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.
NPR compared her to Allison Krauss and Rolling Stone Magazine said that “April Verch was one of the best things we saw at Merlefest”! She grew up listening to her Dad’s country band play for dances in Canada's Ottawa Valley. She started step dancing at age three and fiddling at age six. Joe Newberry a frequent guest on A Prairie Home Companion, also won an International Bluegrass Music Association song of the year for “They Called it Music”. He grew up in a family full of singers and dancers. He took up the guitar and banjo as a teenager and learned fiddle tunes from great Missouri fiddlers. Both Newberry & Verch became masters of their traditions and tour the world with their respective bands and projects. Yet they never forget the roots of their music, that connection to the people in the audience, on the dance floor, to the community sparked by a good song. For these veteran performers who come from distinct traditions and parts of the world, their collaboration is fueled by their kindred passion for bringing people together to celebrate traditional music.
Blues and ballads stem into Canadian regional styles and originals. Their voices blend in harmony, their tasteful instrumentals prove that these masters have nothing left to prove, and then their feet kick up the dust in perfect rhythm . . . and together, they make you remember why this music existed in the first place.
April will be teaching a fiddle intensive on Friday morning and Joe will teach the banjo intensive.
The Early Mays have appeared on NPR's Mountain Stage, and they recently hit the #1 position on the folk charts with their album, “Chase the Sun.” They burst onto the folk scene in 2014 with a #2 debut on the National Folk-DJ Charts: an eponymous album where fiddle, banjo and guitar are the backdrop to heart-melting harmony vocals. In 2016, they took home the blue ribbon in the Neo-Traditional Band Competition at Clifftop (The Appalachian String Band Music Festival). The Early Mays bring traditional and original material to spectacular life with Appalachian-inspired songs built on deep country sensibilities, masterful singing and a sweet old-time sound.
Emily Pinkerton (vocals, guitar, fiddle, banjo), Ellen Gozion (vocals, banjo, harmonium), and Rachel Eddy (vocals, fiddle, banjo and guitar) share songs based in a love of American tradition, while also exploring their own creative voices. They are celebrated solo artists who bring their rich and carefully honed craft to The Early Mays. Emily weaves folk, classical and world music traditions together in her songwriting. She recently won a New Music USA award for the commission of a piece for old-time banjo and chamber ensemble, “Rounder Songs,” released in 2017 on New Amsterdam Records. Ellen is an accomplished ballad singer and visual artist who has taught at the Augusta Heritage Center, and she teaches the art of crankie-making throughout the mid-Atlantic. Rachel has taught fiddle, banjo and guitar at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins WV, at Sore Fingers Summer school in the UK, and different various weekend workshops from the hills of West Virginia to Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, London and Wales.
We loved having the Early Mays at our sister festival, Greenwood Furnace Folk Gathering in 2016 and are thrilled to have them joining us at Folk College this spring!
Folk College is thrilled to welcome back one of our favorite teachers, Scott Ainslie, for the fourth time. Scott is our favorite blues wizard, an exceptional teacher and gives incredibly moving performances! On stage, he brings the African and American roots, history and soul of the music alive with a mesmerizing mix of story, and what Dirty Linen magazine describes as "fiery picking and slide work and his deep passionate bluesman's growl." Scott is a recipient of the National Slide Guitar Festival Living Heritage Award, a paired award he shares with Robert Johnson.
As a special treat, Scott will be joined by his long time friend musician, storyteller and lecturer, Reggie Harris, a veteran from our early Folk College days. A songwriter of great depth and passion, Reggie writes from a personal sense of mission that merges a world wise point of view with a singularly hopeful stance that life, though often challenging, is filled with possibility and hope. His songs reveal thoughts about life and love and some of the deep aspects of the human experience and cover topics from his own personal journey to world issues and history.
Take a listen to Scott and Reggie reciting a Langston Hughes poem and performing Change is Gonna Come at:
Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer, Michael G. Ronstadt, traverses a mélange of musical styles that range from folk, jazz, and classical to Americana and the wildly ethereal, always honoring the roots of his legendary musical family. Michael has contributed his virtuosic cello playing to hundreds of recordings from accomplished artists, including Craig Bickhardt, Ezra Vancil, Amber Norgaard, and Zoe Mulford.
Throughout his tenure as an acclaimed musical artist in his own right, Ronstadt has also premiered several classical compositions on behalf of composers like Norway’s Bjørn Bolstad Skjelbred, as well as United States composers Conrad Kehn, Kenneth Stewart and Michael Ippolito. He has recorded over two dozen albums including solo recordings and collaborations with his brother, Petie Ronstadt, in the Ronstadt Brothers band.
Serenity Fisher blends playful pop-rock with a Tim Burton-esque quirkiness. A wordsmith, Serenity entices stories into songs using truth-telling, highly visual lyrics, and dreamy melodies. Serenity is a powerhouse singer whose nuanced vocals vary from bluesy belt to sultry whisper, from technical prowess to stripped down raw emotion. Her piano style is theatrical and passionate. Her music has been compared to Regina Spektor, Tori Amos and Fiona Apple.
Husband-wife duo Arun Ramamurthy and Trina Basu are both violinists known for a variety of genres including Indian Classical, jazz, and Western Classical. The two are co-founders and Artistic Directors of Brooklyn Raga Massive, a collective of forward thinking musicians rooted-in and inspired-by the classical music of India, and they have run the Brooklyn Violin House for over 15 years.
Arun Ramamurthy is a versatile violinist, composer and educator who is recognized as one of the country’s leading Indian Classical and crossover musicians. He has carved a niche for himself as a multifaceted artist, performing internationally in both traditional Carnatic and Hindustani settings as well as bridging genres with his own innovative projects. Besides his work with Trina Basu, Arun leads the Arun Ramamurthy Trio, an ensemble that brings a fresh approach to age-old South Indian classical repertoire and raga inspired originals. Praised by All About Jazz as “a beautiful, exotic, ear-opening listening experience” the Trio’s debut album “Jazz Carnatica” was picked by NPR’s New Sounds as a Top New Release.
Trina Basu was trained in Western Classical, Indian Classical and Jazz styles. Her expressive sound explores cultural and musical threads from her Indian and North American roots. Trina co-leads the chamber ensemble, Karavika whose music is inspired by classical and folk traditions from South Asia and America. Other projects include an improvisational violin duo with Carnatic Classical violinist, Arun Ramamurthy and her performance work with Brooklyn Raga Massive where she also serves as an Artistic Director.
Christopher Davis-Shannon's music is the essence of honest simplicity. Bringing together influence ranging from Fats Waller to Chet Baker, he creates an atmosphere that will instantly transport you back to jazz clubs, and speakeasies of the early 20th century. Not content being labeled a traditionalist, he forges ahead breathing new life into old classics, weaving together a sound that is enjoyed by both young and old.
As a multi-Instrumentalist, songwriter, and educator, based in Philadelphia, Davis-Shannon maintains a steady tour schedule with his own music as well as a sideman for various acts. He brings to the stage not just the pure joy of music, but a vast knowledge of the history behind the songs that he holds close to his heart. His intricate instrumental work and plaintive vocals are infused with soulfulness which cannot be faked, and a respect for his predecessors which is rarely equaled.
A modern vagabond he has toured the world as a performer on stages from New Zealand to New Orleans, from Las Vegas to New York City.
Jeremiah McLane (accordion and piano) has a background in jazz, Celtic, Québécois, French and other roots influenced music. He is a founding member of both The Clayfoot Strutters and Nightingale, two bands that have helped shape the sound of traditional New England roots music. He received National Public Radio's “favorite picks” award for his second solo recording, Smile When You’re Ready, and French music magazine Trad Mag’s “BRAVO” award for his fifth release, Hummingbird. He currently plays with many different ensembles including with the Jeremiah McLane Trio, Weezer and Squeezer and others.
Jeremiah was raised in a family with deep ties to both its Scottish heritage and its New Hampshire roots. Traditional New England music and dance were a part of his parents and grandparents generations. After an early formation in classical piano, Jeremiah spent his teenage years playing blues and jazz. Following undergraduate studies with jazz legend Gary Peacock, he studied Indonesian Gamelan, West African drumming, and the music of minimalist composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass. It wasn’t until his mid twenties that Jeremiah began to immerse himself in the world of traditional Celtic and French music, studying accordion with Jimmy Keene and Frederic Paris. He then spent several decades traveling in Europe, doing field research that laid the groundwork for a Master’s degree he received many years later from the New England Conservatory.
In the early 1990s Jeremiah formed two bands: The Clayfoot Strutters and Nightingale. Both bands had strong traditional New England roots and had a deep and lasting impact on the traditional dance scene in New England. In 2003 he formed Le Bon Vent, a sextet specializing in Breton and French music, and as an outgrowth of this ensemble, has formed several duos with individual members including James Falzone, Ruthie Dornfed and Cristi Catt. Since the early 1990s, Jeremiah has recorded over a dozen CDs with Nightingale, the Clayfoot Strutters, Bob & the Trubadors, Le Bon Vent, with Ruthie Dornfeld. His second solo recording, Smile When You’re Ready, was nominated by National Public Radio in their “favorite picks”, and his fifth release, Hummingbird, with Ruthie Dornfeld, received the French music magazine “Trad Mag” Bravo award, as did his CD Goodnight Marc Chagall with Le Bon Vent. He has composed music for theatre and film, including Sam Shepard’s “A Lie Of The Mind”, and been awarded the Ontario Center For The Performing Arts “Meet The Composer” Award, and the Vermont Council On The Arts “Creation Of New Work” grant.
In 2005 Jeremiah started the Floating Bridge Music School, which is devoted to teaching traditional music from the British Isles, Northern Europe, and North America. An adjunct instructor at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, NY, he also teaches at the Summit School of Traditional Music in Montpelier, VT, at the Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon NH, and at many summer music camps including Ashokan Fiddle & Dance, Augusta Heritage Arts Center, American Festival of Fiddle Tunes, and the Maine Fiddle Camp.
Biodun Kuti grabbed the guitar at the early age of fifteen and started playing in churches, with his father’s band, and other local bands in Lagos, Nigeria. Descended from an ancestral lineage of Yoruba musicians, Biodun’s childhood was bound with Juju, Highlife and traditional drumming. “I grew up in a house in Lagos where you could find guitars in every corner of the house, and all of my brothers are musicians as well,” says Biodun. “My grandfather was the chief of the village of Ifewara – right next to Ife (in the state of Osun) which is believed to be the cradle of the Yoruba people. His house was filled with a hundred different traditional Yoruba percussions. So it was that I was brought up in both traditional and modern Yoruba music, finding a fluid style of guitar playing inflected with jazz and funk elements.”
Wayne Fugate is one of the New York area's most versatile acoustic musicians. Making his musical home in the space in, around and between the American roots styles of bluegrass, blues, jazz, and old-time music, he can swing gracefully from these styles to any of his other musical loves in the worlds of Classical, Gypsy jazz and Brazilian Choro music. His playing combines emotion and intellect with technical precision and while he puts his own creative stamp on everything that he plays, the respect he has for tradition is readily apparent in his playing.
A founding member of the widely acclaimed, eclectic string band “Uncommon Ground”, Wayne also performs and tours with “Mandolin Madness” an ensemble featuring mandolin great, Barry Mitterhoff and “The New York Mandolin Ensemble”, one of the country’s premiere chamber orchestra groups using instruments of the Mandolin and Lute families (Mandolins, Mandola, Mando-Cello, Guitar and Bass).
In demand as 'first call' freelance artist, some of Wayne's other performing credits include stage work with Tony Trischka, Hazel Dickens, Barry Mitterhoff, Kenny Kosek, Walt Michael & Co, Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, Kenny Kosek, Grammy Award winner Lisa Gutkin, and banjo legend Bill Keith.
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.
Henry Koretzky is a mandolinist, guitarist, and singer from Harrisburg, PA, who has performed in a wide variety of styles and groups, from bluegrass with Cornerstone, Sweetwater Reunion, and High Strung; klezmer with The Old World Folk Band; old-time with the duo Rootbound; as well as swing, celtic, contemporary folk, and contradance music. He has taught at Folk College in previous years as part of The Keystone Rebels and as part of a duo with singer-songwriter- guitarist Kevin Neidig, and has also been a staff regular at Greenwood Furnace Folk Gathering.
As a pianist, Judy is at home in many styles of music including jazz, classical and contra. She plays English Country Dance music with the band Kestrel, and Irish music with Patrick Clifford. Some years ago her experience at Folk College prompted her to take up the piano accordion. Much easier to haul around than a Steinway, that instrument has opened the door to many rich musical possibilities and ensembles. As a bandleader, Judy often can be found conducting large groups of musicians who have never rehearsed together, including at the Mt. Airy Contra Dance and the Northeast Squeeze-In, in addition to the Folk College Contra Dance Band. Her teaching is focused on helping musicians find simple, and perhaps unexpected, ways to improve and enjoy their playing. She explores ideas about achieving mastery, both as a musician and a martial artist, in her blog, Kotsu Kotsu.
The Fiddling Thomsons are an award winning multi-instrumentalist father and son team residing in New Hampshire, with 12 years of duo performance experience on twin fiddles, banjos, guitar, accordion, irish flute, pennywhistle, and percussion instruments.
They have performed internationally at venues including the Meet in Beijing International Arts Festival, and the Bath Folk Festival in England, and at New England venues including the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire; Massachusetts Maritime Academy; and Fenway Park. Ryan played keyboard for years with Boston based ceili bands - Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, and Ceol Tradsiunta na hEireann.
Ryan has won the Northeastern USA trophy at the National Fiddle Contest, banjo awards from California to Massachusetts, and a Boston Music Awards nomination for his accordion playing. Brennish has variously placed third through first at several local fiddle contests and a first place band award at the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia. Together the Thomsons won a Twin Fiddling Award at the Lowell National Park Banjo and Fiddle Contest. More info is available at http://captainfiddle.com/thomsonsband.html
Mark Twain said, “When you want genuine music -- music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whisky, go right through you like Brandreth's pills, ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose, -- when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo!”
Jay Best has invoked the “glory-beaming banjo” for decades and has explored a wide variety of “genuine music” including old-time, folk, and blues. Jay leads a fiddle-mentoring group at the Confluence Creative Arts Center and performed on and produced the community CD Confluence: Coming Together. He loves playing banjo, guitar, and fiddle with friends and family, but his magnum opus was a recording made with a steel guitar tuned like a banjo and performed with cicadas at twilight.
Richard has been exploring the harmonica from the inside out for over 30 years. He has performed with Taj Mahal, Maria Muldaur, Bo Diddley, Susan Werner, and many others. His studio work includes award winning films, TV, radio, and theatre soundtracks, and other projects. As a soloist, he combines his fluid and highly developed rack playing with soulful vocals, guitar, and intricate solo harp flights. Richard’s music is American roots - ranging from rural and urban blues, fiddle tunes, swing, country, gospel, to early rock and roll. He has three solo releases - “Steppin Out”, The Joliet Sessions”, and his most recent collection titled “Celtic Instrumentals”. You can also follow Richard on his blog.
Bob Nicholson is a Folk College tradition, making our annual Saturday night contradance truly special. Bob is in demand as a contra and square dance caller who is known for his relaxed teaching style, patience, energy, and ability to make the dance fun!