Watermelon Pickers’ Workshop

Thursday, September 5

Improve your playing and learn to jam!

Fiddle workshop participants at River and Roots seated in a circle playing together.

Make the most of your Thursday Early Entry ticket by joining the Watermelon Pickers’ Workshop. Get started on an instrument, pick up new tunes and skills, learn to jam, and take your playing to the next level! With something for beginners to advanced pickers, you’ll be ready for campfire jams and even the band contest before you know it!

Workshop participants will need a Thursday Early Entry Ticket and a Workshop Ticket to participate. Kids 12 and under are free with a participating adult.


Settle in and set up camp on Thursday, September 5. Then head over to the Pick-nic shelter to join the fun! Workshops begin at noon.

Two women playing mandolins at their campsite

12:00 – 2:00: Instrument-specific workshops for banjo, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin. There will be something new to learn, whether you are a beginner or an advanced picker!

2:15 – 3:00: Optional vocal workshop. Improve your harmony singing, pick up a new tune, and become confident when singing in a group. Not a singer? Keep practicing your instrument, enjoy teacher Q&A, or pick some tunes with other workshop participants.

3:15 – 5:00: Join the group and learn to jam! Instrument groups will come together for a jam. Share the tunes and skills you learned throughout the day and get ready to pick around the campfire or join the band contest on Saturday! Depending on your level, you can join an advanced group, or get your feet wet at a slow jam. Move from group to group to find the best fit!

5:15 – 6:00: Potluck dinner and performance by the Shade Tree Collective band. Enjoy unplugged music with your dinner. Bring a picnic or a dish to share!

Instructors and Instruments

Derek Kretzer holding a banjo

Derek Kretzer

Guitar, Banjo, Mandolin

Derek Kretzer is a multi-instrumentalist and instrumental music teacher who studied jazz guitar performance at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He is also proficient on the mandolin and banjo in both 3-finger and the old-time clawhammer style. Derek has been teaching a wide range of genres for close to 15 years both privately and in various music schools. He currently teaches guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Derek has played in a number of bands over the past decade in the rock and folk genres touring the entire US and Europe. Derek currently plays music full-time both as a solo performer and as a vocalist and banjo player for the progressive bluegrass group the Plate Scrapers. Catch his performance at the fest on Saturday!

Gina Furtado playing her Prucha banjo on stage

Gina Furtado


Gina Furtado’s musical career began in her pre-teen years with her siblings, earning countless ribbons from fiddlers conventions, a strong reputation in the regional bluegrass scene, and a stamp from Bluegrass Today as “absurdly talented.” After playing in several regional acts, she made her international touring debut with Chris Jones and the Night Drivers. The Gina Furtado Project, which she formed and toured with in order to provide an outlet for her own songwriting, brought her unique musicianship and songwriting to the table and breaks free from the assumed constructs of traditional music modalities, making a new musical statement that No Depression describes as “Fun; ENERGETIC; riveting!” In addition, Gina is highly sought-after as a banjo instructor, teaching at music camps across the United States and abroad. She has been one of the five nominees multiple times for IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, and has had multiple charting songs over the years.

Brett Kretzer holding a mandolin

Brett Kretzer


Brett Kretzer is an accomplished roots and bluegrass mandolinist and teacher currently based in Golden, Colorado. He is a co-founder of nationally known progressive bluegrass group The Plate Scrapers, who he played with from 2013 to 2022. Brett played an integral role in the shaping of The Plate Scrapers through songwriting, arranging, and recording. These days, Brett is playing mandolin with the Denver based band SLAY.

Brett has been sharing his passion for the mandolin as a private instructor since 2018. He understands the importance of creating a personalized learning experience to help his students develop their technical and creative abilities and he strives to make classes engaging and interactive, with a focus on practical learning and coursework that is tailored to each student’s level of skill and interest. Through his performing career, Brett is uniquely qualified to teach students to develop the skills to quickly pick up songs by ear, improvise, and play seamlessly with others.

Mason Wright playing fiddle

Mason Wright


Mason Wright is a veteran bluegrass fiddle player with a career spanning over 20 years.

In addition to almost six years as a member of Bluegrass powerhouse, Audie Blaylock and Redline, Mason has been a member of and performed with many local and national bands, including Lonesome Highway, Bud’s Collective, The High and Wides, Oldtown Flood, and the Lonesome River Band. Currently, Mason is the fiddle player for the Virginia-based progressive bluegrass group Dunlap and Mabe.

When he’s not on the road with his band, Mason stays busy teaching bluegrass fiddle and making content for his growing YouTube channel and Facebook Page.

Stacey Sinclair

Beginners and Kid Musicians

Stacey Sinclair is a teacher at heart. A lifelong violinist and fiddle player, Stacey has taught private violin and fiddle lessons for over 15 years. As a former elementary school teacher, she is no stranger to leading and organizing workshops with students of all ages. Whether you are 6 or 106, there’s a place for you in a beginning workshop! Previous Watermelon Pickers’ Fest attendees might recognize her from the Kids’ Barn activities.

In addition to teaching, Stacey has performed with several bluegrass and bluegrass-adjacent bands over the years, including Split String Soup, MooseJaw Bluegrass, and The Low Water Bridge Band. Currently, she performs with the Shade Tree Collective, as well as her new folk project, So Much and So Little.

Singing Workshop and Unplugged Performance

There’s more to do between sessions on your instrument. Join a singing workshop between sessions, and end your day with an unplugged performance from the Shade Tree Collective.

Melissa Wright singing and playing acoustic guitar on stage

Melissa Wright

Singing Workshop

Take a break from playing your instrument to attend a vocal workshop. Find your voice and learn to sing in harmony with the group.

Led by Melissa Wright, a songwriter, performer, and teacher based in Harpers Ferry, WV. After graduating from Berklee College of Music with a focus on vocal performance, Melissa began performing professionally as Mink’s Miracle Medicine. Mink’s has garnered critical acclaim from NPR Music, American Songwriter, Bandcamp, No Depression, and Noisey/VICE, and the project has taken her to performances at notable venues like NPR’s Mountain Stage and the famed Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, TN. Check out her performances at this year’s festival!

When not performing, she leads Big Universe Music – a collective of teachers and music educators with a focus on inspiring students of all ages to become lifelong musicians.

Shade Tree Collective band artist frame.

Shade Tree Collective

Unplugged Dinner Performance

Join together for a picnic and potluck dinner at the end of the workshop day and enjoy an unplugged performance by Shade Tree Collective.

The Shade Tree Collective’s hard-driving bluegrass and innovative originals unite audiences with energy and enthusiasm. Stemming from the Old Line State and expanding with musicians and influences from Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and beyond, The Shade Tree Collective makes audiences everywhere whoop and holler, bringing people together for a bluegrass experience they won’t soon forget.


Beginners are welcome! Whether you are brand new to your instrument, switching to a new instrument, or trying a new genre, you’ll have a great time.

There’s always more to learn. Improve, learn new tunes, and make connections with our expert instructors. You’ll be glad you did!

Feel free to bring multiple instruments and move from group to group, or stay with one group for instrumental instruction and another for the jam.

Kids are welcome! If a parent or guardian is not participating in the workshop, we ask that someone stay on site and can be contacted if needed.

We will do our best to accommodate you! Most of our teachers are multi-instrumentalists and we will find a way for you to join. We are still gauging interest for bass and dobro groups, so please let us know if this is what you’d like to learn.