Our 2024 Faculty
Musicians 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.
The Ruta Beggars
Boston-based string quartet featuring New Grass & Swing
Appealing to traditional and progressive acoustic music fans alike, The Ruta Beggars combine bluegrass and early swing to create a timeless act filled with intricate vocal harmonies, fiery instrumentals, and plenty of fun. They have been praised for their creative yet tasteful arrangements and charming performances, winning Thomas Point’s band competition in 2019. Since 2018, they have brought the joy of their live show to audiences across the US and Canada, from festival stages to storied folk listening rooms and as support for legacy acts Lyle Lovett and Ricky Skaggs.
Best-of-friends since their inception, The Ruta Beggars are Micah Nicol (guitar), Sofia Chiarandini (fiddle), Ariel Wyner (mandolin), Trevin Nelson (banjo), and Noah Harrington (bass), who met while studying in Berklee College of Music’s American Roots Program.
Sally Rogers & Howie Bursen
Two of America’s best loved multi-instrumentalist and folk singers
Folk singer, songwriter and educator Sally Rogers has performed from coast to coast for forty years! She has performed for audiences around the world at festivals, concerts, schools, and most any other public place you can imagine. Sally is equally talented at stirring a crowd to sing, or at using music to draw out even the shyest child in a classroom to become an active and enthusiastic participant. Widely known for her crystal clear voice, Sally accompanies herself with guitar, banjo and mountain dulcimer. Many of these instruments are used in her solo performances, as a duo with her husband Howie Bursen.
Howie Bursen is best known for his gravity-defying, triplet-filled, fiddle-tune variations and is certainly one of today’s foremost practitioners of clawhammer banjo style. He has taught clawhammer at the Maryland Banjo Academy, Common Ground and the California Traditional Solstice Festival, and his eclectic recordings contain quite a number of stellar clawhammer solos. Speaking of eclectic, Howie is also an excellent singer, song-writer and guitarist.
Trio with Celtic Roots, French and more on guitar, accordion, and fiddle
Ryan McKasson, Eric McDonald and Jeremiah McLane are masters of tradition who purposefully explore the dark corners floating on its edges. Their individual artistry is enhanced when together. In short, the sum creates a greater whole. The result is an alluring complexity, full of spontaneous musicality. Pulling from parallel strands of influence, they set the standard for traditional repertoire with an underlying drive and pulse charged with rhythmic electricity, culminating in a swirling level of intensity. An air of mystery and adventure pervades a sound compelling enough to transcend boundaries and appeal to music lovers of all stripes. Devon Leger of Hearth Music says, “This trio really shows how masterful musicians listen and play off each other.” Kalos’ music asks to be shared live, and performance is the band’s heart and forte. Their partnership stretches beyond the music, born of fast friendships formed at the band’s origin and exhibited in their playfulness on stage, with organic banter and good humor to go along with the music. They create an environment of their own design, drawing in listeners without pretense. Despite living active musical lives thousands of miles apart these musicians have committed to working together to forge a new musical path.
Shanna in a Dress
Quirky, Witty Singer-Songwriter
Shanna in a Dress is your quirky best friend who refuses to wear pants. She says what everyone has felt but no one else will say and you’ll get an uncensored journey of clever humor and heartbreak, extreme candor, and a hefty side of entertainment at her shows. This witty wordsmith is known for taking you on an emotional roller coaster, sometimes within the same song. Think John Prine mixed with Ingrid Michaelson with a twist of Phoebe Buffay from Friends all wrapped up in a sweet voice accented by guitar, piano, and ukulele. She’s as real as it gets, as anyone who follows her on FB or Instagram knows.
Midnight on the Water
Fusion of traditional fiddle tunes, jazz, tango, classical and more!
Midnight on the Water started as an idea. Nathan Bishop, Tom Krumm, and Dani Hawkins have collectively played well over one thousand performances with classical, jazz, trad, and pop ensembles, and in those engagements they have met a lot of crossover artists: classical musicians who play arrangements of pop songs, or trad musicians who dabble in jazz. But the trio never really met other string players who are equally at home across all those musical contexts – until they met one another! What would happen, they thought, if the three of them got together to play ALL the music in a single ensemble? After about a year of musical exploration and rehearsal, they are pretty excited about the results. All that’s missing is the most important part: you, our audience!
Gypsy Funk Squad
Psychedelic Middle Eastern Music and Dance
Gypsy Funk Squad plays a mix of classic belly dance songs from Turkey, Armenia, Egypt, The Balkans, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, and other points in the Middle east. In their repertoire is also revamped rock tunes and original psychedelic surprises…done belly style! They can perform all traditional, all western (world style) or a mix. They almost always have a belly dancer or two performing with us! The emphasis is on fun and a dancing good time!
Our Host Band
Folk College’s host band, Simple Gifts, is two women (Linda Littleton and Karen Hirshon) 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. 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.
Rachel Hall grew up in a family of folk musicians. She recorded three albums and toured throughout the Mid Atlantic with Simple Gifts. She has travelled to Norway and the Shetland Islands to study traditional dance music on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. Rachel plays English concertina, diatonic accordion, and piano. She organizes shape note singing in Philadelphia and is one of the authors of the Shenandoah Harmony. She is an associate professor of mathematics at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
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.
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.
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.
Eric Ian Farmer
Born in State College, Pennsylvania and raised in North Carolina, Eric Ian Farmer has returned to his birthplace sharing his songs about relationships, social awareness, and finding one’s path in life while keeping alive classics by artists like Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and Bob Marley. Eric learned how to become one with a song from Bonnie Carter and David Williams, singers in the church of his childhood just across the North Carolina state line in Danville, Virginia. Eric also draws inspiration as a singer from popular artists like Bobby McFerrin, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye. And his guitar playing is inspired by the percussive stylings of rock legend Bo Diddley.
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.
Kelly Parker & Lorri Rosso
Kelly e. Parker is founder and artistic director of ABAFASI. Her life’s roles include: sistah, mother, grandmother, drummer, drum-maker, student, teacher, social worker, composer, craftswoman, wordsmith, jewelry-maker, and welder. Kelly’s first drumming experience occurred in 1994, and it recharged her life, since then drumming has been the soundtrack of her path. The drum is in her walk, talk, hair, children and spirit. Her travel to Africa in 2005 affirmed the influence that West African drumming has had on all genres of music. That influence has informed her rhythmic expressions.
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!