Our Program

Whether you have career ambitions in music or want to incorporate music into your broader liberal arts experience, our Music program is a great opportunity. We offer a major (BA) and minor, stressing regional and cultural contexts through a methodological hybrid of music theory and performance, Appalachian studies, cultural studies, musicology, and ethnomusicology.

A cornerstone of our program is a unique concentration in Traditional Music that emphasizes the multicultural roots, influences, and varieties of vernacular music within Southern Appalachia. In addition, our vibrant jazz program includes multiple student ensembles and individual instruction in a wide variety of instruments and voice.

Music majors are required to audition, but there is no audition required to participate in most classes. We welcome recordings as part of the standard application process.

Group & Individual Instruction

Expert faculty offer an array of classes and one-on-one lessons, including the following areas:

  • Appalachian Ballads
  • Appalachian Step Dance
  • Banjo
  • Bass (upright and electric)
  • Drums/Percussion
  • Fiddle/Violin
  • Guitar (acoustic and electric)
  • Improvisation
  • Mandolin
  • Piano
  • Songwriting
  • Square Dance
  • Voice
  • West African Percussion and Voice
  • Woodwinds


Music performance is an integrated part of our program. You will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of ensembles, which include:

  • Choir
  • Bluegrass Band
  • Gamelan
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • Klezmer
  • Old-Time Band
  • West African Ensemble

Taught by Professional Musicians

Our faculty includes the following accomplished musicians and experts:

  • Kevin Kehrberg Theory/History/Culture Courses, Gamelan Ensemble, Old-Time Ensemble, Individual Instruction: Bass
  • Ben Krakauer Theory/History/Culture Courses, Bluegrass Ensemble, Individual Instruction: Banjo
  • Will Boyd Individual Instruction: Woodwinds
  • Jason DeCristofaro Jazz Ensemble, Individual Instruction: Piano, Percussion
  • Adama Dembele West African Ensemble, Individual Instruction: West African Music
  • Reggie Headen Individual Instruction: Voice
  • Dan Keller Jazz Ensemble, Individual Instruction: Jazz Guitar
  • Emolyn Liden Appalachian Dance, Old-Time String Band, Individual instruction: fiddle, banjo
  • John Miller Songwriting, Individual Instruction: Mandolin, Banjo
  • Suzannah Park College Choir, Individual Instruction: Voice
  • Bob Strain Individual Instruction: Piano
  • Natalya Weinstein Appalachian Music Soundscapes, Klezmer ensemble, String Band, Individual Instruction: Fiddle
  • Clarke Williams Individual and Group instruction: guitar, banjo, fiddle

Traditional Music & Dance

Warren Wilson College is inextricably linked to our location in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and our Traditional Music program is firmly tied to the Appalachian region. Our conception of traditional music and dance is one that embraces change and innovation while celebrating the many artistic lifeways and expressions of previous generations.

The program fosters an inclusive, intergenerational artistic community where you’ll acquire a shared musical language and develop your own unique voice. Here are a few of the many ways that you can engage with traditional music and dance on campus:

  • During the school year, weekly noontime jam sessions are hosted by faculty outside the cafeteria, a monthly Traditional Music Concert Series features top performers from around the region and the country, and our annual Fiddles & Folklife Festival happens in the spring with contests and prizes for individual performers and bands.
  • Warren Wilson is also host to the Old Farmers Ball, a community contra dance that takes place every Thursday in Bryson Gym. This dance, founded in 1982, is known throughout the country.
  • Since 1992, the Swannanoa Gathering has offered a series of weeklong folk music workshops on campus during the summer. The programs include Traditional Song Week, Celtic Week, Old-Time Music and Dance Week, Guitar Week, Contemporary Folk Week, Mandolin and Banjo Week, and Fiddle Week.

Explore Classes in This Program

MUS 1270

Jazz Ensemble

In the Jazz Ensemble, you’ll explore music from different jazz styles (Swing, Jazz Fusion, Latin Jazz, Bebop, etc.). With your fellow musicians, you’ll collaborate, practice, and grow to give public performances. This ensemble is open to all Warren Wilson College students, staff, and faculty, but you will need to audition to demonstrate command of your chosen instrument or voice.

MUS 1120

Music Cultures

In this course, you’ll explore the diversity of music making across time and place. You’ll look at the value and meaning that music contributes to the lives of individuals and communities as they seek to understand the past, fully experience the present, and imagine themselves into the future. Case studies range from Warren Wilson’s music culture to various international contexts. Along the way, you’ll critique the concept of “music culture,” recognizing the ways that all individuals exist at the intersection of multiple spheres of cultural influence.

MUS 3890

Traditions of Work and Music in the Southern Mountains

What’s a gandy dancer? Which side are you on? And why did Gastonia Gallop? Such questions beg an examination of the ways work and music are bound together in modern Appalachian culture. In this course, you’ll examine those connections while investigating intersections of musical and social history in this region. You’ll focus on three main themes: work music, music about work, and music as work. You’ll also complete service-learning components at area music events.

Meet Our Faculty

As a professor, I love that Warren Wilson students are unafraid to take risks, to challenge themselves, and to engage a topic or a work of art despite whether it aligns with their opinions or preferences.

Kevin Kehrberg, Ph.D.
Faculty Member Kevin Kehrberg sits behind a instrument outside of Kitteridge.
Kevin Kehrberg, Ph.D.

At Warren Wilson, I seek growth opportunities for my students, colleagues, and myself by approaching learning with curiosity, compassion, collaboration, and critical engagement.

Ben Krakauer, Ph.D.
Ben Krakauer, Ph.D.

It is an enormous privilege to be able to work with driven students who recognize their learning not just in the context of their academic studies, but as part of a lifelong journey towards becoming a well-rounded person and caring citizen of the world.

Jason DeCristofaro, DMA
Jason DeCristofaro, DMA

I love how music constantly fills the air at Warren Wilson College, whether it’s a songwriting class in the amphitheater, a marimba outside of the percussion studio, the full voices of the choir down at the pavilion, or the rhythms of the West African Drum ensemble.

Natalya Weinstein Miller
Natalya Weinstein Miller, MA
Faculty Member Kevin Kehrberg sits behind a instrument outside of Kitteridge.
Fieldwork Profile

Trading Traditions in China

I returned from a three-week tour of China with my Warren Wilson student band, Jenny & the Hog Drovers. On this cultural exchange, supported by the US Embassy in Beijing, we met and collaborated with a group of Chinese musicians known as Manhu (Fierce Tigers). These traditional musicians, from the Yi ethnic group, live in the Yunnan Province in the south of China, a mountainous region not unlike Appalachia. We created six collaborative pieces that we could perform together. From Beijing we rode the 200 mph bullet train to Shanghai, where we performed at the Shanghai Concert Hall and the American Center at US Consulate. Most of our performances ended with dancing, drawn from both traditions.

an excerpt from music Professor Phil Jamison’s reflections on a trip to China with Warren Wilson student musicians