Ox in the Mud Studio

Ox in the Mud Studio (named after a fiddle tune) began in 2013 in Greenbrier County, WV as an idea to help promote traditional music among young students who were interested in learning a stringed instrument. The studio offers afternoon/evening classes for fiddle, clawhammer banjo, guitar, and occasionally mandolin. Fiddle and banjo tunes, folk songs, blues, as well as fingerstyle and backing guitar are our main concentrations respectively. Our approach is to give students the tools they need for constructive musicianship and self-expression while exploring and promoting musical and cultural heritage here in our great state of West Virginia.

Dennis Ott – Instructor

Dennis Ott

Dennis Ott is a native West Virginian who has played music most of his life. His maternal grandmother, Jenny Kelly, sang and played many instruments and gave music to her whole family. Dennis learned guitar at an early age and later taught himself how to play the clawhammer (fretless) banjo. In his twenties he spent lots of time playing music at an actual Speak-Easy in Jefferson County where he really began honing in on the sounds of traditional music. His biggest interest in fiddle came after hearing West Virginia fiddler Dave Bing, with whom he eventually spent several years studying fiddle tunes.

Dennis has performed with the Hell for Certain Stringband and the Allegheny Hellbenders. Beyond the studio he offers adult classes at Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg, WV as well as children’s classes at Carnegie Kid’s College. He is also a registered instructor with the Monroe Arts Alliance of Monroe County, WV where he has taught young students receiving scholarships. Dennis continues his study of traditional music and performs when available.

About the studio and our ideas:
Ox in the Mud Studio was formed in 2013. The curious name is the title of a fiddle tune I learned from a recording of one of my favorite musicians and local legend Jimmy Costa. It also comically represents at times what learning music can make you feel like!
I offer private lessons for fiddle, claw hammer banjo, guitar, and sometimes mandolin. For a monthly tuition students receive one, thirty minute class every week (evening classes.)
 I teach privately at my home and at the Greenbrier Episcopal School. Gretchen and Birch Graves and the entire staff at GES are very accommodating and I greatly appreciate what they have done for me and their appreciation for music and art in the community.
I have never advertised. This sounds like its not the brightest idea, but we have a great little secret and fortunately for me, by sheer coincidence we end up meeting and teaching some of the area’s finest families in my opinion. I’ve always been amazed at how that has come about.
In class we sit “knee to knee” and explore traditional music in the traditional way. We study and learn music much like one would learn speech. You will catch me talking about the ‘language of music’ often. This is an idea that comes from John Harford (changed to Hartford) of Missouri who actually performed several times in Ronceverte. We take small musical phrases and build them into bigger ones. We then try to play them like we would speak or breathe or walk: uniformly, evenly, non-erratically, etc.!!! In class we rely on our memory and our hearing to learn and perform. This all comes without the use of written music.
As far as the language of music is concerned, I want my students to be able to “say” what they choose. I am not a purist when it comes to traditional music; I take privileges and try to personalize the tunes. Improvising is something we strive to do while maintaining the respect of the tune and its cultural DNA. The reason we love the musicians we do, is partly because they don’t sound like anyone else. It is good to imitate as you learn but I insist that students strive to personalize. (With current technology, I am not on a mission to preserve these old tunes. There are many people who have done this already and of course the internet is now a great archive. I think we dont need to worry about these ideas so much anymore.)
We want to fill the students ‘toolbox’ with as much as possible in order for them to musically do what they want when approaching their study and instrument. Learning an instrument can be a great example of how to approach and learn many things in life, especially for young people. There are many ways and many schools for music, and this is simply ours.
The area has many great learning opportunities for traditional music like Allegheny Echoes or the Augusta Heritage Center on the Campus of D&E. We suggest that our students while studying year round at Ox in the Mud try one of these well-established and much enjoyed outlets to further their music studies. Ox in the Mud hopes to simply be another outlet that provides an opportunity to learn traditional music.
Everywhere in the world traditional music is or was ultimately born of community I think, and that is something that separates it from many forms of music. This adds to its uniqueness and is what often insures its continuation and renewal/revival. I also think unfortunately we tend to see this revival of all things traditional when ‘times are tough’ for common people.

Comments are closed.