Selected Programs

In addition to teaching concerts, in educational settings I often present workshops for teachers and supplementary activities for students.

The focus of my teaching concerts and workshop activities are often worked out with interested teachers to dovetail with the students’ experience and the instructional goals of the faculty.

A selection of specific programs and workshops is below.

– Scott Ainslie

Before Rock ‘n’ Roll

is a teaching concert customized to different experience/grade levels and suitable for families. In this engaging combination of history, stories and music, Blues musician and historian Scott Ainslie leads his audience back in time to the rhythms and music that influenced the rise of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Ainslie introduces audiences to work and slave songs, spirituals, Delta and Ragtime Blues using guitars and African-derived American instruments – the fretless gourd banjo and one-stringed cigar box guitar.

Inviting audiences to join in call-and-response singing and back beat clapping, Ainslie presents a tour-de-force of American roots music while teaching and demonstrating specific African retentions that continue to have a vibrant place in contemporary American music and culture today.

Download Teacher's Guide to Before Rock 'n' Roll

– A Teaching Concert Sampler [9:07] A sampler from a live performance in Lancaster, SC before 500 fifth graders.

Across The Color Line: The African South

is a varied performance program featuring the calabash gourd banjo, a one-string diddley bow, acoustic and slide guitar. Scott Ainslie tours the music of the American South where European and African musical traditions cross-pollinated to make the powerful hybrids that have long dominated popular music in our nation and, subsequently in the world.

Adding the gourd banjo to his other instruments, Blues musician Ainslie brings his broad musical and scholarly expertise forward in a program that profiles the creative impact of African musical and cultural traditions found in Old-Time mountain music, Blues, and Gospel traditions in the American South.

Download Teacher Study Guide to Across The Color Line: The African South

Also available:
Teacher Study Guide on Making Diddley Bows
Teacher Study Guide on Science of Sound with Diddley Bows

Gourd Banjo and the Akonting from West Africa: Sugar Babe

[4:40] A brief introduction to claw-hammer banjo, it’s history, and a bluesy banjo tune from West Virginia. Recorded by an audience member at the Fiddle & Bow Society, Winston-Salem, NC.

One Hundred Years at the Crossroads:

The life, music & times of Delta Blues Legend Robert Johnson is a special one-man show, that explores Robert Johnson’s music, life, and times, with live solo acoustic performances of the songs that electrified Johnson’s contemporaries and changed music history.

Author of the landmark book on Johnson’ music, Robert Johnson/At The Crossroads and the video teacher on the instructional DVD Robert Johnson’s Guitar Techniques, Ainslie is versed in Blues history and the African roots of African-American music and culture. Ainslie delivers a passionate and informed performance that brings the audience face to face with the solo acoustic roots of Chicago Blues, Rhythm & Blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and much of contemporary Country music.

This tour-de-force of acoustic Blues, slide guitar, and singing features Johnson’s signature songs, including Crossroads Blues, Walkin’ Blues, Sweet Home Chicago, Love In Vain (among others), each song framed with its history and fleshed out with biographical anecdotes from Johnson’s life, his personal and cultural background.

Download Teacher Study Guide to One Hundred Years at the Crossroads

Crossroad Blues

(Robert Johnson) [3:23] Performance recorded in Memphis, TN at the Folk Alliance Showcases.

Blues Guitar Workshops:

Ainslie is an experienced and inspiring guitar instructor and also offers a special follow-up acoustic Blues and slide guitar workshop centered on the music of Robert Johnson for the guitar players in the community. He can also be available for pre-performance introductory presentations, or post-performance workshops and question and answer sessions.

EuroBlues 2013

[2:47] Slow slide guitar review of Robert Johnson’s ‘Come On In My Kitchen.’

The Blues Voice

This workshop is part history lesson, part philosophical discussion, part vocalese! Working with a chorus or singers in the classroom, Ainslie examines the backgrounds of divergent vocal styles with special emphasis on understanding the cultural and historical aspects of European and West African culture that inform vocal styles in America. This is a great class for singers and ‘non’-singers alike.

The Roots of Coolness

is a workshop on the African roots of ‘coolness,’ following the notion from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, via the Caribbean slave trade up into America. This class dramatically reveals how cultural information and aesthetics move and demonstrates how America has benefited from diverse traditional cultures.

Download Teacher Study Guide to The Roots of Coolness

African Retentions in American Music

details the parts of African traditions that were retained and passed on to us through the Blues. Students will explore call and response, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the expanded vocal palette of African and African-American singing that are routinely expressed in southern American music.

Download Teacher Study Guide to African Retentions in American Music

The Blues Writing Workshop

is an interactive group workshop that aims at completing a finished Blues song at the end of the activity period (50-75 minutes). It is an inclusive brainstorming activity that solicits participation throughout a process and has proven track record with a wide variety of students.

Teacher Workshop: Blues and the Science of Sound

Three-hour arts-integration workshop for teachers that begins with call & response singing and outlines significant African retentions (parts of African culture and music) that are still operating in American music today. Ainslie then introduces the homemade one-string instruments formerly African instruments common across the South (cigar box guitars/Diddley Bows) and with teachers begins experimenting with the physics and science involved in stringed instruments.

Working with simple tuning forks, the group will zero in on understanding how vibrations, sound waves, sound transfer, amplification, and the mechanics of human hearing work. If there is time and interest, Ainslie often concludes the workshop with some group Blues lyric writing with the teachers, modeling how this work can be done successfully with students from 2nd grade through adult.

A twelve minute video excerpt of a workshop in Birmingham, AL:

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Upcoming Events

  1. RiverFolk Guitar Workshop

    January 17, 2016 @ 1:00 pm - 3:30 pm
  2. RiverFolk Concert, Honesdale PA

    January 17, 2016 @ 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
  3. Durham, NC House Concert

    January 22, 2016 @ 7:30 pm - 10:30 pm