Russ Childers

Apprenticeship Description:
The apprenticeship focused on clawhammer banjo, a particular style of playing used in old-time music, in which the picking hand is “clawed” (fingers bent and cupped toward the palm) and the direction of picking is downward rather than up. In addition to the right-hand clawhammer, Alexander learned the drop-thumb technique and how to incorporate previously learned left-hand techniques, such as pull-offs and hammer-ons, in more complex patterns. Childers also concentrated on immersing Alexander in an old-time repertoire, sometimes playing songs along with him on the banjo, other times accompanying him on the fiddle or other instruments. Following the year-long apprenticeship, Alexander has become part of a continuum of clawhammer banjo playing, learning through oral tradition and observation as Childers did from his own master, Elmer Bird.

Master Biography

Russ Childers’ involvement with Appalachian old-time music in Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky has won him numerous honors, but that recognition barely scratches the surface of his remarkable passion he has for the music, its history and culture.

His performances and teaching are steeped in Appalachian culture and derived from his own Appalachian heritage. He began playing songs, which were part of his family tradition, on guitar at age 13, taught by his aunt and uncle.

From there, he moved to banjo, learning from an impressive group of players from Kentucky and West Virginia. Childers has competed and placed in banjo contests in the Appalachian region, and performs in various venues throughout the area with his band, the Rabbit Hash String Band.

Mark Alexander and Russ Childers

Apprenticeship Biography

An experienced guitar player, Mark Alexander became interested in playing the banjo after purchasing one at a flea market and repairing it. He sought out a teacher, but after a few lessons realized that the style of play he was learning—traditional-picked bluegrass—was not one he was interested in playing.

Curious about folk music, he began reading covers of recordings and discovered that he must learn the Clawhammer style. He went on a quest for someone who could teach him this technique. Several years later, he saw Russ Childers perform at the Appalachian Festival, Cincinnati, Ohio and connected with him in order to begin an apprenticeship

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