We will be adding Academy faculty on a rolling basis as we continue to iron out the fine details of this upcoming Summer. Take a look at who we have on board now!
Uwe Kruger, lead vocalist and guitarist, has been playing music since early childhood. When they were very young, Uwe and younger brother Jens would place a guitar on the floor between them and play it together, one brother taking the upper three strings and the other the lower three. Uwe was introduced to American folk music through the brothers’ father, who would bring folk music records when he returned to Switzerland from business trips to the United States. For more than twenty-five years, Uwe has been playing guitar and singing as a professional musician. Over the course of his career, Uwe has developed range and versatility – instrumentally and stylistically.
Today, Uwe astonishes audiences with his blend of guitar-picking styles. His rich, resonant, and mellow baritone voice has an uplifting effect on all who hear him sing. Uwe has been influenced by a diversity of musicians, ranging from Doc Watson, Jerry Garcia, and Eric Clapton, to Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms. Watching and listening to Uwe’s unique style, a blend of flat-picking and finger picking, is a fascinating experience. Uwe loves playing “in the moment,” and his guitar improvisation during live performances has listeners sitting at the edge of their seats in excitement and anticipation.
Becky Buller Band
Jake Eddy, who joins the Becky Buller Band as the lead guitar player and harmony/occasional lead singer, was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, to a family of musicians. Jake began playing professionally at the age of fourteen with Melvin Goins. His guitar playing, influenced by bluegrass and jazz, is showcased on his self-titled debut album of fiddle tunes which features such greats as Bryan Sutton and Kenny Smith. When not on tour with B^3, Jake provides private online instrumental instruction.
Visit him online at https://jakeeddy.wixsite.com/website.
“The free-wheeling Jordan Tice’s art basks in joyous spontaneity. For one as musically adept as him, the intricacies of his performance are best met by a feeling of irreverence. He meshes his artful intuition with an utterly human quintessence, jubilantly bearing warts and all through the delivery of lyrical wonders that can be as wistful and romantic as they may be earnest or unbecoming.”
On his 5th record, singer-songwriter/guitarist, Jordan Tice breaks it down to just his voice and acoustic guitar. He combines witty musings on life, relationships, and time with his deft finger-picking acoustic guitar skills for a fresh take on a classic medium.
Produced by Kenneth Pattengale (of The Milk Carton Kids), Motivational Speakeasy contains evidence of a variety of influences. From the classic Mississippi John Hurt style melodic blues of “Matter of Time” and “Goin on Down”, to the dissonant Tom Waits-like shuffle of “Creation’s Done” to the philosophical early Dylanesque chatter of “Walkin’” and “Where I’m At”, Tice spins his influences into a variety of highly personal, well-crafted songs.
In addition, the album contains 3 instrumental tracks where Tice showcases his narrative guitar-playing and composing with performances that range from British Isles inspired whistlefulness (“Stratford Waltz”) to quirky ragtime (“Bachelorette Party”, “Ghost Story”). Folk fans might recognize Jordan Tice as a member of the instrumental bluegrass supergroup, Hawktail as well as his sideman work with many other artists in the folk/bluegrass genre.
Grammy Award and two-time IBMA Guitar Player of the Year nominee Trey Hensley — called “Nashville’s hottest young player” by Acoustic Guitar magazine — is known for his white-hot picking, soulful baritone singing and top-shelf songwriting. Trey is one half of the duo Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, who have been referred to as “two musical phenoms” by NPR and “two of the finest musicians playing today” by No Depression.
Their latest Compass Records album, World Full Of Blues, features collaborations with Vince Gill and Taj Mahal and Rob and Trey combined forces with Tommy Emmanuel for an EP called Accomplice Series Vol. I in 2021. Trey made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 11 (thanks to an invite from Marty Stuart with Earl Scruggs). Since that fateful night, Trey has performed with the likes of Johnny and June Carter Cash, Tommy Emmanuel, Jorma Kaukonen, Charlie Daniels, Steve Wariner, The Oak Ridge Boys, Blue Highway, and J.D. Crowe.
Originally from Switzerland, Jens Kruger began playing North American folk music at an early age and was particularly inspired by recordings of Doc Watson, Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and other progenitors of country, bluegrass and folk music. While he has written and continues to write the music for all of The Kruger Brothers’ original tunes, in 2006, Jens began his “official” venture into the themes and forms of classical music when he was commissioned to write Music from the Spring for banjo, guitar, bass and full symphonic orchestra. Since then, he has received three commissions to write classical pieces which The Kruger Brothers have performed with various orchestral ensembles: Appalachian Concerto with string quartet; Spirit of the Rockies with a small orchestra, and most recently in 2013, Lucid Dreamer, a chamber music piece written specifically for and commissioned by the Kontras Quartet* and debuting in 2014.
Jens is a member of the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2011. In 2013, he was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music. Jens is the first winner of the award who resides in North Carolina and the first born outside of the United States. Happy Traum, guitarist, folksinger, teacher, and writer for aspiring musicians, has described Kruger as, “One of the world’s most musically sophisticated and technically accomplished five‐string banjo players.”
While Jens plays in a melodic style that has roots in bluegrass, his music is distinguished by long, melodic passages and a complex compositional foundation, often building on jazz or classical themes and techniques.
Becky Buller Band
Ned is the 2018 IBMA Banjo Player Of The Year and an all-around bluegrass legend. Ned is an incredible music educator. Ned is funny. He was a member of Paul Adkins & The Borderline Band, The Rarely Herd and, most recently, Chris Jones & The Night Drivers for over a decade. The Baltimore, MD native, who now makes his home in Nashville, TN, is a partner in the Nedski & Mojo duo and a favored guest on stage and in studio with artists ranging from Jim Lauderdale to Tony Trischka to Ray Stevens to Sam Bush. Since the early 1980s, Ned has maintained a busy schedule of private lessons, along with workshops and camps in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Europe.
He is the author of Alfred Publications three-part Complete 5-String Banjo Method and has pioneered on-air instruction with his popular “More Banjo Sunday” and “The Sunday Banjo Lesson” on SiriusXM’s Bluegrass Junction, where he also hosts the regular newgrass show, “Derailed,” keeping us laughing all the way down the road. For several years now, Ned has also been the voice of the IBMA awards show. He is a 2011 IBMA Broadcaster Of The Year award nominee. He and his Bluegrass Junction compadres were honored with a 2016 IBMA Distinguished Achievement award. Check out his critically-acclaimed latest album, Take Five, as well as his new series of instructional videos for TrueFire.com. His latest single, “Back In Baltimore” is available wherever you grab your music. Visit Ned online at http://nedski.com.
Sam Bush Band
There has never been a shortage of prodigious musicians in bluegrass music, especially on it’s signature instrument, the 5-string banjo. Less common are virtuosic players with deep and diverse musical backgrounds that inform their approach to bluegrass. Though the numbers of musically omnivorous bluegrass musicians are on the rise, few have the staggeringly broad musical base of banjo player, composer, and producer, Wes Corbett.
Wes’s skills as a player have kept him on the forefront of acoustic music since he first picked up the banjo as a teenager in the pacific northwest. He would go on to be a key player in Boston’s vibrant music scene, an instructor at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, and today is a rising star in Nashville’s elite bluegrass scene.
Wherever Wes has appeared, he has been on the cutting edge, especially in his current gig as the newest member of the Sam Bush Band. Fellow players have long been familiar with the precision, refinement, and sparkling musicality, that have kept him so busy as a player and producer. The release of Cascade, his first solo album, finds him stepping forward as an artist in his own right, and audiences are sure to catch up with what Wes’s peers have known for years
Tray Wellington Band
Tray Wellington, banjo virtuoso, multi-time IBMA Award winner, and 2019 Momentum Instrumentalist of the year. His group, the Tray Wellington Band, pushes the bounds of bluegrass music, incorporating Bossa Nova, Jazz, and Blues elements, to their originals to create a unique, new exciting sound, as well as pay tribute to their Bluegrass heroes before them. They have opened for a number of premiere artists in bluegrass including Dan Tyminski, and Joe Mullins.
One can only imagine the number and variety of musical influences – Broadway, classical, jazz, rhythm and blues – that surrounded Joel as he was growing up in New York City. Like Uwe and Jens, Joel began his musical career early in life and picked up the bass at the age of twelve. And like many other musicians, Joel began learning music through classical training on the piano. After several years of piano lessons, he switched to the bass, and as he discovered his love for the instrument, Joel decided to devote all of his attention to playing the bass.
Destined to find Uwe and Jens, in 1989, Joel moved to Switzerland and began a successful career as a bassist with various country/rock and jazz groups based throughout Europe. It was during this time that he met Jens and Uwe and developed what would become a deeply rewarding musical alliance and friendship. In early 1995, Joel was initiated into the “brotherhood” and has been performing full time with the band ever since.
Becky Buller Band
By day, Daniel is a master machine operator and fire fighter at the Jack Daniels Distillery in his hometown, Lynchburg, Tenn., where he has been employed since 2004. Daniel performed professionally for three years with Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike. He also did a stint with the Nashville-based band Cages Bend. Daniel toured extensively with both groups throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and the U.K. Daniel’s high harmony and low four can be heard on the albums Now I’m Lonely by Cages Bend, Valerie’s No Summer Storm and, as well as on all of Becky’s albums on the Dark Shadow Recording label. Daniel does not have a website, but you can catch him on Facebook.
Darrell Scott’s Bluegrass Band
Bryn Davies is a bassist, cellist, and occasional pianist. She grew up in Livermore, California. In 1997 she majored in Jazz Performance at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1997, Bryn moved to Austin, Texas and began working with Peter Rowan as the Texas Trio, which toured the US and eventually would become the Peter Rowan & Tony Rice Quartet.
In 2004 Davies moved to Nashville, Tennessee and began working and touring with a variety of Americana and bluegrass artists such as The Tony Rice Unit, Patty Griffin, Darrell Scott, Justin Townes Earle, Scott Miller, and Jack White. Davies has an extensive discography, and has recorded with Guy Clark, The Peter Rowan & Tony Rice Quartet, Old and & In the Way, Guy Clark, Jim Lauderdale, and Jack White.
Davies has lived in the Knoxville, Tennessee area since 2014 with her husband, bassist Vince Ilagan and their two children. She received a bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 2019 and is employed as a nuclear safety engineer at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. She continues to play bass as a sideline to her new career and enjoys spending time with her family.
Best known as a founding member of Americana harmony trio Red Molly, Abbie Gardner is a joyful dobro player and singer/songwriter with an infectious smile. She loves teaching dobro and songwriting, whether in person or with her down-to-earth “Woodshed” YouTube lessons filmed from her home in the shadow of New York City. Abbie goes out of her way to make it fun and achievable, while seeking to forever expand her own knowledge of the instrument. She has taught at Nashville Dobro Camp, Grand Targhee, and Rockygrass Academy as well as several songwriting camps. She specializes in singing while playing, dobro as a rhythm instrument and creating lyrical solos in G tuning or D tuning.
Her bluesy song, “Down the Mountain” was included on Phil Leadbetter’s 2021 Masters of Slide CD and named a “show stealer” by Bluegrass Unlimited. That same song landed her a slot in the 2021 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Songwriter Showcase. After making seven fully produced albums with Red Molly and four solo, Abbie’s latest recording DobroSinger masterfully captures the sound of her vocals and dobro unaccompanied. It’s a raw intimate recording full of blues, heartfelt ballads and the ache of the unknown. It’s quite a contrast to her previous CD, Wishes on a Neon Sign (2018) which featured a co-write with Chris Stapleton and leaned on full band production. Though she has traveled around the world with Red Molly, Abbie stands strong as a solo act and has opened for Lori McKenna, Hot Rize, and Martina McBride.
“Not only a first-rate Dobro player but a songwriter to be reckoned with.” —John Platt, WFUV
Grammy Award nominee Rob Ickes is one of the most innovative Dobro players on the music scene today with a sound and style that expands the boundary of the instrument. A former founding member of the bluegrass supergroup Blue Highway, Rob has been named IBMA’s Dobro Player of the Year an unprecedented 15 times and has played as an active session player and touring musician with an impressive list of artists, including Earl Scruggs, Merle Haggard, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Tony Rice, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, and many more.
Rob is one half of Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, a powerhouse acoustic duo referred to as an “acoustic firestorm” by Vintage Guitar magazine and “dual lightning strikes in a bottle” by Guitar Player magazine. Ickes and Hensley, who record for Compass Records, have collaborated with Taj Mahal, Tommy Emmanuel, David Grisman, Jorma Kaukonen, Vince Gill, and many others.
Becky Buller Band
Wes Lee is the 2001 MerleFest mandolin champion from Gainesville, Georgia, who previously performed with Becky in Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike. His picking was featured on Valerie’s That’s What Love Can Do album. For the past 16 years, Wes has worked for the further processing division Springer Mountain Farms and is currently a senior coordinator. He jumped at the chance to play music again with friends he considers family.Visit with Wes on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Darrell Scott’s Bluegrass Band
Grammy-nominated mandolinist Matt Flinner has made a career out of playing acoustic music in new ways. Whether it’s with his own Matt Flinner Trio or with Phillips, Grier and Flinner, the Frank Vignola Quartet, Darrell Scott, Steve Martin, the Ying Quartet, Tim O’Brien, Leftover Salmon or the Modern Mandolin Quartet, Flinner’s style and compositional ability have established him as one of the most accomplished and musically diverse mandolinists in the world.
Starting out as a banjo prodigy who was playing bluegrass festivals before he entered his teens, Flinner later took up the mandolin, won the National Banjo Competition in Winfield, KS in 1990, and won the mandolin award there the following year.
Matt now tours regularly with the Matt Flinner Trio, which is known for its off-the-cuff compositional daring, writing music the same day it’s performed on most of their shows. He also tours regularly with the Modern Mandolin Quartet, which was nominated for three Grammy awards for their CD “Americana” in 2013.
Over the last several years, Flinner has become known as one of the leading writers of instrumental music in the acoustic world, and his background in classical composition has led him into new avenues in both classical and string band music.Some of Flinner’s longer-form compositions have been performed by the Ying Quartet, the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, Chatterbird, the Expedition Quintet and the Modern Mandolin Quartet.Flinner currently lives in Ripton, VT.
Grammy Award-winning musician John Reischman has been a foundational mandolinist, composer, bandleader, and musical educator in bluegrass and North American roots and folk music since emerging from the vibrant “new acoustic” bluegrass music scene of the Bay Area in the 1980s. A member of the groundbreaking Tony Rice Unit, Reischman’s mastery of bluegrass, old-time, swing, and multiple Latin American musical styles, coupled with an Old Master’s sense of tone, taste, and musicality, has brought him a global reputation as one of the finest mandolinists of his era.
His latest CD, New Time & Old Acoustic on Corvus Records, blends a lifetime of musical influences into an engaging recording with some of today’s top acoustic players including flatpicking guitarists Molly Tuttle and Chris Eldridge, fiddler Alex Hargreaves, and bassist Todd Phillips. The 14-track album includes 12 new Reischman originals and a reinterpretation of his classic tune “Salt Spring.” New Time & Old Acoustic is the most mature, accomplished solo recording of Reischman’s storied career.
Living in the Bay Area in the 1980s, Reischman debuted as a touring and recording artist with the seminal West Coast bluegrass band The Good Ol’ Persons, cementing his reputation as a powerful soloist with an original vision for his instrument. “They were a great outlet for me because they embraced original material from the individual band members, giving me inspiration to explore composing,” he adds.
As a member of the Tony Rice Unit featured on that band’s most iconic recordings, Reischman helped define the “new acoustic music” movement in contemporary bluegrass. His unmistakable mandolin style and signature clear tone fuses early influences from Bill Monroe and other legends of traditional bluegrass mandolin with contemporary styles played by Sam Bush, David Grisman, and the late jazz mandolinist Jethro Burns. John’s remarkably clear-voiced mandolin, in turn, has influenced a new generation of mandolinists including Chris Thile, David Benedict, and Joe K. Walsh.
Becky Buller Band
Becky Buller is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter from St. James, Minn., who has traversed the globe performing bluegrass music to underwrite her insatiable songwriting habit. Her compositions can be heard on records by Ricky Skaggs, Rhonda Vincent and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, to name just a few.
Becky has written songs for Grammy award-winning albums: she co-wrote “Freedom,” the lead-off track of The Infamous Stringdusters 2018 Grammy-winning album Laws of Gravity as well as “The Shaker” on The Travelin’ McCoury’s self-titled release that brought home the 2019 Best Bluegrass Grammy.
Becky is the recipient of 10 IBMA awards, including the 2016 Fiddler and Female Vocalist Of The Year as well as the 2020 Collaborative Recording Of The Year for “The Barber’s Fiddle” and the 2020 Song Of The Year for co-writing and fiddling on Special Consensus’ “Chicago Barn Dance.”She was a 2020 nominee for SPBGMA’s Fiddle Player Of The Year as well as being involved as a musician and songwriter on three albums nominated for 2020 Grammys.She was a nominee for the 2021 IBMA Songwriter Of The Year.
She tours extensively with the Becky Buller Band and just released Distance And Time, her third album for the Dark Shadow Recording label, which was a nominee for the 2021 IBMA Album Of The Year award.|
Becky is also a member of the First Ladies Of Bluegrass, an all-female ensemble composed of the first women to win in their respective instrumental categories at the IBMA awards:Alison Brown (banjo), Missy Raines (bass),Sierra Hull (mandolin), Becky (fiddle), and Molly Tuttle (guitar).
Equally passionate about bluegrass music education, Becky has over 20 years experience teaching fiddle, singing, and songwriting, both privately and at workshops and camps around the world.
She currently serves on the board of the IBMA Foundation. Becky proudly calls Manchester, Tenn., her adopted hometown, where she lives with husband, Jeff Haley, and daughter, Romy.
Darrell Scott’s Bluegrass Band
Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers
Like all troubadours, singer-songwriter Phoebe Hunt is a rambler. Recent years have seen the Texas native relocate from Austin to Nashville to her current residence in Brooklyn. This wanderlust is evident in the variety of projects she is a part of, moving in and out of multiple styles and genres of music with an effortless grace. You may find her performing completely solo, with her violin and her voice, drawing you into her memorizing vortex, or surrounded by a group of young musicians from all around the world as a part of The One Village Music Project, playing songs written and recorded at a program that Phoebe initiated out of her desire to play her role in healing the world with music.
Having collaborated and toured with such inspiring artists as Ben Sollee, Shakey Graves, The Belleville Outfit, and The Hudsons, Hunt is never one to turn down the opportunity to create a new sound or be a part of a musical experiment, but it is as a band leader that she truly shines. In her musical project, “Phoebe Hunt Sings the New American Songbook”, Phoebe presents a unique show nodding to the jazz and swing roots from where she came, by singing her renditions of the classics. Featuring an all star band of unique talents (Nathaniel Smith: Cello, Dennis Ludiker: Violin, Dominick Leslie: Mandolin, Danny Levin: Piano, Nick Falk: Percussion, Andrew Pressman: Bass), this captivating performance also features Hunt’s original material infused with the nuances of the art form.
Recently, she has returned from a journey to India, wherein she and a group of her peers studied Indian Classical Music with master violinist Kala Ramnath. She has returned to the states with a vigor for creation, and is currently recording her debut full length solo album, Shanti’s Shadow. To support this creation, Phoebe is reaching out to her network of peers, friends, family and fans alike as she independently releases the essence from her soul.
Darrell Scott’s Bluegrass Band
Multi-Instrumentalist and Singer-Songwriter Darrell Scott mines and cultivates the everyday moment, taking the rote, menial, mundane, and allowing it to be surreal, ever poignant, and candidly honest, lilting, blooming, and resonating. The words he fosters allow us to make sense of the world, what is at stake here, and our place in it. And ultimately, Darrell knows the sole truth of life is that love is all that matters, that we don’t always get it right, but that’s the instinctive and requisite circuitous allure of things, why we forever chase it, and why it is held sacred.
Darrell Scott comes from a musical family with a father who had him smitten with guitars by the age of 4, alongside a brother who played Jerry Reed style as well. From there, things only ramped up with literature and poetry endeavors while a student at Tufts University, along with playing his way through life. This would never change.
After recently touring with Robert Plant and the Zac Brown Band (2 years with each), and producing albums for Malcolm Holcomb and Guy Clark and being named “songwriter of the year” for both ASCAP and NSAI, these days you can ﬁnd him roaming his Tennessee wilderness acreage hiking along the small river, creating delicious meals with food raised on his property and playing music. He often leads songwriting workshops to help people tell their own truths with their stories, and is as busy as always writing, producing, performing, and just plain fully immersing himself in life.
Sam Bush Band
Stephen Mougin has been a vocalist and guitar player for the Sam Bush Band since 2006. He owns and operates Dark Shadow Recording, an independent record label and recording studio, where he produces and engineers albums for clients and label artists including Becky Buller, Rick Faris, The Stillhouse Junkies and more.
He holds a degree in vocal music education from the University Of Massachusetts, Amherst and has taught music professionally from Kindergarten to college. Mougin continues to bring his music-ed background to camps, private workshops, and occasional in-person lessons.
Long Road Home
Originally from Northern Illinois, Justin Hoffenberg currently makes his home in Boulder, CO. Growing up in a musical household, he attended many concerts as a child and was drawn towards music. At 10 years old Justin joined his 5th grade orchestra, where he played the violin for one year before beginning Suzuki lessons, which he pursued until graduating high school. The summer between 5th and 6th grade proved a fateful one, as a family friend recommended attending the Rockygrass festival in Lyons, CO, as well as the camp that precedes it. Justin ventured to the camp not knowing anything about Bluegrass, but was immensely changed by the experience.
After spending the week with such fiddlers as Jason Carter (Del McCoury Band), Justin never looked back.
He played in bluegrass bands from the time that he was 13; professionally since he was 15 years old. While a senior in high school, Justin helped form Long Road Home, the bluegrass band with which he is still playing full time. When not with Long Road Home, you can find him playing with a variety of projects, across a variety of genres. He’s been known to appear with his Rock and Roll band, The Bimarinal, and even at times as a guest eTone on the eTown radio show (where he appeared with such acts as the Indigo Girls, Tim O’Brien, Big Al Anderson and the North Mississippi All Stars).
Gina Marie Leslie
Colorado-raised songstress Gina Marie Leslie is a longtime RockyGrass Academy student, now living in New Orleans. Born into a family of musicians, she grew up in a culture of jamming that uplifts all players involved and creates a welcoming atmosphere. A multi-instrumentalist (guitar, fiddle, bass, voice, ukulele) and songwriter, Gina has the tools to guide a musician at any level to feel the joy and beauty of connection through music. She plays with Damn Gina, The Bad Bad Leslie’s, Mean Gina Jazz Band, and as a side musician for other projects.
“Murph” first fell in love with bluegrass music while living in Chicago and immediately started studying it with the great Czech guitar player Slavek Hanzlik as well as Don Stiernberg and Greg Cahill. After living in Chicago he moved to Colorado and founded the band Slipstream which performed at many notable festivals such as Grey Fox in New York. He then toured the country performing with Nashville singer/songwriter Rorey Carroll and has performed with such bluegrass luminaries as Noam Pikelny, Matt Flinner, the Infamous Stringdusters, Crooked Still, Darol Anger as well as many others and has been an endorsed artist for Elixir Guitar Strings for 14 years. Currently Murph is living in Shanghai, China, performing with mandolin virtuoso Tom Peng and teaching guitar lessons while exploring as much of Asia as possible.
Like Dominick Leslie, this will be Murph’s 21st year in a row at Rockygrass. “It doesn’t matter where in the world you might find yourself, once you go to Rockygrass…you have to be there every year!” he proclaims. MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Chris Thile says about Brad Murphey: “a great lead guitarist….. and awesome rhythm player too!”
Hailing from both Michigan and West Virginia, Leslie has been studying the upright bass since she was just a little girl. As she got older she decided to further her music education at Western Michigan University where she focused on Music Education. While in college, Leslie also toured the midwest with the many orchestras and string ensembles she represented. Outside the classroom, Leslie immersed herself in Kalamazoo’s local music scene where she discovered her deep love for Bluegrass and folk music.
It didn’t take long before she was singing and playing in numerous bands such as The Mossy Mountain Band and Who Hit John?
With string music tugging at her heart, Leslie decided to move to the mountains where there was sure to be no shortage of good pickers. Since the summer of 2009 when she moved to town, Leslie has played with some of the Colorado’s most talented acts including Spring Creek Bluegrass Band, Bonnie and the Clydes, and many others. She is also an active member of Magnolia Row, another great Boulder-based group.
By day, Leslie teaches orchestra music in the Boulder Valley School District, where she nurtures and encourages the future generation of music lovers.
Leslie keeps The Railsplitters in time with her driving rhythm on the 1920s German upright which was restored at the Guarneri House in Grand Rapids, MI.
Born in Evergreen, Colorado, Sam Leslie is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and sound engineer. After five formative years in Boston, Massachusetts studying at the Berklee College of Music, Sam now lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Growing up in a musical family playing bluegrass, old-time, country, and other roots music styles, Sam has since enjoyed exploring and studying other genres and musical avenues. As a performer, composer, engineer, and teacher, Sam loves finding how each of these fields can enhance and inform one another to shine the way to a holistic creative flow.
Colorado native Dominick Leslie has been around live music all his life, having attended his first bluegrass festival when he was just five months old. Growing up he was surrounded by music, listening to and jamming with his dad’s bluegrass band, and thanks to his Dad’s influence, he has been playing instruments since he was old enough to hold one. At the age of four, Dominick acquired a ukulele tuned like the bottom four strings of a guitar, igniting a deep passion for music that still burns brightly. Dominick’s abilities progressed rapidly on guitar, fiddle and mandolin, but eventually the mandolin became his obsession and demanded his total focus.
By the time he was 12, Dominick was writing his own music and practicing every day. At 15, he recorded his first solo CD, “Signs of Courage”, receiving rave reviews from Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine, among others. Dominick’s technique and emotive style were far more advanced than his young age would suggest. In 2004, Dominick became the youngest contestant ever to win the Rockygrass mandolin contest. He also placed first in the Merlefest mandolin contest, and second in the Walnut Valley International Mandolin Contest.
Dominick was featured in Mike Marshall’s Young American Mandolin Ensemble. In October 2007, this elite group of seven young musicians was invited to perform with Mike at the Mandolines de Lunel festival in France.Dominick has also had the unique opportunity to study with mandolin virtuosos David Grisman, Mike Marshall, Chris Thile, Don Stiernberg, Andy Statman, Mike Compton, and Hamilton de Holanda at the Mandolin Symposium. Over the years his bluegrass roots have evolved into interests in Jazz, Classical and other World music.
These musical directions led him to enroll in the Berklee College of Music in 2008.Dominick has been involved with many projects over the years including The Brotet, The Deadly Gentlemen, The Grant Gordy Quartet, Noam Pikelny & Friends and a few other spontaneous acoustic groups. Whether writing a new piece, learning a tune, or performing with his confreres, Dominick will always share his love of music with others.
Michael Hornick is the builder of Shanti Guitars. After building his first guitar in 1985, he worked at Santa Cruz Guitar Company, and presently works alone in his shop in Missoula, Montana, building about twelve instruments a year. Michael has built the first place guitar prize for the nationally recognized Telluride Troubadour contest from its inception in 1991, and helped design the original mandolin and mandola kits.
His love of lutherie is reflected in the high quality of craftsmanship found in each of his custom instruments. Michael has assisted students in the building of well over two hundred mandolin kits over the past seventeen years.
Brody has been apprenticing under Michael Hornick since March of 2012. Under Michael’s tutelage, Brody is primarily assisting with the guitar building process at the RockyGrass Academy. He has also recently completed his first full-size guitar under Michael’s wing.
Chuck has known Michael Hornick since 1992, owns a Shanti guitar, and has assisted Michael with the mando building class since 2002. Each year Chuck produces a mandolin while assisting other students with theirs. In his other life, he is a master mechanic building hot rods in California.
Daniel Roberts Stringworks
Dan Roberts began his instrument making career with Flatiron Banjo and Mandolin Company in Bozeman, MT. He was production manager for Gibson Montana Division before moving to California as luthier and production manager for Santa Cruz Guitar Company. Dan lived in Santa Cruz for 6 years before moving back to Montana to work for Santa Cruz out of his own shop. There he built the SCGC archtops, did new model design and some prototypes, and was the warranty repairman, service manager, and production manager with the help of an on-site shop foreman.
After 17 years with SCGC Dan hung out his own shingle and is a Custom guitar maker building Roberts Guitars. Dan has been teaching the mandolin building class at Rockygrass Academy since 1996.
San Juan Mandolins
Bobby Wintringham is returning for his sixth year as an instructor at the Academy’s mandolin building experience. He is a full time luthier building San Juan Mandolins in his shop in Dolores, Colorado. Says Bobby, “The only thing more rewarding than building instruments is being able to share that knowledge with others.”