Please save Sat. March 6, 2021 for the BOTMC online Spring Sitch, featuring the Crankie Cabaret, plus jams, workshops and performances. 

Matchbox crankie videos to the right are by Robin Fischer.

As always with the Spring Sitch, everything is free admission!

Looking further ahead, please SAVE THE DATES for next year's BOTMC: Sept. 21-26, 2021. We don't know yet whether it will be possible to hold the BOTMC in person or whether it will be online, so we're planning for both possibilities.  We'll know more by late spring. Our first priority is everyone's safety, of course.

A matchbox crankie

How to make a matchbox crankie

Berkeley Old Time Music COnvention
ANti-Racism Statement
As appreciators and torch bearers of early American traditional music, the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention actively questions what it means to share this music in the context of systemic racism. We wish to acknowledge the immense contribution of Black and Indigenous musicians to the music presented by the BOTMC, in the past and in the present.  We acknowledge the forces that have historically denied these contributions and that worked to sever their living connections to this music. We also acknowledge our own complicity in this oppression. As we play this music, we are reckoning with our history and present condition. We hope to build a road toward reparation.
Adapted (with permission) from the Plaid Strangers (Thomas Angell, Maxine Gerber, Karen Heil and Allegra Yellin)


As part of the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention’s Spring Sitch - Saturday March 6, 2021 - we are featuring a Crankie Cabaret. At 4 pm PST (time subject to change), following a day of seminars, workshops and jams, the Crankie Cabaret will feature a variety of beautiful Crankies (including YOURS if you submit one!)  in a Facebook Watch Party. Afterwards, stick around for some kickass old time dance music!
What’s a Crankie?  It  is an old storytelling art form, sometimes called a Panorama Box, popular in the 19th century. A long illustrated scroll is wound onto two spools. The spools are loaded into a box which has a viewing window. Then the scroll is hand-cranked while the story is told, or a tune is played or a song is sung. Crankies can be made in any size from a matchbox to a suitcase, out of paper, cloth, drawn, collaged, sewn, more! You have all winter to get creative.

Think of the unlimited possibilities of building crankies using everyday objects - cardboard, boxes, bike lights, suitcases, paper towels, wrapping paper, cereal boxes, shoe boxes, old tired instrument cases, etc.
You can find lots of information about crankies, including instructions for how to make one, at Sue Truman’s terrific website:  Feeling socially isolated? Crankies are an excellent opportunity for artists and musicians to collaborate.

Guidelines for the Crankie Cabaret:

  1. You can use a previously constructed crankie, but the performance of the crankie should be especially for this event.

  2. Musical content:  the music should be Old Time related.  You can decide what that means.

  3. You are encouraged, in your crankie presentation, to explore and to acknowledge the Black and/or indigenous roots of whatever piece of music you are using. Take this opportunity to research your song and find out more about where it came from!

  4. Do not use commercially released recordings, i.e. a cut from a commercially released CD or digital download. This is for copyright purposes. The music should be something that is created especially for the Crankie Cabaret, and it's fine if it's pre-recorded. To clarify:  it's fine to record the version of John Hardy that you learned from Foghorn's recording, with you or your friend singing, and use that, but you can't use the actual Foghorn recording of  that (or any other) song.  In other words, you can use any song you want to.  But you have to make a new recording of that song; you can't use a recording that you downloaded from the internet or from a CD that you own.

  5. Please start your video by saying that this crankie/video is for the Crankie Cabaret.  You can add the name of the song, the crankie creator(s) and musicians, or anything else you want, of course!

  6. Time limit:  5 minutes, including spoken intro.  Shorter is definitely okay.


Here's how to be part of the Crankie Cabaret: Upload your Crankie Video anytime between February 15 and March 4, 2021 to our Crankie Cabaret Facebook Group.  To do this, you will need to join the FB group, which means you will need to have a FB account. Please note that this FB group will not accept videos before Feb. 15, 2021. 

Once approved, it will be put in a queue for the Watch Party on March 6, 4pm pst / 7pm pst 

If you don’t have a Facebook account, ask a friend if they would be willing to upload your video from their account.  
Your video will not show up on the Facebook Group until it has been approved by one of the admins.  

Questions?  Email us.

What an amazing experience to have the BOTMC online in 2020! Many thanks to all who attended and performed and taught and lectured and especially HUGE THANKS to our volunteers, who made the whole thing possible.
Please consider making a donation to the BOTMC; click on the DONATE button for instructions.
T-Shirts now availablE


Also tote bags, refrigerator magnets, mask, pin, or sticker!


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OUR FUNDERS:  We greatly appreciate the generous support of Ed Littlefield, Jr.; Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA), in partnership with the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation; the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission; the Alameda County Art Commission; and the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation. 

 Thanks also to our nonprofit sponsors:  Freight & SalvageKPFA-FMAshkenaz Music & Dance Community Center, and the California Bluegrass Association


Extra-special thanks to our Valiant Volunteer Coordinator, Lael Sigal, and of course to all our volunteers – they make the BOTMC possible!


© 2020 Berkeley Old Time Music Convention