Artists on the faculty of Folk College lead workshops, coach student bands, perform concerts and lead jam sessions. Some artists lead 3-hour intensive workshops on Friday: check out Intensives.
No one remembers when the neighbors started calling the McCutcheons to complain about the loud singing from young John’s bedroom. It didn’t seem to do much good, though. For, after a shaky, lopsided battle between piano lessons and baseball (he was a mediocre pianist and an all-star catcher), he had “found his voice” thanks to a cheap mail-order guitar and a used book of chords.
From such inauspicious beginnings, John McCutcheon has emerged as one of our most respected and loved folksingers. As an instrumentalist, he is a master of a dozen different traditional instruments, most notably the rare and beautiful hammer dulcimer. His songwriting has been hailed by critics and singers around the globe. His thirty recordings have garnered every imaginable honor including seven Grammy nominations. He has produced over twenty albums of other artists, from traditional fiddlers to contemporary singer-songwriters to educational and documentary works. His books and instructional materials have introduced budding players to the joys of their own musicality. And his commitment to grassroots political organizations has put him on the front lines of many of the issues important to communities and workers.
Even before graduating summa cum laude from Minnesota’s St. John’s University, this Wisconsin native literally “headed for the hills,” forgoing a college lecture hall for the classroom of the eastern Kentucky coal camps, union halls, country churches, and square dance halls. His apprenticeship to many of the legendary figures of Appalachian music imbedded a love of not only home-made music, but a sense of community and rootedness. The result is music...whether traditional or from his huge catalog of original songs...with the profound mark of place, family, and strength. It also created a storytelling style that has been compared to Will Rogers and Garrison Keillor.
The Washington Post described John as folk music’s “Rustic Renaissance Man,” a moniker flawed only by its understatement. “Calling John McCutcheon a ‘folksinger’ is like saying Deion Sanders is just a football player...” (Dallas Morning News). Besides his usual circuit of major concert halls and theaters, John is equally at home in an elementary school auditorium, a festival stage or at a farm rally. He is a whirlwind of energy packing five lifetimes into one. In the past few years alone he has headlined over a dozen different festivals in North America (including repeated performances at the National Storytelling Festival), recorded an original composition for Virginia Public Television involving over 500 musicians, toured Australia for the sixth time, toured Chile in support of a women's health initiative, appeared in a Woody Guthrie tribute concert in New York City, gave a featured concert at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, taught performance art skills at a North Carolina college, given symphony pops concerts across America, served as President of the fastest-growing Local in the Musicians Union and performed a special concert at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This is all in his “spare time.” His “real job,” he's quick to point out, is father to two grown sons.
But it is in live performance that John feels most at home. It is what has brought his music into the lives and homes of one of the broadest audiences any folk musician has ever enjoyed. People of every generation and background seem to feel at home in a concert hall when John McCutcheon takes the stage, with what critics describe as “little feats of magic,” “breathtaking in their ease and grace...,” and “like a conversation with an illuminating old friend.” Whether in print, on record, or on stage, few people communicate with the versatility, charm, wit or pure talent of John McCutcheon.
It's been almost 20 years since we've had John at Folk College, and we're thrilled that he'll be joining us again as our headliner this year!
Two-time GRAMMY Award Winners, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer are master musicians with a career spanning over 35 years. Their superb harmonies are backed by instrumental virtuosity on the guitar, five-string banjo, ukulele, mandolin, cello-banjo, and more. Their repertoire ranges from classic country to western swing, gypsy jazz to bluegrass, and old-time string band to contemporary folk (including some original gems).
Cathy & Marcy have performed at hundreds of bluegrass and folk festivals and taught at close to 100 music camps worldwide. Happily known as ‘social music conductors’, they’re always ready to start a jam session, a community sing, or create a music camp helping others learn to play and sing. The duo's past students include Kaki King and Rhiannon Giddens and they have performed with a wide range of musical luminaries, including Pete Seeger, Theodore Bikel, Tom Paxton, Patsy Montana, Riders in the Sky. They have entertained the Queen of Thailand, been keynote singers for the AFL-CIO, and appeared on the Today Show and on National Public Radio. The Washington Area Music Association has recognized the duo with over 60 WAMMIE Awards for folk, bluegrass, and children's music. Cathy & Marcy advocate in Washington for unions, health care for children, and the rights and livelihoods of artists.
The duo has toured worldwide, from Japan to New Zealand, Vancouver to New York, South Africa to Israel and everywhere in between. Recent festivals and venues include Merlefest, Wintergrass, Denver Ukefest, and Kate Wolf Music Festival. American Voices Abroad chose Cathy & Marcy with fiddler Barbara Lamb to perform in China, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. Department of State.
Cathy & Marcy earned GRAMMY Awards for their recordings ‘cELLAbration: A Tribute to Ella Jenkins’ and ‘Bon Appétit!: Musical Food Fun’. Their CD's ‘Postcards’ and ‘Banjo Talkin’ were GRAMMY finalists in the Best Traditional Folk Album category.
Formed in 2010, The Appleseed Collective become a force of nature powered by their local community and developed by a strong sense of do-it-yourself drive. In an age of corporations and climate change, the band’s commitment to buying & selling local, eating from gardens, and being their own bosses has led to the kind of success that feels simply organic.
Each part of the Collective comes together to form an amalgam of complementary and contrasting elements. With a Motown session musician for a father, guitarist Andrew Brown was exposed to pre-World War II jazz on a trip to New Orleans. Shortly afterwards a chance meeting introduced him to Brandon Worder-Smith, violinist, mandolinist and improvisatory magician who grew up playing old time fiddle music. Vince Russo, multi-percussionist and van-packing savant, blends influences of funk, jazz and rock n’ roll on the washboard. Eric O'Daly comes from a background of choral singing and studies in Indian classical music and provides the bottom end on the upright bass. The whole band sings in harmony.
The Appleseed Collective is not a bluegrass band. It’s not The Hot Club of Paris. It’s not a ragtime cover band. The Appleseed Collective represents Americana music rooted in traditions from all over the world and from every decade, creating a live experience that welcomes every soul and is impossible to replicate. Folk College audiences have been mesmerized by The Appleseed Collective’s music and performances the past two times they’ve been with us . . . so much so that we can’t stop inviting them back!
A winner of many awards and honors, Ellis has been recognized both for her songwriting skills and her engaging performances. Many folk festivals have “audience choice” awards, and Ellis has claimed those honors at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Moab Folk Festival (3 times!), and Sisters Folk Festival. She also won the Kerrville New Folk Contest, the midwest region of the Mountain Stage New Song Contest and the award for the Just Plain Folks (International) Best Female Singer Songwriter Album. She has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion 4 times and she is currently finishing up her 10th full-length album, Ordinary Love.
There’s just something about Ellis. She is at once funny and wise, thoughtful and uninhibited, and her captivating voice is matched by her uplifting lyrics. If you looked up the definition of open-hearted in the dictionary, you just might find her photo there. Ellis’s performances are transformational; she leaves her audiences better than she finds them, with softened edges and opened hearts.
After moving from Texas to Minneapolis at age 16, Ellis got her start singing her own songs at open mics where she quickly dropped her often-mispronounced former last name (Bergeron; her new married name is Delaney). She joined a rock band in high school while also setting up her own record label to put out her first solo CD Soft Day in 1996. In college at St Olaf, she fronted the band Bobby Llama and in 1999 the band was voted Sam Goody/Musicland's Best Unsigned Band in America. Ellis went solo and began touring full-time in 2000. Since then she has independently sold more than 40,000 copies of her CDs.
Ellis got her start performing the women’s festival circuit in 2000, with regular performances at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. She has headlined twice at the National Women’s Music Festival and once at the Virginia Women's Music Festival. Ellis has established herself as a rising artist in the folk music community, being voted "Most Wanted to Return" by the audiences at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Sisters Folk Festival, and Moab Folk Festival. She has since been invited to perform at Philadelphia Folk Festival, Festival for the Eno, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Wildflower Festival, Fischer Festival and the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival.
We love her presence, her energy, and her positive attitude. We are excited to welcome Ellis as a teacher and performer at Folk College!
Lansana Lansana (Sana), a griot of West African music, started playing music at the age of 10, when he learned the balafon (an African wooden marimba), an instrument he still performs on today. On the heels of that experience, Sana picked up a second instrument — the djembe (an African drum) —and learned to play from a variety of teachers.
Later, Sana joined Percussion de Guinee Junior, a percussion and dance ensemble renowned in Guinea. During his five years with the group, Sana was offered a position in Percussion de Boka by its leader, Ibrahima “Boka” Camara, one of Guinea’s best djembefola (a term that refers to someone who plays djembe). In addition to performing with Percussion de Boka, Sana has also founded his own ensemble, taught percussion to children and adults, and learned a third instrument, the kora (a 22-string African harp).
In 2005, Sana moved to Australia. During his time there, Sana has been involved with various musical projects, including, Balabajal, a three-piece traditional African music ensemble, Tribalious, an African contemporary percussion ensemble, Tibet to Timbuktu, a fusion of Tibetan, African, Indian and Australian music, and Adoona, a four-piece contemporary group highlighting the kora. Sana also records session work with various artists and performs regularly in festivals like the Woodford Folk Festival, Island Vibe, the Cairns African Festival, the Sydney Festival, the Townsville Multicultural Festival, and the Townsville African Festival. Sana has been involved in public and corporate drumming workshops in the Brisbane area and teaching percussion at schools with Hello Africa. Sana has also completed an education tour, teaching at schools in Tamworth, Coffs Harbor and Newcastle. Folk College is thrilled that Sana will be joining us for the first time this year, alongside Kelly Armor.
Kelly Armor is a folklorist, instrumentalist, singer, storyteller, and educator. Her passion for folk music was ignited when she lived in East Africa for several years in the late 1980's to do ethnomusicology research. That in turn led her to study American roots music and a 13 year career as a performer. She is currently the Folk Art and Education Director at the Erie Art Museum where she directs Old Songs New Opportunities, a program that trains refugee women to work in childcares and to use their traditional songs on the job.
Vidar Skrede and Randy Gosa debut their combination of the melodies of Norwiegian folk music with the rhythmic approach of Irish accompaniment. The duo performs a collection of Vidar’s original compositions, traditional Norwegian folk music, and a few Irish and Celtic influenced and traditional tunes.
Vidar plays fiddle, hardanger fiddle and guitar. Randy (USA) plays guitar and bouzouki. A professional in the Irish music scene since 1999, his bands include the Milwaukee based celtic trio Ce, Myserk, The Lost Forty duo with Brian Miller, and is an active ceili/set dance musician in Milwaukee. In addition to performing, he teaches at the Irish Fest School of Music.
Folk College's host band, Simple Gifts, is three women (Linda Littleton, Karen Hirshon & Rachel Hall) playing twelve instruments, with styles that range from old time to Celtic to Klezmer and beyond. Karen Hirshon plays fiddle, mandolin, guitar, 6-string banjo, bowed psaltery, doumbek, and spoons. Linda Littleton plays fiddle, hammered dulcimer, banjo, recorders, and bowed psaltery. Rachel Hall is recognized as one of the leading English concertina players in the U.S., and she also performs on piano, accordion, and tabla. Based in State College and Philadelphia, PA, Simple Gifts members designed Folk College and work with the Huntingdon County Arts Council to make it a reality. They have a strong philosophy that everyone can play music, that music is best when shared, and that above all, music is about communication, not competition.