Thursday, October 4, 2018

2019 Castaway Cruise Workshops

Hello, again!

Below is a list of workshops being offered on the cruise. We have one conference room where we will teach at scheduled times during the day. In ADDITION, we will all be offering private lessons and small group workshops in our staterooms or other locations. If there is interest in BEGINNING workshops, we will hold those workshops in our cabins - PLEASE contact us to let us know if you’re interested. Email us at the address following workshop description to schedule Beginning workshops.
(If you'd like to join us for the cruise, there are still some cabins left.  Visit this post to get the details on booking your cruise - you can also register for the workshops there. $79 if you're attending the retreat and $129 if you're just doing the cruise. )

*Beginning NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTE - with Bing - will be taught in Cabin - if you don’t have a flute, you can arrange to get one through Bing. or call?

**Beginning PENNYWHISTLE with Guy - will be taught in Cabin - if you don’t have a pennywhistle, you can arrange to get one through Guy. or call 386-523-8210

***Beginning UKULELE - with Sharrie - will be taught in Cabin - if you don’t have a ukulele, you can arrange to get one through Sharrie. or call 440-478-1302

ALL BEGINNING WORKSHOPS must be scheduled in ADVANCE so we can accommodate all who are interested. Contact individual instructors at email addresses above or by phone - MAKE sure we know you are interested! MAKE SURE YOU GET A REPLY FROM US TO CONFIRM WE HAVE RECEIVED YOUR EMAIL TO SCHEDULE BEGINNING WORKSHOP!

All other workshops will be scheduled in the Conference Room during the day, and if you are registered for the music portion of the cruise, you are welcome to take any and ALL workshops offered, including the beginning workshops above (be sure to let us know you are coming to beginning workshops). We will jam every evening, and will start each night with an Orchestra tune that we will all learn together!

PW 1. Chromatic Magic - Pennywhistle - Intermediate. Guy George

I’ll make playing chromatically on your whistle simple, basic, and easy to follow with practice ideas and exercises that will add that magical sound to your playing!

PW 2. Easy Jazz and Improv on the Whistle - Pennywhistle - Past Beginner-Intermediate - Guy George -

Learn a few tricks to jazz up tunes - some familiar, some and take these tricks to apply to many tunes down the road. - joined by UKULELES - Ukes will learn a few jazzy chords and strums as we back up the whistles!

PW 3 “Irish Soul” - Pennywhistle Past Beginner - Intermediate Guy George.

Learn “Down by the Sally Garden” and “Inisheer” with added back-up and harmony parts. Hear just how beautiful the pennywhistle can sound on a slow and soulful tune. I’ll show you how to make those long notes really sing, creating that haunting feeling we love on those tunes.

Reggae & Island Feel - Pennywhistle - joined by UKULELES - - All Levels Guy & Sharrie George

Learn some fun “Cruise” tunes and get your Reggae on! Joined by the Ukuleles, we’ll work on “A Pirate Looks at Forty”, “One Love”, & “Rum and Coca Cola”! Ukes - Review and practice your Island and Reggae strums!

The Secrets Of The Night - Mountain Dulcimer - Intermediate Bing Futch

There are secrets to creating simple-yet-powerful musical arrangements and we’ll learn how it all comes together while working on “The Music Of The Night” from “Phantom Of The Opera.” DAD tuning, and you'll need the 1 1/2 and 8 1/2 frets.

Slaving Over A Hot Fretboard - Mountain Dulcimer - Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Bing Futch

Though it’s easy to play the mountain dulcimer, making it look easy isn’t always easily done!  A professional player won’t always reveal how much muscular positioning, stretching and grabbing that sometimes must be done in order to pull off a smooth performance.  We’ll get into exercises to prepare your hands and then put your fingers through a series of workouts that will open your eyes to a whole new way of playing.

Power UP With Selective Strumming - Mountain Dulcimer - Intermediate/Advanced Bing Futch

If you’ve been wanting to put a little get-up-and-go into your playing, this workshop is for you!  Selective strumming is a technique that uses eighth and sixteenth-note rhythms to form a solid groove foundation for simple melodies and chord progressions.  By treating the strings as separate instruments, we can fire up a more dynamic voice with the mountain dulcimer and put more than a little get-along in your songs!

10 Things You Should Know If You’re A Beginner - Mountain Dulcimer - Beginner Bing Futch

You’re a beginner if you’ve just started playing or have been playing for a bit but still trying to get your head around this fun little instrument.  In this workshop, we’ll touch on the basics and go over some fundamentals that every beginner should know.  And if you don’t know, I’ll teach you.  This workshop will introduce basic concepts of tablature-reading, keeping time, strumming, fretting and learning the notes on the fretboard plus a few challenges to prepare you for a meteoric rise to intermediate level playing!

Be a Rhythm Machine! - Ukulele - All Levels Sharrie George

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced player, there’s always room to improve your strum chops - and find out just how powerful the rhythm of the music really can be! We’ll work on a variety of different strums and apply them to some fun tunes!

Location, Location, Location! Finding Notes & Easy Finger-Picking - UKULELE - Intermediate WITH PENNYWHISTLE - Pennywhistle Melody Practice of Irish Tunes - Intermediate

Learn where your notes are, how to read tablature, and an easy way to back-up a slow tune with a finger-picking pattern or two. We’ll invite the pennywhistle players to play the melody to a few slow tunes as we back them up with our ukes. Strumming is just the beginning of what the ukulele can do - stretch your skills as a player!

Ukulele Orchestra! - All Levels - We’ll do a quick review of tablature reading and then launch a few tunes with parts for every level of ukulele player - with emphasis on reading and playing single line melodies, harmonies and back-up. Great to take home to play with any other instrument or form your own ukulele orchestra! Get ready for our group orchestra session at night! (Different tunes will be taught from the nightly orchestra)

Strum Magic! Strum and play on Ukulele - Past Beginner-Intermediate Sharrie George

Add some fun tunes to your repertoire as we discover just how easy it is to find chords up the neck of our ukes! We’ll learn a few tunes using this method, discuss “first position chords”, and when is best to use which chord. A fun way to get some new info and learn some great tunes! Learn simple jazz patterns to play over chords of your favorite tunes - can be applied to many styles of tunes, fast or slow.

Stretch Your Chord Vocabulary - Ukulele - Intermediate

Learn great sounding, more difficult tunes that you thought were beyond your ukulele reach! Learn some left hand exercises to make these new chords easier to reach and make learning lots of chords - even bar chords - a piece of cake! Fun tunes to take with you!

2019 Workshop Descriptions

Hello, everyone!

We're getting really excited as the retreat draws ever closer and we know you're excited too!  Here is the working list of workshops.  The schedule will be posted as we draw closer to the retreat, but no worries!  There are no competing workshops, so you can take every single one if you so desire!

Workshop Schedule


8:30 am - 9:30 am - Absolute Beginning Ukulele - Sharrie
9:45 am - 10:45 am - Beginner Pennywhistle - Guy
11 am - 12 pm - Fresh Strings For The Festival - Richard
12:15 pm - 1:15 pm - Manatee Orchestra - Mountain Dulcimers - Bing
1:45 pm - 2:45 pm - Manatee Orchestra - Hammered Dulcimer & Pennywhistle - Guy
3 pm - 4 pm - Manatee Orchestra - Ukulele - Sharrie
4:15 pm - 5:15 pm - Beginner Mountain Dulcimer - Richard


8:30 am - 9:30 am -  Reading Rhythms/Strum Patterns - Richard
9:45 am - 10:45 am - Learn Easier, Practice Smarter, Get Ready To Jam - Guy
11 am - 12 pm - Chord Melody Style - Bing
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm - Ukulele Strum Magic - Sharrie
1:45 pm - 2:45 pm - The Magical Harmonies of DAA - Richard
3 pm - 4 pm - Rockin’ The 1+ and 8+ Frets - Bing
4:15 pm - 5:15 pm - Uncharted Gospel & Folk Territory - Guy


8:30 am - 9:30 am - Get That Island Feel - Guy & Sharrie
9:45 am - 10:45 am - Learning Native American Flute - Bing
11 am - 12 pm - Play The Melody - Sharrie
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm - Performance Gear AMA - Bing
1:45 pm - 2:45 pm - Retuning Your Dulcimer - Richard
3 pm - 4 pm - Manatee Orchestra Rehearsal

The Manatee Orchestra will open up the Saturday evening concert at 7 pm


8:30 am - 9:30 am - Sunday Morning Coming Down - Bing
9:45 am - 10:45 am - Celtic Music For HD and UKE - Guy & Sharrie
11 am - 12 pm - Murder Ballads - Richard

Workshop Descriptions

Guy George

Discover Uncharted Gospel & Folk Territory
- Advanced Beginner/Intermediate (HD)

Guy has been digging up a few lesser-known Gospel & folk tunes to share, along with 
back up and harmony to accompany the melody.

Learn Easier, Practice Smarter! Get Ready to Jam — Advanced Beginner (HD)

Learn a jam tune or two and how to master them quickly. Then learn some practice techniques to make your practice time more efficient -Learn some simple techniques to
use when you don’t “KNOW” the tune in a jam. Be ready to “jump in and jam!”

Pennywhistle - Beginner

Have fun learning to play this very portable instrument in one session! All you need is a “D” whistle and we’ll get you started with all the basics. You’ll even learn a few easy tunes, in 2 keys! Guy will have some great sounding D whistles available for purchase before the class.

Guy & Sharrie George

Get that Island Feel - Hammered Dulcimer & Ukulele! - Past Beginner & UP!

Travel with us to the islands as we learn a few melodies from the Caribbean. Get that
island feel with some calypso rhythms and melodic hooks..Bring your favorite Hawaiian
shirt and an island beverage! Intermediate & up pennywhistle players also welcome!

Celtic music for HD & UKE! - Past Beginner & Up

Learn some Celtic melodies, harmonies, and rhythms - Ukes will learn some new melodies as well for the more advanced players, focus on rhythm for others! Intermediate & up pennywhistle players also welcome!

Manatee Orchestra - Hammered Dulcimer & Pennywhistle - Past Beginner & up

Learn and practice parts for the Manatee Orchestra and join us as we create the
unique “Manatee Orchestra Sound”! Lots of fun!

Sharrie George

Absolute Beginning Ukulele

Have fun learning all the basics on ukulele - tuning, chords, and a few strums as we learn some fun tunes! All you need to know to get you started on your way to ukulele “bliss”! For Soprano, Concert, and Tenor ukuleles in standard tuning.

Play the Melody! - Intermediate & Up Ukulele

No need to read music, we will learn to read. tablature for ukulele, and learn how to play some fun melodies, harmonies, and even a few “licks” to take your playing to the next level! Be ready to play a part in our Manatee Orchestra!

Ukulele Strum Magic! Advancing Beginner

If you know the basic chords and strums, you’re ready to move on to a few more chords, strums, and more fun tunes! Our focus will be on strums and rhythm, how to keep a steady beat and vary the basic rhythm to add interest to our back-up technique.

Manatee Orchestra - Ukulele - All levels!

Learn and practice the tunes for this year’s Manatee Orchestra! There will be a part for all players - even new players - We need advanced players to take the melody and harmony parts, while newer players keep our beat! Fun for all!

Bing Futch

Learning Native American Flute - All Levels

Whether you've just picked up a Native American flute for the first time or have a little experience, this workshop will go over not only the fundamentals of playing, but also help you to find your own distinct voice and spirit song.  Bing will cover basics such as breath control and scales, how to use embellishments and offer easy-to-follow guidelines on how to create stories of melody and sound. There will also be some practice of playing along with a fellow flutist to discover the joy of intertwined harmonies.  Bring your own NAF in any key!  There will be a limited selection of loaners as well as flutes for sale.

Playing and Arranging In The Chord Melody Style - Intermediate (MD)

There's a secret to playing tunes that keeps the melody front and center while providing sweet harmony as support.  Once you know the ins and outs, there'll be no holding you back from creating arrangements of your favorite songs without tablature!  We'll play through a couple of pieces, take a look at how they were created all while learning a bit about how music works and how to use a few neat tricks to play just about any song you can imagine on the mountain dulcimer!

Rockin' The 1 1/2 Fret and 8 1/2 Fret - Advanced (MD)

The 1 1/2 fret and the 8 1/2 fret are controversial additions to the mountain dulcimer, though our purely diatonic instrument hasn't been truly pure since the addition of the 6 1/2 and 13 1/2 frets back in the 50s. But don't fear these two new frets.  Embrace them, learn how to use them to create new and wonderful colors.  It's another step towards chromatic thinking, but a small step that everyone can take towards understanding the mountain dulcimer more and becoming a better player. We're going to hit it hard in this workshop. All the necessary frets required, of course!

Manatee Orchestra - All Levels (MD)

It's been our tradition from the very beginning and the 7th Annual Manatee Orchestra Experience, right before the Saturday evening concert, is going to be great fun!  Here, we'll learn three new songs and prepare to join other instruments in rehearsals before the show.

Performance Gear AMA - All Levels

For those of you who endeavor to perform live, this is your opportunity to AMA (Ask Me Anything) and get a demonstration of all the key elements in your live stage set-up.  I'll help you choose the equipment that's best for you, show you how to use it and offer advice on setting up, tearing down, working with different venues and creating the perfect performance space.  You'll want to have something to take notes with, a tablet, smartphone or laptop to do some quick searches and if you have any gear that's confusing you, bring it too!

Sunday Morning Coming Down - All Levels (MD)

Back by popular demand! This session went so well last year that folks requested we do it again.  This workshop is basically a "cool-down" after three days of learning.  Any questions, clarifications, observations, discoveries, breakthroughs, etc., can be brought to the table in a session that aims to sum up, and shore up, your retreat experience.

Richard Ash

Beginning Mountain Dulcimer - It Isn't Just For Beginners! - All Levels (MD)

Which end of the dulcimer goes which way? Or maybe “how to hold the pick”, or “how to read the tablature”? We'll cover all the basics, so if you're new to dulcimer, then definitely take this class. If you've been playing for a while, but want a refresher, then you should definitely take this class. And if you're an old hand with decades of dulcimer-playing experience, you might be able to pick up a few ideas that'll work for you the next time you work with a beginner. Lots of fun, no pressure, just plenty of dulcimer-playing fun.

Murder Ballads For The Tragically Impaired (a.k.a. Love Songs) - All Levels (MD)
I've taught a “Murder Ballads” class for years, but things change, so I'm not doing murder ballads this year. Now you can think happy thoughts as you play, with songs of love and joy. And we're not talking tragedies, like Romeo and Juliet, or Cunegonde and Candide, or John and Yoko, but actual happy- ending love songs. 
Bring a capo, please. 

Retuning Your Dulcimer - Friend, or Foe? - All Levels (MD)
There's a long tradition of NOT playing in DAD. There are tons of benefits to DAD, but other tunings have benefits, too. Plus, they're an important part of dulcimer history. We'll explore a few “alternate” tunings (remember that 50 years ago, DAD was an “alternate” tuning!) and see what happens as the sound of our instruments changes! 
We'll retune a lot, but don't worry - if you break a string, I'll fix it for you. No charge. Bring your tuner! 

The Magical Harmonies Of DAA - All Levels (MD)
Not long ago, DAA (or often, CGG) was the “standard” tuning. People were playing chords then, too, and we'll work through a few tunes with DAA chords. The chords have the same notes as DAD chords, but often with different inversions (don't worry - this is NOT complicated theory, and it'll all be written out for you) that sounded different from the chords we play now. Great fun! 
Bring your tuner, please! We'll change our tuning at the beginning of class from DAD to DAA (and stay there for the entire session). 

Reading Rhythms, And Applying Appropriate Strum Patterns - All Levels (MD)
So many times you see a great player's hands with a steady up/down or in/out strum. Or a great duo (think John and Karen Keane) or a great group, ALL with a metronomic in/out/in/out strum pattern. This isn't an accident. There's a “right way”, and a “this mostly works” way to move your hands. 

When I first stared playing mountain dulcimer, I had the opportunity to play some trios with Bing and Steve (Seifert). I had been playing about six months, so while I knew a few songs, didn't have much technique. Steve looked at my hands, and said “Richard, your left hand looks pretty good. But your right hand is alllllll wrong.” I wasn't strumming consistently or correctly. It took me months to get it right, and it was worth the time it took to fix my right hand technique. I'll try to set you on the “right way” path. This'll be a dull, boring, and repetitious class, so you probably shouldn't attend, since you won't be learning anything useful... 

Fresh Strings For The Festival - All Levels (MD)

How old are your strings? More than a couple of months, and you'll hear the improvement fresh strings provide for you and your dulcimer. We'll have a brief discussion on string types, and string gauges, and then (as a group) change the strings on our dulcimers. I'll be there to help every step of the way. And to make it even more fun, I'll provide a free string set to anyone that takes this class. Bring a small pair of wire cutters (if you have them), a string winder (if you have one), and your tuner. I have wire cutters you can borrow (or buy) and will have a few string winders (plus more for sale), too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Have You Registered Yet? We're Getting Close!

Registration is STILL OPEN for the 7th Annual Florida Gulf Coast Dulcimer Retreat - February 21st - 24th, 2019 in Homosassa, Florida! You can register for $159 per person to the top right of this page. Workshop descriptions and schedules are listed here as well.

For those going with us on the Royal Caribbean vessel Enchantment of the Seas for another Castaway Music Cruise, which will depart right after the retreat on February 25th from Port Canaveral and return from Nassau, Bahamas and Coco Cay on Friday, March 1st,  be sure to register for workshops aboard the ship if you haven't already.

There will be a number of workshops available for mountain dulcimer, ukulele and pennywhistle along with jams, flash mobs and more!  If you're a registered retreat attendee, the cost per person is $79 while $129 is the fee for those just doing the cruise.  Use the drop-down menu for payment options.

2019 Castaway Music Cruise

Check out some of the fun from last year's retreat and cruise in this special episode of "Dulcimerica"!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Thank you, EVERYONE, for another fantastic retreat!  We just got back from the 1st Annual Homosassa Castaway Cruise and had a great time - we're already looking forward to next year's events.  Thanks again!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Farewell to The Riverside Crab House

The old building's coming down.
Sad, but exciting, news today as The Riverside Crab House and Yardarm Lounge closes after over 50 years of magic and memories.  The building, which overlooks the Homosassa River and includes the famous Monkey Bar, was heavily damaged by recent storms and it was decided to tear down and build again from the ground up.

This doesn't effect the operation of the 6th Annual Florida Gulf Coast Dulcimer Retreat at all, but we will certainly miss being able to walk across the lane from the Manatee Ballroom and belly up to the bar or have a meal within view of Monkey Island.  In the coming weeks, as we get closer to the retreat, I'll be posting at least once a day with places of note in the area with great food and drink.

While we're sad that this old historic building has to go, we are excited about what phoenix will rise from the ashes and we'll be sure to get lots of photos of the progress.

In the meantime, here is the official press release:


The Yardarm Lounge, also known as The Riverside Crab House and The Monkey Bar, has celebrated 50 years on the Homosassa River. The iconic restaurant was opened by The Norris Development Company in 1967 and later purchased by the late Dave Stewart and Dr. Donald Vesley. It was most recently acquired by Riverside, LLC in 1998. On Tuesday, January 30, 2018, the doors will close for the final time.


Many things have changed in the span of 50 years, and the Yardarm Lounge and Riverside Crab House has seen it all. She has celebrated first dates, graduations, weddings, new births, anniversaries, and reunions with generations of Homosassa residents and guests from around the world. She has been the stepping stone to many local youngsters as they embarked on their first jobs before going off to college and other successes. She has witnessed sadness at too many memorials in honor of friends and loved ones. No doubt the Crowning Jewel was the location of this beautifully built restaurant overlooking Monkey Island. Unfortunately, the very thing that made the restaurant a favorite to so many is what finally closed her doors. She has endured more than five decades of daily brackish rising and falling tides, lapping at a foundation that is cantilevered over the beautiful Homosassa River. No name, Charlie, Ivan, Frances, Hermine and Irma are a few of the ferocious storms that have taken their toll over the years. Gail Oakes, the managing partner of The Homosassa Riverside Resort which owns the restaurant, hotel, marina and Monkey Island said, “The two story restaurant’s roof was structurally damaged during the last hurricane and is beyond repair. Experts agreed that the age of the building and the degree of the damage would require extensive repairs to the structure which are not financially practical.”


Oakes said, “My partners and I made the decision to demolish a substantial portion of the damaged building and replace it with a smaller outdoor eatery with spectacular views of the Homosassa River and Monkey Island. The new venue will still feature our famous live blue crabs and seafood selections along with new and exciting additions.” The hotel, marina, boat rentals and banquet room will not be affected by this closure. While Oakes admits that February is the “peak” season in the Homosassa restaurant business and unfortunate timing, she is hopeful that the busy season will make it possible for her displaced staff to find positions with other local restaurant owners who are staffing up for the return of winter guests to our area. The Yardarm Lounge, Riverside Crab House and Monkey Bar are located at 5297 S. Cherokee Way, Homosassa, Florida, on the bank of the Homosassa River. For information regarding this story, please contact: Homosassa Riverside Resort, Gail Oakes 352-628-2474.