Oldtone and Hancock Shaker Village present:

2nd Annual Northeast Fiddlers' Convention

at Hancock Shaker Village

1843 W. Housatonic Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201 

w/ the Down hill Strugglers & John Cohen

June 14-16, 2019

Camping available this year
Film Screening w/ John Cohen Friday Night

Band and Instruments Contests

Saturday Square Dance

w/ music from The Down Hill Strugglers

Gospel Performance Sunday

  tickets |  where to stay


Oldtone and Hancock Shaker Village are hosting a gathering in the Berkshires for Old-time enthusiasts.The annual Northeast Fiddlers’ Convention is inspired by the great Southern old-time music conventions.  Participants are invited to jam, compete, learn, eat, dance and celebrate together in an atmosphere of participation. We are dedicated to the preservation of the rich old-time music culture, and are honored to be able to host this Northeastern U.S. event.    

This year’s convention features instrument and historical workshops with The Down Hill Strugglers, John Cohen, and Erika Ludwig of Berkshire Strings.  In addition the traditional all day pickin’ there will be instrument and band contests, film screening, a gospel brunch, and a square dance with live music from the Down Hill Strugglers.  Historic demonstrations from Hancock Shaker Village, Shaker exhibits are also available throughout this living museum.

ALL DAY PICKIN’ ENCOURAGED!  Participation is Preservation!

We will have chairs in nooks and crannies throughout the site for you and your friends to hang out and jam.  Beer, beverages, and local food available all day provided by the Hancock Shaker Beer & Wine Bar, Sky View Farm. No outside food and beverages are permitted at this event.


This year we are happy to invite attendees to camp with us at the Hancock Shaker Village. RVs, Car & Tent camping are welcome. This will be festival field camping, with no hook-ups or services other than water and bathrooms. More information and a separate "Camping Ticket” will be available shortly!

Campers are welcome to arrive on the grounds as early at 1pm on Friday and stay Friday and Saturday nights. The Village and the campground will be closed by 4pm on Sunday. We look forward to pickin’ with you all weekend at Hancock Shaker Village!



1 PM    Campground opens (jamming starts when you do, the village opens at 10 AM)

6 PM  
Bar opens

8 PM  
Film screening (Musical Holdouts and Post Industrial Fiddle) and Q&A w/ John Cohen


10 AM Village opens

11 AM Guitar (Walker Shephard) and banjo (Eli Smith) workshops (specifics TBA)

Noon Lunch

1 PM Fiddle (Jackson Lynch), beginning fiddle (Erika Ludwig) and storytelling (John Cohen) workshops (specifics TBA)

2-5 PM Instrument contests (fiddle, banjo, dobro, flatpick guitar, mandolin)

6 PM Band contest

8 PM-Midnight The Down Hill Strugglers w/ John Cohen performance, contest results announced, and Square Dance (w/ Down Hill Strugglers)


9-11 AM Brunch available

11 AM Gospel Music

TBA Curator led tour of Jeffrey Gaskills’ While Mighty Thunders Roll: Popular Artists Sing the Shakers

4 PM Village and Campground Close

Schedule subject to change


Contestant sign-up is REQUIRED!   
Space is limited, and walk-ins are not guaranteed a contestant spot.
Fill out the form below or email to register for the contests.


Judged Contests for the following categories*:

Fiddle  /  Banjo   /  Guitar  /  Mandolin / Dobro / Band


1st Prize Band Contest: $200 cash

Performance set at 2020 N.E. Fidders’ Convention

Camping Passes for the band at the 2019 Oldtone Roots Music Festival

Tickets for band to the 2020 N.E. Fiddlers’ Convention

Merch Bag

2nd Prize Band Contest:
$100 CASH!

Tickets for band to the 2020 N.E. Fiddlers’ Convention

Merch Bag


1st PRIZE: $100 cash!

1 Full Camping ticket to the 2019 Oldtone Roots Music Festival
1 ticket to the 2020 N.E. Fiddlers’ Convention
Merch Bag

2nd PRIZE: $25 CASH!
A ticket to the 2020 N.E. Fiddlers’ Convention
Fiddlers’ Merch Bag

3rd-PRIZE: Merch Bag!

The General Rules:  

Two song maximum per contestant in a category
Songs can be no longer that 3 minutes each
No talking into the microphone

Only one accompanying rhythm instrument is permitted and one mic only
Contestants may sign up for more than one category. However, contestants in the band contest may only perform in ONE Band.
Only ticket holders and volunteers can participate
Contestant must show respect to their fellow contestants, the judges, the MC, and the venue!


Name *
Have A Ticket?



Genre differences such as Old Time and Bluegrass are judged together in a single category.
Contests start at 5pm in this order: dobro, mandolin, guitar, banjo and then fiddle.
If you already have an Oldtone Fest ticket, you may give your winning ticket to someone.
*If we do not receive the required quota of contestants per instrument category, a category may be cancelled up to four days prior to the event.  Contestants will be emailed about any changes to the contests.

For any questions please email:


The NE Fiddlers’ Convention will feature workshops by Eli Smith, Jackson Lynch, Walker Shephard, John Cohen, and Erika Ludwig.  Hands-on, all skill-levels included in fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and storytelling will be featured throughout the Shaker Village campus.  Workshops will take place rain or shine in the beautiful historic buildings. We anticipate workshops to be small in size and intimate, which is a good opportunity for engagement with the leaders. No sign-ups are necessary for the workshops, and reservations are not accepted.



Banjo - Eli Smith

Fiddle - Jackson Lynch

Guitar - Walker Shepard

Storytelling - John Cohen

Beginning fiddle (one year of experience required) - Erika Ludwig




The Down Hill Strugglers** is an old time string band based simultaneously out of Kentucky, Louisiana and New York. They have released an album on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and are featured on the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis produced by T-Bone Burnett. The Down Hill Strugglers band formed while hanging out at the home of their mutual friend Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders, where they also met friend and mentor John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers.

By carrying the music of the old rural America forward, The Down Hill Strugglers are extending the legacy of the New Lost City Ramblers by bringing archaic sounds into the present, and challenge audiences reject a dystopian future animated by disco beats and their ilk.

The Greek legend of Sisyphus is: "Sisyphus (/ˈsɪsɪfəs/;[1] Greek: Σίσυφος, Sísyphos) was a king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth) punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever."  The Down Hill Strugglers are the opposite, desperately struggling to keep a huge boulder from rolling down a hill.

The Down Hill Strugglers are:
Walker Shepard - fiddle, banjo, guitar, harmonica, voice
Jackson Lynch - fiddle, banjo, guitar, voice
Eli Smith - banjo, guitar, mandolin, harmonica, Jews harp, pump organ, voice
This weekend they are joined by John Cohen - banjo, guitar, mandolin, voice, brain

Some Quotes About the Band:

“The Down Hill Strugglers are, to my ears, the very best interpreters of traditional material presently going.”

- Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker

"Many string bands have the tunes but not the chops. Some have chops and tunes, but can't achieve lift-off, marching along politely like so many historical reenactors. But the Down Hill Strugglers hit the trifecta, pulling their bows deftly across the best numbers in the old-time songbook with more grit and style than just about any group fiddling away today." 

- Nathan Salsburg, Curator, Alan Lomax Archive.

“A really excellent stringband! They make this old music alive and present.”
- Bob Fass, WBAI 99.5fm New York.

“Here’s three of my favorite people to play and sing with ever, kicking musical ass all over the landscape. If you like your trad/roots benter and hotter than normal, you’ll love this!”
- Peter Stampfel, Holy Modal Rounders and Fugs.

Erika Ludwig

"Ms. Erika", founder of Berkshire Strings and Fiddling Femmes, is a teacher, director and promoter. Her studio in South Egremont, MA, provides private lessons and classes, hosts the Fiddling Femmes: Group Lessons for Women, and the Berkshire Strings Jam Sessions. The Studio mission of "Instruction and Inspiration" brings musical artists to the area for workshops and concerts. Erika plays violin, viola, recorder, piano, mandolin and guitar, composes songs and performs on rare occasion. Berkshire Summer Strings is in it's 5th year, celebrating of a growing community of youth musicians, devoted adult student groups and a dedicated, talented staff.



Tickets on sale here

 Tickets cover entry to Hancock Shaker Village galleries and buildings and participation in all workshops, round stone barn jam, contests, performances and dances while on site. Also full access to the grounds, 20 historic buildings, and hiking trails at Hancock Shaker Village,  a 750-acre property dating back to 1790.  Free Hancock Shaker Village demonstrations available from 10-4 will include: an introduction to the Shakers talk, a farm and garden tour, a water turbine demonstration, a Shaker music and dance demonstration, a tour of the historic round stone barn and a medicinal herb garden talk.

All Access (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday): $70 advance/$75 after June 1

Friday Film Screening (8 PM- 11PM):  $10 advance/$15 after June 1

Saturday all day (10 AM - Midnight): $45 advance/$50 after June 1

Saturday evening concert and dance only (8 PM - Midnight): $20 advance/$25 after June 1

Sunday (10 AM - 4 PM ): $30 advance/$35 after June 1

Camping tickets to be sold separately, prices TBA


12 and under free

1st annual ne Fiddlers’ contest winners

Congratulations to the 2018 NEFC Contest Winners! 

1) Ambrose Verdibella,
2) Sarah Michel, Southhampton, MA, 
3) Patrick Peters, New Lebanon, NY, 

1) G Rockwell, Bridgeport, CT, 
2) Norman Plankey, Oxford, CT,
3) Mat Cherkus, Collinsville, CT

1) John Benjamin, Brattleboro, VT,
2) Ambrose Verdibello
3) Norman Plankey, Oxford, CT,

1) Maggie Shar, Easthampton, MA,
2) G Rockwell, Bridgeport, CT, 
3) Andy Lundeen, Cornwall Bridge, CT,