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. Her fieldwork culminated in the book, Music in the Air Somewhere about West Virginia fiddle and song traditions (WVU Press). Erynn performs at festivals and music camps around the globe and often tours with her husband, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Carl Jones. Her tunes are becoming common repertoire in fiddle circles and she is also a sought-after teacher. Erynn was the first woman to win First Place Fiddle at Clifftop, the Appalachian Stringband Festival, and has recorded eight albums and appeared in four films. She tours constantly throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and China.
Phil Jamison is nationally known as a dance caller, old-time musician, flatfoot dancer, and scholar of traditional Appalachian dance. He was Coordinator of Old-Time Week for 25 years. Phil has called dances, performed, and taught at music festivals and dance events throughout the U.S. and overseas since the early 1970s, including close to forty years as a member of the Green Grass Cloggers. His flatfoot dancing was featured in the film, Songcatcher, for which he also served as Traditional Dance consultant. Over the last thirty years, Jamison has done extensive research in the area of Appalachian dance, and his book Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance (University of Illinois Press, 2015) tells the story behind the square dances, step dances, reels, and other forms of dance practiced in southern Appalachia. A 2017 inductee to the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, Phil teaches Appalachian music and dance at Warren Wilson College.
Eddie was born in Galax, VA and learned his musical skills from friends and family. He began on the guitar and was playing banjo and fiddle by age 12. He tries to stay true to the sound he grew up with while putting his own stamp on it. As others took the time to teach him, he in turn loves to pass it on. “It’s all about community,” you’ll often hear him say. Eddie has been the fiddler for the New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters since 2001, the ten-time first-place winners at the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax. He has won first place at local fiddlers conventions and has been named the Best All Around Performer at Galax twice. On most Thursday nights one can find Eddie at the local jam in the Old Theater in his hometown of Fries, VA, a cotton mill town that was the home and or work place to many early recording artists such as Henry Whitter, Kelly Harrell, and Pop Stoneman. While Eddie is known best for his fiddling, he still loves to play guitar, and has also won first place ribbons for both banjo and autoharp. He also enjoys singing the old ballads and telling stories of the old folks from whom he learned.
Jared grew up in the small community of Laurel Fork in Carroll County, VA and spent the first decade of his life surrounded by old-time music on both sides of his family. His first banjo teacher was Ray Chatfield of the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program. He also learned from his grandfather Jimmy Boyd, co-founder of the Franklin County old-time dance band, The Dry Hill Draggers. His playing has also been influenced by clawhammer players such as Kyle Creed, Adam Hurt and fiddler Eddie Bond. He has played in several old-time bands including the Slate Mountain Ramblers, the Crooked Road Ramblers, the Dry Hill Draggers, and the New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters.
Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/musician Alice Gerrard is a celebrated pioneer and a legend in her own time. Known for her ground-breaking collaboration with Appalachian singer Hazel Dickens in the 1960’s and 70s, this duo produced four classic LPs and was a major influence and inspiration for scores of young women singers. She has recorded over twenty albums, been featured in two documentary films and founded the Old-Time Herald magazine. Her honors include a Virginia Arts Commission Award, the North Carolina Folklore Society Tommy Jarrell Award, and the Swannanoa Gathering’s Master Music Maker Award for lifetime achievement in 2015.
John Harrod has been documenting, playing, and teaching Kentucky music for 45 years. He has produced field recordings that are available from Rounder Records and the Field Recorders’ Collective, and taught fiddle at the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School, the American Festival of Fiddle Tunes, Augusta Heritage Center, Centre College, and Berea College. He performs with Kentucky Wild Horse, a band that brings together many strands of Kentucky music including old-time songs, fiddle tunes, bluegrass, original songs, and hillbilly swing.
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. Throughout his life, Kirk has made an effort to visit with countless older musicians of the area and has learned tunes from many musicians born around the turn of the 20th century. Kirk is an exceptional fiddler whose sound is often compared to that of Tommy Jarrell. He is also an excellent banjo player in both clawhammer and fingerpicking styles. Kirk continues to be a proponent of western North Carolina mountain music through performances with numerous area musicians and his many traditional recordings.
A seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, and musician, Sheila Kay Adams was born and raised in the Sodom Laurel community of Madison County, North Carolina, an area renowned for its unbroken tradition of unaccompanied ballad singing dating back to the early Scottish, Scots/Irish and English settlers in the mid-17th century. In September, 2013, she received the nation’s highest award for the arts, The National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship Award which recognizes folk and traditional artists for their artistic excellence and efforts to conserve America’s culture for future generations. In 2016, Sheila received the North Carolina Heritage Award, the state’s highest award for the arts.
Ben Nelson grew up in a family of old-time musicians in southwestern Virginia, tagging along to fiddlers conventions across the southern Appalachians. After he 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 instructor and traditional music teacher. He shares his love of old-time music and dance with students at Warren Wilson College and young players in the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program, and has also taught at the Augusta Heritage Center and the John C. Campbell Folk School.
Bob Carlin may be the best-known clawhammer-style banjoist performing today. He has taken the distinctive southern banjo style to appreciative audiences all over the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan. Carlin is a three-time winner of the Frets Magazine readers poll, and has produced four Rounder albums and several instruction manuals and videos for the banjo. Bob has been offering performances, lectures and workshops for almost fifty years. He had largely left the solo arena in the mid-1990s when he got an invitation to join the band of songwriter John Hartford, and for six years, he toured throughout the United States and Canada with Hartford, even accompanying John on a ten-day Japanese sojourn. Since Hartford’s death in 2001, Bob Carlin has returned to solo performing, teaching and appearances with other musicians.
Carol Elizabeth Jones has made her mark as a singer of traditional mountain music, guitar player, and writer of new songs in the traditional style. She has many albums to her credit including those with Jones & Leva, Laurel Bliss, the Wildcats, and Wandering Ramblers. Rounder Records featured Carol Elizabeth on several anthologies including the bestselling O Sister – Women In Bluegrass collection. She was a member of the Hopeful Gospel Quartet with Garrison Keillor and Robin & Linda Williams on A Prairie Home Companion, toured Africa and Southeast Asia as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Information Agency and has performed and taught at festivals throughout North America. Originally from Berea, KY, Carol Elizabeth now lives in Lexington, VA. Bluegrass Breakdown says “…Carol Elizabeth has one of the most haunting and honest voices in acoustic music.”
John grew up listening to friends and relatives play, and he developed his own autoharp style incorporating both chromatic and diatonic techniques. John has led workshops at the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering, the Willamette Valley Autoharp Gathering, Sore Fingers Summer School, Augusta, the John C. Campbell Folk School, and elsewhere. He has served as editor of the “Interaction Lesson” feature in Autoharp Quarterly magazine, and in 1991, he became the first champion of the prestigious Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering Competition. He has been named the “Best All-Around Performer” of the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention three times, the only autoharp player ever to win this recognition. In 2010, John was inducted into the Autoharp Hall of Fame.
Carl Jones is an American songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Born in Macon, GA, Carl presently lives in Galax, VA. He is widely respected for his instrumental talents and original songs about the joys and tribulations of day-to-day life in the South. Carl’s songs have been recorded by The Nashville Bluegrass Band, Kate Campbell, Rickie Simpkins with Tony Rice, and others. His song “Last Time on the Road” appears on the Grammy-award-winning album, Unleashed by the Nashville Bluegrass Band. In the 1980’s Carl played mandolin with Norman and Nancy Blake and James Bryan as part of the Rising Fawn String Ensemble. Today he plays concerts and tours with wife, fiddler Erynn Marshall and in 2017 toured Australia with the Galax Bogtrotters. Carl is known for his fine musicianship, sense of humor, songwriting, and charismatic teaching.
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 is now Professor and Director Emeritus of the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of I Wonder As I Wander, a biography of folk icon John Jacob Niles. 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 Folk Week, Augusta’s Old-Time and Singing weeks, Berea’s Christmas Dance School, and many times at Swannanoa. He has also performed music across the globe with the Red State Ramblers and recently shared shape note singing with Sufi chant in Lancashire, England.
Tricia Spencer is a Kansas fiddler who grew up learning old-time music from her grandparents. She started fiddling at the age of three, grew up on her family farm, and spent many years at her grandpa’s gas station learning tunes knee-to-knee from him and other master fiddlers in her area. Tricia is a multi-instrumentalist highly sought-after as a performer, dance fiddler, and instructor. She currently travels across the country and the world with her grandpa’s fiddle, performing and teaching with her husband, fiddler and artist Howard Rains.
Howard Rains is an artist and fiddler from Texas now living in Lawrence, Kansas whose two obsessions are painting and playing traditional American fiddle music. Howard plays rare old fiddle tunes learned from friends, family and old home recordings. The New York Times has called Howard “an authority on old Texas-style fiddling.” As much known for his painting as his fiddling, Howard has painted many of the great old-time musicians, both living and gone. Howard has re-introduced listeners to the pre-contest styles of Texas fiddling and performs, teaches, and makes art along with his wife, Tricia Spencer.
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 spent her life performing professionally as a singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and dancer, first as a member of her family band and now as an independent artist. 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. Ellie has devoted her life to making the art forms that she loves truly accessible to others. 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 the culmination a lifetime of performing and teaching, Ellie received an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from Smith College in May of 2015. In 2017, Ellie released Walk It With You, a highly-anticipated recording with Asheville collaborator Brian Claflin.
Karen is one of the finest guitarists in the old-time music scene today, laying down a driving foundation for the esteemed Bucking Mules. Cutting her teeth in California’s rich traditional music scene, she began making pilgrimages to southern fiddlers conventions, eventually finding herself in the living rooms of the region’s master musicians. Karen has spent countless hours playing dances, performing and jamming with some of the best players around. A fun, skilled and enthusiastic instructor of fiddle and guitar in the Bay Area, Karen has taught at some of the most highly regarded music camps and festivals in the U. S. and abroad including the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, California’s Grass Valley Camp, the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention, the Austin String Band Festival, and Gainsborough Festival in the U.K.
Joseph strives to inject new life into the older sounds and repertoires with his fiddling, banjo playing, and singing. As a younger player, he spent time with older fiddlers and banjo players in East TN, learning their music and stories. He has shared his music at festivals, camps, and venues throughout the country and abroad. His fiddling and banjo playing have won blue ribbons at the most prestigious fiddle contests in the South, and his band, the Bucking Mules, has won two blue ribbons at Clifftop. He also plays banjo and fiddle in the Blue Ridge Broadcasters and has served on the faculty of ETSU’s Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies Program, teaching Appalachian Studies and old-time fiddle and banjo. A trained folklorist, he is completing a dissertation on old-time music.
Cliff grew up listening to all kinds of American roots music thanks to a sharing father who had a deep appreciation for the same and a great music collection. He was coaxed to join in with the family quartet as a child and has been singing ever since. Originally from WV, Cliff is proud to call the Old North State home for the past 16 years. He’s sung with the Piedmont Melody Makers, Longleaf Pine Nuts, Wayworn Travelers, Rye Mountain Boys and starred as Hank Williams in the Cape Fear Regional Theatre production of Lost Highway.
A spectacular mountain dulcimer player who can match the fiddle note-for-note on tunes, Don has been collecting, preserving and performing Appalachian music for more than four decades. He has spent most of his life working, playing music and living alongside old-time musicians in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, and he has developed a playing style that translates the older style fiddle and banjo tunes, ballads, and songs to the dulcimer, while maintaining traditional rhythms and stylistic sensibilities. He’s performed at many festivals across the country, including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC, and he played music and appeared in the film, Songcatcher.
Bob Herring has played with some of the best old time musicians to date including Brad Leftwich, Rafe Stefanini, Dirk Powell, as well as legendary fiddlers Joe Birchfield and Tommy Jarrell. The Humdingers and The Easy Street String Band are two of many of the bands he has toured with. He has won many awards throughout his career as a multi-instrumentalist. He currently resides in North Carolina where he teaches music and is enjoying the old time music scene.
Paul Kovac started picking and singing as a teenager, and his skills in old-time, bluegrass & fiddle music have landed him on stage with Bill Monroe, Hazel Dickens, Roy Clark, and Hank Thompson. Paul’s also backed up fiddlers Chubby Wise, Art Stamper, Kenny Baker & Vassar Clements. Being mostly self-taught, teaching and sharing music has always been important to him. Paul has been on staff at numerous music and dance camps, he’s created a guitar instruction DVD, and coordinated the Bluegrass Week at Augusta Heritage Center from 1996-2007.
Mike “Lightnin’” Wells was raised in eastern NC and his love for old-time and traditional music began nearly 50 years ago. He has worked extensively with traditional artists such as Big Boy Henry, Algia Mae Hinton and John Dee Holeman, and is recognized as one of the finest practitioners of traditional blues both in the U.S. and abroad. His latest CD release O, Lightnin’ Where Art Thou on the German Blind Lemon label has gotten rave reviews in Living Blues magazine and features his wide range of musical stylings from Piedmont and Delta blues to mountain and hillbilly tunes as well as songs from the American songbag. Lightnin’ is also one of the finest ukulele players in North Carolina and he’ll be sharing his skills and expertise on this small but mighty instrument this year.
As a bassist in both jazz and traditional music, Kevin Kehrberg has toured nationally and internationally, including Canada, Japan, and U.S. State Department tours of Kyrgyzstan and Ecuador. He has performed with Howard Alden, Slide Hampton, Roger Humphries, the late Jean Ritchie and Art Stamper, among others, and is a sought-after sideman and session artist. He has taught at many workshops and clinics, including the Swannanoa Gathering and the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School. Kevin also actively records and performs as a backup guitarist for old-time fiddlers. He holds a Ph.D in musicology and is a member of the music faculty at Warren Wilson College.
With an intuitive ability to match the fiddle, both on banjo and harmonica, Luke’s music rolls with the arresting and subtle beauty of the hills around his family’s farm in Lawrenceburg, TN. A practitioner of multiple styles of old-time banjo, Luke explores the instrument in a strikingly creative way that has earned him two Old-Time Banjo National Championships. A cosmopolitan musician who has been a key feature of old-time scenes from Brooklyn to the UK, Luke is an in-demand performer and teacher.
Born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, Ira Bernstein began dancing traditional Appalachian clogging and flatfooting as a college student. He’s danced with highly influential, professional companies the Fiddle Puppets, and the American Tap Dance Orchestra and performed in concerts and at festivals all across the U.S., Canada, and 16 other countries. Ira has shared the stage with many of the world’s greatest tap and step dancers, including Gregory Hines, Savion Glover, Honi Coles, Jimmy Slyde, and Chuck Green, and has appeared numerous times on television and in theatrical productions. He was also one of the artistic creators and featured soloists in Mountain Legacy, and director of the Ten Toe Percussion Ensemble. Ira has won first place in the Mount Airy Fiddler’s Convention old-time flatfooting competition numerous times.
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.
Raised in Lewis County, KY along the Ohio River, Roger Cooper is one of the last to learn from many great players of a ‘golden age’ of Kentucky fiddling. Roger learned mostly from close friend and renowned fiddler Buddy Thomas, and the two visited numerous old musicians in eastern KY, southern OH and southwest WV. Roger was also influenced by Bob Prater, Jimmy Wheeler, George Hawkins, Doc Roberts, Kenny Baker, Howdy Forester, and others. He believes that it’s integral to let your original style come out in your fiddling. He made two seminal Rounder recordings: Going Back to Old Kentucky and Essence of Old Kentucky and has passed on his knowledge through the KY Arts Council’s Folk Arts Apprenticeship program and at the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School.
Lee Sexton was born in 1928 in Linefork, Kentucky. He and his wife Opal still live in Linefork about a hundred yards from his homeplace. He started playing banjo as soon as he was old enough to hold the instrument, and quit school after the eighth grade in order to earn his own way, first playing music and then working in the coal mines. His playing was featured in the square dance scene in Coal Miner’s Daughter. “Lee Sexton is one of the finest traditional old-time banjo players in the country.”– David Holt.
Thomas Maupin describes himself as a “self-taught buckdancer with a flatfoot style.” He has won first place in the senior flatfooting competition at the Appalachian String Band Festival at Clifftop, WV, as well as the Silver Stars talent 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 been performing together since Rothwell was small, and they 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.
The New Southern Ramblers are a dynamic old-time Appalachian stringband from the mountains of western North Carolina. For over twenty years, they accompanied legendary Tennessee fiddler Ralph Blizard, our first Master Music Maker, at concerts, festivals, and workshops throughout United States. The band consists of John Herrmann (fiddle), Gordy Hinners (banjo), Phil Jamison (guitar), and Meredith McIntosh (bass). It’s fitting to feature the New Southern Ramblers this year, the100th anniversary of Ralph Blizard’s birth.
George Gibson was born at Bath, in Knott County, Kentucky, where he learned to play and sing songs, in the old tunings, from his father and neighbors. As far as he knows, he is the last person still playing the old Burgeys Creek banjo music. The University Press of Illinois is scheduled to publish a book tentatively titled Banjo Roots and Branches in which George has an essay regarding the African roots of the banjo in Kentucky. He has recently become a resident of nearby Hendersonville NC.