2018 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat Updates

If you plan on attending Patrick’s session on banjo with harmonica be sure to have a rack and a G harp with you. I will have some available for those who wish to purchase there.

Also, this year we have a chaplain. Rick MacArthur, a banjo picking retired pastor from Colorado has agreed to serve. He will conduct a non-denominational service on Sunday morning before breakfast at the fire ring just outside the center. All are welcome.

Joe and Rosa Hopkins will host a gospel sing/play along immediately after breakfast in the dining hall. Somebody say Amen!

Call me at 410-968-3873 for details.

Peace to all,
Pat Costello (Dear Old Dad)

Workshops at the 2018 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat!

Here is a list of the workshops currently scheduled for The Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat.

Feel free to suggest a topic or volunteer to share something.
Times will be posted at the retreat.


  • Banjo and harp
  • Frailing the blues and slide
  • Frailing bluegrass
  • Banjo meditation
  • Playing and singing
  • Photography walk with Patrick

Dear Old Dad:

  • One on one sessions with folks who need a bit of help

Rich Carty:

  • Hammered dulcimer workshop/demonstration

Mary Carty:

  • Native American basket weaving ($10.00 for materials)
  • Lap dulcimer

Sarah Baxter:

  • Fiddle

Pete Glaze:

  • Songwriting and singing
  • Guitar tricks
  • The host of Saturday Open Mic

Jared Denhard:

  • Early (minstrel) Banjo
  • Mountain Dulcimer
  • Ukulele

Lowell Jacobs:

  • Banjo set up and building tips
  • The host of the Banjo Building Round Table Discussion

Joe and Rosa Hopkins:

  • Gospel singing
  • General joy!

Diana Wagner:

  • Jumping into a jam sessionThe host of
  • Friday Evening Hootenanny
  • Lots of folk music stuff

Guy and Karen Stinson:

  • Country oldies on guitar and banjo

Coming Soon to a Banjo Near You!

Dear Old Dad and I have a lot of irons in the proverbial fire.

New YouTube Series!

A new YouTube channel and a new basic frailing banjo video series.

We posted our first online banjo workshop in 1997. Over the years we have shared our craft with a lot of people – and in the process learned a great deal.

Now we are starting all over again. Sharing our craft with everything you have taught us over the last twenty years.

This is not some cheesy method. You won’t have to buy anything. There won’t be any buzzwords. This will be nothing more than sharing the art of frailing the five-string banjo

The first episode will be up soon.Subscribe to the new channel here: https://ww

Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat 2018!

The 2018 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat is expanding! We are adding campsites and dormitory housing to make the event accessible to all.

Call Dear Old Dad at (410) 968-3873 for more information.

The Return of the Learn To Frail Package!

Everything you need to start making music!

  • A nice banjo set up and tested by Patrick.
  • A copy of The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo.
  • A great collection of accessories chosen by Dear Old Dad.
  • All for less than most stores charge for a banjo!

More details soon. Call Dear Old Dad at (410) 968-3873 for more information.


The 2017 Maryland Folk Retreat was an amazing experience.

My goal when I started teaching music was to fill up the empty spaces left by the old-timers who taught me.

I learned my craft from musicians who had learned their craft when old-time music was just music. This was something of a double-edge sword in that I got to taste the real stuff and then saw it fade away.

It is natural to see the old replaced by the new. What sucks is that there was no new generation of frailing banjo players.

A lot of people own banjos, but they can’t jam outside of a list of memorized songs. They know tunes, but it is all monkey-see and monkey-do. Follow the tab without even trying to understand how the fretboard works.

How did this happen? A lot of people tried to go professional in the 70’s and 80’s and for various reasons it did not work out. Rather than play music for fun they made teaching a business.

If your student is paying you weekly or monthly you don’t want them to grow out of lessons. They would stop paying you! That logic is a huge part of the melodic clawhammer movement. Students never progress. Students memorize songs note by note so they are always frustrated. Use several tunings and cut out chords so that the student never learns the fretboard. Discourage improvisation so that the student needs the teacher to play new songs.

Look at music workshops today. Twenty years ago a workshop was a group lesson. Today a workshop is a performance.

Performing is a big part of fake teaching. Videos that leak out of banjo camps rarely feature the students making music. It’s always the instructors and it isn’t always good.

The 2017 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat did have an open mic for the student. They were amazing! Our instructors got up for a song, but the focus of the open stage was the students. One guy had only been playing for six months, but got up and blew everybody away with The MTA Song!

The 2017 Retreat introduced new instructors to the lineup. This was crucial because we want the event to grow beyond our own work. There were a lot of banjo players, but we also had groups of fiddle, guitar and dulcimer players. In other words, the Retreat is growing. Best of all, folks were jamming. I heard everything from string band tunes to rock and roll and beyond. People shared with each other. There were no stylistic boundaries. Music was music and people were kind. The vibe that I experienced in the 1980’s was back.

No . . .  That vibe is not back. This was better than the 80’s. Now we can improvise and frail bottleneck blues and bluegrass! My slide banjo workshop wound up going from blues to frailing bluegrass, back to slide, to chord progressions, using a tuner to understand the fretboard, the Nashville Number System, rhythm exercises and back to blues. I needed to take a nap after that workshop.

For the 2018 Maryland Folk Retreat we are adding tent camping and dormitory rates. This will make the event more affordable, and increase the number of participants. More people will have a chance to learn, jam, discover, create and take part.

My father and I have a lot of work to do before we post official details.

I hope to make music with you in 2018! Until then, I hope you all make wonderful music.

God bless,