Berkeley Old Time Music Convention

Old time fiddling and music

Master old-time fiddler Benton FlippenThe Berkeley Old Time Music Convention is an annual five-day music festival featuring concerts, workshops, master classes, panel discussion, square dance, string band contest, jam sessions, and a community stage in venues throughout Berkeley.

The first stringband contest was held in Provo Park in 1968.  The contest was put on by a loose-knit group of volunteers, musicians organizing a good time for themselves, other musicians and the public.  Annual events were held through 1970; the Convention was resumed in its current fesitval form in 2004 and been held annually since.

Grants from ACTA's Living Cultures Grants Program in 2017, 2016, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007 have supported the appearance of artists such as Bobby Taylor, fiddler from West Virginia; Kim Johnson, banjo player from West Virginia; Travis and Trevor Stuart, fiddle and banjo players from western North Carolina; Ginny Hawker, traditional Appalachian singer, and her husband Tracy Schwartz, master musician and cultural expert; Kenny Hall, mandolin player from the Central Valley of California; Clyde Davenport, old time fiddler and banjo player from Tennessee and NEA National Heritage Fellow; Sheila Kay Adams, ballad singer, banjo player and storyteller from North Carolina; Rich Hartness, Southern Carolina native and singer; the Whitetop Mountain Band; Riley Baugus; Mike Bryant, Tennessee fiddler; Kirk Sutphin, banjo and fiddler master player from western North Carolina; Eddie Bond, American pioneer singer and guitar player of American Rockabilly music; and fiddler Arvil Freeman from North Carolina.


VIDEO: Bobby Taylor (fiddle) and Kim Johnson (banjo) accompanied by Andrew Dunlap (guitar) play “Hell Among the Yearlings”, a traditional tune in the Kanawha Valley fiddle style (as exemplified by Clark Kissinger, one of Bobby’s mentors). Filmed in a West Virginia kitchen, 2015. 


Click on any image to view slideshow.

Alice Gerrard teaches master fiddle class at the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention (Mike Melynk 2009)
Benton Flippen, culture bearer from Appalachia jams with Berkeley musicans (Heath Curdts,2009)
Tennessee fiddler Joseph Decosimo teaching a master class at the Freight and Salvage (Photo: Mike Melnyk)

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