Appalachian Singing Study Camp

Aug 31-Sept 4th 2020 - Camp Fircom, Gambier Island, BC

with Ginny Hawker, Laurie Lewis, Beverly Smith, Pharis Romero and Emily Miller

Appalachian Singing Study Camp will be an intensive five-day Appalachian singing study on beautiful Gambier Island, BC.

From Monday August 31st - Friday Sept 4th we will be staying, eating and singing at beautiful Camp Fircom on Gambier Island, BC. We will enjoy 4-6 hours of singing classes each day – learning about Appalachian Harmonies, Early Country, Brother Harmonies, Trios, Songwriting, Primitive Baptist and Shape Note Singing. Overall the focus will be on getting more comfortable with the style, tone, sound and feel of this kind of music.  There will also be the opportunity to sing in small groups – one on a part and learn historical/cultural context. We will also have music listening sessions and a dance! There will be time for some hiking/kayaking/exploring in the area. In the evenings we will enjoy a private house concert by our fabulous instructors, a square dance in Pavillion and a student concert on our final night!

Our instructors are the amazing  Beverly Smith, Ginny Hawker, Laurie Lewis, Emily Miller and Pharis Romero. See instructor page for more info.

Dates: Aug 31st- Sept 4th 2020

Where: Camp Fircom, Gambier Island BC (25 minutes water taxi ride from Vancouver)

Teachers: Pharis Romero, Ginny Hawker, Laurie Lewis, Beverly Smith and Emily Miller.

Price: $1000 CAD + GST -$1300 CAD + GST (depending on accommodations)

(price includes entire tuition, 4 nights accommodation, all meals, water taxi transportation) 

Application will go online on Dec 14th 2019!



Laurie Lewis

For fiddler, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Laurie Lewis, the traditions of bluegrass and folk aren’t so much tools in her hands, but burning sources of inspiration that have driven her through a 40+ year career at the forefront of American roots music. A pioneering woman in bluegrass, Laurie has paved the way for many young women today, always guided by her own love of traditional music and the styles of her heroes that came before. A dedicated teacher, Laurie was the director of Bluegrass Week at the Augusta Heritage Workshops in Elkins, WV, for ten years, and the coordinator of Bluegrass at the Beach in Nehalem Bay, Or, for 14 years. Currently, Laurie directs Bluegrass in the Gorge, held in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. A lifelong resident of the bluegrass backwater of Berkeley, CA, her personal sensibilities and innovation within traditional styles have nonetheless created waves of change throughout the acoustic music world.

Beverly Smith

One of the most respected players in old time music today, Beverly Smith is in demand as a singer, song writer, fiddler and dance caller, as well as a banjo, mandolin and guitar player. Besides her highly praised recordings of early country duets with Carl Jones, Alice Gerrard and John Grimm, her guitar playing has been featured on recordings of fiddlers Bruce Molsky, Rafe Stefanini, Tara Nevins and Matt Brown, and her singing with Mick Moloney, John Doyle, Laurie Lewis and others.  Along with June Drucker, Rose Sinclair and Tara Nevins, she was a founding member of The Heartbeats Rhythm Quartet. She played for many years with Bruce Molsky and Rafe Stefanini as Big Hoedown, and with Rafe, John Herrmann and Meredith McIntosh as The Rockinghams.  She is known as a thorough, humorous, kind and patient teacher and has taught guitar, fiddle, singing and dance at Ashokan Southern Week, Augusta Heritage, Swannanoa Gathering, Blue Ridge Old-Time Music Week, Festival of American Fiddle Tunes and Summer Acoustic Music Week as well as Sore Fingers UK; Haapavesi, Finland; Nimble Fingers, British Columbia; and La Fuente del Musica in Spain.  She has been a featured guest on A Prairie Home Companion, ETown, Mountain Stage and Voice of America, has toured extensively in both the US and the UK, and has played concert halls and festivals all over Europe, Canada and the US. Her guitar playing was featured in the October 2000 issue of Acoustic Guitar Magazine.  She co-directs the Roots of American Music Week in Mars Hill, N.C and is happy to call Marshall, NC home.


Ginny Hawker

Ginny Hawker's strong, soul-stirring singing makes you feel their devotion to the place from which their music springs. As she wraps her songs in stories of the people and the places of the music, audiences are transported to another time when life was more real and families were held close. Her singing is hair-raising and representative of the finest American traditional music.

Home for Ginny is in Elkins, West Virginia in the heart of Appalachia. Ginny is a native of Halifax County, Virginia where she grew up in a large extended family of singers and musicians. Ginny and Tracy met in 1988 when both were on staff at the Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camp near Woodstock, NY. They soon discovered that, despite their differing childhoods, they shared a deep understanding of and love for the music of the rural south. It was Ginny’s birthright and Tracy’s lifetime devotion.

Ginny’s father, Ben Hawker, was her mentor growing up. Together, they taught the beautiful old singing of his Primitive Baptist Church for ten years at the Augusta Heritage Workshops in Elkins, WV. He went with her to the Smithsonian, the Chicago Folk Festival and the Vancouver Folk Festival where their family harmony left an indelible memory with their listeners. Ben also introduced her to early Bluegrass harmony through the oral tradition. Ginny continues to honor his style and grace with her singing and storytelling.


For over 20 years, Ginny and Tracy have appeared in concerts and festivals throughout the United States, Canada, and England. Each summer they teach southern traditional singing at several music camps introducing people to the music they love. Recently they have started teaching students in their West Virginia home.

Emily Miller

Emily Miller photographed by Stephen Schauer at Deep End Ranch

Emily was born in Kansas and raised in Hong Kong, but her family's house was always filled with American old-time and country music. After performing with many different groups in her teenage years (most notably Northern Harmony, with whom she toured all over the US and Europe), Emily formed the honky-tonk country band The Sweetback Sisters in 2006 with fellow singer Zara Bode. They have recorded three full-length records and have performed their renegade retro style of country music in barrooms and concert halls around the world. Emily has appeared several times on national radio programs, including A Prairie Home Companion and Mountain Stage. Emily also performs old-time music as a duo with her husband, Jesse Milnes. They recorded their first duo record together in January 2015 and have toured across the US and Australia. Emily is also musical director for the Davis & Elkins College Appalachian Ensemble's string band in Elkins, WV, which recruits talented instrumentalists and dancers from around the country for a high-level student performance ensemble. She and Jesse make their home in Valley Bend, WV.

Pharis Romero

Pharis is from the little town of Horsefly, here in BC. Her musical life started at a tender age, enjoying an all-round classically trained and country schooled education while performing with her family’s band. After forming Outlaw Social and some mighty Bob Dylan and Grateful Dead cover bands, these days currently find her playing and singing mostly with her husband Jason, and traveling around the world with two small kids in tow. They’ve played on A Prairie Home Companion twice, been on tour with The Vinyl Cafe, and love music festivals, theatre halls and living rooms alike. With two Juno records in hand, their highly anticipated sixth release as a duo will be out in May 2020. They’re believers in most things folk (especially community, love and a good story), and their heartbreakingly harmonic music is an ever-evolving quest for good songs and beautiful sounds - a particularly good antidote for this sped-up modern world. Pharis is a two-time CFMA Traditional Vocalist of the year, and a passionate and well-loved teacher who has enjoyed two decades of teaching the joy and love of singing and harmonies. She is currently the Artistic Director of Artistic Director of Voice Works (a gathering for singers in Port Townsend, WA).


Schedule and Classes

Monday Aug 31st -Friday Sept 4th 2020

Monday Aug 31st - Everyone meets in Horseshoe Bay, then we all load on to water taxis and travel over to Camp Fircom on Gambier Island. We have lunch, settle into our accommodations and have a camp orientation. We start singing in the afternoon and have some campfire beach jams that night.

Tuesday Sept 1st-Friday Sept 4th - classes, activities, concerts, dances, jams! We will spend 4-5 hours in singing classes every day, enjoy practice time, listening sessions, dancing, concerts etc. We will eat three meals a day at Camp Fircom and there will be some free time to hike around and explore the island. Thursday night will be the student performance  - performance is optional but is a great chance to sing something that you learned over the week.

Friday Aug 30th - we will finish up with breakfast, morning classes and last shared lunch before people head off to our water taxis, taking us back to the mainland.

Our daily schedule will include 3 meals, a group sing/vocal warm-up, 4 classes, listening sessions, jams, campfires, swimming and hanging out! A more detailed schedule is coming soon but classes include - Trios, lots of Duet Singing, Primitive Baptist, Songwriting, Carter Family, Singing Skills Fundamentals, Lead Singing and more!


Accommodations, Venue and Contact

SongRoots – Summer Camp Accommodations

There are various options for accommodations at Camp Fircom.

1. Tenting! You have the option of bringing your own tent and setting up your home for the week in some of the gorgeous camp sites at Camp Fircom. There are communal washrooms for tenters and cabin sleepers. Attending with the tenting option costs $1000 + GST.




2. Canvas Tents - Camp Fircom provides 4 large Canvas tents. These can be shared by 3-4 people and mattresses are provided  - all you need to bring is your own sleeping bag and pillow. Attending with the tenting option costs $1000 + GST.



3. Craigcroft – there is a choice of shared or single rooms (limited) in Craigcroft. Craigcroft is a 2 storey dorm-style residence with 12 rooms and a large common room. There are two bathrooms with additional washrooms located in the dining hall which is right next door. You can bring your own bedding or you can pay an extra $20 to have it supplied for you. There is an additional cost to stay in Craigcroft of $100 each for a double room and $200 for a single room. ($1100 + GST for double occupancy or $1200 + GST for single occupancy)

4. Cottage - there are 4 rooms available in the Cottage, which is a gorgeous 6 bedroom luxury cabin that has a fully equipped kitchen, two beautiful sitting areas and front porch that overlooks the water. There is an additional cost of $300 per room. There is room for one couple and the other rooms have two single beds.


FOOD at Fircom!

Fircom focuses on healthy, delicious homemade meals to ensure that you are satisfied and feeling great during your time at camp. Our chef and farmer work together to grow beautiful, abundant harvests in our 1.5 acres organic garden. Much of the produce from the Farm ends up in beautiful meals or in the delicious and colorful salad bar served at each lunch and dinner.


Camp Fircom is endeavouring to be as sustainable as possible and tread lightly on the earth. One of the ways they are doing this is by trying to cut back on food waste. The main thought is 'take what you need, and eat what you take' - there is going to be plenty of food for second helpings so please don't be shy if you didn't get enough food the first time. 2nd helpings are available!

Everyone arrive at Horseshoe Bay in the morning   on Monday August 31st to register. We will be going over in several different water taxis - we can only load one at a time, so it does take a little while to get the whole group over there. Be patient and it should all run smoothly - enjoy the beautiful ride!

We have to make special arrangements for the water taxis on Monday morning and those costs are included in your ticket. If you miss the water taxi, you will be responsible for getting yourself to the island (through Cormorant Marine Water Taxi) and will have to cover that cost. Some people have asked about special water taxi departure times - I am unable to organize anything extra outside of our scheduled times.


Where to meet? Where to park?

 Meet at the large park in Horseshoe Bay (across the street from Starbucks - look for big playground). There you will receive your welcome package and be organized into different water taxis. The Water Taxi Loading area is at the end of the Government Dock in Horseshoe Bay, which is to the East of the Boathouse Restaurant. Please do not go to the Water Taxi office, as they are not responsible for the check-in of our campers.

Parking! - there are various lots at Horseshoe Bay. I would suggest carpooling. The lots closest to the terminal cost about $20/day. There is a cheaper lot up the hill. The best option is getting dropped off if possible!

LIONS OVERFLOW PARKING Located at 6318 Marine drive, West Vancouver Across from the 2nd hole of Geneagles Golf Club, just south of Geneagles Elementary School

**We will be arriving and leaving at low tide which means that the ramp to get to the boat is kind of steep!  The trip to and from Fircom is a little arduous. It does include carrying your luggage, walking up and down steep loading ramps and then walking up a hill on Gambier up to Camp Fircom. There is a truck that will take our luggage and could drive people with mobility problems. We will have designated helpers and lifters are all there to help each other.

3. Leaving on Friday

The boats start leaving Fircom at 1:30 on Friday. We can only load one water taxi at a time so I am unable to tell anyone exactly when they will get back to HSB. It could be as early at 2:15 or you could be on the last water taxi and not get back until about 3:30 or so.

See below for important info and helpful tips!


If you have any questions, you can contact Karla Mundy  - email karla @