teaching testimonials


Hilary's love and knowledge of folk music extends far beyond that of the banjo. I initially began taking American Roots music classes at The New School where I was taught by Hilary. Her enthusiasm and ability to accurately relay the subject made me excited to learn as much as I could from this banjo playing champion. 

I happily commute an hour each way to learn from her. There are few people that you meet in life that have the kind of larger than life energy that she does. 

If I could take lessons with Hilary every day, it still wouldn't be enough.



Hilary made learning the banjo seem not so scary. I came into her group sessions as a nervous beginner and left with enough clawhammer in my bones to call myself a banjo player. Hilary has a chill approach to teaching that made everyone in the class feel at home. And her passion for playing rings loud when you that banjo sing... I still think of Hilary every time I play June Apple :)


Hilary is a fantastic teacher! I studied with her weekly at Jalopy in a group setting. She creates a fun, casual environment and is very open and accessible to her students. I was happy to see the growth of my classmates and in my own technique by the end of the sessions. Thanks, Hilary!


I have taken music instruction from many,many people. Ms.Hawke is the very best. She enjoys teaching, you can feel it. I'm 66 , I don't learn as fast as the youngin's, she is always so patient . She knows the best techniques to teach and uses them well. What puts her way above the rest is her insight, her intuitiveness and her ability to see and hear what a student (me) needs or is missing. Hilary Hawke taught me how to play claw hammer and finger picking banjo. I had never played a banjo till I was sixty-one. I can play many songs well. I've played on stage and at parties confidently. Don't wait to have fun!



Hilary is a really wonderful teacher. I've been taking lessons from her for about six months and I've improved so much in that time. I'm always impressed by how patient and encouraging she is with beginners, which is especially helpful if you're shy about taking lessons at first, as I was. And on top of being a great teacher and a really talented musician, she's also a nice person! Can't recommend her enough.



I recently started playing the banjo and have had a blast learning to play through lessons with Hilary. She is super patient yet challenging and makes learning to play fun.


Hilary is a fantastic teacher! Her love and joy for playing the banjo shines through at every lesson, and her knowledge, encouragement, and patience provide a supportive and inspiring learning environment. In addition, she is quick to respond and helpful whenever I have contacted her via email. I highly recommend her-you will have a great experience and learn to play the banjo from a true talent!


Hilary is awesome. I have taken both group classes and private lessons with her. She teaches with an ease that is indicative of how experienced she is in banjo and music in general. I listen to a lot of bluegrass, so I have an ever-growing list of songs and arrangements I would like to learn and am always confident that Hilary can get me there. She tailors each lesson to fit in what you want to work on as well as what she knows you need to continue to improve. Even if you come in not having practiced as much as you could have, Hilary will readjust however necessary to make sure you get the most out of your time with her. She also performs regularly, so you can see her in action before you take your first lesson.




It is such a joy to learn banjo from Hilary. She is a ray of sunshine! Lessons are so much fun, she keeps it fresh and always interesting and her song selections are great. You can tell there is no such thing as a "standard lesson plan" - she customizes each session to your specific abilities and interests. Highly recommend!


I took lessons with Hilary for about a year. When I started I had no musical experience at all, and by the end of lesson one I was playing simple old-time tunes. The pace of the lessons was good. Not too fast, but fast enough to stay interesting, and Hilary was always helpful and supportive if I had trouble with a technique or musical passage. It was great!



I took classes as a beginner (I normally play guitar). I felt Hilary was intimately invested in teaching and sharing, and we all picked up on her enthusiasm. One thing that sticks in my mind: during one of the final classes, I had some crazy notion that if I play the first half of a song while Hilary and another student played the second half - the arrangement would sound really cool.  Most teachers would not indulge in excursions like this - but to my surprise, Hilary was totally open to trying it. What a good sport. Definitely not a control freak - she’s comfortable with sponteneity and individual connection.  Hilary's also an amazing player.  


I took banjo lessons on and off for 2 years with Hilary. She took me from zero banjo chops to being proficient enough in clawhammer to participate in local old time jams. Hilary clued me in to the subtleties of banjo playing like ghost notes and alternative string hammer ons which added a ton of depth to my playing. Thanks Hilary!


I had the privilege of taking a group clawhammer banjo 1 lesson at Jalopy with Hilary. It was really enjoyable and well paced. Hilary is very patient and encouraging, and her song selection is super fun to play. I felt like a decent player by the end of the multi-week course, nice. I highly recommend Hilary as a banjo teacher!


As a music teacher for several years, I expect a lot from my own instructors. Each lesson with Hilary left me buzzing with excitement and so eager to practice more. Hilary chose songs that were deeply satisfying and accessible, yet seemed to be at exactly the level of attainable challenge. By the end of an introductory eight week course, every student in my class could perform several full-length pieces and we all could jam as an ensemble. Incredible feeling. 


I took several classes with Hilary at the Jalopy Theater. She is one of the best music teachers I have ever had. She's amazingly talented at the banjo, but is also very patient and encouraging as a teacher.


Hilary is an amazing teacher! A brilliant banjo player herself, she is patient and super excited with your progress as a student. I've been taking lessons since 2015, first group and then private, and Hilary has been a truly inspiring teacher.


There's a quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt that really hits the mark when thinking about my time learning banjo with Hilary: "Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care." I could tell you that Hilary knows a lot about how to play the banjo. I could tell you that her style of instruction was well paced for beginners and intermediate players alike. But I think what will be most useful to know for anyone starting out, or looking for a mentor, with the banjo, is that Hilary is genuinely interested in guiding you through your development. I'm still playing 6 years later!



I studied with Hilary in group sessions at Jalopy. Her classes were always fun, engaging, informative, and highly organized. She's an excellent teacher and I couldn't recommend her highly enough! 


I have taken two group classes and a few individual lessons with Hilary and could not have been happier with her patient, fun, and level-appropriate instruction. Not only has my banjo playing improved dramatically, but Hilary has a deep appreciation for and insight into the songs and tunes that lay at the heart of "Old Time" music. I can't recommend her enough.


Hilary is such an amazing banjo teacher. I started with some knowledge of music and guitar playing but none about banjo, but she got me pickin away in no time! I even performed at a friend's wedding. Hilary is knowledgeable and talented, and she makes learning the instrument accessible and fun. I really looked forward to our lessons each week!


I took two group banjo classes from Hilary at Jalopy, and I couldn't have asked for better: They were fun, easygoing, informative and memorable (I can still play, without looking at the sheet music, many of the songs we learned). I hope to be able to take more classes from her in the future, she's the best.


I took a group lesson at Jalopy with Hilary and it was awesome. I was more advanced than I thought and some folks were very new to string instruments, but she managed to meet all of us where we were at and challenge each of us in the classroom. We were playing together almost immediately, and I was happy that we also sang right away - with no jitters, no embarrassment, mostly because Hilary made no big deal about it. She made everyone feel like friends.


I studied with Hilary off and on for a year and a half. Hilary is a wonderful teacher, banjo player and a sunny person. Her spirit is contagious- any time I was frustrated musically it dissipated as soon as our lesson began. Her enthusiastic approsch and her excellent teaching skills are a huge part of how I came to love playing the banjo. What I appreciate most about Hilary is her intuitive teaching style. When I was hard on myself she knew that was the time for me to let loose and jam out and she knew when I could handle getting down to nitty gritty technique. I always felt challenged but encouraged. I highly recommend taking lessons with her!


I began group lessons with Hilary this past Fall focusing on fingerpicking. Hillary's love of the banjo is infectious. She introduces beginners to simple songs combined with exercises that build on your skills from lesson to lesson. She is encouraging and supportive of student efforts whatever your skill level may be. I feel that with Hillary's help I can become a skilled banjo player.


Hilary is a superb banjo teacher, I studied with her in an 8 session group lesson for beginners at the Jalopy Theater. She has an approachable and efficient teaching style. She keeps a good pace and teaches songs by ear, building our comprehension by passing phrases back and forth. She focused the group with a sensitive and cheerful care to our individual music needs and knowledge. I felt both supported and challenged under her Banjo lead.


I had toyed with the idea of taking banjo lessons for some time and the idea of finding a great banjo teacher was pretty intimidating. Luckily I came across Hilary's website and, after corresponding with her and asking several questions, decided to take a first lesson. Five months later and I'm continuing to enjoy learning from her. Hilary is extremely kind and patient and makes each class really fun. She tailors each lesson to makes sure you're getting the most out of her instruction while enjoying the experience. And, if you ever get the chance to see her perform, I highly recommend it; she's incredibly talented! If you've been on the fence about taking lesson give Hilary a shot to teach you. I think you'll be happy you did.  


I've taken both finger picking 3 and clawhammer lessons from Hilary at Jalopy. She is by far the best teacher I've had for a few reasons. She is patient with students but challenging at the same time with by-ear methods. She mixes up the songs she teaches so if you go back a year later for another banjo 3 you get mostly new songs. And most importantly She combines the fun of an old time hootenanny with the lesson.