GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance

Instructor Bios

Instructor bios



RICHIE STEARNS - Advanced Clawhammer Banjo

He’s been described as one of the major innovators of 5-string banjo playing, a wonderfully idiosyncratic musician. Fellow musician Tony Trischka calls him“a transcendentally clawhammering force of nature” and Bela Fleck says simply, "Richie is a wonderful musician. I love his mantra-groove spooky-banjo style." For Natalie Merchant, it’s his ability to blend traditional technique and repertoire with contemporary and original material that sets him apart: says Natalie, “I have been amazed by Richie Stearns’ musicianship…the banjo in his hands can bd plaintive sounds I have ever heard.”

A founding member of the neo traditional alternative rock band THE HORSE FLIES, he’s toured extensively over the last three decades, recording eight albums with The Horse Flies, including releases on MCA and Rounder Records. (The Horse Flies have been featured on MTV, Prairie Home Companion, All Things Considered, World Café and Mountain Stage, and have been written about in Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and other major publications.)

The list of musicians Richie’s recorded, toured, and performed with is long and diverse: among them, jazz guitarist BILL FRISELL, Malian bluesman VIEUX FARKA TOURE, North Indian Gypsy band MUSAFIR, Tibetan singer YUNGCHEN LLAMO, pop legend LINDA RONSTADT, country and bluegrass musicians (including PETER ROWAN, VASSAR CLEMENTS, TONY TRISCHKA, and JIM LAUDERDALE), Cajun groups (Michael Doucet & BEAUSOLEIL, REDSTICK RAMBLERS), Celtic bands (DE DANNAN, John Doyle of SOLAS) and Australia’s KASEY CHAMBERS as well as SAMITE of Uganda and South African Afro-pop star JOHNNY CLEGG.

Three major long-term musical collaborations involve NATALIE MERCHANT (three recordings and multiple tours), BELA FLECK (workshop presentations and performances on concert stages throughout the US) and folk hero PETE SEEGER, who recently invited Richie to score original music for an album that will feature Pete telling his life story over a music background. (Over the past two decades, Richie’s performed with or for Pete on numerous occasions.) Past performances and recordings also include work with a wide variety of other musicians, including DAVID BYRNE, BILLY BRAGG & WILCO, OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW, JOAN BAEZ, and the Tuvan throat-singers, the ALASH ENSEMBLE.

In addition to his ongoing tenure with THE HORSE FLIES, Richie’s best known for his current work with his own EVIL CITY STRING BAND (repertoire based in the world of old time and country music, with some originals) and the improvisational trio TI TI CHICKAPEA, which includes critically acclaimed cellist HANK ROBERTS and respected violinist ERIC ACETO. (Their music, while rooted in tradition, involves a wide range of improvisation and musical experimentation.) He’s a founding member of the roots rock outfit, DONNA THE BUFFALO.

MAC BENFORD - Beginning Clawhammer Banjo

Mac Benford has been a leading figure in the preservation and performance of traditional Appalachian stringband music for nearly half a century – most notably as a member of the now-legendary Highwoods Stringband. He is a highly acclaimed master and teacher of several traditional banjo styles, which he learned directly from the older generation of old-time players.

J.P. HARRIS - Fretless Banjo

JP Harris has been writing country songs, performing, and touring professionally for nearly a decade, fronting his classic country band JP Harris and The Tough Choices. Before that, JP gained notoriety within the southern and national old time music community as a fretless banjo player, singer, and all-around rabble-rouser. JP built a distinctive line of fretless banjos professionally for five years, landing him further renown within the fiddler's convention circuit.

Relocating to Nashville in 2011, JP gained much national attention for his debut album "I'll Keep Calling" in 2012 (winning The Nashville Scene's "Best Country Album Of 2012" award) as well as his 2014 follow up record "Home Is Where The Hurt Is." He has made numerous Rolling Stone "Best Of" lists over the last five years, and had two original songs featured on director Ramin Bahrani's Hollywood debut film "At Any Price" (starring Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron, and Heather Graham.)

JP has also been a Newport Folk Festival alum for four consecutive years.


BEN GOULD - Beginning Bass

Ben Gould has been playing upright bass in old-time bands for upwards of 15 years, an expert in right hand slap technique, you may recognise him as a founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show, the Funnest Game, the All-American Hell-drivers, the Evil City Stringband, and a current member of Bubba George Stringband.

BRIAN WILLIAMS - Intermediate/Advanced Upright Bass

Brian Williams plays the upright bass in a style heavily influenced by early rock'n'roll & country music; his playing blends the rhythms of blues, bluegrass, dixieland and swing. Brian launched his musical career in 1972 playing guitar and banjo with the SwampRoot String Band but eventually switched his focus to upright bass and toured extensively for 10 years with the legendary John Mooney Blues Band sharing the bill with national acts; Muddy Waters, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Paul Butterfield, Asleep at the Wheel. He quickly gained recognition as a player with deep respect for traditional styles as well as a unique slap-style bass technique.

Brian joined Bobby Henrie & the Goners playing Roots R’n’R, Rockabilly and Swing for more than 3 decades in honky tonks, dance halls and festivals coast-to-coast. Throughout the '90s, he was on faculty at Centrum's summer music camps in Port Townsend, WA. conducting workshops on rhythmic upright bass techniques.

In addition to the Goners, Brian currently performs with the Djangoners, a Gypsy jazz band playing in the tradition of Django Reinhardt's famous "Hot Club of France”, the Bossa Nova Bradley Brothers, Busted Valentines (beatnik spoken word jazz ensemble), Red, Fred & Weems (acoustic blues trio) and the Ruff Alley Rounders (old-time sringband). Coined the "Top cat on the bottom end" by music critic Frank DeBlase, Brian is often the 'first call' when a bassist with deep traditional roots is needed for touring, concerts or recording sessions.


Geoff Henderson is an American bassist, songwriter and singer based in Nashville, TN.  He was was born and raised just outside of Chicago, IL and came to Tennessee to earn his Bachelor's at the MTSU Jazz Studies program with a focus on upright bass.  

He has worked with artists such as The Danberrys, Miss Tess and the Talkbacks, John England and the Western Swingers, The Gypsy Hombres, Jill Andrews, Rory Hoffman, Brent Cobb, Brian Ashley Jones and many more. He is in high demand as both a touring and recording musician.



Jeb grew up in Brooktondale, NY surrounded by music of all kinds. Most prominent was Old-Time Strinband music. Influenced by The Correction Stringboard and The Highwoods Stringband, Jeb learned to play the fiddle at a very young age. His brothers learned to play banjo, guitar and mandolin and together they formed The Bubba George Stringband. Traveling to fiddle festivals in the south Jeb met Tara Nevins and Jim Miller, fellow Old -Time Stringband musicians. As time and years would have it the relationship between them all led to an evolution in to new territory- electric music and songwriting. Jeb took up the electric guitar, teaching himself and developing his unique style in which he plays and grooves, picks and jams with his fingers, without the use of a pick. He and Tara started writing songs and it was then that Donna The Buffalo was born. Here now 25 years later Donna The Buffalo has become a major force in the world of Americana Music. Touring the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean, Donna The Buffalo has shared stages with an endless list of artists such as Peter Rowan, Jim Lauderdale, The Wood Brothers, The Duhks, The Avett Brothers, Emmy Lou Harris, Merle Haggard, Rickie Lee Jones, Los Lobos, Joh Paul Jones, Bela Fleck, Tommy Emanuel, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Anders Osborne to name only a few.

JUNE DRUCKER - Beginning Old Time Rhythm Guitar

Best known for bass playing in old time music, my first love has always been the guitar. Chordal color is important tome and I've employed it in tunes I've written that have gone on to be well known favorites. With forty years of work in old time rhythm sections, I've developed a distinctive style with an emphasis on smooth solid rhythm. My approach is to lay down a blanket of sound for the fiddle and banjo to dance around on top of. Years of teaching experience on bass and in band labs, now applied to guitar, promises to make make this a very productive and fun class.

Some of the basics we'll talk about and learn in this class are the 4 main keys, the chords of those keys, how to make them, and substitutions where appropriate. We'll also talk about different ways to walk from chord to chord, guitar runs(whether and where to use them) and the importance of right hand rhythm.
We'll learn guitar chords to tunes and you will have a chance to play them along with a fiddler.

STEVE SELIN - Intermediate/Advanced Old Time Rhythm Guitar

Steve Selin began playing American Fiddle music with his family, and has been influenced
by the elegant simplicity of it ever since. He is a multi-instrumentalist (he also plays the fiddle) and has been playing with Richie Stearns and Rosie Newton for the past decade. Steve appears on Richie’s most recent recordings. He is also the owner, orchardist, and cidermaker of South Hill Cider where he is spending time picking apples, and bottling hard cider.

AARON LIPP - Flatpicking Guitar

Aaron Lipp (guitar/banjo/mandolin/bass/organ/harmonica/dobro/vocals) has been pursuing old time and bluegrass music for years locally after an eight year stint touring across the world as a multi-instrumentalist and singer spanning several genres. You may have seen him performing with Robert Randolph & The Family Band, The Cabin Killers, The Campbell Brothers, Richie Stearns & Rosie Newton, Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad, Donna The Buffalo, Bobby Henrie, The Rigs, or his latest projects Outland County and Home Remedy. Aaron regularly writes songs, melodies and adapts old traditional tunes into new and unique arrangements. His love for old-time and bluegrass music continues to grow, and is an integral part of a creative musical lifestyle.

SAM BROUSSARD - Cajun Rhythm Guitar, Electric Guitar(encompassing Traditonal and Most American Guitar Styles

Sam Broussard’s work with Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys covers a range from deeply traditional Cajun music to a progressive and innovative style unique to South Louisiana. It’s a mix of Cajun roots, Blues, Rock, Jazz, Country, Gospel and Other. In addition to three Grammy nominations for his work with the Playboys, Sam received a fourth nomination for 2016’s Broken Promised Land, the album of adventurous roots music he produced and composed with the preeminent Cajun folklorist and poet Dr. Barry Ancelet. In the last twenty years, besides being a perennial at Dewey Balfa Week, Sam has taught and workshopped at Ashokan, Augusta, Fiddletunes, Rhythm & Roots, Festival Acadiens et Créoles, and has taught songwriting as an associate professor at the University of Louisiana.

JEFF MALINOWSKI - Introduction to Country Telecaster Guitar

Jeff Malinowski is a Nashville, TN based guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, and producer.  He has recorded and performed around the world with an eclectic mix of musicians including singer-songwriters such as Ron Pope and Michaela Anne, country acts like Wheeler Walker Jr. and JP Harris, and the indie-rock band Frances Cone.  

Jeff is also an accomplished producer and engineer.  His recent production credits include records by Caroline Spence, Ron Pope, and The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow.


JEFF CLAUS - Banjo Uke

Jeff’s a co-founding member of the bands, The Horse Flies and Boy with a Fish, and has been playing banjo uke since 1984. He loves simple, steady, flowing rhythm and drone and likes the uke for supporting fiddle tunes as well as writing more contemporary songs. He’s taught at lots of different festivals, fiddle and music camps, and dance camp weekends, and he’s written songs/music (some with the banjo uke) sung and recorded by Natalie Merchant; used by Oliver Stone in his film, Any Given Sunday; used by MTV’s Rock the Vote; and more. And, with his wife, Judy Hyman, and sometimes The Horse Flies, he’s created music for or contributed music to over 20 feature and documentary films. For more info: -- –



David Via (rhymes with sky) is the winner of the 2009 Mountain Stage/American Folk Alliance Songwriters Contest, and has picked u p the Merlefest Chris Austin songwriter prize three times. David Via is one of those guys whose name bluegrass fans may recognize, but without necessarily being familiar with his music. Unless you follow the jamgrass scene, where Via is a hero, or the cult of acoustic/bluegrass songwriters where he also has a very strong following". Bluegrass B. "He is also one of the best songwriters in the business." Bluegrass Unlimited"David Via is one of the best home grown songwriters in modern bluegrass. Tim O'Brien "Via's intriguing approach to old-time string music. The sound of his music is inarguably rooted in old-time bluegrass, so much so that one can almost hear the mountain leaves rustle, feel the freshly plowed earth and smell the smoke that emits from countless chimneys on cold mountain nights..What separates Via from his bluegrass contemporaries is the way he writes his songs. His lyrics and song forms break from tradition, not in a jarring manner, but in a subtle way that carries the listener to some place new without even knowing they are on a journey. It's bluegrass, with a strong country-blues undertone, and an overtallegiance to the working-man's folk music produced by the likes of the late Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash". Winston Salem Journal


Lead by TBA

A fun Jam after a long day of workshops and before the nightly dinner. Open to all levels! Grab your instruments, join in and experience playing old time tunes in a group. New this year!



Brock Henderson is a stylistically diverse pedal steel/guitar player from Knoxville,TN. He has performed professionally for over 25 years with such acts as Sturgill Simpson, Jim Lauderdale, J.P Harris and The Tough Choices, Ian Thomas and The Band of Drifters, Same As It Ever Was (A Talking Heads Tribute), The Everybodyfields, Sam Quinn, The Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, including tours in Europe and performing in Brazil. 

He has taught privately and at the college level for 17 years with a passion for educating. When not fronting his own projects, The Brockefellers or Brocka Jawaka, he is an in-demand studio musician and sideman and produces music from his home studio. 


PRESTON FRANK - Creole/Zydeco Accordion

Accordionist Preston Frank has been laying down his blazing bayou boogie and fearless yet traditional Louisiana zydeco for decades. His trademark swamp groove is a combination of zydeco, funk and soul, cooking up a smooth, flowing Creole sound that makes you start to move. The jumping rhythms and festival vibes rest in this hands while his fingers work magic on the diatonic accordion. Firmly planted in his musical roots for almost 50 years, Preston Frank remains an important force in preserving traditional zydeco and Creole French music.

STEVE RILEY - Cajun Accordion

Steve Riley, of Mamou Louisiana, is a widely acknowledged master of the Cajun accordion and its singularly powerful sound. There has never been an official competition among Cajun accordionists. Whenever a contest does arise, Steve Riley usually wins it, or judges it. Despite the lack of official metrics or quantifying factors, it remains true that most people think Steve is the best there is, and very few would argue the point. His playing is a standard by which timing, phrasing and ingenuity are measured on the royal instrument of South Louisiana. That, combined with his searing, emotional vocals, songwriting, soulful fiddling and onstage front man charisma have led many to refer to the band simply as “Steve Riley.” For many, that would be enough, but for this band, and its devoted fans, there’s much, much more.


STEVE RILEY - (see under Accordion)

KEVIN WIMMER - (see under Fiddle)


KEVIN WIMMER - (see under Fiddle)

BRAZOS HUVAL - (see under Fiddle)



A fun Jam after a long day of workshops and before the nightly dinner. Open to all levels! Grab your instruments, join in and experience playing Cajun tunes in a group. New this year!


KEVIN DUGAS - (see under Cajun Drums and Bass)


STEVE RILEY - (see Accordion)



Kenneth Metzker began his musical journey with the classical piano from 4 years old till 16. He then began his life long studies of drumming until the present. Kenneth has travelled extensively to Cuba, Brazil, Central America, and the Caribbean as a student, teacher, performer and ethnomusicoligical enthusiast. He is also trained in classical and american percussion from his university studies...



Leah Grady Sayvetz comes from a family of music and dance lovers. Since infancy she was surrounded by music- both in formal settings at concerts of world-class musicians, and informal settings like a group of folks just picking tunes in the living room. As soon as she could walk, Leah was dancing, and at the age of six she asked for a piano so she could make her own music. Leah studied classical piano for thirteen years, first with Pam Rossi in Trumansburg, NY, then Jayne Demakos of Ithaca, and finally preparing for conservatory auditions under the instruction of Phiroze Mehta, professor of piano at Ithaca College school of music. Ultimately choosing not to attend conservatory, Leah earned a bachelor’s degree in biology while continuing music in other settings. In tandem with her formal classical music training, Leah learned to play traditional music from a young age. She picked up the Irish drum, the Bodhran, at age 11, having been mesmerized by this instrument at the Irish sessions she would attend with her family. Rhythm came naturally to a girl who couldn’t help dancing whenever music started. In 2009 Leah joined her cousins in forming the Irish traditional band, The Grady Girls (Oona Grady De Flaun, fiddle, Marie De Mott Grady, flute, Nora De Mott Grady, fiddle, Leah Grady Sayvetz, bodhran, vocals). Since the band formed, The Grady Girls have performed each year at the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival, with several performances also at the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival as well as the Virginia Key Grassroots Festival and numerous venues in and around their hometown, Ithaca. Leah loves sharing her music and also loves to teach. She has given bodhran workshops at both the Finger Lakes and Shakori Hills Grassroots festivals as well as workshops at Ithaca’s Toko Imports and she also teaches private lessons in bodhran.



Kevin Dugas on drums and Brazos Huval on bass are a Cadillac V-8 of a rhythm section. Known throughout South Louisiana for their hydromatic groove, they are the Wyman and Watts, the Muscle Shoals, the Double Trouble of the bayous, and they draw crowds in their own right wherever they perform.



Jon has 25 years of professional musical experience, ranging from performance as a percussionist and drummer to his more recent singer-songwriter endeavors. His childhood passion for drums led him to a 3-year stint with the Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps at the end of his teen years, where he excelled in performance and writing. In 1994, he was asked to contribute several drum solos to the Rudimental Cookbook, an instructional book published by Row-Loff Productions. 

For the past several years, Jon has brought his skills to the Americana and classic country genres, touring as drummer for JP Harris, Ian Thomas, Band of Drifters, andMatt Woods and the Natural Disasters. He is currently developing a unique technique for playing drums and guitar at the same time.


GEOFF HENDERSON - (see under bass)
BROCK HENDERSON - (see under Pedal Steel)



Maddy Walsh, lead singer and songwriter of Ithaca, NY based moxy rock band The Blind Spots, holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from SUNY Binghamton and a MA in the same field (concentration in poetry and creative nonfiction) from CSU Sacramento. She has released one solo Folk/Americana album and three Indie Pop Rock albums with The Blind Spots, which can be found on the band's website, poetry and essays have have appeared in various literary publications and compilations, and her piece "Placer County Jail" was named a notable in the Best American Essays 2013; more of this work can be found at She spends a good part of the year touring the country with The Blind Spots, finding her greatest joy in music and in motion... as well as in yoga, human interaction, red wine, thrift
shopping, and dogs.


Tenzin Chopak (vocals, guitar, multi-instrumentalist), is an artist and indie-folk singer-songwriter
based in Ithaca, NY. Growing up in a musical and artistic family, Tenzin learned to love music in his father's church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He studied voice, piano, and guitar in his childhood and youth. As a teenager Chopak regularly performed his original music publicly in various groups as well as solo. In 1999, after some years of a burgeoning devotion to the study of Tibetan language and religion, he traveled to North India. It was during his eight month stay there that he was given the name "Tenzin Chopak". For the following twelve years, while continuing his study of Tibetan in upstate, NY, Tenzin kept music a quiet if not hidden part of his life.

In late 2011 he began to write and perform publicly again. Teaming up with renowned banjo player Richie Stearns, violinist vocalist Rosie Newton, violinist Eric Aceto, Harry Aceto, and bassist Ethan Jodziewicz, he formed an ensemble he called Rockwood Ferry as a vehicle for his music. Since then, he released three albums under the Rockwood Ferry name (bringing in other respected players such as bassist Rich DePaolo, drummer Bill King, and horn player/multi instrumentalist Peter Dodge), then a fourth and fifth album under his own name and has rapidly gained recognition for his songwriting, singing, and for his presence and joyful abandon in live performance. He now performs and records under his name "Tenzin Chopak", and is known for composing and performing music that crosses and defies genre. Chopak is a multi-instrumentalist, but most commonly he performs with acoustic guitars and voice.

Chopak recently released his fourth and fifth albums within a few months of each other. The fourth album "Awful Good" (released 11/16) is an old-fashioned acoustic live in-studio style performance album with deep roots influences and sweet vocal harmonies featuring ensemble players Nicholas Walker on double bass, Rosie Newton on violin and vocals, and Greg Evans on drums. His fifth album "Alone in the House" (released 3/17) is a solo guitar and voice project recorded with one microphone in one day. Both albums were produced by multi Grammy winning engineer Brian Dozoretz. Chopak frequently performs both as a solo act as well as with backing musicians.



SingSong is a fun-filled workshop for children of all ages, and parents too!. We will be singing, clapping, stomping and moving, while learning many simple songs and chants. Some songs that we all know and love, but mostly new songs from many different countries and in many languages. We will explore using our whole bodies as instruments, doing simple vocal exercises, finding the steady beat and incorporating rhythms into our songs, as well as having fun with singing and dancing in a circle together.
Amy and Lori are excited to bring their songs and experiences together for this special Culture Camp singing workshop for kids!


Amy received her Bachelors degree in Vocal Music Education at Ithaca College and has since then taught music classes and led singing workshops in schools, in camps, and at festivals, both at home and abroad. She currently teaches at the Trumansburg Montessori School, and leads SingSong music classes to young children at several schools and camps in the area. Amy has explored music far and wide, and brings that to her workshops, along with incorporating the whole body as your instrument. From world music to country music, from singing and chanting to moving and dancing, Amy will offer a variety of fun and simple techniques to help free your voice in a comfortable and welcome environment. She currently is the singer and co-songwriter in the band Laila Belle, who will be performing at the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival.


Lori Burke is an award-winning singer/songwriter from northwest Pennsylvania. She’s a freelance songwriter for Sesame Street and a member of the Sesame Alumni group. Her viral parody of
Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" currently has 443,000 views on You Tube and has gained the attention of The Huffington Post and the Today Show.

Lori has written and performed music for over 15 years with the Tiger Maple String Band, as a solo artist, and has created a successful children’s concert series at local parks and libraries. She has accompanied artists such as Jim Avett and has opened for Emmy Award winning actor Tony Hale. Lori has written and released 2 independent CDs (Hold On & You Are Loved), and is working on her first children’s book. Lori is currently in her 8th year teaching preschool music. She lives with her husband, 2 kids, and 2 lovable bulldogs in Edinboro, Pennsylvania.


STEVE RILEY - (see Accordion)

SAM BROUSSARD - (Cajun Rhythm Guitar)


J.P. HARRIS - (see Fretless Banjo)

The first time I met Sierra Ferrell, she asked me to dance - and I can't think of a more fitting circumstance, because her music asks you to do the same thing. She's a solid mix of jingle-jangle gypsy jazz, old-time minstrel tunes, ragtime and honky-tonk country heartbreakers with a voice that will make you double-take to confirm it's not coming from an old record player somewhere hidden in the room. She's a tornado from West Virginia that's worth a listen if she makes touchdown in your town.

JEB PURYEAR - (see Guitar)


J.P. HARRIS - (see Fretless Banjo)

JEFF MALINOWSKI - (see Introduction to Country Telecaster Guitar)

SIERRA FERRELL - (see Country Songs Old and New)


JEB PURYEAR - (see under guitar)


Although a college graduate trained in classical music, when Tara Nevins became captivated by the more elemental sounds of traditional music and embraced a somewhat bohemian lifestyle to follow its calling, her parents approved and supported her decision. Tara fell in love with fiddle music and turned in that direction right after college. She started going to fiddle conventions in the south where she met and became part of a movement, a community of young folks from East and West who traveled far and wide to emerge themselves in Old Time String band music. She left classic violin far behind and dove head first in to the Old Time music world, playing her fiddle and winning contests at fiddle conventions such as the Mt. Airy Fiddle Convention and Galax Fiddle Convention, in North Carolina and Virginia.

Before Donna the Buffalo, Nevins co-founded The Heartbeats, an all-female old-time band. Playing hard driving fiddle tunes and semi pop songs and arrangements, The Heartbeats stood front and center in the beginning of the all girl bands so prevalent today. Together for ten years, they still get together occasionally. Now Nevins, co founder and twenty-five year veteran of Donna the Buffalo, touring the United States, Europe and the Caribbean, sharing stages with too many artists to name but for example Jim Lauderdale, Peter Rowan, JohnPaul Jones, Levon Helm, Larry Campbell, Keller Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Anders Osborne, Bill Kreutzman, Nikki Bluhm, the Wood Brothers, just to name a few, travels and lives on the road touring town to town city to city playing original songs and music penned over the years with fellow band originator Jeb Puryear. Tara has also recored two solo albums, “Mule To Ride”, and “Wood and Stone”. Tara produced Mule To Ride and Larry Campbell produced Wood and Stone both for Sugar Hill records. A multi-instrumentalist, she moves between fiddle, accordion, guitar and scrubboard in Donna The Buffalo. Tara continues today playing Old Time fiddle, traveling to fiddle conventions, and writing songs for and touring with Donna The Buffalo.


Jim Lauderdale is both a "songwriter's songwriter," who's written/co-written many modern classics for iconic artists, as well as an intuitive sideman, who's enhanced the music of a bevy of esteemed musicians. As a solo artist, since 1986 up until now, he's created a body work spanning 29 albums of imaginative roots music, encompassing country, bluegrass, soul, R&B and rock, as well as helping pave the way for the current Americana movement.

A longtime ambassador of the Americana genre, Jim received the WagonMaster Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by George Strait, on Wednesday, September 21, 2016, as part of the 15th annual Americana Honors & Awards.

"I know him mostly as a songwriter; a really, really, really good hit songwriter, and I've been very fortunate to cut a lot of his songs over the years," Strait said in his speech. "Like Porter Wagoner, Jim Lauderdale is a consummate entertainer, a sharp dressed man as well, a terrific songwriter and a great singer."

Lauderdale has released at least one, and sometimes as many as three, records every years since 1998. He is the second most recorded writer in George Strait’s canon, as well as responsible for country hits for Patty Loveless, George Jones, Mark Chesnutt and the Dixie Chicks. He’s also recorded albums with Dr. Ralph Stanley, the North Mississippi Allstars, Donna the Buffalo, Elvis Presley’s band, Elvis Costello and Buddy Miller, as well as collections written whole albums with long time Grateful Dead collaborator Robert Hunter. He’s the co-hosts a weekly radio show on SiriusXM with Buddy Miller, "The Buddy & Jim Show". He is also co-host of Music City Roots, the weekly live and radio, podcast and PBS series.

June 30th Lauderdale released his 29th album, London Southern that was recorded in London at Goldtop studios and produced by Neil Brockbank and Robert Trehern. London Southern features co-writes with Dan Penn, Joan Oates, Odie Blackmon and Kendell Marvell alongside six Lauderdale solo compositions and a host of celebrated guest musicians.


Hailed as a “must see act” by the Times of London (UK), a “local legend” by the Ithaca Times and “glorious” by the Glasgow Metro (UK), Boston-born, Ithaca-NY based composer Anna Coogan has been honing her unusual craft for over a decade. Her winding career path has taken her from opera school in Austria to rock clubs and festival stages around the world as a performing songwriter. Coogan’s most recent record, The Lonely Cry of Space and Time, (made with drummer Willie B), was listed as one of No Depression’s top ten albums of 2017, one of the top five by the Ithaca Journal, described as “combustible, diverse, and mystical” by Americana UK, and she was voted on of the top five touring acts in the UK by She has collaborated closely with JD Foster (Marc Ribot, Dwight Yoakum) and Johnny Dowd, releasing an album of original tunes with Foster in 2014, and joining Dowd on two European tours and his Lincoln Center debut. In the fall of 2015, Coogan joined TZAR to compose an original score for Jean Epstein’s “The Fall of the House Of Usher” for the Ithaca Fantastic Film Festival. The neo-operatic score was described by as “Blowing away the crowd,” and soon after the trio was hired to score Yakov Protazanov’s “Aelita, Queen of Mars” for the Cornell Cinema which debuted in 2016. In 2017, Coogan wrote an all-electric guitar score for Jean Cocteau’s 1932 masterpiece “The Blood of a Poet”, which she continues to tour across the US and Europe.


Keith Secola is an icon and ambassador of Native music. He is one of the most influential artists in the field today. Rising from the grassroots of North America, he is a songwriter of the people. Critics have dubbed him as the Native versions of both Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. NDN Kars (Indian cars), his most popular song is considered the contemporary Native American anthem, achieving legendary status and earning him a well deserved cult following. It has been the number one requested song on tribal radio since the 1992. In 2011, he joined the ranks of Jimmy Hendrix, Hank Williams, Crystal Gale, and Richie Valens, and was inducted into the Native Music Hall of Fame.

Born in 1957 in Cook, Minnesota, Secola is affiliated with the Anishinabe tribe. He graduated from Mesabi Community College with a degree in Public Service in 1979, and completed a BA in American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota in 1982. He is married and has two children Secola is an accomplished artist, garnering awards and accolades as a musician, a singer, a songwriter, a composer and a producer. He is highly skilled with the guitar, flute, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, and piano, and has played in venues from the halls of the Chicago Urban Indian Centre, to the walls of the bottom of the Grand Canyon. He has also performed at the Olympic Games in Atlanta 1996 and Salt Lake City 2002, and toured Europe several times. Released a four albums with European record company in the 90, songs charted throughout Europe. Did concert dates with Towns Van Zant and Nirvana. Among his numerous appearances he has graced the stages of the Rockslide Festival in Denmark, the Grand Opening Gala of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, The Kennedy Center and the SXSW in Austin, TX, and is a staple at the Grassroots Festival in Upstate New York, North Carolina and Florida.

A seven-time Native American Music Award winner, Secola has earned NAMMYs not only for his music, but also his abilities as a producer, to include The Best Linguistic Recording for producing ANISHINABEMOIN (2007). A well respected musician, he has worked with music legends such as Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead. Secola has also teamed with academics like author Dr. Tom Venum of the Smithsonian Folklife Institute, collaborating on the CD, AMERICAN WARRIORS: SONGS FOR INDIAN VETERANS, and with elders such as Karen Drift, a speaker of Anishenabemoin.


Uniit Carruyo is a locally based artist and educator. She has been writing songs since she first picked up the guitar in 1988. She loves to encourage the inner artist in everyone, and is grateful to be part of the Grassroots community of musicians. Her songs have been featured on Heartland, Law & Order, ABC's Once Upon a Time, True Blood, and Our Souls at Night, among others. She has released several full length original collections of music locally and internationally with Sim Redmond Band, Five2, and Glen the Owl. Uniit's proudest moment as a songwriter is listening to her own teenage child and how fearlessly and joyfully he composes his own songs.


Taína Asili is a Puerto Rican singer, bandleader and activist carrying on the tradition of her ancestors, fusing past and present struggles into one soulful and defiant voice. Residing in Albany, NY, she performs her social justice songs as a solo artist, and also with her eight-piece band, Taína Asili y la Banda Rebelde. In January 2017, Taina performed for over half a million people at The Women’s March on Washington. Her most recent music video “No Es Mi Presidente,” which she wrote and directed, was premiered in Rolling Stone and received national acclaim. The Huffington Post named her in a list of in a list of “12 Freedom Fighting Bands To Get You Through the Trump Years”, and Billboard Magazine featured her in a list of “11 Songs of Protest & Resistance by Latino Artists.” Taína Asili’s voice exudes strength of Spirit, filling listeners with the fervor for freedom and inspiring audiences to dance to the rhythm of rebellion. Over her 20-year career, Taina has performed around the globe, sharing the stage with renowned artists and activists such as Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae, Madonna, Talib Kweli, Angela Davis, Cornel West, Tom Morello, Jello Biafra and The Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars.

STEVE RILEY - (see under Accordion)

SAM BROUSSARD - (see under Guitar)

J.P. HARRIS - (see under Fretless Banjo)

TENZIN CHOPAK - (see under Adult Singing)


KEITH SECOLA - (see under Songwriting)

CUBAN SON MUSIC ( From Son Montuno to Boleros and Bolero Son)


Cortadito is a traditional Cuban Son group that focuses on performing the music of early nineteenth century Cuba. From Son Montuno to Boleros and Bolero Son, this dynamic ensemble brings you back to a time when Trio Matamoros and Septeto Nacional Ignacio Piniero ruled the airwaves. An era when popular music was Cuban Music and Son Montuno was influencing the world over. Simply put, Cortadito could best be described as having a sound reminiscent of the Buena Vista Social Club.


Travis Knapp is a singer, songwriter, pianist, and banjo player who lives in Erin, NY.  He studied piano accompanying at Ithaca College, and is releasing his 4th album of original music this summer.  

ONE MIC: hip hop and the power of voice


Voice as a weapon, words as bullets, spreading the universal message of peace, love, and justice through music. Sure, there's a cynical cultural tendency to make certain assumptions when you hear the word "gun" associated with rap music, but this seven-member live hip-hop band from Ithaca, NY, runs contrary to that image with their positive message and uplifting performances.

Since the band formed in 2008, their stellar catalog of albums and dedication to an ever growing and energized fan base has helped propel them to the top of the Central New York music scene. In addition to being one of the top homegrown acts in their musically rich hometown, Gunpoets have become staples at regional festivals such as the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance and the Great Blue Heron Music Festival. Progressively, over the band's ten years together, they have also become in-demand headliners at clubs and concert series across the Northeast.
In July 2016, Gunpoets released their third studio album, Bombs Away! The album's title plays off the hard/soft juxtaposition that underlies the band's name and creative identity. Serving to remind listeners of the healing power of music, the album is a call to the world to lay down all weapons of war, and to replace them with compassion and tolerance, exemplifying the true definition of what it means to be a Gunpoet.


TAINA ASILI - (see under Songwriting)

"ON THE ROAD AGAIN" - (learn about the business side of getting your band out there)


Mollie Farr, booking agent and artist manager from Nashville, TN, started her own independent roots-music agency, Lost Buffalo Artists, in 2015, after a short stint as an assistant at a corporate agency. As a musician herself, she approaches her work in the music industry with a unique perspective on the ever changing needs of the artist in the current music business climate, and runs her company with that philosophy at the center. She has also worked as head of artist promotions at festivals such as the Suwannee Roots Reunion in FL and the Ranger Bluegrass Festival in TN, and was selected as a member of the IBMA's Bluegrass Leadership class of 2018. When Mollie isn't booking gigs or attending music industry conferences, you can find her working with Ann Savoy on her upcoming book about Cajun music and it's history, or writing and singing her own songs.


Barnaby began his career managing Donna the Buffalo and assisting with Grassroots in the late 1990s. Since then, his artists have been signed by Clive Davis, Jive, Universal, EMI, Sugar Hill Records and Columbia Records. He created and produced the H20 and Uforia Music Festivals at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and in downtown Los Angeles featuring talent such as Snoop Dogg, Tribe Called Quest, Weezer, Mana, John Legend, Pitbull and Tiesto. As the primary concert activation company for Univision Radio, he produced concerts around the country for Juanes, Carlos Santana, Juan Luis Guerra, Ricky Martin, J Balvin, Carlos Vives, Daddy Yankee, Alejandro Sanz, Romeo Santos and many others. In addition to concerts, he has also overseen national music campaigns for Dodge Ram, Starburst, Quaker State, Garnier, Mastercard, Smirnoff, Subway and Dunkin Donuts. He was also the executive producer of the top 10 podcast Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom. When not working, he enjoys basketball, soccer, yoga and playing mandolin with The Buvas.


SALLY FREUND - Cajun 2-step, Zydeco 2-step, Texas 2-Step

Sally Freund has been dancing and festival teaching for 30 years. Her style is easy and her classes are about connecting and moving to the beat so you can be nothing but happy when your dancing. She keeps close traditional ties with Louisiana where the heart of Cajun and Zydeco pulses and brings that joy back north.


Luigi Llanos is a native of Barranquilla, Columbia. He grew up dancing Salsa and DJ - ing in hid fathers dance club, “Rico Melao”. Luigi moved to the states in 1996, living 4 years in New York City and finally settling in the Trumansburg, NY area. He taught Salsa at the ithaca City Health Club for 6 months and over the years he frequented Salsa night at the Common Ground in Ithaca, NY. Luigi is bringing his traditional Salsa dance to Culture Camp.


Teresa Grady grew up in a household full of love for music and dance from many traditions. Her passion for Latin music began as an 8 year old in The Bronx, NY watching her older sister dancing Salsa with friends. Upon arrival in Ithaca, NY (a wasteland for Salsa in 1973) Teresa sought out every opportunity to listen to the music of her Bronx birthright.

Teresa believes no one is self taught in dance. Though she has never taken a class in Latin dance, Teresa learned Salsa, Menregue, Cumbia, and Bachata from friends and family, at informal parties.

In 2001 Teresa with her nephew, created a curriculum to teach "street" salsa as she called it, at Cornell University's Physical Education Department. Her main intention was to encourage students to be comfortable dancing in parties to Latin music. As she puts it, "Dance is a joyful expression of the music (which tells a story), inviting us to engage in a generous movement with each other; where you have license to mimic others in good fun; it's how you learn.


Rodney Sutton has been performing and teaching traditional Appalachian step-dance for over 40 years. Since September of 2015, a memes of Rodney flat-footing called “the Techno Family” has been seen by over 100 million folks from around the world on FaceBook. Rodney prides himself on being able to teach anyone Appalachian Clogging steps that will turn you into your own percussive dancer and allow you to be a foot drummer to any kind of music!


Miss Marie Patterson is the founder and owner of Miss Marie Poppinz LLC. Miss Marie has been a dedicated dance teacher across South Florida for over fourteen years. Miss Marie passionately pours her energy into creating, directing, and producing scripts and stage plays for children from the ages of three to twelve, teens and breaks it down with adults too. She recently re-created a few theatrical plays such as "Annie", "Beauty & the Beast", "Peter Pan", "Lion King" and "Wizard of Oz". Miss Marie teaches and inspires children to become leaders by channeling their energy into something positive through dance, music and theatre. Dancing gives us reason to share our souls. Miss Marie accompanied Nery Arevalo & Kenneth Metzker in her first Trumansburg workshop in 2017. Continuing her journey as a dance & theatre director, Miss Marie will cast for additional plays in 2018. Follow her @msmariedance


LITA REMSEN Body Aware Self Care Movement and massage

Lita Remsen found yoga in her late 40s, after many years of being involved in sports and fitness, in addition to couch sitting! Experiencing the unique mind-body awareness as well as the strength and body connection of a yoga practice piqued her curiosity and led her to teacher trainings in Yoga, Anatomy, Pilates, Yoga Tune Up® / The Roll Model, and most recently, Ki-Hara Resistance Stretching. She especially loves to share the awesome benefits of the Body Rolling techniques.


Hilary believes that movement is an inherent form of inquiry; a way to ask the deepest questions about who we are.  She was brought to yoga by her mother and grandmother when she was ten. These women and her teachers Amy Abelson, Rachel Bush and Denise Hatch inspire her to offer yoga as a liberation practice. Hilary began her formal training in the Sivananda tradition and has since become a licensed Anusara Elements Teacher. She completed her Anusara Teacher Training and Immersion at Lakshmi Living Arts. Her classes invite awe at the complexity and beauty of the human body and softness in the seat of the heart. Poetry and science inform her understanding of body science and spirit alike.

Hilary offers - 

Anusara Elements Yoga - Anusara is a heart-centered, alignment-based practice that blends physicality with story, the body with spirit and attitude with action. This class will be medium-paced and mindfully designed to cultivate awareness. Use the body as a terrain to explore universal principles and better know yourself.


Hannah began her inquiry into yoga nearly a decade ago. At the time she was a daily runner and all kinds of tight and twisted. A friend introduced her to yoga, and it took only that first deep breath to help unravel layers of tension. After moving to Ithaca, she entered Mighty as a work study, and it’s been “her roost” (her words!) ever since. The winter of 2016, she lived and worked at a Yoga Retreat Center in Costa Rica, practicing and playing with teachers and students of all styles from all over the world. That fed her with a strong desire to dig deeper into her own essence, and she completed 200-hour training at Nosara Yoga Institute on the wild Nicoya Peninsula. Her comfort zone is Power Vinyasa and Self Awakening Yoga, but she hopes to continue training in other styles and take it one stride at a time.

Hannah offers - 

Vinyasa Flow Yoga - An energizing and fun class for all levels. Hannah teaches with signature bright energy and mindful attention to the creation of rhythm between movement and breath. Whether this is your first yoga class or your 861st class Hannah will help you get warmed up for a weekend of dancing until dawn with this full body sequence.


Taryn has studied yoga for over 12 years, practicing mostly Iyengar, Anusara, Ashtanga, and Bikram. Her approach to movement honors the varying capacities of the human body and offers deep respect for the cycles of life. She is passionate about leading classes that help students develop mindfulness and self-knowledge. Taryn completed a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training in 2012 and in 2014. In 2015 she studied prenatal and postpartum yoga with Carla Anselm and completed Judith Lasater’s Relax and Renew training for Restorative Yoga. She is currently enrolled in a 200-hour training with Francois Raoult at Open Sky Yoga in Rochester.

Taryn offers - 

Sacred Geometry Yoga - Mental presence accompanied by intelligent movement. This yoga offers insight into the artful nature of our bodies and how they were designed to move. Taryn Thompson leads this exploration into the ever-changing needs and capacities of the body while focusing on breath and the meditative qualities of the mind.



I paint in 3 or 4 styles and landscapes are my primary subject matter. I have been painting for years. I have painted about 400 pictures, sold 100, given 100 away including some to Shakori Side-to-side charity. I recently had a show at the Kirby Gallery in Roxboro, NC and have an upcoming show at the Mebane Art Center. I taught an art class at Shakori Hills last summer and am teaching 2 or 3 classes there this year. I recently retired from Verizon Comm. after 35 years. More details about my style, subject matter and shows can be seen on my web site: Check out my self-published art book on the site.

This acrylic painting class will be a "paint this picture" class similar to the Shakori classes. I will have 3 or 4 scenes for students to chose from. However, if a student wants to paint a scene on site, ie. the dance tent, that would be good. This class can be as structured or not depending on what people want to do. Class will be a minimum of 1 hr. for 3 days in a row. This will be plenty of time to finish a painting. I will provide all materials. If students have easels they would like to use that would be good. My plan is to work on picnic tables in the shade. You can call or text Gail or me with any questions or concerns.


RODNEY SUTTON - (see under Dance)


JON WHITLOCK - (see under Origins of Country Drumming)



In short, J.P. Harris plays Country Music. Not “Americana,” not “Roots,” “Folk,” or any other number of monikers used to describe a slew of spin-off genres; he plays from the foundation of these styles, the music that has influenced four generations of songwriters. In a world where prefixes have been added to the term “Country,” JP simply sticks to the old-fashioned sounds that have called to him. Referencing influences would be like describing each stitch in a quilt; every scrap of fabric tells a story of how the weathered and comfortable blanket came to be…

Born six minutes before Valentine’s Day in Montgomery AL in 1983, JP’s life was to be full of color, travel, hardship, and grace from the day he first saw the world. After more than six generations in Alabama, his family would leave seeking work, first to California and then on to Nevada. He left home on foot at the age of 14, traveling via thumb and freight train, living the next 4 years mostly from a backpack, tarp, a bedroll. Eventually landing in the northeast, he worked as a farm laborer, equipment operator, lumberjack, luthier, and carpenter.

In the summer of 2011, after two years of touring without much in the way of recorded music, Harris made a trip to the sweltering heat of south Louisiana. In an old Cajun cook shack he and a few pals pounded out an album in three days, and shortly after it’s completion, he made the move to Nashville. JP released his all-original debut “I’ll Keep Calling” in May of 2012 on Cow Island Music. Shortly after it’s release, without the aide of publicists or a large label’s bankroll, it won “Best Country Album of 2012” from The Nashville Scene, the same honor at the Independent Music Awards, a cameo on NPR’s American Routes, and as JP says “a whole mess of other stuff in the papers and on the internet.” (Two songs were also licensed to the soundtrack of 2012’s “At Any Price,” starring Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron.)

His latest album “Home Is Where The Hurt Is” (produced by Harris, guitarist Adam Meisterhans, and engineer Justin Francis) was recorded and mixed at Ronnie’s Place (formerly the personal studio of Ronnie Milsap) at home in Nashville. It features not your typical Music Row studio musicians, but young local players, many of whom have spent thousands of miles on the road in JP’s backing band The Tough Choices. Lending a hand on the album vocally is friend and local Indie-Country star Nikki Lane, as well as long-time friend Chance McCoy, singer and guitarist of Old Crow Medicine Show (McCoy also took rhythm guitar and fiddle duties throughout the album.)

Rolling Stone named JP Harris one of fall 2014’s “Country Tours Not To Miss,” as well as one of “21 Must-See Country Acts at SXSW 2015.”

When he isn’t touring, JP can usually be found repairing an old house, splitting wood in his backyard, or digging through the trash for useable refuse.


Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys began thirty years ago with a reputation for excellence. Their stunningly clean and cohesive performance of Cajun French music from the backwaters of Southwest Louisiana propelled them into the world music limelight early on, and by their third release, Trace of Time, had garnered them a Grammy nomination in the worldwide field of traditional folk music, another in 2004 for Bon Reve, in 2009 for Live at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and again in 2011 for Grand Isle.

From the day they started, they have gone from strength to strength. Never before in Cajun music has a comparable wealth of skills been brought to the same table. When all that heart and all that skill focus on the revelry of a hot two-step, then turn on a dime and deliver an a cappella ballad, then play something that sounds like Howlin’ Wolf fell in lust with a Creole girl, you’ve found the most Cajun music you can find in any one spot. You’ve found Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.


Cortadito is a traditional Cuban Son group that focuses on performing the music of early nineteenth century Cuba. From Son Montuno to Boleros and Bolero Son, this dynamic ensemble brings you back to a time when Trio Matamoros and Septeto Nacional Ignacio Piniero ruled the airwaves. An era when popular music was Cuban Music and Son Montuno was influencing the world over. Simply put, Cortadito could best be described as having a sound reminiscent of the Buena Vista Social Club.


All the way from Soileau Lousiana, Preston Frank and His Family Zydeco Band will rock the dance tent Wednesday night with their seriously bad ass brand of Zydeco. It will be a night to remember!

The family band is:

Preston Frank on Accordion

Keith Frank, who in his own right has become such a dominant influence on the music scene in Southwest Louisiana that he was given a new nickname in Acadiana. He is Keith Frank,“The Zydeco Boss”, and leads his own band, Keith Frank and The Soileau Zydeco Band. With Preston he plays Electric Guitar.

Jennifer Frank on Bass

Brad Frank on Drums

Zion Frank on Scrubboard

and Julie Frank on Feet!