DelFest Academy takes place the Sunday through Wednesday prior to the festival. The Academy is a friendly, encouraging, and intensive four-day learning experience with some of the finest musicians in bluegrass serving as instructors for students of all levels. The Academy currently offers instruction for guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass, and new this year, dobro. The all-star instructors provide lessons to students which target their individual needs and leave ample time for plenty of one-on-one interaction.
Joining the Travelin’ McCourys for this year’s DelFest Academy are the Gibson Brothers (Leigh & Eric Gibson and Mike Barber), Sierra Hull, Ronnie Bowman, and Jay Starling (our first dobro instructor).
The Travelin’ McCourys
The members of The Travelin’ McCourys are the mainstay hosts of DelFest Academy each year.
The Gibson Brothers
With accolades including the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year; Song of the Year; Songwriter of the Year and Album of the Year—in some cases multiple times—the Gibson Brothers truly need no introduction in the bluegrass world. Leigh and Eric are both incredible musicians and as a student you will be getting the chance to be taught by the best. Rounding out the Gibson Brothers extraordinary band Is Mike Barber on bass. Affectionately known as the third Gibson Brother, Mike Barber has played bass with the Gibson Brothers for almost 25 years. Leigh Gibson calls him one of the best musicians he has ever played with. These guys have a real connection with their fans that makes them a great addition as instructors at DelFest Academy.
Sierra Hull has been recognized from age 11 as a virtuoso mandolin-player, astonishing audiences and fellow-musicians alike. She has really come into her own in the past year with the release of the Grammy nominated “Weighted Mind” and after nine nominations, became the first female to ever win the IBMA’s Mandolin Player of the Year. This is Sierra’s second year instructing at DelFest Academy and we are pleased to have her back.
Ronnie Bowman has achieved remarkable heights in his musical career as an award-winning Bluegrass songwriter and vocalist, as well as being an award-winning songwriter in Country music. He has been awarded IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year three times, and has twice earned IBMA Song of the Year, while scoring two #1 singles on country radio. He is an accomplished guitarist and is a DelFest Academy favorite.
This will be our 9th year for Delfest Academy and we are pleased to add the instruction of dobro with Jay Starling. Jay Starling is a multi-instrumentalist who came to Dobro and bluegrass later in life under the wing of Mike Auldridge of The Seldom Scene. He currently plays with Love Canon and often finds himself as a sideman with Keller Williams, Jeff Austin, Larry Keel, and Leftover Salmon.
What to Expect
The Academy begins each year on the Sunday evening prior to the festival. Students should plan to arrive on Sunday evening for registration and opening reception (with food and drink provided). This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know the instructors and staff, along with fellow students.
Each day begins with a morning jam session by the instructors, followed by a brief Q & A. The individual classes break off from there. Class schedules vary but students can expect one-on-one instruction, class instruction, mixed instrument classes, and vocal classes. Everyone’s favorite segment is Bluegrass Karaoke, where students perform their favorite song with the instructors as their backing band. Another favorite is the Band Scramble where students are assigned a group number to form a band for the chance to perform on the Grandstand Stage at sound check on Thursday night!
Students can look forward to late night jam sessions, impromptu lessons from classmates, and hanging with heroes. Lifelong friendships will be forged and good times will be had. You can join the Delfest Academy Group (click here) on Facebook where current and former students continue their musical learning, share ideas, and find information about the upcoming Academy.
A More Few Details
Please note, food is NOT provided for the duration of the Academy except for the meet and greet on Sunday. Please bring your own food.
Any friend or family member who would like to accompany you, but not attend DelFest Academy must purchase a DelFest Academy Guest Pass. To purchase, after the student has registered for the Academy, email firstname.lastname@example.org to request the purchase of an Academy Guest Pass.
Upon arrival, please be prepared to drop your camping gear off at your campsite, and then be directed to the designated parking area to park your vehicle.