Appalachian State University Summer Music Educator's Institute

Mary has taught numerous music educators how to utilize the mountain dulcimer, guitar, and ukulele in their classrooms for over two decades at this workshop. Teachers leave her classes knowing how to play these instruments, find grant funds to equip their classrooms, and with essential written and online resources. She has also organized musicians and a caller to provide a country dance experience for event participants each year.

ASU Dulcimer Workshop

Mary taught at this popular workshop for nearly two decades. Her specialty was teaching mountain dulcimer to beginner and intermediate levels. She conducted special sessions presenting shape-note hymns arranged for mountain dulcimer and rhythmic strumming in detail. Several of her students are now prominent mountain dulcimer teachers continuing to share the beauty of this instrument.

Northeast Dulcimer Symposium

Mary taught hammered dulcimer students at this unique workshop held in the Adirondacks at Blue Mountain Lake. She presented special sessions on traditional Appalachian tunes for the mountain dulcimer and led shape-note singing gatherings. She collaborated with other teachers to provide a faculty performance for the students and local community.

Crooked Road Dulcimer Workshop

Mary created and taught original arrangements for the mountain dulcimer taken from the singing and playing of Virginia traditional singers and instrumentalists at this workshop. She conducted classes in playing rounds and shape-note hymns on the dulcimer as well as performed at the faculty concert.

Concerts and Events

Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife-1987- Washington, DC

Mary was a folklife presentor (an intermediary between culture bearers and the audience) as well as a singer at this premier folklife event. She presented traditional musicians, foodways demonstrations, and interpreted a burley tobacco demonstration at this two week long event. Her skills as a presenter of traditional foodways placed her as an interpreter of her own culture at this event.

Bays Mountain Dulcimer Society, Kingsport, TN

Mary provided an afternoon mountain dulcimer workshop for this group followed by an evening concert. This is one of her favorite formats. During the afternoon students honed their personal mountain dulcimer skills and at the concert Mary presented a range of music from ballads and folksongs to shape-note hymns. Listeners enjoyed her singing whether acapella or accompanied by various instruments. Her stories interspersed the evening program, providing a deeper glimpse of the people and the culture that the music comes from.

Berea Folk Festival, Kentucky - 2001

Mary and Cecil Gurganus teamed up at this event to support and encourage 90 year old Ora Watson, a traditional singer and multi-instrumentalist. Women fiddlers of this era were rare and Ora was a combination traditional ballad singer, fiddler, banjoist, and guitarist. Mary began playing with Ora in her early twenties forging musical and friendship bonds that were not broken until Ora's death at age 96. Mary and Ora were members Cackling Hens, an all-female string band, along with Amy Michaels. This unique group performed at many events and fiddler's conventions. All the women band members were flatfoot dancers as well as instrumentalists and they brought the house down more than a few times with their spirited performances! The Berea Folk Festival performace was recorded when Ora was ninety years old and can be seen at https://youtu.be/ftr1pnv-UuQ

Joe Shannon Mountain Home Music Show, Boone NC

Mary served as a regular on this beloved music performance series for over a decade. She played piano for the gathering time, led sing-a-longs, provided solo performances, appeared with Ora Watson and the Laurel Creek String Band, and performed in a women's Celtic band. Mary is currently on the Board of Directors and is assisting with the Virtual Performance Series (2020). She is creating online performances that are presented by JSMHM.


Lee Smith & Sharon McCrumb

Mary has presented public programs with both of these prominent Appalachian authors. Each author read selections from their novels during the programs. Mary contributed ballads and folksongs for the performance with Sharon McCrumb. The Laurel Creek Stringband, of which she was a member, collaborated with Lee Smith for a joint performance.

Orville Hicks & Diane Hackworth

Mary loves performing with storytellers and Orville and Diane are two of the best. Orville is a marvelous and authentic teller of the Jack Tales. Diane is a storyteller with a range of stories to captivate all ages. Mary and Orville are both Blue Ridge National Heritage artists while Dianne is a regular at the Jonesborough Storytelling Festival, a pinnacle event for her profession. Dianne and Mary designed a grant funded residency for the public schools. Their fourth grade students presented a culminanting concert filled with the original songs that Dianne and Mary assisted them in writing.

Charlotte Ross

Charlotte Ross has been both a mentor and frequent collaborator with Mary over four decades. Charlotte is a Blue Ridge National Heritage artist plus a folklorist. Charlotte and Mary have performed numerous times at the Appalachian Cultural Museum and for the national Quaker annual meeting. Charlotte and Mary are both Blue Ridge National Heritage Artists.

Cecil Gurganus

Mary and Cecil have been musical partners for three decades. Cecil is a traditional fiddler, clawhammer banjo player, fine guitarist, and singer. Together these two have performed at the Berea Folk Festival, for the Joe Shannon Mountain Home Music show, for innumberable traditional dances, and weddings. They have provided educational programs of Appalachian music, played traditional Appalachian dance music as a duo or in the Laurel Creek String Band, and have been significant teachers in the traditional music community. Best of all, there is a sweet friendship there that can't be missed during a performance!

private and group lessons

Mary has been teaching private lessons since the age of 18. She has taught in elementary and high school settings, community college and university programs, and at museums. Recently she incorporated online teaching to her outreach.

Mary has taught ages five to ninety-five.

Instrumental skills are her strength. Piano, guitar, mountain dulcimer, and hammered dulcimer have been Mary's customary instruments to teach, though she has taught a plethora of others.

Mary has also been teaching special topics such as Carter style guitar, Travis picking, finger picking on guitar and mountain dulcimer, basic and intermediate hammered dulcimer skills at workshops and festivals.


Mary has been providing musical entertainment for weddings for five decades. Hammered dulcimer is her most popular, mountain dulcimer, piano, guitar, and flute are all popular as well.

Mary has played all sizes of weddings, from intimate gatherings to large extravaganzas. Locations have ranged from waterfalls and cliffsides to historic homes and upscale resorts.