Old-Time Week Coordinator Erynn Marshall is a fiddler well-known nationally and beyond for her traditional music. She learned the nuances of old-time fiddling from visiting 80-95 year-old southern fiddlers and wrote a book about them called, Music in the Air Somewhere (WVU Press). Her tunes are becoming common repertoire in fiddle circles and she is also a sought-after teacher. Erynn performs at festivals and music camps around the globe with her husband, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Carl Jones. Their new CD is called Old Tin. Erynn has won 1st place fiddle at Clifftop and Mt Airy Fiddlers Conventions, recorded nine albums, and appeared in five films.
Rooted in southern Appalachian mountain tradition, Cary Fridley specializes in resonant, soulful singing and dance music, from old-time country to modern honky-tonk, blues, and jazz. A native of Covington, VA, she has been singing mountain songs all her life, and toured with the Freight Hoppers string band for six years. She currently performs in and around Asheville, NC, and teaches guitar, fiddle, and singing for the Junior Appalachian Musicians program.
Eddie was born in Galax, and grew up just across the New River in the sleepy little town of Fries, VA. Exposed to music at an early age, Eddie learned the old style of Appalachian singing and playing that he heard from friends and neighbors. His maternal grandmother taught Eddie to flat-foot dance and play the guitar. Grandpa Bond played guitar and sang duets with Eddie’s Grandma who played autoharp and taught Eddie many of the old mountain ballads. Great-uncle Leon Hill took Eddie to visit many mountain fiddlers and musicians who would often come to visit at Uncle Leon’s house in return. He moved on from guitar to banjo and then fiddle. His love for old-time music and his determination to preserve it has always been of utmost importance to him. Eddie has won first place in Fiddle, Banjo, and Autoharp at the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention as well as many other contests, and has carried his music across the globe. In 2018, he was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, our nation’s highest honor for a folk artist. Currently, Eddie teaches the next generation of old-time musicians at the local High School of Grayson County.
Beverly Smith is a singer, songwriter and dance caller, who plays fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar. Praised for her recordings of early country duets with Carl Jones, Alice Gerrard and John Grimm, her guitar playing has been featured on recordings by fiddlers Bruce Molsky, Rafe Stefanini, Tara Nevins and Matt Brown, and her singing with Mick Moloney, John Doyle, Laurie Lewis and others. A founding member of The Heartbeats Rhythm Quartet she’s also played with Big Hoedown and The Rockinghams, Alice Gerrard and Carl Jones. She’s taught guitar, fiddle, singing and dance at camps throughout the US, UK, Finland, Canada and Spain and co-directs the Roots of American Music Week at Mars Hill. She has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, E-Town, Mountain Stage and Voice of America, and was featured in the October 2000 issue of Acoustic Guitar Magazine.
Rick Good was a founding member of the Hotmud Family, a 24 year veteran of Rhythm in Shoes and a 2010 Ohio Heritage Fellow. He is recognized and respected for his driving banjo playing, heartfelt singing and crafty songwriting. With his wife and long-time collaborator, Sharon Leahy, Rick has made a life of creating critically acclaimed performance art rooted in American traditions. He currently plays with the bands Good & Young and The Elements.
2020 marks forty-eight years since Rodney first danced with the Green Grass Cloggers after first being told he would “never make a clogger”! He has shared his love of percussive dance in workshops for beginners around the country, so that no one else will be led to believe that they cannot dance. Known mostly for his smooth flatfooting, he is also a caller, musician, storyteller and co-founder of the Fiddle Puppets (now known as Footworks). He’s toured the US and the British Isles, performing, teaching, and calling square and contra dances. Rodney also produces, stage manages and emcees outdoor festivals and concerts and serves as the Director of Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music Concerts in Boone, NC.
Kirk Sutphin grew up in Walkertown, NC, heavily exposed to traditional music of the region from the Round Peak fiddle styles of Surry County to the banjo picking of Charlie Poole. Kirk has learned tunes from many musicians born around the turn of the 20th century, and he is is an exceptional fiddler whose sound is often compared to that of Tommy Jarrell. Kirk is also an excellent banjo player in both clawhammer and fingerpicking styles and continues to be a proponent of western NC mountain music through performances with numerous area musicians and his many traditional recordings.
Ben Nelson grew up in a family of old-time musicians in southwestern VA and began playing old-time music as a teenager. Ben was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study the trans-Atlantic roots of the fiddle and banjo in Ireland and West Africa. A passionate educator now living in Asheville, Ben works as an elementary school science teacher and traditional music instructor. He teaches old-time music and dance at Warren Wilson College and in the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program, and has taught at music camps across the southern Appalachians. Ben is also a member of the prize-winning stringband The Moose Whisperers – who he first met through the Young Old-Time program at Swannanoa!
Bob Carlin is one of the best known clawhammer-style banjoists performing today. A three-time winner of the Frets magazine Readers Poll, he has taken the distinctive southern banjo style to appreciative audiences all over the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan. With four Rounder albums and several banjo instruction manuals and videos to his credit, he’s been offering performances, lectures and workshops for almost fifty years, and toured with songwriter John Hartford for six years as a member of his band. Since Hartford’s death in 2001, Bob has returned to solo performing, teaching and appearances with other musicians.
Mary Jane Epps grew up in central VA, where she started playing the fiddle to annoy her siblings. Today she especially loves twin fiddling and finding creative ways to support other musicians in an ensemble. She has taught workshops across the country, and her fiddle playing can be heard on the albums Light and Hitch and The New Young Fogies. She is an ecologist and botanist at Mary Baldwin University in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and will happily identify any plants or mushrooms you might be sitting on in between tunes.
Jeff is one of the founding members and main songwriters of the alt-trad-rock band, The Horse Flies, about whom the New York Times wrote: “The Horse Flies have figured out how to hold a hoedown in a physics lab.” He’s toured extensively; recorded on a major label; appeared on MTV, A Prairie Home Companion, All Things Considered, Mountain Stage, E-Town and more, and performed and taught at numerous festivals, camps, schools, and concert series throughout the US. He has also co-composed and/or mixed music for over 25 feature and documentary films, most with his partner, Judy Hyman, and was featured in Acoustic Guitar magazine for his backup guitar playing. His songs and music have been used by film director Oliver Stone, Natalie Merchant, MTV’s Rock the Vote, and others.
Sharon Leahy is happy to have been a part of the old time community since her days as a Green Grass Clogger in 1979. Though dancing has been her main focus, she has steadfastly transferred that rhythm to guitar and bass and was a member of multiple winning bands at Clifftop. She has also won the Blue Ribbon in clogging both there and at the National Folk Festival at Wolftrap. Singing with her partner, Rick Good for over thirty-five years has taught her the give and take of vocal harmony, the buzz of a good blend and the soul lightening joy of voices joined.
Ron is a performer and scholar of the music of the Appalachian region. A founding member of the Appalachian Association of Sacred Harp Singers, with whom he performed on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion, Ron began fiddling thirty years ago in Rockbridge County, VA and has since participated in various workshops and festivals across the region including Hindman Settlement School’s Appalachian Family Folk Week, Augusta’s Old-Time and Singing weeks, Berea’s Christmas Dance School, and many times at Swannanoa. He also performed music across the globe with the Red State Ramblers and collaborated on a social art project sharing shape-note singing with Sufi chant in Lancashire, England. He loves weekly participation in the Lexington, KY Monday night old-time jam which represents participatory democracy itself.
Kevin Fore grew up in the Beulah/Round Peak section of Surry County, NC, where his family has lived since the late 1700s, and is one of the youngest native tradition bearers of the Round Peak style of music. Kevin was extremely lucky to have support from cousins Paul Sutphin, Verlen Clifton, and Kirk Sutphin, who encouraged him to play music and emphasized the importance of the learning the “old ways.” Kevin gleaned many nuances from old recordings of Charlie Lowe, Tommy Jarrell, Dix Freeman, Fred Cockerham and Kyle Creed, and playing and making banjos is his passion in life.
Charlie Hartness was mesmerized by old-time music at the 1994 Fiddle Tunes Festival in Port Townsend, WA, and Jere Canote will always be his ukulele oracle. Charlie has played uke with several fantastic string bands, including Tricia Spencer & Howard Rains & The Skeleton Keys, Hog-Eyed Man, Uncle Wiggily, Jimmy Triplett’s Sky Island Stringband, The Lizella Rockets, The Yam Family Band with Joyce and Jim Cauthen, and every day with his wife Nancy as the duo, Hawk Proof Rooster.
Ellie was born into a deep musical tradition and began her life-long love affair with Appalachian clogging at the ripe old age of five. She has toured internationally with her sister duo (Leela & Ellie Grace), the Dirk Powell Band, the all-female old-time trio, Blue Eyed Girl, and several percussive dance companies. She received an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from Smith College in May of 2015 and performs professionally as a singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and dancer. In addition to her time on faculty at Smith College and Mount Holyoke College, Ellie has directed schools of folk music and dance in Missouri and North Carolina and been a master teacher at camps and festivals across the continent for over twenty years. In 2019, she released a solo album called On the Side of Love.
Karen Mueller is one of the top autoharp players in the world, and is an International Autoharp Champion and a member of the Autoharp Hall of Fame. Based in Minnesota, she tours across the US and in the UK, has recorded six critically-acclaimed solo recordings, and published three instructional books. A veteran of Swannanoa, Augusta, John C. Campbell Folk School, Ozark Folk Center, Sore Fingers Week, Walnut Valley Festival, Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering, Seattle Autoharp Week and Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Festival, she has over 30 years of experience teaching workshops as well as maintaining a studio of 40 private students in the Minneapolis area. She also performs, teaches and records on the mountain dulcimer, mandolin, Irish bouzouki, guitar and ukulele.
Judy is a co-founding member of the alt-trad band, The Horse Flies, who have toured extensively throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including appearances on E-Town, A Prairie Home Companion, All Things Considered, World Café, and Mountain Stage, and recorded many albums. Judy has been featured twice in Fiddler magazine, including their 20th and 25th anniversary celebrations, as one of 20 master fiddlers in their “Fiddlers 20” booklet/CD set, and again when she was commissioned to write an original waltz. Judy played with Natalie Merchant’s band on several albums and tours, including appearances on Good Morning America and Late Night with Letterman. She also composes music for film and television, was featured in Electronic Musician magazine for her film music, and has won an Emmy Award. An old-time fiddler at heart, Judy has taught at music camps throughout the U.S. and is delighted to be coming back to Swannanoa.
Paul Kovac’s a pretty versatile picker and singer and can handle himself on a variety of instruments and styles. His natural curiosity & passion for traditional music, and his respect for older pioneering musicians, has made for some interesting collaborations over the past 40+ years. A natural teacher, Paul enjoys sharing his first-hand knowledge with others equally curious.
Born and raised in Stillwater, OK, Nokosee Fields began studying orchestral violin at a young age but has recently turned his attention to teaching, touring and performing various forms of traditional American music. As a bassist, he tours with the country band, Western Centuries, as well as the old-time band Steam Machine. He has taught at the Augusta Heritage Center, tutored at Centrum’s Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, was the artist-in-residence for the Portland Old-Time Gathering, and won first place in the 2019 Clifftop fiddle competition. Nokosee’s lengthy and diverse experience in the performing arts gives him a unique approach to creating, listening and facilitating music.
Nancy learned old-time guitar as an adult in Seattle, where she attended Jere & Greg Canote’s weekly stringband class. A proponent of maintaining a strong and steady rhythm, Nancy has performed with The Lizella Rockets, The Turtle Valley String Band, Tricia Spencer & Howard Rains, Jimmy Triplett, Beverly Smith, Hog-Eyed Man, the Yam Family Band, and, most importantly, with her husband, Charlie Hartness, in the duo, Hawk Proof Rooster.
Rhys took up fiddle at age 6 years old, playing with family and friends at house parties and square dances around the Midwest. He spent much of his childhood in southern West Virginia, learning from the older generation of fiddlers like Wilson Douglas, Glen Smith, Ernie Carpenter and Melvin Wine. Also influenced by his first Midwest mentors, Rhys is comfortable with a number of regional fiddling styles. Rhys has appeared everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the Kennedy Center, won the Clifftop fiddle contest twice, recorded five albums, was featured in PBS documentaries, and was featured on the BBC. While known for his teaching skill, his band, Bigfoot has performed old-time music around the world for 10 years and has received the Clifftop blue ribbon multiple times.
Lloyd Wright and his family were introduced to dulcimers and old-time stringband music in the summer of 1994. In 2000, he won the National Mountain Dulcimer Championship at the age of 18. He regularly performs old-time and country gospel music with his wife, mother and brother. Lloyd plays fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar and uses this knowledge to teach the role of dulcimer in old-time music. The Wright family host two different music festivals in East Texas including Lloyd’s very own “Old Mill Music Festival”.
A veteran of the old-time music and dance scene, Gordy is known for his distinctive clawhammer style on the fretless banjo and his masterful rhythmic footwork as a clogger and buckdancer. He plays banjo with the New Southern Ramblers and for many years was a mainstay of the Green Grass Cloggers. Gordy has taught at workshops throughout the country, and has been a part of the Gathering since its inception. He lives in western NC, and teaches Spanish at Mars Hill University.
Emily has been playing and teaching music for most of her life. With a background in classical music and public school music education, she came to NC to pursue Appalachian studies and learn from well-known fiddle masters. She has a complex and powerful fiddling style that has won her first place in numerous stringband and fiddle contests, including the Appalachian Stringband Festival in Clifftop, WV. Emily has performed with Old Buck and Blue Ridge Broadcasters, and currently conducts youth orchestras and teaches fiddle and violin.)
Becky Hill is a percussive dancer, choreographer and square dance caller, currently seeking her MFA in Dance at the University of Maryland. She has studied with many percussive dance visionaries, organizes Helvetia Hoot, and was a U.S. State Department OneBeat Fellow in 2018. She performs with the T-Mart Rounders, calls square dances and teaches throughout the country.
John has been traveling the world playing old-time music for over forty years. He plays fiddle with the New Southern Ramblers, but he has performed with many bands including the Henrie Brothers (1st place Galax, 1976), Critton Hollow, the Wandering Ramblers, One-Eyed Dog and the Rockinghams. Equally adept on banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and bass, he is known as the “Father of Old-Time Music” in Japan(!), and the originator of the ‘slow jam.’ John has been on staff at numerous music camps from coast to coast. He lives in Madison Co., NC.
Trish Kilby-Fore was raised in the Lansing community of Ashe County where she heard traditional music as a child. She took up the banjo as a teenager, learning first from Emily Spencer, and later from other influences including Harold B. Hausenfluck, Enoch Rutherford, and Larry Pennington. Trish has played with many bands, traveled to Germany and France to perform, and appeared on several recordings—including her most recent solo project, Clawhammer Banjo: Blue Ridge Style, which features a mix of solo banjo tunes, hard-driving hoedowns, and a few numbers with a bluegrass swing.
Ten Grammy nominations in eight different categories. Three Grammys, in three different categories, almost forty years apart. What does that mean? “Either I don’t do anything well for very long, or I bore easily.” Janis Ian wrote her first song at 12, was published at 13, made a record at 14, had a hit at 15, and was a has-been at 16. It’s been uphill ever since. Her writer’s catalogue includes “Stars”, recorded by artists as diverse as Mel Torme, Glen Campbell, and Nina Simone; “Society’s Child,” which provoked the burning of a radio station and the firing of DJs who played it, “Jesse”, and the seminal “At Seventeen”, recorded most recently by Celine Dion. The musical guest on the very first Saturday Night Live, her list of interests includes technology (her article “The Internet Debacle” was cited in the Grokster and Napster cases), science fiction (nine short stories published in the field, with “Prayerville” adapted for theatre by Sci-Fest LA), children’s books (The Tiny Mouse was a Kirkus Children’s Book of the Year), and her own life (her autobiography, Society’s Child, was starred by Publisher’s Weekly and her narration of it won her another Grammy, for “Best Spoken Word”). A favorite guitarist of the late Chet Atkins, she was also the first female player to have a signature acoustic guitar by a major company (Santa Cruz.) She truly believes artists should know about everything, without limitation, and she hopes passing on some of her own hard-earned knowledge will help others avoid her mistakes – or at least, not care as much about them. We are delighted to welcome Janis back for her fifth Swannanoa Gathering.
Children’s Program coordinator Melissa Hyman is involved with kids and music in all the many facets of her working life. She has taught music to elementary-aged students at Asheville charter schools and coordinated children’s programming at regional music conferences. Her main gig is as a musician on the folk/indie circuit, working full-time as a touring and recording artist, cellist, singer and songwriter. When not on the road she works on the pediatric unit at Mission Hospital in Asheville as a Music Teacher for Arts for Life (www.aflnc.org), a non-profit organization providing art and music programming for patients in NC’s major children’s hospitals. This year Melissa spearheaded the launch of an exciting new endeavor at AFL called the Heartbeat Project, in collaboration with Echo Mountain Studios and many talented members of the Asheville music community. Melissa looks forward to many more unforgettable summers in Swannanoa, leading a ragtag crew of amazing kids and counselors on adventures through space and time. She feels right at home in this world of messy games, silly songs, amazing crafts and fast friendships.
Bruce Greene is known for preserving and playing the fiddle music of Kentucky, including tunes from Hiram Stamper, the family of John Salyer, Manon Campbell, Gusty Wallace, and Jim Bowles. He has taught at Swannanoa, Augusta, the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, and Mars Hill, and he has been invited as a master fiddler to numerous other events. Don Pedi is one of the finest mountain dulcimer players around and has taught many times at Old-Time Week.
Thomas Maupin is a self-taught buckdancer who has won first place in the senior flatfooting competition at Clifftop and the Silver Stars contest at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. A recipient of a Tennessee Folklife Heritage Award, Thomas was featured in a recent documentary film, Let Your Feet Do the Talkin’, and in 2013, he was inducted into the American Clogging Hall of Fame. Joining him is his grandson, Daniel Rothwell, who plays banjo, sings, and tells stories. The two have appeared at the Grand Ole Opry, the Museum of Appalachia’s Fall Homecoming, Uncle Dave Macon Days, the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention, and the National Folk Festival. In 2017, Thomas received the NEA’s National Heritage Fellowship, this country’s highest award for traditional artists.
Joyce and Jim Cauthen have played old-time music since the mid-’70s. Joyce is the author of With Fiddle and Well-Rosined Bow: The History of Old-Time Fiddling in Alabama, and the two have contributed tunes for the album Possum Up A Gum Stump: Home, Field, and Commercial Recordings of Alabama Fiddlers. They love playing the tunes of fiddlers like Ralph Whited, Everis Campbell and a score of others they recorded, and enjoy sharing stories gathered from them and from family members of earlier fiddlers such as Charlie Stripling and D. Dix Hollis.
Bob Herring has been playing old-time fiddle music since the mid-‘70s. He was a founding member of the Easy Street String Band and the original guitar player with Brad Leftwich and Linda Higginbotham in the award-winning Hummingdingers. He’s performed and recorded with his good friend Rafe Stefanini, and most recently toured Australia with the Haywood Billy Goats. He lives in NC where he plays with The Red Herrings, whose new recording is entitled Trouble in Mind.
Bobby Taylor is a fourth generation West Virginia fiddler and the 1977 West Virginia State Open Fiddle Champion. He has been awarded the Footbridge Award from FOOTMAD, the Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folk-life honor, and is a member of the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair Hall of Fame. He is also well-known as a contest judge and teacher at the Vandalia Gathering contests and Clifftop.