We’re excited to announce the complete 2019 RockyGrass Academy faculty (including clawhammer banjo!).
Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Courtney Hartman started playing guitar at the young age of eight, after having already spent several years on the fiddle and mandolin. Her early years were spent steeped in American Roots music, and today she has fused a diverse range of influences from Norman Blake to Bill Frisell, creating music that acknowledges and pays homage to her roots, while pushing beyond its defined boundaries. Courtney was recently nominated by the Americana Music Association for 2017 Instrumentalist of the Year, following the release of her solo project ‘Nothing We Say’.
Her songs are flush with intimate ruminations on her life as a traveling musician and a deep curiosity about the world around her. The luminous EP delivers on the promise always apparent in her work as a guitarist and songwriter for Della Mae, the Grammy-nominated string band, along with her collaborations with Bryan Sutton, Jim Lauderdale, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell, among others. Acoustic Guitar Magazine lauds Courtney as a “distinctive guitar stylist… and a songwriter that delights and disturbs.”
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.
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
Chris is one of the hardest working musicians from the Seattle music scene. You’d be hard pressed to find another twenty-something year old seamlessly switching from International Music to Jazz and from Rock to Bluegrass so comfortably. He has even studied Brazilian Jazz with Seattle based Brazil music legend, Jovino Santos Neto. Chris’ musicianship reflects the multitude of musical influences he turns to for inspiration.
His acoustic guitar playing really stands out, but this virtuosic, multi-instrumentalist is equally at home playing mandolin, drums, bass, electric guitar, banjo, and Greek bouzouki! In addition, Chris was a founding member of Seattle based, Northern Departure, and has found himself sitting in with Jerry Douglas, Emmylou Harris, Rob Ickes and many others. Don’t miss an opportunity to hear him shred his Martin guitar in half!
Jordan Tice is a singular voice on the American roots music scene. Over the last ten years, he has developed a reputation as a unique and versatile guitarist and prolific composer of some of the most thoughtful and well-crafted tunes of his generation. Jordan has a voice and sonic aesthetic that is all his own with which he filters the sounds and conventions of American Music into something unique. On his latest release, Horse County, he also demonstrates a unique voice as a songwriter and singer in addition to his known guitar and tune-crafting skills.
Born into a bluegrass family in Maryland, Jordan started early, playing bluegrass and fiddle tunes with some of the best players in the fertile Mid-Atlantic bluegrass scene. He also stayed busy playing rock and roll with his peers as well as studying jazz and classical guitar and composition in college. He released his first solo record of mostly original music at the age of 17 called No Place Better (2005) to critical acclaim within the bluegrass world. He quickly followed it up with Long Story (2007) a collection of original instrumentals that featured an all-star band of Noam Pikelny on banjo, Casey Driessen on fiddle, Andy Hall on dobro, and Mark Schatz on bass. The collection of adventurous yet deeply musical tunes solidified his reputation as being one of the most thoughtful and creatively driven personalities on the acoustic music scene and as a composer, player and bandleader capable of leading veteran musicians into uncharted waters. With his next release, The Secret History (2011), Jordan further pushed the limits of the absolute expressiveness of an acoustic ensemble. This outing, featuring Paul Kowert on bass and Simon Chrisman on hammered dulcimer, contained longer more through-composed pieces that despite their length never lost sight of the colorful hooks and beautiful and humorous sentiments that define Jordan’s work.
The development of Jordan’s creative work as a solo artist is only one narrative that defines his career. Since first busting onto the scene, he has also been an active sideman with progressive bluegrass pioneers like Frank Wakefield, Mark Schatz and friends, and Tony Trischka, lending his guitar playing to their endeavors both on stage and in the studio. He also contributed his mandolin playing skills to the Dave Rawlings Machine record Nashville Obsolete (2015), toured with the Canadian folk group, The Duhks, and worked with actor/comedian Steve Martin on his re-imagining of the Shakespeare play As You Like It for New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park.
Bridging the sideman and bandleader gap, Jordan is an active collaborator as well. His record Corbett Chrisman Tice (2008) with hammered dulcimer player, Simon Chrisman and banjoist, Wes Corbett was hailed as one of the top 5 records of the year by the Chicago tribune in 2008. Since 2014 he has worked closely with fiddler Brittany Haas (Crooked Still, Dave Rawlings Machine) and bassist Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers, Dave Rawlings Machine) in the trio Haas Kowert Tice. They released their debut record You Got This in 2014.
This brings us to the present and Jordan’s latest release, Horse County. The record is Jordan’s first to feature his singing and original songs in addition to his picking and tune-writing. The 11 tracks (6 songs and 5 instrumentals) combine many American folk music conventions with Jordan’s eccentric harmonic, melodic, and lyrical sense. All the material is inspired, the playing is superb, and the arrangements and sequencing are airtight.
Nashville Bluegrass Band | Soggy Bottom Boys
Befriended and mentored by Bill Monroe, the acknowledged Father of Bluegrass Music, Mike Compton is one of today’s foremost interpreters of Monroe’s genre-creating mandolin style. Compton’s mastery of mandolin is at once effortless and exceptional. A compelling entertainer either alone or with a group, his skills as a singer, arranger, instrumentalist, composer and accompanist also make him in-demand as a band member and ensemble player at festivals, clubs and concert halls, recording sessions, music workshops and as a private instructor.
Compton’s decades of touring and recording with musical luminaries ranging from rockstars Sting, Gregg Allman and Elvis Costello, to straight-from-the-still acoustic legends like John Hartford, Doc Watson, Peter Rowan, Ralph Stanley and David Grisman, have established him as a true master of the modern American mandolin and a premier interpreter of roots and Americana musical styles. With over 140 CDs in his discography, Compton has helped keep mandolin a cool, relevant sound as the modern musical styles ebb and evolve to reach an every-broadening audience.
A native of Meridian, Mississippi, Compton picked up the mandolin in his teens and absorbed the area’s native blues, old-time country and bluegrass sounds. He soon gravitated to Nashville, where he helped found one of the 20th Century’s most admired and influential bluegrass groups, the iconic Nashville Bluegrass Band. He’s also been a part of the Hubert Davis Band, John Hartford Stringband, 1942, Compton & Newberry, and other seminal groups.
When A-list Americana producer T-Bone Burnett needed experts in authentic rural musical styles to anchor the landmark ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ movie project and subsequent tour, he called upon Compton’s unique knowledge and signature mandolin style to authenticate the Soggy Bottom Boys’ rootsy sound. That Grammy Award Album of the Year-winning album went on to sell seven million copies and sparked a global revival in old-time and bluegrass musical styles.
Connoisseur of hand-painted vintage silk ties, popularizer of the denim overall urban fashion statement, lover of iconic men’s hats and curator of oddball official days (ask him about National Lost Sock Memorial Day or National root Canal Appreciation Day), Mike Compton thrives at the intersection of traditional funk and modern authenticity.
Equally skilled in bluegrass, old-time string band music, country blues, roots Americana styles, and much more, Compton soars beyond easy categorization as an acoustic mandolin player and singer. Gifted at tastefully incorporating rural, roots-based learn and rhythm mandolin styles into modern Americana music, Compton’s unique musical skill set allows him to entertain audiences ranging from racers and urban hipsters to die-hard country, folk and bluegrass fans.
A mandolin master able to channel the Monroe-style playing better than anyone, Compton is a preservationist who continues teaching the music that Bill Monroe innovated, and which set the standard for generations of bluegrass mandolin players to come.
Harmonic Tone Revealers | Peter Rowan & Tony Rice Quartet
Sharon Gilchrist has long made her home in the American acoustic music scene. Whether you have seen her playing mandolin, thumpin’ the upright bass, singing a traditional ballad or performing one of her original pieces, you’ve heard an artist steeped in traditional Appalachian music delivering these sounds with a distinct spacious, graceful and fiery nuance. Currently Sharon is part of an acoustic trio The Harmonic Tone Revealers featuring Scott Nygaard (guitar), John Reischman (mandolin, mandola).
She has performed and recorded albums with Darol Anger, Peter Rowan and Tony Rice Quartet. You may have also seen her with Tony Trishka, The Keith Little Band, Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands, Uncle Earl and Scott Law. She is also a well-respected mandolin instructor teaching two on-line mandolin courses at PegheadNation.com, as well as private lessons and music camps around the country.
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
At the highest levels of acoustic musicianship exists a mystery — the mystery of tone, taste and timing…it can best be illustrated by giving a good musician a good instrument and asking him to briefly strum, pick, bow, — whatever is required to produce the best sound. Then, by way of comparison, hand that very same instrument to a GREAT musician and ask for the same. It is a phenomenon that manifests itself every time that Frank Solivan picks up a mandolin, guitar or violin. What you see may be the same pick or bow, on the same strings, on the same fretboard that the good player demonstrated, but the sound… Ah… there’s the difference!
In Frank’s hands, these instruments take on a life of their own. You hear power. You hear volume. You hear crispness, clarity, timing and taste. All combined with passion and drive. A physicist might slow it down to analyze the strum against string — but he wouldn’t find the answer. For that, you have to know Frank Solivan, a man who has a powerful life force that’s as raw, natural and pure as the place he spend much of his youth, Alaska. Frank is a hunter, a fisherman, a gourmet chef, a beautiful singer, a poet and songwriter of tasteful ballads and of blazing instrumentals. A man of sturdy build who is known to holler out out a powerful, “Son!” whether it be in response to a hot solo, or some hot sauce he concocted in the kitchen. It’s as if all these things for him are an affirmation of life. An awareness that all five senses are humming along on overdrive. That life is short and all these gifts are not to be wasted.
Those who are privileged enough to be around it, are richer for it. Musicians, especially, in his presence step up their game, but I suppose you could say the same about gourmands, or fishermen. People sense that life force around Frank and they want a piece of it.
The physicist curious about the mysteries of tone, timing and taste would do well to spend some time around Frank. He would find no definition, no explanation of how it happens but he would see it right there. And you should, too.
Lonesome Ace Stringband
Chris will be teaching the Intermediate Clawhammer banjo class this year! Chris Coole got his first banjo when he was 17 years old after falling in love with the sounds of folk and early country music. Today, Chris is known internationally for his clawhammer banjo style, songwriting, and singing. Early on, Chris discovered the joys of busking. His practice halls were the streets and subway of Toronto. He spent 10 years as a busker. In 1995, along with Dan Whiteley and Chris Quinn, he founded “One Horse Town”, one of the earliest bands in what is now a thriving bluegrass scene in Toronto.
At around the same time, Chris began playing clawhammer banjo duets with Arnie Naiman. Naiman’s clean and tasteful playing was a considerable influence and the two went on to record “Five Strings Attached with No Backing” Vols 1 (1997) and 2 (2000) - both of which have become classics in the clawhammer banjo scene worldwide.
In 2000, he formed The Foggy Hogtown Boys, one of the most popular and enduring bluegrass bands in the country. Many of Chris’ original songs have found their way into the band’s repertoire. To date, The Foggy Hogtown Boys have recorded 7 albums and has toured throughout the U.S., Canada, Ireland, the UK and Israel.
His first solo album “Old Dog” was released in 2010 to warm reviews and drew attention to his intimate songwriting style. In 2016 he released “The Tumbling River”, a follow-up of highly narrative story songs featuring seven more originals, firmly establishing his reputation as a unique, and grounded songwriter. This is evidenced by the fact that his songs have been recorded by artists such as The Sweet Lowdown, Megan Lynch, Bill Evans, and Jenny Whiteley.
Coole is a sought-after teacher of both banjo and guitar at workshops and festivals across Canada and the U.S. His teaching approach is featured in the instructional DVD “The Elements of Clawhammer Banjo” (Woodhall Music).
Apart from his own albums, Chris can be heard as a sideman and/or producer on over 150 recordings by artists such as Sylvia Tyson, Jim Cuddy, Natalie MacMaster, Cara Luft, John Reishman, April Verch, Justin Rutledge, The Slocan Ramblers, and David Francey.
Apart from solo performances, Coole plays regularly with Ivan Rosenberg, The Lonesome Ace Stringband, and The David Francey Band.
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.
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
Mike is one of the hidden treasures of the five string banjo world. Mike grew up in the sixties and seventies in the bluegrass hotbed of Baltimore and D.C. and assimilated just about everything that all the great players in that area could offer. Then he took off on his own. How best to describe him? Imagine this conversation among banjo players huddled around a fire at some pickin’ party or festival. “How did J.D. do that lick?” “I dunno, but Munford’s over there, ask him.”
“I just got a ‘37 Granada but it ain’t sounding like it should…” “Have you taken it to Munford? Best set-up guy around.” “Damn! Why can’t I get that tone?” “I dunno… go watch Munford, He’s right over there.”
Now well past forty years old — the age at which, they say, life begins, Mike Munford retains a child like enthusiasm and curiosity for all things banjo. He has no qualms about driving hours through rush hour traffic to go see J.D. Crowe play at some obscure club… then rave about the performance even though he might have seen it or heard it dozens, maybe hundreds or times. He has imbibed everything that J.D., or Earl, or Bela, has thrown his way — and can mimic those players with uncanny accuracy, but has found his own style, too.
It can best be described as hard-driving melodic… but such a description diminishes what’s actually going on. When Mike Munford plays, you hear all things that a great banjo player strives to achieve. Power, drive, impeccable timing, exquisite tone and jaw-dropping technique.
Mike is also, indeed, about the finest set-up or fret job guy around, and is a walking encyclopedia of banjo trivia. He is an inspiration to countless players in the mid – Atlantic region.
Most of the country hasn’t really seen all that much of Mike’s playing. He, throughout most of his career, has preferred the comforts of home to the road. It is testament to Frank Solivan’s powers of persuasion ( i.e. talent) that Mike is hitting the road as a part of this fine ensemble.
Nashville Bluegrass Band | Soggy Bottom Boys
Multi-instrumentalist Stuart Duncan has built upon his bluegrass roots to become an artist that defies categorization and surpasses the limits of any specific genre. The consummate sideman, Stuart has lent his particular taste and tone to countless artists and projects. Whether trading dizzying instrumental licks with the likes of Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas, or adding complimentary fills for vocalists Alan Jackson and Barbara Streisand, Stuart has found a professional “home” both in the studio and on tour. From Robert Plant to Panic at the Disco, Stuart’s playing and influence can be heard among many of today’s top hit-makers.
When not active in the studio or on tour with others, Stuart can be seen and heard with The Nashville Bluegrass Band, where he’s been a contributing member since 1985. The band has won two Grammies, multiple IBMA & SPBMA awards, and has toured globally from here at home to the Middle East and China. Together, they continue to be an outstanding representation of classic bluegrass music in America – as relevant today as when they started.
What seems clear, is that whether it’s bluegrass, country, jazz, classical or a wonderful hybrid of them all, Stuart is just beginning to realize his musical potential. He’s looking forward to many new musical adventures and opportunities.
Brittany Haas is widely regarded as one of the most influential fiddlers of her generation. Born in Northern California, Brittany grew up honing her craft at string camps nationwide, and developed her unique style of fiddling at the influence of her mentors, Bruce Molsky and Darol Anger. A prodigious youth, Haas began touring with Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings at the age of fourteen. At seventeen, she released her debut, self-titled solo album (produced by Anger). Haas continued to tour and record while simultaneously earning a degree in Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University (where she also minored in Music Performance).
It was during her time at Princeton that Brittany was asked to join the seminal “chamber-grass” band Crooked Still, with whom she has made four recordings and toured the world.
Haas has always been a much sought-after collaborator and session musician. She has performed on Late Night With David Letterman and Saturday Night Live as part of Steve Martin’s bluegrass band, and features on Martin’s Grammy-winning album “The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo.” Over the years, she has performed with Bela Fleck, Abigail Washburn, Tony Trischka, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Waybacks, Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas (her cellist sister), and more.
Now residing in Nashville, TN, Brittany is currently involved in many exciting projects. Her quartet Hawktail (formerly Haas Kowert Tice, featuring bassist Paul Kowert of Punch Brothers, guitarist Jordan Tice, and mandolinist Dominick Leslie) is gearing up to release their follow-up album to 2014’s “You Got This” and continues to tour around the country with their original material. In 2015, Haas began touring with the Dave Rawlings Machine (featuring Gillian Welch) and can be found on their latest releases “Nashville Obsolete” and “Poor David’s Almanack.” In the fall of 2016, Haas began performing as part of the house band for Live From Here (formerly A Prairie Home Companion), hosted by Chris Thile. Brittany also continues to collaborate with Swedish fiddler Lena Jonsson and percussive dancer Nic Gareiss.
In addition to her work as a performer, Haas is an instructor at various string and fiddle camps across the globe, sharing her knowledge and passion in hopes to inspire the next generation of fiddle players.
Lonesome Ace Stringband
John Showman is known as one of Canada’s finest fiddle players, a strong and versatile musician best-known for his work with the The Lonesome Ace Stringband, Foggy Hogtown Boys, New Country Rehab and Creaking Tree String Quartet. Classically trained in violin since childhood, Showman has folded the sheet music, and emerged as one of the most dynamic, original, and exciting fiddlers in bluegrass music today. John also has the rare ability to understand the subtleties of old-time fiddle as well. In 2011 John became the first foreign-born musician to win the Clifftop fiddle contest. His love of traditional fiddle music is palpable as he brings the music to life with inspired playing.
Billy Cardine is an innovative, genre-blurring slide guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, touring artist, and educator. He has performed at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, the Ryman Auditorium and major festivals, such as Bonnaroo, Merlefest and Rockygrass. He is an internationally featured artist touring in India, Japan, Europe and Canada as well. Billy’s dobro playing was recently featured on a Jerry Douglas’ production, Southern Filibuster, honoring one of the forefathers of the Dobro.
Billy’s unique stylings and expertise attracted innovative analog music mogul, Moog Music. During 2010, he helped Moog design their first electric slide guitar, which he then debuted at MoogFest the following year. Billy’s distinct voice on all things slide has lead him to collaborations with Led Zeppelin’s own, John Paul Jones and world renowned, Edgar Meyer in his Porous Borders of Music. Billy’s productions have won national and international awards and recognition including Indie Acoustic Music Project’s Roots Album of the Year, Chicago Tribune’s Best Bluegrass records of the year and an Apple iPod Playlist Hot Pick. His memorable compositions and exquisite playing have been featured on The History Channel’s “Our Generation”, BBC World’s “Destination Music”, and PBS’ “RoadTrip Nation”. Billy newest release for July of 2012 introduces the Dobro to Gypsy Jazz music in a ground-breaking album featuring an extraordinary band.
Abbie Gardner is a fiery dobro player with an infectious smile. Whether performing solo or with Americana darlings Red Molly, her acclaimed tales of love and loss, both gritty and sweet, are propelled by her impeccable slide guitar chops. Her live show is truly unique - as both an award winning songwriter and interpreter of folk styles, a captivating vocalist, and a world class lap style dobro player, she has an unmistakable sound all her own. Her latest CD, Wishes on a Neon Sign was released in January 2018, and features twelve original songs, including a co-write with Chris Stapleton. She has opened for Lori McKenna, Hot Rize and Martina McBride.
Lonesome Ace Stringband
Max is highly respected as an intuitive and seasoned bass player; he also plays both clawhammer and Scruggs style banjo and rhythm guitar, which inform his overall understanding of the unique rhythms of Bluegrass, Old Time and Country music. He is renowned as vocalist – his powerful voice and ability to sing with an emotional commitment to the song leave the listener feeling truly connected. The rich soulful environment of a Bluegrass vocal ensemble is a home away from home for him. By the age of twelve Max was performing as a singer and bassist with his family band on a weekly gig in Toronto’s Cabbagetown.
He got his first upright bass in high school and played gigs in his dad’s jazz trio throughout his teens. He later moved to NYC with his brother to facilitate songwriting, recording and gigging with his cousins, Caleb and Josh Heineman. In 1998 he discovered Bluegrass and Old Time on a local college radio show and, drawn to the rich soulful harmonies and the depth of the tradition, he’s been hooked ever since.
Since 2006 Max has been playing with the Foggy Hogtown Boys and touring the U.S., Canada, Israel, Ireland, England and most recently Germany’s Bluegrass Jamboree. In 2009 he founded The Lonesome Ace Stringband with fellow Foggy Hogtown Boys John Showman and Chris Coole, and in 2012 began recording and touring with Canadian artist Annie Lou.
Max has been teaching bass and vocal workshops across Canada since 2007. His ability to create an environment for learning that is both comfortable and challending allows students to flourish.
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.
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
Born into a musical family from Cincinnati, Ohio, Jeremy Middleton has been a performing musician since childhood. He toured western Europe as a member of the Cincinnati Boychoir at age 10. After high school, he enlisted in the Army Band Program and served on active duty for 10 years. Joining the Navy Music Program in 2003, he was selected as the bassist for the US Navy Band Country Current in 2009 and performed at South By Southwest, IBMA World Of Bluegrass 2012, and on the Grand Ole Opry.
Retiring from active duty in 2014, he resides with his wife and 3 kids in Nashville, TN, where he frequently performs and tours as a freelance musician. He’s taught bass most recently at the 2016 CBA Music Camp and the week-long music camp at Common Ground On The Hill. He is the bassist for Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen.
Kristin Andreassen is a songwriter and percussive dancer who merges those skills in performances and recordings that are both inventive and deeply rooted in American traditional music. 2015 saw the release of her first studio album Gondolier, with tours supporting Black Prairie, Dawn Landes, Aoife O’Donovan, Mipso and Noam Pikelny. Her debut record Kiss Me Hello included the award-winning “Crayola Doesn’t Make a Color for Your Eyes” which went to #1 on kids’ radio and has been covered by dozens of artists ranging from Tyne Daly to high school marching bands.
While she’s best known for her smart and emotive original lyrics, Kristin got her start in traditional music – she played guitar and fiddle with the groundbreaking stringband Uncle Earl (w/ Abigail Washburn, Rayna Gellert & KC Groves) and danced with the Appalachian clogging ensemble Footworks. She first turned her attention to songwriting with the “folk noir” vocal trio Sometymes Why (w/ Aoife O’Donovan & Ruth Ungar) where her bandmates lovingly dubbed her “the mistress of metaphor”. Kristin has a knack for writing songs that explore the darkest corners of the human experience with a gently deceptive simplicity that rewards close listening. An explorer at heart, Kristin has made her way to Nashville via New York City, Maryland, the Canadian arctic, Cape Breton Island, Montreal and her native Portland, Oregon (in reverse order). When called upon to do so, Kristin calls a great square dance.
Sam Bush Band
It didn’t happen on accident. For Stephen “Mojo” Mougin’s career trajectory, it was fate: when Bill Monroe signed Stephen Mougin’s mandolin at the Peaceful Valley Bluegrass Festival in summer 1988, and then used it in a workshop. Talk about a good omen, because now Stephen Mougin is one of the most respected Jack-of-All-Trades in acoustic music. A compassionate teacher, compelling touring guitarist, natural songwriter, sought-after producer, and gifted sound engineer, Stephen Mougin is a go-to guy for pretty much anything under the musical sun.
Mougin is most naturally a vocal teacher, having earned a degree in music education with a vocal focus from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. Mougin teaches voice through workshops and lessons, with one student or in group form. He also teaches guitar and mandolin, and offers zeroed-in focus on each student’s work. “[Bluegrass voice Teaching is] about knowing which rules you can break or bend to make it sound authentic,” he says. Mougin’s proven method starts with the fundamentals, and then he works with the student on developing their own style.
After finishing a five year program in four years at Amherst, Mougin taught music from grades 7-12, reviving the musical department at the school. He had gotten a job from an educator who had watched him perform in high school. Mougin’s advice? “Always do your best, because you never know who is watching.”
Mougin has released instructional CDs through his label Dark Shadow Recording on baritone and tenor harmony vocals (with help from Russell Moore and Ronnie Bowman), and a comprehensive fiddler CD featuring Megan Lynch. “Of all the things I am, the thing I do best is teach. The results are tangible, and it’s where I have the most confidence,” Mougin says.
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
Chris Luquette, Jeremy Middleton, Mike Munford & Frank Solivan
With chops so hot, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen were named IBMA’s 2016 Instrumental Group of the Year for the second time, with a third nomination in 2017. Their critically acclaimed album Cold Spell earned a 2015 GRAMMY nomination for Best Bluegrass Album of the Year, yet the accolades don’t end there. Solivan, with banjoist Mike Munford, 2013 IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, award-winning guitarist Chris Luquette and bassist Jeremy Middleton, simmer a progressive bluegrass stew of infinite instrumental, vocal and songwriting skills soon to be featured once again on their new album If You Can’t Stand the Heat dropped January 25th, 2019.
Since leaving the cold climes of Alaska for the bluegrass hotbed of Washington, D.C., Frank Solivan has built a reputation as a monster mandolinist — and become a major festival attraction with his band, Dirty Kitchen. Their respect and deep understanding of the tradition collides, live on stage, with jazz virtuosity creating an unforgettable, compelling performance.
Jens Kruger, Uwe Kruger & Joel Landsberg
Born and raised in Europe, brothers Jens and Uwe Kruger started singing and playing instruments at a very young age. Growing up in a family where music was an important part of life, they were exposed to a wide diversity of musical influences. The brothers were performing regularly by the time they were eleven and twelve years old, and they began their professional career in 1979. Jens’ and Uwe’s first public performances were as a duo, and in just a few years they were busking on the streets of cities throughout eastern and western Europe.
CBS Records contracted with Jens and Uwe when Jens was just seventeen years old, and shortly thereafter, the Krugers hosted a radio show on SRG SSR, the Swiss Public broadcast group. Several years later, the brothers teamed up with bass player Joel Landsberg, a native of New York City who also had a very extensive musical upbringing in classical and jazz music (studying with jazz great Milt Hinton), thus forming a trio that has been playing professionally together since 1995. Together, they established the incomparable sound that The Kruger Brothers are known for today. The trio moved to the United States in 2002 and is based in Wilkesboro, NC.
Since their formal introduction to American audiences in 1997, The Kruger Brothers’ remarkable discipline, creativity and their ability to infuse classical music into folk music has resulted in a unique sound that has made them a fixture within the world of acoustic music. The honesty of their writing has since become a hallmark of the trio’s work.
In their ever-expanding body of work – Jens Kruger (banjo and vocals), Uwe Kruger (guitar and lead vocals), and Joel Landsberg (bass and vocals) – The Kruger Brothers personify the spirit of exploration and innovation that forms the core of the American musical tradition. Their original music is crafted around their discerning taste, and the result is unpretentious, cultivated, and delightfully fresh.
In addition to their regular concert schedule, The Kruger Brothers perform these classical pieces regularly with select symphony orchestras and string quartets throughout the country.
Through their numerous CD releases, radio and television performances, lectures, and collaborative efforts, The Kruger Brothers’ powerful artistic statement continues to inspire and enlighten audiences and musicians around the world.
Lonesome Ace Stringband
Chris Coole, Max Heineman & John Showman
The Lonesome Ace Stringband brings grit, skill and abandon to old-time, Appalachian folk songs and fiddle/banjo tunes. These are songs and tunes for life and all of it’s occasions: festivals, dances, wars, parties and funerals. The music comes from a tradition that has inspired and brought together generations of people. It’s themes - love, loss, hard work and hardship, faith, and everyday life - speak to everyone. Together they bring a deep respect for the roots of the music, a keen sense of innovation to the performance and material, and a passion for the sound that transcends both. This is old-time music for today’s old soul.
Their debut album, “Old Time”, was recorded in 2014, and was met with critical acclaim from the folk, old-time, and bluegrass community. In 2016, the band recorded their sophomore album “Gone For Evermore”. Heading into the studio, the group’s goal was to capture the feel, energy and narrative of their live playing. Since 2008, LAS has held a weekend residency at Toronto’s legendary Dakota Tavern. Often performing 10 sets of music in a weekend, the band has developed the kind of instinctual rapport, that only comes from seasoned musicians logging many hundreds of playing hours together.
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).
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.
Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers | Hawktail
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.
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.
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.
Ian has been going to music festivals since he was a wee lad which helped foster his love for music. At the RockyGrass Academy, he built his first instrument, a mandolin when he was eleven, then a guitar a few years later. He currently is apprenticing with Dan Roberts in Bozeman, MT, learning the art of lutherie.
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.”