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 Delaney 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!
Tasana Camara is from Guinea, West Africa. He is a jaliba, sometimes called a griot. A jaliba is more than a musician and a music teacher. The jaliba, unique to West African culture, has the important job to build community. They play for fighting families to bring peace. They play for aggressive people to calm down and clean their heads of angry thoughts. The jaliba’s music can even help thieves to stop stealing. The jaliba can help shy people feel free and not scared. They also travel from village to village to play for important ceremonies like weddings and funerals.
Tasana learned to be a jaliba from his family. It is a tradition passed from parent to son or daughter. He grew up as a baby and toddler with music all around him, but started to learn to be a jaliba when he was about 10 years old. He first resisted, he says he wanted to be chauffeur. His father said, “Okay, I’ll give you your first driving lesson,” and handed him the xylophone. Tasana was very angry. A few days later he had a dream he was playing the xylophone and woke up sweating. He then found he could play well, even before getting a proper lesson and it surprised everyone. He then decided he would not rebel but would learn the tradition.
As a teenager he was recruited to be in the National Ballet of Guinea, which is a group of musicians that represent the country’s different ethnic groups. They all learned each other’s traditions and performed across the country, other African countries and even toured Europe. He then signed a 10 year contract to stay in Holland and work as a touring musician.
In 2006 he started to travel to the U.S. for engagements lasting from 3 months to one year. In 2012 he settled in Oil City and used that as his home base. In 2019 he moved to Erie.
Although people in Erie don’t have the jaliba tradition, he still feels that it is important to use his talent and training to bring peace and build community. He makes it look easy, but getting a classroom of middle school students, each with a loud instrument, to listen to each other and play together is a testament to his gentle but strong presence.
Folk College is thrilled that Tasana will be joining us for the first time this year, alongside Kelly Armor.
Vidar Skrede and Randy Gosa combine the melodies of Norwegian 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. Besides playing the music, they love to share the stories and history behind it.
Vidar Skrede (from Norway) is a freelance Nordic folk musician on guitar, harding fiddle, fiddle and Greek bouzouki. He has a background in the traditional music of Rogaland (southwest of Norway), and has a master's degree in Nordic folk music from the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. Vidar has appeared on national television in Norway and Iceland, and has been heard on radio across the Nordic countries and throughout the U.S., including live radio concerts at the legendary Studio 19. Vidar is a leading musician on the Nordic folk music scene and a popular tune writer – his compositions are played and recorded by bands like Fiddlers’ Bid and Blazing Fiddles besides with his own projects. He has performed and recorded with musicians such as Bruce Molsky (a Folk College favorite) and Liz Carroll, and has recorded with bands that have won or been nominated for Norwegian Folk Music Award and Emma Gaala, the Finnish GRAMMY award.
Randy Gosa (from Wisconsin) plays guitar and bouzouki. A professional in the Irish music scene since 1999, he is founding member of the Milwaukee based Celtic trio Cé. Besides his duo with Vidar Skrede, Randy performs nationally with the band Myserk and collaborates with guitarist/singer Brian Miller, flute player Brett Lipshutz and Celtic harpist Kim Robertson. Randy has studied with several renowned Irish music masters including Liz Carroll and Sheila Shigley, studied at the University of Limerick, Ireland with Niall Keegan and Sandra Joyce, and completed the UW-Milwaukee Celtic Studies program. In addition to performing, Randy is a sought-after teacher at the Irish Fest School of Music and is an active céilí/set dance musician in Milwaukee. Randy’s versatile musicianship has been described by critics such as Alex Monaghan (Folk World) as “driving, percussive, lyrical, gentle, dominant by turns.”
Folk College is grateful to have the opportunity to bring Vidar Skrede and Randy Gosa, largely thanks to a donation from Don Nash.
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
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.
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.
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.
Shelley Kelley has been named the 2019 Folk Musician of the Year for the State of Delaware! She performs nationally playing hurdy-gurdy, tinwhistle, bodhran, guitar, Chalumeau (clarinet) spoons, and more. “RimRock” is her genre. She is also a DJ on www.wvud.org.
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!