So you want to be a caller or play music for contra dances

Contra dancing is a participatory activity. For some, participating includes calling dancing and/or playing for dances. Cultivating the arts of playing and calling for your local community has a long history in contra dance and is integral to the Old Farmers Ball Mission. The Old Farmers Ball supports several opportunities for you to develop your calling or playing abilities and to give you a chance to put those skills into practice.Play or call the Thursday Night Dance!

• Open Calling Nights are featured at the Thursday Night Dance several times per year, usually when there is a 5th Thursday in the month.   Anyone who would like to call a dance is welcome to participate.  An experienced caller is hired to facilitate the calling and be on hand should you need any help while you are calling a dance. If you would like to call on an Open Calling Night, simply show up at the dance and talk to the facilitator about calling a dance or two that evening.

• Open Band Nights are featured at the Thursday Night Dance 4-6 times per year, usually every other month or so. Anyone who would like to try playing for a contra dance is welcome to participate. Different experienced contra dance musicians – usually a melody and rhythm player – are hired to lead open band. Using tune suggestions from participants, band leaders select tunes to play from the common contra dance music repertoire.  Click here to learn more about what you can expect if you participate in the OFB Open Band.

Play on Wednesdays with the Asheville Community Band!

• The Front Orchestra, Asheville’s Community Band, invites anyone who would like to practice playing contra dance tunes as part of a regular ensemble that plays for regular contra dances in the region and beyond.  Led by fiddler Laura Light, the band rehearses once a week on Wednesdays from 7 to 9 pm at various locations. The Asheville Community Band plays for at least two Thursday Night Contra Dances each year. Click here to find the band Set List and here to find the band Tune List. Click here to subscribe to the Community band mailing list where you can learn more and keep up to date on band rehearsals, band gigs and more. 

Play or Call on Sundays at the Harvest House!
• The Callers Collective at the Harvest House hosts a gathering for callers on occasional first Sundays of the month from 6-8 pm. ; Click here to learn more about the Callers Collective.

• The Family Dance at the Harvest House features an open band every second Sunday of the month from 3 to 5 pm. Led by fiddler Pearl Shirley, the open band welcomes anyone who would like to play traditional dance and play party tunes.  Click here to learn more about the Family Dance Open Band

• The Community Waltz at the Harvest House features an open band every third Sunday of the month from 7 to 9 pm.  Led by flute player Suzanne Hosch, the open band welcomes anyone who would like to play traditional and modern waltzes.

• The Roots Contra Jam at the Harvest House hosts a gathering of musicians who love to play traditional dance music every fourth Sunday of the month from 7 to 9 pm.  Led by fiddler Laura Lengnick, the jam welcomes musicians who want to trade dance playing tips and share tunes from the social dance traditions of New England, Canada, Scotland, Ireland and Appalachia.  Beginners are welcome to participate, but this jam is for musicians who can play at dance tempos. Listeners are welcome! Click here to learn more about the Roots Contra Jam.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Click Page for Roots Contra Jam 
A jam session is a relatively informal musical event, process, or activity where musicians, typically instrumentalists, play melodies and improvise backup on tunes, songs and chord progressions. To “jam” is to improvise music without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements. The phrase “jam session” may have come about in the 1920s when white and black jazz musicians would congregate after their regular paying gigs.  Clapping on the one and the three was called “jammin’ the beat” so these sessions became known as “jam sessions.” Asheville is home to jam sessions focused on many different styles of music – Irish, Oldtime, Bluegrass, Swing and Jazz to name a few.  Roots Contra Jam puts a focus on the traditional fiddle tunes that accompany New England contra dancing.  These tunes are part of the North Atlantic fiddling tradition. You can learn more about this tradition at  For More Information about Roots Contra Jam contact Laura Lengnick at