Instructor Bios

Tyler HughesTyler Hughes

Award winning old time musician and Big Stone Gap native, Tyler Hughes has been performing and preserving the musical traditions of central Appalachia since his teenage years. His banjo tunes and songs have been heard on stages close to home and internationally. He has appeared on Jazz at the Lincoln Center, the historic Carter Family Fold, and recently made his debut on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. His latest recording, “When the Light Shines Again” paints a musical timeline of coal mining’s history in the surrounding mountains. When he’s not performing or teaching, Tyler can be found calling square dances at music camps, country stores, and community gatherings.

Class: Beginning Clawhammer Banjo

Todd MeadeTodd Meade

Todd Meade is an old time and bluegrass fiddler, carrying on the musical heritage of the Big Moccasin area of Scott Co. Virginia.  He is the Great Grandson of fiddler Uncle Charlie Osborne.  Todd has played fiddle and upright bass for a number of bands, the Twin Springs Bluegrass Band,  Dr. Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys, ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band, and the Carolina Road Bluegrass Band.  In 2008 at the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music, America’s 25th Annual National Convention, he was nominated for Bass Fiddle Performer of the Year.  He has performed abroad, in almost every state, and on many major stages like, Mountain Stage and the Grand Ole’ Opry.  He has appeared on several recordings including the Grammy nominated “Ralph Stanley – A Distant Land To Roam, a Tribute to the Carter Family.” Todd’s true passion is teaching and passing along our region’s Appalachian musical traditions.  In 2002 Todd’s mentor, Sue Ella Boatwrite-Wells, saw this passion and invited him to  serve as an adjunct music instructor at Mountain Empire Community College where he has taught traditional music classes for 20 plus years.  In 2005 he helped start the Mountain Music School at the college that is still going strong today.

Class: Advanced Fiddle

Stephanie DuckworthStephanie Duckworth

Stephanie Duckworth is a multi-instrumentalist and singer, with a background steeped in old-time and country music. She has taught autoharp, voice, and bass at the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music at Morehead State University as well as autoharp, bass, and traditional dance workshops in the Southeast US as well as the United Kingdom. She has extensive performance experience throughout her career as a founding member of the Empty Bottle String Band as well as The Local Honeys, The East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old-time and Country Music studies program, the Possum Queens, and her country duo Rose and Vine. Stephanie brings a fresh perspective to traditional tunes with her innovative approach and unwavering dedication to traditional music. Stephanie continues to elevate the status of the autoharp and inspire fellow musicians around the world.

Class: Autoharp

Roger BullockRoger Bullock

Roger Bullock plays guitar, bass, banjo and mandolin.  He performs and records with Appalachian singer-songwriter Richard Phillips and Friends and with Timeless Strings from southwest Virginia and performs with the Jefferson Street String Band in the DC area.  Roger teaches guitar annually at Mountain Empire Community College’s Mountain Music School in Big Stone Gap, VA.  Guitar World magazine noted his 1960’s band Velvet Haze was significant to the heavy metal genre.  For 15 years starting in 1999, Roger was rhythm guitarist and later bassist for Northern Virginia based The Sock Monkeys.   Roger is a retired program manager executive from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Class: Intermediate Guitar

Richard PhillipRichard Phillips

Richard Phillips has been pleasing audiences for years with acoustic blues and original music. His original music ranges from crowd pleasers such as “Back When I Was Cool” and “Pizza Time on the Ponderosa” to love songs and exploring the foibles of the human condition. He has recorded ten studio CDs, nine of which feature his original songs. His latest recording is “Some Place to Fall.” He has performed at Natural Tunnel’s Lighting of the Tunnel and its Candlelight Series as well as the Southwest Virginia’s Lunch on the Lawn. He has played at Homecraft Days for the past 30 years.  He has played in Texas, Indiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and continues to perform regularly at various events, venues, and festivals in Virginia and surrounding states and continues to perform regularly with his bands “Richard Phillips and Friends” and “The Timeless Strings Band.”

Richard also teaches intermediate/advanced guitar and blues workshops each summer at the Mountain Music School hosted by Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. You can read more and listen to his music at his web site: RichardPhillipsMusic.Com.

Class: Intermediate Guitar

Martha SpencerMartha Spencer

Martha Spencer is a singer-songwriter, mountain musician and dancer from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She grew up in the musical Spencer family and learned to play several instruments (guitar, fiddle, banjo, bass, dulcimer, mandolin) and flatfoot/clog. She performs and has recorded with various groups and has been involved with several roots music projects. She has played shows, festivals and led workshops across the US, Australia, UK, Canada, and Europe. Martha’s first solo album 2018 and latest release “Wonderland” in 2022 have been featured in articles in Rolling Stone Country, No Depression, Holler, Wide Open Country, Bluegrass Situation, Americana Highways, PopMatters and more.

Class: Advanced Guitar

Madison DenhardtMadison Denhardt

Madison Denhardt started her musical journey at a young age, growing up with a few private guitar lessons and attending Mountain Music School. She has been playing guitar since she was six years old, and teaching music since age fourteen. She holds an Old-Time Music certification and associate’s degree in general education. Through her musical and teaching journey, she has several years of experience working with children and adults alike. Some honorable mentions of her work include teaching with JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians) camp days in Galax, VA and also in Mars Hill, NC; Mountain Music School in BSG, VA; JAM programs in Wise County + Virtual; teaching privately for the past few years; and is current adjunct faculty with MECC music classes. She is also the owner and private instructor at her music shop, Mac Music.

Madison also holds some musical competition accomplishments in songwriting, mandolin, and guitar. Currently, she is the leader of her family band, The Childress Sisters, and is half of her duo band, Honeysuckle Dream.

Class: Intermediate Mandolin

Julie Shepherd-PowellJulie Shepherd-Powell

Julie Shepherd-Powell is an assistant professor of Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University. She is an accomplished traditional Appalachian musician and dancer, winning numerous awards for her flatfoot dancing and performing and teaching across the globe. Julie plays clawhammer banjo with the Kraut Creek Ramblers, the premier stringband of the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State.

Class: Intermediate Clawhammer Banjo

Joey O_QuinnJoey O’Quinn

Joey O’Quinn has been teaching guitar with the Junior Appalachian Music program and the MECC Mountain Music School for more than ten years and enjoys sharing his love of mountain music with friends and students. He performs regularly with a local string band, the Hillbilly Hippies, and is a member of the house band each summer at The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Outdoor Drama in Big Stone Gap.

Class: Beginning Guitar

Jeff Dickenson

Jeff Dickenson is a 2016 Mountain Empire Community College graduate with a Career Studies Certificate in Old Time Music.  He has served as a teaching assistant and beginning mandolin instructor at Mountain Music School for several years. He is currently an Adjunct Faculty member at Mountain Empire Community College, teaching beginning rhythm guitar, beginning mandolin and intermediate mandolin.

Class: Beginning Mandolin

Hasee CiaccioHaselden Ciaccio

Haselden Ciaccio-Haselden (Hasee / “HAY-zee”) Ciaccio (“see-AH-ko”) [she/they] is a performer, maker, and educator residing in Cove Creek, NC. Born and raised on the Low Country coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, she made her way to the Mountain South in 2010 to study traditional Appalachian music and culture at East Tennessee State University. Hasee drives the upright bass with honed skill and conviction well beyond her years, moving listeners at festivals, intimate venues, and concert halls alike. In recent years, she has been touring with the timeless and legendary act Laurie Lewis and The Right Hands since 2018. Throughout Hasee’s years as a performer, she has shared the stage with artists among the likes of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury, Molly Tuttle, Dale Ann Bradley, and David Grisman, playing at such notable venues as New York City’s Lincoln Center, PBS’s Song of the Mountains, WSM’s Grand Ole Opry and San Francisco’s “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.” Her debut album “HAY” was released in Fall of 2018, featuring traditional stringband music and top performers of the Old-Time realm. While off tour, you might find her caning chairs, canning preserves, teaching lessons online, or sitting on the porch at her home in Western North Carolina.

Class: String Band

Cori JamesCori James

Cori JAmes is the owner of Mountain Melody School of Music, a private music school in Kingsport, Tennessee dedicated to teaching old time, bluegrass, and classical music lessons. She attended East Tennessee State University for music education and has been teaching private lessons for fifteen plus years. Growing up around old time Appalachian music, she was inspired to start taking fiddle lessons at the age of eight. Her great grandfather, Joe Good, gave her one of her first fiddles from his collection. While studying under teacher Scott Gould, she decided to take her lessons further and joined her school orchestra. Classical music and her time in orchestra fueled her desire to teach. Cori began teaching fiddle at Mountain Music School in 2010. She has taught beginner, intermediate, and advanced fiddle as well as teaching numerous workshops over the years.

Class: Intermediate Fiddle

Anne LoughAnne Lough

Anne Lough is an internationally known traditional musician, highly acclaimed for her excellence as a performer and educator. Anne has a Music Education Degree from Murray State University, Murray, Ky and a Master of Music Education Degree from Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC and has taught at major dulcimer festivals and workshops  throughout the country, in Ireland, the British Isles and Belgium. Dedicated to the preservation of traditional music, dance, stories and folklore, she now devotes her time to festivals, Road Scholar classes, workshops, performances and school residencies. Her skill on the autoharp, mountain and hammered dulcimers as well as her love of the music bring a rare and unique quality to every performance.

Class: Lap Dulcimer

Alyssa ShellAlyssa Shell

Alyssa Shell is the choir director/music teacher at L.F.Addington Middle School and Central High School in Wise, Virginia. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Music and will have her M.Ed by August. Alyssa has been singing since she was young and has performed in various choral events as well as solo performances; the most memorable being singing at Carnegie Hall in NYC. This is her 4th year teaching at Mountain Music School. Alyssa loves getting to share her passion for music and work with new singers.

Class: Singing


Corbin HayslettCorbin Hayslett

Traditional music has been the mainstay of Crobin’s life from his earliest memories. His Dad taught him to love and sing like The Stanley Brothers while he was still in a car seat and his mom sat him on the front-row pew during choir rehearsals. The music of Virginia’s mountains has been passed down in Corbin’s family for nine generations. He has had the honor of playing mountain music in three hemispheres and on stages ranging from Lay’s Hardware to the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. He is honored to share his love of mountain music at Mountain Empire Community College.

Class: Bluegrass Banjo

Danny Brassfield

Danny BrassfieldDanny Brassfield is a musician, singer and dancer who loves to perform, play the dobro and share his passion for music. He has been playing since 1984, is self-taught and enjoys putting his own “spin” on songs. Danny has played with several local groups,as well as groups from Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina and enjoys participating in local jams. He has performed at several venues like WDVX Blue Plate Special, Renfro Valley, Ralph Stanley Bluegrass Festival, TV and radio. Danny wanted to expand his musical interests and enrolled in beginning mandolin at MECC.  He is pleased to be able to pass his knowledge of the dobro on, especially to young people, and encourage their passion for this unique instrument.

Class: Dobro