Musician Apprenticeship Program 2017-2018

What the program offers

Three string players will develop the art of improvisation and ensemble playing while performing live at local English country dances. Each apprentice will receive up to 6 hours of individual instruction, plus carefully supervised opportunities to play with veteran musicians both during personal instruction sessions and at Country Dance New York’s regular Tuesday night dances in Manhattan.

Apprentices will experience the freedom to explore their musical creativity in a supportive atmosphere, where feedback from colleagues and dancers provides continuous encouragement and learning.

Successfully completing the program will better position the apprentices to secure paying gigs at dances in the vibrant local ECD scene.

The program instructor

Naomi Morse (instructor), violinist, grew up surrounded by music and dance in the folk communities of New England. She is known for her energetic and driving fiddle-playing for both contra and English country dancing with many bands, including Night Watch, Housetop, and the “mega fiddle band,” Childsplay. Her duo, “The Poor Cousins,” recently traveled to Kozani, Greece, on a US State Department grant to perform and teach at the Kozani International Music Seminar. She has played at numerous dance weekends around the country, including the Lenox Assembly English country dance weekend, has been on staff at camps run by CDSS and the John C Campbell Folk School, and is a regular performer at English dances in New York City. Since 2014 she has been featured on the New York Playford Ball practice CD and will be playing for the 2018 Playford Ball along with fellow New York musicians Gene Murrow and Bill Peek.


There is no cost to students beyond transportation, CDNY membership ($35), and a small outlay for books ($45) and CDs ($30). The instructional portion of the program is underwritten by Country Dance New York.

Who should apply

The applicants will be chosen by the English Music Coordinator and instructor by audition.


• Attend up to 6 hours of individual lessons with instructor Naomi Morse and/or her ECD colleagues, who may be invited in at Ms Morse’s discretion.
• Complete the curriculum, including any homework assigned by the instructor.
• Play pro bono at a minimum of four Tuesday night English country dances under the guidance of the evening’s band leader as part of your training. You may play for more than four sessions under the same terms if you, your instructor, and the English Music Coordinator and English Program chair agree.
• Play at 2 Tuesday night English country dances after graduation and within a year of completing the course, if invited to do so by the English Music Coordinator. Payment will be at the going rate for established ECD band members.
• Dance at at least two Tuesday night English dances to experience the genre you’ll be playing for.
• Complete a course evaluation telling us the pros and cons of the program as you experienced it, so that we can do a better job when offering it next time.
• Become a member of CDNY during your apprenticeship for a one-year fee of $35.

How to apply

Please send an email to the program administrator, Paul Ross, board secretary of CDNY, at and the English Music Coordinator Elizabeth Freedman at

The subject of the email should be “ECD Musician Apprenticeship: Your Name”

In the body of the message, please include your name, address, phone, and school or professional musical affiliation (if applicable) and/or membership in CDNY.

Please also include
• A brief statement of why you’re interested in the program.
• How long you have been playing your instrument and a quick overview of your musical accomplishments to date.
• Links to any online material that you’ve posted that you’d like us to consider when reviewing your application.
• How you heard about us.

Please also include this statement: “If accepted into the program, I will make a good faith effort to meet its requirements and complete the course of study in a timely, diligent manner.”

This is your commitment to us. Our commitment to you is to help you complete the curriculum and to give you the best guidance and mentoring we can to make the apprenticeship a success.

Application deadline

The deadline for applying to the 2017-2018 Musician Apprenticeship program is Friday, December 8, 2017. Auditions are scheduled for the evening of Monday December 18.

The course of study

First Steps
• Meet with the instructor, either in person or by phone, for a general orientation to the program, a review of the schedule, and a discussion of the first assignments.
• Come to CDNY to listen to music and join in the dancing – two times minimum, no admission fee required.
• Listen to at least two recordings of established English Country Dance groups: Bare Necessities, MGM, Fox Fire, etc. A good selection of CDs is available from the Country Dance and Song Society ( and some may be downloaded from CDBaby.
• Purchase standard repertoire books: Peter Barnes’ two English Country Dance melody books at a cost of about $45. Optional purchases include the Waltz books I & II at an estimated cost of another $50.

Second Steps
• Dance at least twice at the Tuesday English dance.
• Schedule up to 6 hours of private coaching with the program’s instructor at a Ripley Grier rehearsal studio or other location of your and the instructor’s choosing.
• Complete homework assignments based on topics covered in the coaching sessions, including the following:
• Play single line melody. Talk about dance moves that go with melody and dance: the dance walk, the chassé, set and turn single, etc.
• Discuss tempi, play with different tempi, determining tempo based on dance movement, keeping tempo steady
• Develop listening skills for successful ensemble playing
• Improvise
o Begin to learn to improvise on a melody.
o Read chord symbols and practice accompanying with chords.
o Find thirds and fifths that go with melody.
o Play melody/accompaniment in different octaves.
o Explore rhythmic variation and contrast.
o Develop staccato and legato techniques.
o Learn to use dynamic contrast.
o Develop ensemble listening and responding.

NOTE: This curriculum will be adjusted to fit the skills of each apprentice, as they and the instructor together think best.

• Work on
o Reading chord symbols
o Harmonizing
o Playing counter-melodies
o Passing melody between players
o Listening to each other
• Learn back-up accompanying, feeling the phrases, breathing with the dancers and instrumentalists, and some aspects of band leadership.
• Find the fun in the music.

Final Steps
• Play for Tuesday night dances with established musicians.

This part of the program will be coordinated with the CDNY Music Coordinator, Elizabeth Freedman, and the English Program Chair, Susan Amesse, and will happen as often as the teacher, student, and CDNY’s Music and English chairs agree. The goal is for the student to play on Tuesday nights at least four times during his or her active mentoring.

• In consultation with the CDNY Music Coordinator for English Tuesdays, schedule two nights—post graduation—when the apprentice will play for the Tuesday English dance for the going rate paid to English Tuesday night musicians.

• Complete a course evaluation.

• Receive a letter of course completion from CDNY if the teacher certifies that the student has successfully completed the program, including meeting the obligation to perform twice at a regular CDNY Tuesday evening English dance at the going rate for Tuesday night musicians (unless this requirement is waived by the CDNY Music Coordinator).

• CDNY will make an effort to put students in touch with dance organizers in the NY City area.