will also host a raffle. I’m a true believer that raffle items should reflect the event. One of the featured items is a fretless, tack head banjo donated by luthier Eric Prust from Washington. The entire Tiki Parlour catalog of old-time CDs and DVD sets will also be raffled courtesy of The Old-Time Tiki Parlour. This is just the start!

There will be much more happening and a lot of musical fun and heritage to be had! See you there!

Get tickets now for the Santa Barbara Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention & Festival

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 AppalachiaThe Old Time Tiki Parlour


All Columns by David Bragger