Black Isle Music
The Traditional Music Program at the Brattleboro Music Center (BMC) with Keith Murphy and Becky Tracy
Since 2007, Keith and Becky have been teaching a series of weekly classes through the Brattleboro Music Center (BMC) in Brattleboro, Vermont. The classes focus on developing ear training skills by specifically learning traditional Celtic tunes by ear. These are repertoire-building classes geared toward helping people feel comfortable playing in an informal group setting – the “session” format.
These classes are open to all instruments, though the emphasis is on learning melodies. Guitar and piano players are expected to work through the melodies also, though some time is given to talking about chords. In general, instrument-specific issues are not addressed in depth (i.e., fiddle bowing, flute ornaments, guitar strums), though some of these things get touched on in passing. We maintain a database of audio files of the music from the classes on this website as a resource for students to learn current and past material.
There are currently two levels of adult classes, both of which meet on Wednesdays at the BMC in downtown Brattleboro.
There is an adult intermediate class that meets from 7-8 pm. The focus of the class is on learning a new tune each week by ear. The pace and approach to learning by ear in this class is fairly gentle. Students who have never learned by ear before may find the class quite accessible. Students should, however, have a reasonable technical proficiency on their instrument so that they can focus on the process of learning the melodies. Each class spends a small amount of time reviewing tunes from previous sessions, so as new students become accustomed to the class, they are encouraged to learn some material from these previous sessions.
The advanced class meets from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. This class learns more complicated tunes, there is a greater focus on styling and creating medleys, and the teaching speed is faster. More than one tune may be taught in a class.
We periodically offer an intro class on Tuesday evenings to help more novice players gain the skills to allow them to join the intermediate class.
If you are interested in a class but not sure if it is appropriate to your level, we are happy to have you sit in for one class to try it out.
There is also a thriving youth program for kids age nine through high school. This group meets from 4:15 to 5:15 pm on Wednesdays. Two levels are taught simultaneously in different classrooms, Level I and Level II. A high level of enthusiasm is required. Prospective students should contact the BMC for more information.
Class tuition can be paid in 8-week ($130) or 16-week ($245) blocks. Students are encouraged to commit to an entire session, though students can pay $25 per class if they are unable to come for the duration.
In 2010, in response to the popularity of these weekly classes, the BMC began an annual Northern Roots weekend camp for adults in July and a week-long summer day camp for children ages 9-15 (Traditional Arts Camp). These well-attended camps have become the highlight of the summer for many students.
More information on BMC programs, including registration information, can be found at http://www.bmcvt.org or by calling (802) 257-4523.
Students have exclusive (password-protected) access to an archive of audio files of tunes taught in past sessions. Tunes are played at a slow and accessible tempo to make them easier to learn by ear.
Links below require a password available to BMC Traditional Music Program students.
Archive pages feature an alphabetical list with individual mp3 players and links to download the mp3 file.
- Class Archive A-C
- Class Archive D-G
- Class Archive H-L
- Class Archive M-P
- Class Archive Q-T
- Class Archive U-Z
Current class tunes, including playable links and downloadable zip files, are available here:
An archive of medleys worked on in past classes can be found here:
An archive of tunes taught as part of the Northern Roots Weekend can be found here:
A sortable list of tunes –
How to save a mp3 file