Current 2020 Banjo Clinic Staff
(More Instructors TBA)
Tom Adams (BGB): Tom Adams has played the banjo in some of the best-known bands in bluegrass. A 3-time recipient of the IBMA Banjo Player of the Year award, Tom first toured nationally with Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys. Over the next 20 years he went on to record and tour with the Johnson Mountain Boys, the Lynn Morris Band, Blue Highway, Rhonda Vincent, and Dale Ann Bradley. Along the way he has recorded with Hazel Dickens, James King, and fiddler Michael Cleveland. Tom and Mike's album of fiddle/banjo duets, Live at the Ragged Edge, was named IBMA's 2004 Instrumental Album of the Year. Tom also released two solo projects, Right Hand Man and Adams County Banjo . During a six-year hiatus from the banjo, Tom was the lead singer and guitar player first with Bill Emerson and later with Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper. Since 2013 Tom has returned to the banjo, touring with the band Springfield Exit, teaching online from his home in Pennsylvania, and hosting both the monthly High Five column in Banjo Newsletter and the BanjoThink channel on YouTube.
John Boulding (BGB): John restores and repairs all stringed instruments, focusing mainly on those of the bluegrass genre. For both amateurs and touring professionals, over a span of 35 years, he has repaired and restored more than a 1,000 instruments. John’s father, Wallace Boulding, a respected luthier in western NC, taught him to "work on their stuff like it was his own." His father’s advice has carried over into every area of John’s life and work. John handles other people’s instrument as though they were his own. Beyond repairs and setup, he has a deep respect for instruments and the living history they hold…the one that gets eventually gets passed down from one musician to another. Preserving old instruments, maintaining their playability, safeguarding family heirlooms and keeping modern day 'player' instruments in proper working order are John’s calling cards. Such service has established his integrity and reputation as a fine and dependable Luthier. John also teaches banjo. From rank beginners on up, he provides students with the knowledge, skills, tools and nuances required to play solid, fluid bluegrass banjo.
Wayne Erbsen (BGB/OTB): For the past twenty-eight years, Wayne Erbsen has taught Appalachian music at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina. He also teaches at "The Log Cabin Cooking & Music Center" in Asheville, NC. For radio listeners, Wayne has a popular radio show called "Country Roots," which broadcasts on Asheville's public radio station, WCQS. You can listen live every Sunday when his show streams from 7:00 - 9:00 pm, Eastern Standard time, at http://www.wcqs.org/. In addition to Wayne's deep interest in old-time Appalachian and bluegrass music, he has researched, recorded and written on numerous other themes of American music, culture and folklore including The Civil War, pioneer America, log cabins, cowboys, railroads and gospel. Wayne will be directing the Jam Classes. He also teaches clawhammer and bluegrass banjo.
Maria Farichild (OTB): Maria Fairchild started playing clawhammer banjo in her teens, after being mesmerized by its unique interplay of melody and rhythm. Since then, her banjo has taken her to the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and England, where she unexpectedly, and happily, got to play with Tom Paley of the New Lost City Ramblers. She began collaborating with musicians in other genres, playing clawhammer with blues and jazz guitarists, and doing studio work for singer-songwriters. Since moving to North Carolina, Maria has played with Jim Watson, Al McCanless, and Tommy Edwards, and has accompanied the Cane Creek Cloggers at IBMA. She has won several ribbons for banjo and vocals at festivals, and continues to expand the banjo’s horizons, adding its rhythmic drive to diverse groups such as the Free Spirit Ensemble of the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra. She plays piano and banjo for contradances from Wilmington to Asheville and is an experienced contra and square dance caller. Maria’s solo CD Celebration features traditional and original material, as well as classic rock covers, and has been featured on many folk and bluegrass radio programs. TV and radio appearances include Wes Houston Presents, Long Island Blues Warehouse, Buddy Merriam’s Blue Grass Time, and The Bayou. Maria has taught privately for 30 years, and has led workshops for the Long Island Traditional Music Association and the New England NOMAD Folk Festival, and co-taught with Joe Newberry at the Long Island Bluegrass Festival. She loves helping beginners get the clawhammer groove. Her “mission in life” is to make the world a better place, one banjo player at a time!
Laurie Fisher (OTB): As a freshman at Warren Wilson College, Laurie’s fretted instrument journey began by learning how to play clawhammer banjo with David Holt. She spent summers accumulating numerous red and blue ribbons while attending fiddler’s conventions in southwest Virginia, competing in old-time band and banjo. A multi-instrumentalist, for 30 years she has performed on a variety of instruments and calling dances. Since its inception, Laurie has instructed students of all ages in fiddle, clawhammer banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass and bodhran at the Acoustic Corner Music store in Black Mountain, NC. Her experience includes teaching at weeklong camps in music and dance for the John C. Campbell Folk School and North Carolina Summer Institute of Choral Arts, and attending Western & Swing week at Ashokan (of Ashokan Farewell) for many years.
Phil Jamison (BGB/OTB):Josh Goforth must have been born musical—he was already playing piano in church at the age of four—but it was an experience he had in the sixth grade that really lit the fuse of his precocious musical career. A performance at Goforth's middle school by Sheila Kay Adams caused him to start thinking about the musical heritage and stories of his native Madison County, NC. A couple of years later, he received his first guitar from one of his great-uncles, and began to learn the instrument under the tutelage of another great-uncle. The great-great-great-grandson of Madison County fiddler Asbury McDevitt was launched on a career in traditional music. Over the next few years he learned to play at least 20 different instruments by ear, learning from such local masters as Gordon and Arvil Freeman. Most famous for his fiddling, Goforth is a highly accomplished oldtime, bluegrass, and swing musician, but is remarkably versatile, able to pick up any of a wide variety of instruments and make a solid contribution in almost any kind of band. He was active in his high school's music program, and with Goforth as drum major, the Madison High School Marching Band won first place in each of the thirty-three competitions it entered. Among the pieces in its repertoire was a composition that Goforth wrote, based on a sacred harp hymn. After high school he went to East Tennessee State University to study music education, and to be a part of ETSU's famous Bluegrass and Country Music Program. In 2000, he played fiddle for the movie Songcatcher, both onscreen and on the soundtrack. He has toured extensively with a variety of ensembles, including the ETSU bluegrass band, with David Holt and Laura Boosinger, and with several bluegrass bands including Appalachian Trail, the Josh Goforth Trio, the Steep Canyon Rangers and Carolina Road. He has performed in all 50 US states, all over Europe, Asia, and Australia. In 2000, 2003, and 2005, he was named Fiddler of the Festival at Fiddler's Grove and, after winning the third title, was designated "Master Fiddler" and retired from that competition. He has performed at the Grand Ole Opry as well as Carnegie Hall. In 2009 he was nominated for a Grammy for his album with David Holt entitled "Cutting Loose."
Phil Jamison (OTB):Phil Jamison is nationally known as a dance caller, old-time musician, flatfoot dancer, and scholar of traditional Appalachian dance, who has been playing the banjo for over forty-five years. He has called dances, performed, and taught at music festivals and dance events throughout the U.S. and overseas since the early 1970s, including twenty-two years with Tennessee fiddler Ralph Blizard and forty years as a member of the Green Grass Cloggers. Over the last thirty years, Jamison has done extensive research in the area of Appalachian dance, and his book Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance (University of Illinois Press, 2015) tells the story behind the square dances, step dances, reels, and other forms of dance practiced in southern Appalachia. A 2017 inductee to the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, Phil teaches Appalachian music and dance at Warren Wilson College, in Asheville, North Carolina, where for twenty-five years, he served as coordinator of the Old-Time Music and Dance Week at the Swannanoa Gathering. Given his focus on traditional dance, Phil is particularly interested in the use of the old-time banjo as a dance instrument.
Donnie Little (BGB): Just celebrating his 50th year anniversary playing the banjo, since 1989, Donnie Little (shown on left picking one with Don Wayne Reno at NCBC) has been teaching the instrument full time. He also works in conjunction with banjo-maker, Warren Yates. He has his own Yates banjo model. His stage performances began at age 5 while playing in a local band around 1965 called
The Little Brothers
. It was a big hit consisting of his family (Dad) Clyde, (Mother) Jane, and (Brother) Joel. Professional bands book in the area needed show openers to set the stage for them. His ability to play so well at such a young age made the band that much more popular. The Little Brothers became the The Little Family. His father had to hand-build him a little banjo from scratch in order for him to use it. This was during a time when out founding Bluegrass fathers were starting the music we love. Donnie knew many of the bluegrass legends and basically grew up with them. He later chose the profession of teaching music at his home rather than traveling away from his family, but Donnie still loves playing with friends whenever he can.
Ken Perlman (OTB):Ken Perlman is a pioneer of the 5-string banjo style known as melodic clawhammer; he is considered one today’s top clawhammer players, known in particular for his skillful adaptations of Celtic, Appalachian, & Canadian fiddle tunes to the style. He has toured throughout most of the English-speaking world and in Western-Europe, both as a soloist and – for over fifteen years – in a duo with renowned Appalachian-style fiddler Alan Jabbour. An acclaimed teacher of folk-music instrumental skills, Ken has written such widely used banjo instruction books as Clawhammer Style Banjo. Melodic Clawhammer Banjo and Everything You Wanted to Know About Clawhammer Banjo; he has been on staff at prestigious festivals around the world, and he has also served as director for several music-instructional camps, including American Banjo Camp, Midwest Banjo Camp, and Suwannee Banjo Camp. Also an independent folklorist, Ken spent close to two decades collecting tunes and oral histories from traditional fiddle players on Prince Edward Island in Eastern Canada. His most recent solo recordings are Frails & Frolics and Northern Banjo; his recordings with Alan Jabbour are Southern Summits & You Can’t Beat the Classics; he is awaiting publication of his latest book, Appalachian Fiddle Tunes for Clawhammer Banjo (Mel Bay Publications).
Akira Satake (BGB): Akira Satake first discovered the banjo through his older brother’s Flatt and Scruggs recordings while growing up in Osaka, Japan. After relocating to New York City in his early 20's he spent two decades honing his innovative banjo style in venues from Village clubs to Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. He went on to master the shamisen (Japanese banjo) in his own original style, and has made it an important part of his repertory. Satake garnered international attention with his collection of original compositions, "Cooler Heads Prevail," and shared the 1998 German Music Critics’ Award for Best World Music Recording with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He has performed and/or recorded with such artists as Shawn Colvin, Nancy Griffith, Jim Lauderdale, Hazel Dickens and Tony Trischka, and produced award-winning CDs for Tim O’Brien, Mamadou Diabate, Johnny Cunningham and flamenco guitarist Gerardo Nunez.
American banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka calls Satake, "a brilliant banjoist with a split-level passion for the fiery breakdowns of southern Appalachia and the kaleidoscopic rhythms and melodies of World Music."
Mike Scott (BGB): Mike Scott is from Johnson City, Tennessee. Well versed on banjo, guitar, and mandolin, his credits include singing, songwriting, producing, publishing, and hosting media, including TV. Having performed professionally since age 10, Mike celebrated 42 years in music last December 2014. Since moving to Nashville, he has performed in over 450 shows at the Grand Ole Opry. An internationally known banjo/guitar player, he has earned a reputation as a solid solo artist, studio musician, and as a sideman for some of music's greatest performers. Now leading Mike Scott & The Nashville Band, he also performs with Ronnie Reno & The Reno Tradition. They can be seen regularly on 'Reno's Old Time Music Fest' TV Show airing weekly on RFD TV. Mike hosts Rural Rhythm Records TV Show "Behind The Dream" on Blue Highways TV. After being offered jobs with Grand Ole Opry Stars "Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys" and with "Jim & Jesse and The Virginia Boys," at age 15 Mike continued to perform regionally with area local bands in East Tennessee. At age 18, he joined "Carl Story and The Rambling Mountaineers" (The Father of Bluegrass Gospel) for two years. Then he joined Jim & Jesse at The Grand Ole Opry for nearly four years. Mike had an acoustic Bluegrass & Country record deal in the works with Randy Tallmadge (RCA) as Mike Curb (Curb Records) in 1990 & 1991 which including Nashville's top studio musicians including Carl Jackson, Stuart Duncan, Steve Turner, Gary Smith, Bruce Bouton, Emory Gordy Jr., & Brent Mason. This project featured Emmy Lou Harris on vocals and was produced by Carl Jackson. Mike later performed from with "Big Band" sensations "Danny Davis & The Nashville Brass" and with "Boot Randolph". Mike still enjoys occasionally playing with Jesse McReynolds and The Virginia Boys, Jesse carrying on the legacy since the passing of Jim McReynolds. He continues to travel across the globe with "Mike Scott & The Nashville Band" as well as with "Ronnie Reno and The Reno Tradition".
Gary Spence (BGB/OTB): Gary studied and played music with Obray Ramsey and later prepared Ramsey's recordings for the Library of Congress American Folk Life Center collection. Soon after Gary Spence arrived in Madison County and began studying with Obray Ramsey, David Shelton and Obray Ramsey began working together on a Polydor International album (circa 1970-1971). Gary Spence has gone on to both perform and teach music, continuing a lifelong love of Appalachian music and history. He was awarded the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Award in 1996. Gary has also been an adjunct music faculty member at Mars Hill University for 43 years. Aside from performing and judging at the Asheville Folk festival, 2014 marked his 45th Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival performance at Mars Hill University. He has performed at both the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention, the Fiddlers Grove Festival, and the Galax Virginia Old Time Fiddler Convention. He recorded Blue Ridge Gospel Guitars with Eddie Swann c.2003-2004 and collaborated on a number of bluegrass CDs released in western North Carolina.
Warren Yates (BGB): Warren Yates has been building rock solid banjos for years. Clinic attendees will have the opportunity to play many of his banjos. Prior to starting Yates Banjos, Warren worked as an engineer for a furniture company. An avid player for over 40 years, his banjos can be heard on multiple recordings. He is Ronnie Stewart's banjo supplier and technician. Ronnie, as well as Donnie Little, has been instrumental in providing feedback and design considerations further defining Warren's banjos. Skilled as a machinist, Warren builds most of his banjo parts. He has built over 500 banjos. The wood, detail, and construction of a Yates banjo is impeccable. After Donnie Little sets one up, players will appreciate the power and tone emanating from a Yates banjo.
Keith Yoder (BGB): Keith Yoder is a talented musician and instructor with an unconventional approach to
music education. With over 40 years of experience playing and performing on all the
bluegrass instruments, Keith enjoys sharing his love of music through lessons and
camps. He has taught bluegrass music full time since 1994 on guitar, banjo, mandolin,
bass, dobro, and fiddle. He teaches private and group lessons in Maryville, TN and
Additionally, Keith has been teaching at music camps across the United States and
Canada since 2007. His extensive knowledge of bluegrass, hands-on approach, and
ability to provide individualized instruction for all skill levels contribute to his excellence
as a teacher. As a student noted, a camp with Keith provided “the most comprehensive
study of acoustic music” they’ve experienced. Keith shares the theory and techniques of
how and what to play in any music setting.
Since their move to the foothills of east Tennessee, Keith and his wife Sarah have also
hosted private acoustic music camps. They hosted 15 camps in 2019. As a student with
Keith, expect to play a lot and learn skills immediately applicable to your playing.
In 2020, Keith is teaching at: MerleFest Jam Camp – Wilkesboro, NC, Acoustic Music Camp – Dallas, TX, Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Kamp – Maryville, TN, Kalona Bluegrass Workshops – Kalona, IA, Strawberry Jam Camp - Strawberry Point, IA, Hideaway Music Camp – Sevierville, TN, Wander Down Music Festival – Makanda, IL, Acoustic Alaska Guitar Camp – Wasilla, AK, North Carolina Banjo Clinic – Black Mountain, NC
Bobby Anderson (BGB): I have been playing for 55 years and teaching for 35 years. I travelled the road for 25 years with my band, "A Grain of Salt". I spent several years in Branson, Missouri; have recorded 12 Albums, 8 Tapes, and 5 CDs with my current band, "Bobby and Blue Ridge Tradition". We have performed on NPRs Song of the Mountain, at countless Festivals including MerleFest and Bluegrass First Class, and I teach privately at Blue Ridge Music Academy in Asheville, NC.
Terry Baucom (BGB): The Duke of Drive got his first banjo at age 10 and soon after began performing with his father in a local band-The Rocky River Boys. By 1970, his first professional job came as a fiddler with Charlie Moore. Soon thereafter, along with legends Ricky Skaggs and Jerry Douglas, he was back on banjo as a founding member of Boone Creek. Between multiple stints with Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Terry helped create IIIrd Tyme Out, Lou Reid Terry Baucom and Carolina, and BlueRidge. Terry currently tours with The Mashville Brigade and continues to free-lance and conduct banjo workshops. Look for a new Terry Baucom recording on Rebel Records in early 2011.
Rob Bourassa (BGB): Rob Bourassa has been teaching banjo and guitar since the 70s. He has developed a method of teaching intuitive fingerboard theory that allows the student to play melodies by ear without hunting or pecking for notes and has also been able to break down ideas in syncopation, drive and bounce into clear and easy to understand bites. He teaches in his Downriver Michigan studio, in person as well as by Skype around the world. He also writes, arranges and produces for NorthStar Media in Bloomfield Hills Michigan, doing commercial work, as well as industrial composition and arrangement. Rob has played in many recordings, appearing on albums with Maria Muldaur, Brian Setzer and Drake Bell (The Drake and Josh Show) as well as providing vocal harmony arrangements for a variety of artists and venues. Rob has a YouTube channel with which he publishes free lessons in improvisation and fingerboard theory for several instruments. His banjo influences have been Earl Scruggs, JD Crowe, Doug Dillard and Pete Wernick. He has taken elements of many players to meld his own unique style.
Amy Buckingham (OTB): Since she was five years old, Amy has played many different instruments. She began fiddle at age 40, and thus a love for old time music. The banjo came a year later. Amy plays mostly clawhammer and a little two-finger at times. Her mentors are Dwight Diller, Marvin Gaster, and her husband Bob, who is also on the NCBC faculty. She has taught beginning banjo for Blue Ridge Old Time Music Week at Mars Hill University, and is now the co-director there.
Bob Buckingham (OTB): Bob Buckingham (OTB) has played banjo since the late 1960's. For the past 15 years he has taught private lessons in Greenville, SC at 5th String Music and has taught at Blue Ridge Old Time Music Week in Mars Hill and teaches regularly at the John C. Campbell Folk School. He has appeared at festivals and contests winning numerous ribbons. He also has taught workshops throughout the South and Mid-Atlantic regions. He writes for Fiddler Magazine and Bluegrass Unlimited as well as occasionally for Banjo Newsletter.
Mary Z. Cox:
Mary Z. Cox (OTB): Two-time Florida & North Carolina banjo champion, Mary Z. Cox, has played banjo since she was 12 and has been a recording artist since 1999. She’s recorded 11 CDs, plays concerts & festivals, gives workshops, and authors banjo books. Her music’s been played on National Public Radio’s, “Thistle & Shamrock”, “All Songs Considered,” Pandora World Music Genome, & the BBC. She’s taught clawhammer banjo for over a decade at the John C. Campbell Folk School as well as camps & festivals nationwide, including the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, NC, Cal Tech & the Florida Folk Festival. Craig Evans, videographer & interviewer for the popular DVD series “Conversations With Old Time Performers” says Mary Z was included in this historical project because of her prolific recordings & instruction books & energetic hands on instruction, which have helped thousands of folks around the world become better banjoists and musicians. Many folks know Mary Z for her “Good Morning Banjo” videos on Face Book & YouTube where she posts impromptu banjo & dulcimer videos from unexpected places in the United States and around the globe. Others know her from the 2016 & 2017 Banjo Babes Calendar & compilation CD. 2019 is the 20th anniversary of Vintage Banjo, Mary Z’s first CD and there is a brand new CD this year to celebrate. Carolina Banjo was recorded in award winning fiddler & banjo builder Tim Gardner’s studio in October with 17 traditional and original tunes and songs. There’s a clawhammer Carolina Banjo Tab Book too & more. There’s lots of banjo music going on in 2019. Please check Mary Z’s website for updates.
Mary Z Cox holds 2 graduate degrees from Florida State University and grad level certifications in education for youth & adults. “Folks learn more when they are having fun” is her educational philosophy. “If a banjo calls to you—buy it—its your destiny” is her motto.
Hilary Dirlam (OTB): Hilary Dirlam has taught banjo workshops at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, Alabama Folk School, Blue Ridge Old-Time Music Week, Janey's Jumpstart, Suwannee Banjo Camp, and Madison County's Junior Appalachian Musicians Program. She has also instructed all-in-one workshops with fiddler Mary Gordon for the Charlotte Folk Song Society, Charlotte, NC McClellanville, SC, Columbus, OH, and at Cheddar, Dorset, United Kingdom. Hilary taught individual lessons at Celestial Mountain Music in Brevard, NC and continues to give individual lessons at home. Her publications include: Banjo Without Tears, All-In-One-Jam Books, Volume 1 and 2, and Tuesday Night Favorites. Hilary is also accomplished on string bass and guitar and has taught these instruments at numerous workshops and music camps. With extensive performance experience, she recently completed a month long tour of Australia with her present band, the Orpheus Supertones.
Eric Ellis (BGB): Eric was born and raised in Wilkesboro in a musical family. He has become one of the premier bluegrass banjo players in western North Carolina. His grandfather played music with Dock Walsh, a Wilkes County recording artist in the 1920s, and his father maintained that interest in music and played guitar. Musicians on his mother's side of the family include his second cousin, David Johnson, a Wilkes County master musician and recording artist. "David has been a big influence on me, making me want to keep playing music," says Eric. He reports other influences also. His father took him to see bluegrass bands including the Stanley Brothers at the local courthouse and the Osborne Brothers and Flatt and Scruggs at the local VFW. "I remember watching the Arthur Smith Show on television out of Charlotte and other syndicated shows on Saturday afternoons," he says. Seeing Don Rich picking guitar on the Buck Owens show made another lasting impression. "But," he reports, "there was also picking around the house." Eric received a Silvertone guitar at age five, and by the time he was twelve, he started taking music more seriously and bought a Fender Telecaster electric guitar. "But, in the back of my mind, I wanted to play banjo," he admits. At age fifteen, he started playing banjo. David Johnson's dad made the instrument for him, and David showed him a few bluegrass rolls. "From there it was just me and the radio and record player," says Eric. Eric started performing at fiddler's conventions at age sixteen with Harvey Batey and Steve Kilby. He later played with fiddler Tiny Pruitt. Eric also continued to play music with David Johnson who told him, "If you're going to play much, you're going to have to go out of town." He took that advice and began traveling to play music with a larger circle of musicians, including Clarence Greene in Lenoir and Carl Spann in Hickory. He also played with Roy McMillan's band. Eric continues to play bluegrass with a various groups. He picks with Lloyd Church and the Dixie Pals with Drake Walsh and David Johnson. "I'm playing as much as I can," he says. He plays some fingerstyle guitar, and he plays his Fender Telecaster around the house. He has been teaching for 23 years and gives banjo lessons to eight or nine students at his house. "It's helped me improve my own playing," he says. Together with ex-Clinch Mountain Boy, John Shuffler, he has helped numerous musicians record albums including Jim Shumate and Marshall Stevenson.
Bill Emerson (BGB): Bill Emerson is a true master of the instrument. Called a "banjo legend" by the Washington Post, Bill has been inducted into the SPBGMA Preservation Hall of Greats, The Washington Area Music Award Hall of Fame, the Virginia Folk Music Association Hall of Fame, and has twice been awarded Banjo Player of the Year by Muleskinner News. Credited with starting the careers of dobro legends Mike Auldridge and Jerry Douglas, he was a founding member of The Country Gentlemen. Among others, he has worked with Jimmy Martin, Country Current, Wayne Taylor, and Emerson and Waldron. Having penned numerous bluegrass standards including "Theme Time," Bill plays with "Bill Emerson and the Sweet Dixie Band." We are proud to have him and his band as part of this year's North Carolina Banjo Clinic.
Cathy Fink (OTB): Cathy Fink is a multi-GRAMMY® Award winning artist continuing a 45 year love affair with the banjo. Her banjo music includes a wide traditional repertoire plus original compositions played on everything from fretless minstrel-style banjos to modern replicas of instruments from the 1920’s. Cathy’s first solo banjo recording, “Banjo Haiku” has become an underground bible of the old-time clawhammer style. “Banjo Talkin’”, the 2007 release with special guest, Marcy Marxer, won a GRAMMY® nomination in the “Best Traditional Folk Album” category. Nat Hentoff of The Progressive and Village voice stated, " Her sound, phrasing, and resilient time combine with a compelling presence." Cathy teaches banjo online at www.truefire.com, www.homespuntapes.com, and in person at numerous camps & workshops from Augusta to Puget Sound to Mid-West and others. She is the director of “The Old Time Banjo Festival”, an annual concert in tribute to Mike Seeger at the Birchmere Music Hall. Cathy took first place in the banjo competition at the Appalachian Stringband Festival in Clifftop, WV in 2018. She performs full time with Marcy Marxer.
Rhonda Gouge (BGB): Since her birth in McDowell County in 1955, Rhonda Gouge has lived in Mitchell County, and she has played guitar since she was a young girl. "I was exposed to music through my mom and her family," she says. Rhonda's mother was an expert shape-note singer and could play piano by ear. Her brothers and sisters were also musical. Rhonda spent many days visiting neighbor, Oscar "Red" Wilson, a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipient, playing guitar accompaniment to his old-time fiddle tunes. His group, the Toe River Valley Boys, was one of her favorite bands. "When I first got a guitar and could put two or three chords together, I would go up to [Red Wilson's] house. He would take his old fiddle down, and he would play his old time tunes, and I would play guitar with him. And he would always say, ‘That's just wonderful.' And he would say, ‘You're going to be a fine musician.' And he was very encouraging to me." Eventually, she discovered bluegrass music, which became her passion. Rhonda also began playing bass in church, and a neighbor bought her a banjo for her eighteenth birthday. Soon the mandolin was also added to her cannon. Rhonda's interest in the music kept on growing, and others were taking notice. Friends started asking her for lessons, and her teaching career was born. Rhonda worked for years on factory lines, but eventually built a studio and started teaching full time. Rhonda has recorded with Red Wilson. She also has two solo projects. She is pursuing a master's degree in Appalachian Studies, and she keeps a regular waiting list for students interested in guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, fiddle, or singing.
Brandon Greene (BGB): I am originally from southern West Virginia and now live in Johnson City TN with my lovely wife Amy a 4 boys Josiah, Ezekiel, Ezra & Malachi. I first learned banjo from my grandpa, who was the banjo player at my church growing up. During high school, I studied banjo under Will Parsons. I attended East Tennessee State University (ETSU) my first year of college and studied classical banjo and business at Concord University. I then completed a Master's Certificate in Appalachian Studies at ETSU. I have toured internationally with the Abrams Brothers of Canada, my family Gospel band called Judah's Lion, the Darrell Webb band, Jonathan Buckner and Chosen Road and been a guest performer with Bill Keith, the Isaacs, Jesse McReynolds, Doyle Lawson, Mark O'Conner, Adam Steffey, Hunter Berry. I enjoy playing music with my friends at church and sharing music to edify the body of Christ. I have won a few competitions, to the Glory of God, including the WV state three times, Merlefest, the Eastern US at 5-string fest, and the National Bluegrass Banjo Contest in Winfield, Kansas. I have been teaching full time over 10 years and have been on the faculty at ETSU in the Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music Program since 2010.
Jack Hatfield (BGB): Jack Hatfield was born in Knoxville Tennessee. He started playing banjo at age 17, and after six months of lessons was asked to replace the local banjo guru Wayne Goforth who left to found another music store. Right time, right job - this was during the Deliverance (Dueling Banjos) upswing in interest in the banjo. Jack at one time had eighty students per week. He dropped out of college in 1974 to teach banjo guitar, mandolin and fiddle full time. He placed in several local and state banjo contests when a young man, including the National Banjo Championship in Winfield, Kansas. He taught full time for seventeen years before moving to tourist Mecca Pigeon Forge to perform at the Dollywood theme park, Dixie Stampede and other tourist venues. He performed on the Saturday Night Barn Dance on WNOX radio in Knoxville. Her also worked with mandolinist Red Rector and performed with Ava Gardner and Dick Dale at their show in Pigeon Forge. He currently works the East Tennessee convention /weddings/private party circuit with his band True Blue. Jack has appeared in two full-length feature films and three syndicated television shows. Jack began his writing career in 1976 as a columnist for Banjo Newsletter magazine, writing the Scruggs Corner column, followed by Beginner's Corner, then Systems and Concepts column which delved into music theory and other "big picture" ideas. Jack has authored several instruction books through Hatfield Music and through Mel Bay Publications, Inc. His most recent Mel Bay release is Exercises for Three-Finger Banjo. Jack was on the faculty of the first banjo camp, the Tennessee Banjo Institute at Cedars of Lebanon TN in 1988. Since then he served as Bluegrass Director of all three of Banjo Newsletter's Maryland Banjo Academy camps and Chuck Stearman's Nashville Academy of Traditional Music. He has directed the banjo workshop at the SPBGMA (Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America) Convention in Nashville for twenty-one years. This workshop has featured noted banjo players including Bill Keith, Bela Fleck, Tony Furtado, Alan Munde, Sonny Osbourne, Doug Dillard, J. D. Crowe, Terry Baucom, Larry McNeely, Sammy Shelor, Kristin Scott-Benson, and many others. In 2006 Jack established his the Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy banjo camp which merged briefly with Five-String Fest in 2014. In 2015 he began renovations on his barn adjacent to the Hatfield Music banjo shop. The Hatfield Music Barn was home of Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy until the Sevier County TN wildfires of November 2016 destroyed the music barn, banjo shop, his home and two rental houses. The disaster precipitated his semi-retirement from the day-to-day duties of Hatfield Music. He moved back to his home town of Knoxville, and his sister Jane runs his e-commerce business Hatfield Music, now selling only self-authored books and self-produced products. Jack is on call to consult, answer customer questions, teach an occasional private lesson and perform banjo set ups. He still occasionally writes articles for Banjo Newsletter. The silver lining to the disaster is that Jack is now free to delve into his music again, and is practicing banjo more than he ever did as a youngster. He has time to implement musical ideas and techniques he has devised over the last forty years. Now he has time to begin to develop them into a unique and personal musical signature. Jack continued his Full Moon Jam when he moved back to Knoxville. This monthly session features the area's finest bluegrass musicians and an occasional touring pro who may be passing through. Along with the several Mel Bay instruction books Jack has authored, Hatfield Music still carries his twenty or so self-published books and several items he invented and/or has manufactured such as the Banjo Board right hand practice simulator, the Pick Pouch, the Anti-Gravity strap, his patented Capo Caddy, Raejusters (adjustable resonator screws) and the re-designed Gerald Jones Acoustic Plus banjo pickup, now called the Jones-Hatfield banjo pickup. Jack will be teaching banjo setup Friday and be available to roam around chiming in on other classes when asked Thursday and Saturday. He is also available for private lessons.
Marc Horowitz (OTB/BGB): Marc started playing guitar in 1957 and then five-string banjo and mandolin in 1960. Initially beginning with "frailing" or clawhammer, be began picking Scruggs-style banjo shortly thereafter. Practicing six to eight hours a day through high school led Marc to winning his first competition - the Philadelphia Folk Festival Banjo Contest - in August of 1966. His first professional gig came at age seventeen when he recorded a commercial jingle for Wetson's Hamburgers. Marc has recorded and/or toured with Raun MacKinnon, Patrick Sky, Doc Watson, Steve Goodman, Tom Paxton, The Phoenix Singers, Judy Collins, Liz Corrigan, and Andy Kaufman. He has logged hundreds of recording sessions for commercial jingles, played in Broadway show pit orchestras, and has performed in the Broadway production of "Foxfire;" with bandmates Kenny Kosek and Roger Mason (and accompanying Keith Carradine.) Marc has also played on film scores including "The Missouri Breaks" (written and conducted by John Williams, starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson and directed by Arthur Penn). A proud former banjo teacher to Bela Fleck, Hank Sapoznik, Mike Kropp and scores of others, he has taught clawhammer banjo workshops at the Park Slope Jamboree in Brooklyn, at the Joe Val Festival in Waltham, MA, and at many other venues. Currently, Marc is an independent sales representative in the musical instrument industry, where he represents among others, Gold Tone Instruments.
Jens Kruger (BGB): Originally from Switzerland, Jens Kruger began playing North American folk music at an early age and was particularly inspired by recordings of Doc Watson, Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and other progenitors of country, bluegrass and folk music. While he has written and continues to write the music for all of The Kruger Brothers’ original tunes, in 2006, Jens began his "official" venture into the themes and forms of classical music when he was commissioned to write Music from the Spring for banjo, guitar, bass and full symphonic orchestra. Since then, he has received three commissions to write classical pieces which The Kruger Brothers have performed with various orchestral ensembles: Appalachian Concerto with string quartet; Spirit of the Rockies with a small orchestra, and most recently in 2013, Lucid Dreamer, a chamber music piece written specifically for and commissioned by the Kontras Quartet and debuted in 2014. Jens is a member of the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2011. In 2013, he was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music. Jens is the first winner of the award who resides in North Carolina and the first born outside of the United States. Happy Traum, guitarist, folksinger, teacher, and writer for aspiring musicians, has described Kruger as, "One of the world’s most musically sophisticated and technically accomplished five‐string banjo players." While Jens plays in a melodic style that has roots in bluegrass, his music is distinguished by long, melodic passages and a complex compositional foundation, often building on jazz or classical themes and techniques.
John Lawless (BGB): John Lawless has been playing bluegrass banjo since 1973. The mechanics of the three finger style fascinated him from the start, and he has made a deep study of the techniques and practice of the Earl Scruggs style. Starting in the late ‘70s, he took on private students and kept a stable of 40-50 students/week for many years. After forming the AcuTab company in the 1990s, the opportunity to closely analyze the playing styles of top bluegrass artists has led to further insights, shared in four DVDs in the AcuTab instructional series. Now working primarily as online editor at Bluegrass Today, John keeps his teaching chops sharp these days teaching banjo and bluegrass at Hollins University near his home in Roanoke, VA.
Ned Luberecki (BGB): New to our staff in 2010 will be Ned Luberecki. Ned has been teaching and playing bluegrass banjo for over 25 years. He has played with Paul Adkins' Borderline Band, Radio Flyer, the Gary Ferguson Band, and the Rarely Herd. He has recorded with the Apocalyptic Cowboys, Garrett Grass, Jim Hurst, Bull Harman, and New Strings. Ned was also the banjo player for the soundtrack of the movie "Chrystal" starring Billy Bob Thornton. Bluegrass Unlimited magazine has declared, "Ned's banjo captures that killer tone and technique banjo players die for." Currently, as banjoist for Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, he occasionally tours as second banjoist with Tony Trischka's Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular Band. Many of you may know Ned as a radio personality on Sirius XM Satellite Radio's bluegrass channel "Bluegrass Junction." He brings an uncomplicated teaching style and fresh wacky sense of humor has made him a favorite for instructing the five-string banjo. We are glad to have Ned teach intermediate and advanced melodic banjo techniques at our clinic."
Marcy Marxer (Guitar): Marcy Marxer is a multi-instrumentalist, studio musician, performer, songwriter and producer with 40 years of experience and a shelf of impressive awards. Her GRAMMY Awards say “Artist, Engineer, Producer” and she is top notch at all three of those roles. Her studio engineering has graced GRAMMY award winning projects and countless indie recordings through the years.
She has played acoustic music on Emmy Award winning National Geographic specials, platinum shipping Eva Cassidy CD’s and on over 50 recordings and instructional materials created with her partner, Cathy Fink. Marcy is a two-time GRAMMY Award winner and fourteen-time GRAMMY nominee whose guitar playing spans a variety of styles- swing rhythm and lead, bluegrass, old time, Celtic fingerpicking, folk fingerpicking and some of the most tasteful backup you can hear. She plays signature a Martin guitar, signature National Steel Tenor guitar and signature KALA tenor ukulele. She is a well-loved instructor at many camps including Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Camp and she teaches online via Truefire, Homespun Tapes and Peghead Nation. It is the power of her playing that keeps listeners coming back – the alternate route.
James McKinney (BGB): James McKinney is a specialist at Scruggs and Reno-style banjo picking. A master at jazz banjo and music theory, he has played with such legends as Bill Monroe, Vassar Clements, and John Hartford. At age 15 he won the Southern US Banjo Championship. In 1982, he won the National Banjo Championship at Winfield, Kansas. Along the way, James has taken first-place at dozens of state and regional banjo championships. He has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, at Opryland and on the Porter Wagoner Show with the Smoky Mountain Sunshine Troupe. In the 1980s James recorded and toured with his band, Danger in the Air. Since then, he has worked as a Nashville studio musician and has performing and recorded with many top artists including Porter Wagoner, Barbara Mandrell and Johnny Cash. For many years, James has enjoyed a long and close friendship with legendary fiddler Vassar Clements. They have toured together in The Vassar Clements Band. James is quite active teaching at many major banjo camps including the SPGBMA workshops, Suwannee Banjo Camp, American Banjo Camp, Midwest Banjo Camp, and Smokey Mountain Banjo Camp. Now living in Atlanta, he has launched a new acoustic group called the Night Travelers with bassist Niki Portmann. Their first release is a CD called Campfire.
Tom McKinney (BGB): Most recently, Tom had played banjo for the Asheville-based Redeye Ramblers. He was known throughout the bluegrass world as one of the best Scruggs-style banjo pickers in the business. Beginning in 1969, he began his professional career playing and singing with a number of bluegrass groups including the Boys from Shiloh, the Shenandoah Cut-Ups, and the Country Grass. Tom has also been featured in a Walt Disney movie production playing the five string! Having spent much of his life on the road, including a stint with Curley Sechler and the Nashville Grass, he was devoted to teaching, playing in local bands, and to performing banjo repair and set-up. Tom will be fondly remembered for the musician, friend and solid human being that Tom was.
Billy Presnell (BGB): Billy Presnell, born and raised in the mountains of Western North Carolina has played music all of his life. Beginning with piano he fell in love wit stringed instruments during his teenage years. Mostly captivated by the sounds of Béla Flecks banjo. He has since gone on to to study with the likes of Victor Wooten, and Ryan Cavanaugh to name a few. Billy’s approach to the banjo is experiential and most importantly musical. Making music a conversation as opposed to a strict methodology.
Don Wayne Reno:
Don Wayne Reno (BGB): Don Wayne Reno's early musical studies with his legendary father, Don Reno, introduced him to the banjo's potential for experimentation and innovation. By the time Don Wayne was 13, he was performing duets with his father. Two years later, he officially joined Don Reno and the Tennessee Cut Ups, performing and recording several albums with them until Don's death in 1984. The Reno Brothers (Don Wayne and his brothers Dale and Ronnie) successfully merged traditional bluegrass with mainstream country music and produced several acclaimed recordings, including Kentucky Gold, Acoustic Celebration and Swing West. From 1994 to 1998, Don Wayne hosted The Reno Revival, a four day banjo camp in Nashville. The camp focused on the many aspects of his father, Don Reno as well as his own interpretation of the banjo. In 2001 Don Wayne, with his brother Dale joined together with John Wheeler to form the self proclaimed rockgrass band Hayseed Dixie. Nine years and eight albums later, Don Wayne is still touring Europe and plans to tour the States later this year.
Seth Rhinehart (BGB): Currently 24 years old, Seth has been playing the banjo since the age of twelve. The music of Flatt and Scruggs and many other early pioneers of bluegrass left a lasting impression on him at an early age. Since learning the banjo, Seth has been fortunate enough to be on many well-acclaimed projects. His own release in 2009, Come on In, was voted the number (5) bluegrass album of the year by WNCW. His work has been featured on albums that have been and are still at the top of the bluegrass charts. His latest work has been with Mark Kuykendall and award-winning fiddler player Bobby Hicks for their Rebel Records albums. He has been fortunate enough to work with Michael Cleveland, Doyle Lawson, Barry Scott, and many other acclaimed bluegrass musicians. Seth places a great importance on backup and playing behind a singer. To him, that is the most critical aspect of banjo playing.
Butch Robins (BGB): As far as banjo players are concerned, few are as innovative or stylistically diverse as is Joseph C. ("Butch") Robins. Butch's musical diversity is evidenced in the bluegrass world by his inclusion as one of the longest tenured banjoists for Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys and bassist for the New Grass Revival, earning him the distinction of being "the one and only New Grass/Blue Grass Boy". He has been one of the busiest of Nashville's freelance banjo players and has performed with big-band leader, Harry James, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, Leon Russell. Hailing from the Celtic-descended, southeastern United States, as a student of music and the banjo in the 1960's and 70's, Butch acquainted himself with and befriended many of the first generation bluegrass musicians at early festivals and fiddlers' conventions. As a teenager he won major banjo contests and participated in banjo workshops at both the 1969 Newport Folk Festival and also Carlton Haney's 1969 Camp Springs Bluegrass Festival in Reidsville, NC. While serving in the US Army in South Carolina, he was introduced to Snuffy Jenkins & Pappy Sherrill, and subsequently dedicated his album, "Forty Years Late", to Snuffy. The 70's found Butch playing in various bands, including Charlie Moore, Jim & Jesse, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper and the New Grass Revival. It was during these years that he explored different banjo playing techniques and helped lay the groundwork for the progressive, melodic, 5-string banjo playing of today. He is one of the featured banjoists in the book, "Masters of The Five-String Banjo" by Tony Trischka & Pete Wernick. As a self-produced, solo recording artist with interest in and attention to ensemble sound, Butch contracted with Rounder Records and released three landmark albums - "Forty Years Late", "Fragments of My Imagicnation" and "The Fifth Child". In 1977, Butch became the banjoist for Bill Monroe and his "Blue Grass Boys". With Monroe, he traveled and performed throughout the United States, including the White House and Lincoln Center in New York City, until 1981. After the Monroe experience he founded the first incarnation of The Blue Grass Band. In the early 90's Butch helped start the Hay Holler Record label with 2 recordings sold through means of telemarketing. In 1995 he produced a masterpiece banjo-oriented bluegrass recording, "Grounded-Centered-Focused", featuring, amongst a magnificently talented supporting cast, Bill Monroe himself. Since then, Butch has traveled to and performed in Japan, Australia and Europe. As a result of these travels, he assembled some of the world's finest bluegrass musicians into the World International Bluegrass Band in 2007 as "a musical statement of international cooperation and goodwill". The band toured Virginia before performing at the IBMA Convention in Nashville, TN and taping a live TV performance for "Song of the Mountains". Also noteworthy is Butch's role in preserving the history of Blue Grass music and keeping alive the legend of Bill Monroe. His autobiography & memoirs, "What I Know 'Bout What I Know" earned strong reviews and a nomination for the IBMA's Printed Media Personality of the Year in 2004. Butch has also been an instructor at several camps, including the Tennessee Banjo Institute, Jack Hatfield's Smoky Mountain Banjo Academy, Midwest Banjo Camp, Augusta Heritage Center, The Alabama Folk School and Camp Ausgrass in Australia. In 2013, Butch recorded a series of videos for Radford University entitled "Butch Robins Presents- Blue Grass Music, its Origin and Development as a Unique and Creative Art Form." In this 5 part video series, Butch Robins explains the fascinating history of Blue Grass music. He uses both recorded and live music to set and illustrate the timeline, relates real life anecdotes of the musicians involved and tells personal stories of his life and relationship with Bill Monroe. Having had a working and friendly relationship with Monroe and many of the other musicians in this story, his insight and knowledge come together to form a unique perspective of this part of history. On September 24, 2016, Butch was inducted into the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Bean Blossom, Indiana.
Jim Rollins (BGB): Jim hailed from the Greenville area of South Carolina. Jim had been playing 5-string banjo for over 30 years. Known for his solid and straight-ahead style, he has played with Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys, The Dale Ann Bradley Band, Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers, Buzz Busby and The Bayou Boys, Bobby Hicks and The Fiddle Patch Band, and with many others. His primary musical influences are Earl Scruggs, JD Crowe, Bill Emerson, Allen Shelton, and especially South Carolina banjoist and native, Al Osteen. Jim's playing style was firmly based in the Scruggs camp with a strong emphasis on stating the melody. Jim's based his playing on the three Ts: Timing, Taste, and Tone. A dynamic player and complete gentleman, Jim has been sorely missed in many ways.
Graham Sharp (BGB): Graham is the banjoist for The Steep Canyon Rangers, a fine band from Western North Carolina.
Bennett Sullivan (BGB): North Carolina based Bennett Sullivan is one of the foremost educators and performers in the bluegrass genre. He's created multiple learning platforms for banjo players at all skill levels and has toured internationally with artists such as Maria Muldaur, Ben Sollee, Jim Kweskin, and more. In June of 2016, Bennett finished up a 4-month run as banjo and guitar player for Steve Martin's Bright Star at the Cort Theater on Broadway, of which he was a part of for two years performing at notable theaters across the country. Currently, Bennett performs regularly with Ben Sollee & Kentucky Native. Teaching: In the Spring of 2015, Bennett teamed up with the talented Czech programmer Jiri Markalous to form Listen & Learn, Inc., a company dedicated to creating unique and effective learning tools for banjo and other bluegrass instruments. Since their partnership began, Jiri and Bennett created a number of mobile apps such as Pocket Lick, Listen & Learn, and most recently, TuneFox. Bennett also shares weekly lessons on his YouTube channel, with the focus being on learning by ear. These are complimented by his lesson website, Banjo by Ear (banjobyear.me). This $4.99/month membership is a great resource for learning banjo by ear on the web. Composition: In addition to being a recognized sideman, Bennett writes and records his own music both to be released to the public and to be licensed for film, games, and tv.
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