Shearer Summer Institute—July 26 to August 2, 2024

Guest Artists: Andrew York and Stephen Mattingly

Register by June 30

Aaron Shearer’s two greatest passions were guitar and hiking which we celebrate yearly at our summer guitar program. Join us this summer in 2024 for our 8th annual Institute held at the beautiful Mountain Retreat and Learning Center in North Carolina.

The Mountain RLC is nestled in the Blue Ridge of the Southern Appalachian Mountains at 4200′ just 4 miles from the quaint town of Highlands, NC.  The center provides all lodging and meals (some dinners from chef, Matt Regan) and is surrounded by the magnificent Nantahala National Forest, the best area for swimming holes,  waterfalls, and whitewater rafting in the state!

The Institute is open to all ages and levels. Each day we split time between guitar and the inspiring outdoors.   Guitar activities include:

  • a diversity of workshops—performance development, technique, guitar harmony, composition, arranging, etc.
  • artist masterclasses
  • private lessons
  • small guitar ensembles
  • guitar orchestra
  •  campfires and informal “coffehouse” play-ins
  • Artist performances (York and Mattingly) at the Vineyard at High Holly on July 31.
  • Community performance (Guitar Orchestra, small ensembles and soloists) at the Bascom on Aug.1

An excellent experience for any aspiring or established classical guitarist.  Professional teachers were all approachable in lessons, workshops, and informal gatherings. The schedule was balanced with fun excursions in addition to practicing, playing, and meeting other guitarists. What an incredible opportunity! We have already signed up for next year!

The Ryan family

from ASF Summer Institute 2023

“The Shearer Summer Institute is a wholesome and supportive experience for guitarists of all ages and levels.”

Skip, Robin, & Alexandria Cutting

from ASF Summer Institute 2022

Thanks to the support from:

2023 Summer Institute Guitar Orchetra performing a Vivaldi Cancerto Grosso

2024 Guitar Orchestra List


Double Occupancy

$1375—includes shared lodging (2 per room) for 7 nights, 3 meals a day, and all activities.  Reserve with $100 deposit.

Single Occupancy

$1875—includes 7 nights lodging in a private room, 3 meals a day, and all activities. Reserve with $100 deposit.

Non-Guitar Participant

$1000—Rate for spouses or parents which includes double occupancy, meals, concerts, and all activities without guitar.  Reserve with a $100 deposit.


$900—Includes all activites and 2 meals a day.  Lodging on your own.

Teacher Discount

If you’re a teacher and you bring a minimum of 4 students, you may qualify for a tuition discount. There are a limited number of teacher packages available–first come, first serve.  To inquire on availability of the teacher package, please contact.


Every year the foundation is committed to providing a reduced tuititon for talented guitar students in financial need.  Won’t you please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help us in this mission?

Give now!

Important Information

Things to Bring
  • Guitar
  • Extra set of guitar strings
  • Collapsible Music stand
  • Battery powered Music Stand Light (such as Vekkia Folding Music Stand Light
  • Clip-on Electric tuner
  • Pencils with good erasers
  • 3-ring binder with your music organized in it
  • All toiletries (MRLC provides only sheets and towels)
  • Performance Attire—all black with black shoes (but dress comfortably for the weather, not formal)
  • Swim suit
  • Day pack
  • Water bottle
  • Hiking and other comfortable clothes (and rain gear)
  • Hiking shoes (trails are not too rough)
  • River shoes (opt.)
  • Hiking pole (opt.)
  • Sandals
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Personal first-aid kit
  • Personal Air Conditioner (optional—the buildings are not air conditioned.  However, weather is very comfortable.  Average day temps are in the low 80’s and evening temps in the low 60’s.)

Also… All meals are included at the Mountain Retreat and Learning Center; however, if you’re interested in dining out, the nearby town of Highlands offers a diversity of restaurants. List of Restaurants


Health and Safety

The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center remains vigilant about offering a safe and hospitable experience for their guests. The MRLC is taking the following measures:

  • Employee and Volunteer Health Precautions:
    • Daily updates from the State Health Department and CDC are shared with The Mountain community, with information incorporated into ongoing practices.
    • All full time Mountain staff have been fully vaccinated.
    • All Mountain staff and volunteers participate in a COVID test weekly, receiving results in two days.
    • The Mountain has COVID rapid test kits in the event of symptoms outlined in the CDC and State standard health protocols.
    • In the case of a positive test result, the staff member or volunteer would be expected to quarantine until a negative test result is confirmed, or at least ten days after first symptoms, per CDC guidelines.
    • Mountain staff and volunteers will wear protective masks in indoor spaces as recommended by the CDC and State guidelines.
    • Staff and volunteers will wash and/or sanitize hands upon arrival at their designated work place, continuing this practice throughout the day as indicated.
  • General Precautions: 
    • For the safety of all guests, The Mountain will be operating at limited capacity, based upon the meeting spaces that will be utilized and in accordance with the recommendations of the CDC and the NC Department of Public Health.
    • Guests will be housed in double or single occupancy, dependent on individual preferences and space availability.
    • Guests and staff are expected to maintain six-foot distance between yourself and others not in your immediate social group.
    • Face masks are to be worn in the Main Office and Store space, as well as in the Dining Hall until being seated for your meal.
    • In the Dining Hall, a compostable glove is worn to serve yourself.
    • Wash hands frequently and/or use hand sanitation measures supplied at stations throughout The Mountain.
  • Cleaning and Hygiene Measures: 
    • All vulnerable hard surfaces will be cleaned daily with antibacterial cleaners, with special attention to doorways and doorknobs, counters, handrails and other surfaces frequently having hand contact.
    • Please provide your own mask. The Mountain has a limited amount of single-use  masks available.  Masks will be required when entering the Mountain’s Main Office and Gift Shop space, as well as in the Dining Hall line to receive your meals. Once you have moved through the cafeteria line masks may be removed for dining. During “in session” time, the use of masks is not required by The Mountain and is up to the discretion of the event leaders.
    • The Mountain will provide dedicated hand sanitizing stations throughout campus. However, we do recommend bringing your own personal hand sanitizer with you.

Click here to view the waiver.  (If possible, we recommend you download and print a waiver to complete before arriving at The Mountain.)

  • Practices for Mountain Guests:
    • Anyone who has been in contact with someone ill within 14 days of arrival at The Mountain, who is feeling ill, or who has symptoms outlined by the North Carolina Department of Public Health should not attend an event at The Mountain until being cleared by a health professional or being symptom-free for a minimum of 14 days.
    • Mandated  vaccination with appropriate documentation may be required by event coordinators for outside events held at The Mountain.  All guests are encouraged to be vaccinated before attending any event at The Mountain.
    • Guests will be required to have their temperature taken at arrival. Guests who exhibit a body temperature over 100.4 degrees will be asked to leave The Mountain or to quarantine onsite overnight. In this instance appropriate refunds will be issued.
    • Guests will be asked to fill out a liability waiver upon arrival.
    • Medical masks or cloth face coverings are required indoors. A limited number of single-use masks are available on-site.
  • Final Note: We will be following recommendations of health professionals to make The Mountain experience a safe and healthy one. The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center, its employees and representatives assume no liability for personal conditions arising out of the actual or alleged transmission of a communicable disease. 


Cancellation Policy
  • If for whatever reason the event is cancelled by the Aaron Shearer Foundation, all payments will be refunded.
  • If participant cancels less than 30 days prior to the event, all payments are non-refundable.

Getting There

Mountain Retreat and Learning Center is central to major cities:

  • 3 1/2 hours from Charlotte, NC
  • 3 hours from Chattanooga, TN
  • 2 1/2 hours from Atlanta, GA
  • 2 hours from Asheville, NC

Learn More

Check payments by mail can be made to”

The Aaron Shearer Foundation
P.O.Box 62011, Pittsburgh, PA 15241


Andrew York
Andrew York

In any generation there are many musicians, but very few artists that communicate on a profound cultural level. Andrew York is one of these rare artistic voices. Think Picasso painting with sound as a canvas, or a Miles Davis behind the guitar. Andrew achieves a synthesis of ancient and modern forms that offers a deep cultural expression that will only be truly understood by future generations. To call Andrew’s music classical is to put it into far too small a box; this is the living future of classical music.

       -Robert Bluestone

Video Samples

Stephen Mattingly

Stephen enjoys a vibrant career as Associate Professor of Music at the University of Louisville, where he directs classical guitar studies. His students have won top prizes in international competitions and serve in teaching positions at high schools and colleges. He is a member of the Kentucky Arts Council Performing Arts Directory and has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Silesian Guitar Autumn in Poland, the Panamá Guitar Festival, the Tampere Festival in Finland, the Guitar Foundation of America Convention, and the Iserlohn Guitar Symposium in Germany, among others. more

Thomas Kikta

As a Classical Guitarist, Vocalist, Composer, Pedagogue, Producer, Audio Engineer and Author Thomas Kikta is a versatile artist who has been the director of the Classical Guitar and Recording Arts and Sciences at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. for thirty years.  He has performed around the country, including collaborations with the School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center, Ricardo Cobo, and Manuel Barrueco.  He is also videographer and editor of the 3-volume Shearer Method (Alfred Music), and Classic Guitar Technique I.

Alan Hirsh

Guitarist/educator/composer Alan Hirsh wrote the music for the three-volume Shearer Method (Alfred Music) and Learning the Classic Guitar by Aaron Shearer (Mel Bay) and is the author of Classroom Shearer: a Teacher’s Manual, The Shearer Method Book IV: Guitar Harmony, and The Shearer Method Book V: Learning the Fingerboard Supplement.  Alan is a frequent guest conductor at festivals around the country including the Long Island Guitar Festival and the ASU Guitarfest and has an extensive online catalogue of his guitar compositions and arrangements at

Chef—Matt Regan

Matt Regan is a former student of Thomas Kikta and graduate of the UNCSA in Winston-Salem, NC.  After teaching guitar in Charlotte, NC, he moved to New Orleans working as a line chef at Emeril’s and has been the executive chef at the Maison Dupuy’s Bistreaux since 2017.  Regan describes his cooking as modern Gulf Coast. “Our cuisine is locally inspired,” he said. “We seek out the freshest, seasonal ingredients to create our traditional Cajun, Creole, and other specialties.”

2023 Photo Gallery

Hiking and Waterfalls


Glen Falls is a spectacular set of waterfalls. There are actually 3 separate waterfalls to see here.  East Fork Overflow Creek falls 600′ in elevation in this area, but some of the falling water is covered in shrubbery and too dangerous to get a good look at. The hike to see the 3 waterfalls is about a mile (one way) and a drop of about 600′ in elevation.  The first 2 waterfalls are really nice – the 3rd one not so much, but it offers an area to safely splash around in the water. Glen Falls is family friendly as long as you stay on the trail and don’t cross the fencing. 


Trailhead is about a 10 minute drive from MRLC.   Drive north on NC 106 and look for the sign to Glen Falls Scenic area on the right. Turn right then immediately bear right on to Glen Falls Rd (SR1618). Take this gravel road for 1 mile to the parking area at the end. The trail begins to the right of the kiosk.


Secret Falls is an easy half-mile hike, but there are no signs to the parking area. So, this remote area is mostly visited by locals. The trail is blazed with blue rectangles on trees and is easy to follow. There’s one lone stake in the small parking area at the start of the trail that says “Secret Falls.” The wooded hike is easy enough for the entire family. There are two easy creek crossings (one has a log bridge), a brief uphill section and a series of stairs after you reach the falls area.

It’s an easy half-mile hike, but there are no signs to the parking area. So, this remote area is mostly visited by locals. The trail is blazed with blue rectangles on trees and is easy to follow. There’s one lone stake in the small parking area at the start of the trail that says “Secret Falls.” The wooded hike is easy enough for the entire family. There are two easy creek crossings (one has a log bridge), a brief uphill section and a series of stairs after you reach the falls area.

Continue down the main trail to a small, sandy beach with plenty of space for wading and taking photos. You’ll have to climb over a fallen tree to reach the beach. 


Trailhead is about a 20 minute drive from Highlands

  • From the main stop light in downtown Highlands (along US Highway 64), take Main Street, which turns into Horse Cove Road (toward the Nature Center). If you are driving east on US 64 (from Franklin), go straight at the light to stay on Main Street. If you are driving west on US 64 (from Cashiers), turn left onto Main Street. From the stop light, drive down the ridge on a very curvy paved road for 3.7 miles.
  • Turn right onto Walking Stick Rd (SR1608), an unpaved one-lane road with two-way traffic! Watch for the occasional oncoming car, but this is not a busy road at all.
  • Drive 2.5 miles to a fork in the road and veer right, crossing a bridge.
  • Go another quarter of a mile and turn right on FR4567 (sign is hidden in trees).
  • Drive another quarter of a mile to a small, dirt parking area on the left. Look for the stake that says “Secret Falls.” Sometimes (especially winter), this last road is gated. But, you can park and walk the extra quarter-mile.

Bust your Butt Falls is a rushing terrace of falls that empties into a deep pool that’s as close to the proverbial Ol’ Swimming Hole. This popular swimming spot offers a deep plunge pool on the Cullasaja River near Highlands. Just be cautious or you will discover how the falls earned its name!  This is a stair-step series of cascades that demands to be photographed. 


From NC 106 in Highlands, drive 6.35 miles west on US 64 to the pullout on the left; Waterfall GPS: N35.09268 W-83.26573


Dry Falls, a popular waterfall located a few miles outside of Highlands, gives you the rare treat of walking safely behind a waterfall. This 75-ft. tall waterfall in the Nantahala National Forest flows over a cliff, allowing you to walk behind the falls and stay dry (hence the name). During rainy spells when the water volume is higher, the spray will prevent you from staying totally dry.


Coming from Highlands: Take Hwy 64 west for just over 3 miles from its intersection with Hwy 106. Pass or stop at Bridal Veil Falls, then look for a brown and white forest service sign for Dry Falls and turn left into the parking area. If you are coming from Franklin, Dry Falls is about 16.5 miles east on U.S. Hwy 64.


Whitewater Falls is a stunningly beautiful, multi-drop cascading waterfall near Cashiers, NC and the South Carolina state line. It’s a gorgeous waterfall, and well worth the half-mile (round trip) hike to view a 400+ foot cascade. The hike trails a short, paved stretch of the Foothills Trail through a wildflower-filled forest, and catches some stunning views of Lake Jocassee nestled in the rolling surrounding mountains. Mid-hike, the trail scores its first views of the upper waterfall before descending a set of wooden stairs to catch a closer, wider view of the waterfall. It’s a relatively easy, short and family-friendly hike. And the picnic area near the trailhead makes a great post-hike snack spot set in a rocky, shady forest.

  • From Highlands, drive east on US64 for approximately 22 miles.
  • At the community of Sapphire, turn left on NC 281 and go south about eight miles to the Whitewater Falls entrance.  You will pass the entrance to Gorges State Park with more waterfalls, including Rainbow Falls. 

Turtleback Falls, just a quarter-mile upstream from the 150-foot Rainbow Falls,  is a 3.5-mile roundtrip hike from Gorges State Park. Also known as Umbrella Falls, it has been a popular natural water slide for many years.  There’s a more serene swimming hole about 1/3 of a mile downriver at Hidden Falls.

Hike Details
Start your hike in Gorges State Park at the Grassy Ridge Parking area, about a 2-mile drive from the park entrance. Look for the cluster of information boards at the end of the parking lot. The trail to Rainbow Falls begins there, blazed with orange circles until you reach the National Forest. The downhill trail is easy to follow, with a creek crossing that can be a wet one when the water is high. It’s about 1.5 miles to Rainbow Falls and another quarter mile to Turtleback Falls. You’ll hike by the many cascades with a few steep sections with stairs. Just past the main view of the falls, keep on the trail to the right for the final ascent to Turtleback. The last mile of the hike back to the parking lot is uphill, so save some energy! There are restrooms at the parking area.

  • From Highlands, drive east on US64 for approximately 22 miles.
  • Turn right onto Hwy 281 South
  • Turn left onto Grassy Ridge Rd for about a mile.

Dillsboro River Company provides family-friendly whitewater rafting (and tubing) on the Tuckasegee River, just outside of Dillsboro, Sylva, and Bryson City, North Carolina (about an hour’s drive from Highlands). The Tuckasegee is the ideal river for first-time rafters, families with young children (minimum age limit is 4), and those who want more of a relaxing river trip with warmer water and the milder Class I & II rapids. ​

Dillsboro River Company is located directly by the riverside on the Tuckasegee, in the town of Dillsboro, North Carolina.  Our take-out is located 5.5 miles downstream, and also has bathrooms. The shuttle back to the put-in takes about 8 minutes. 


From Highlands about a 49 min (34.4 miles) drive.  Take US-64 W and US-23 N/US-441 N

Optional Group Trips

Due to heat of the afternoon, our guitar activities are scheduled in the mornings and evenings.  Afternoons are open to exploring the natural area.  We’re offering two optional group trips.  For both, transportation must be made on your own.

  • Gorges State Park to hike to Turtleback Falls and Rainbow Falls—some of the best swimming in the area.   Leave 12:00 noon with a sack lunch from the Dining Hall and dive 1 hour drive to the trailhead. 
  • Dillsboro River Company for whitewater rafting on the Tuskasegee river. Leave at 12:00 noon  with a sack lunch from the Dining Hall.  Price per person is $20-$30 (depending what size raft or kayak you choose).  Drive is about an hour to rental store and put in.   Raft 2 hours on the river and then shuttle back to cars.