Mac Benford (OTB): Mac Benford has played a leading role as a preserver and performer of old-time music for five decades. He has appeared at all major traditional music venues from the street corners of Berkeley to Carnegie Hall. In his formative years, back in the 1960's, he was fortunate enough to have had direct contact with many of the old-time masters, such as Wade Ward, Tommy Jarrell, Rocoe Holcomb, Kyle Creed, Ola Belle Reed, and Tom Ashley. As a leading member of the now-legendary Highwoods Stringband, Mac was instrumental in introducing a whole generation to the power and excitement of old-time music. Since those days, he has fronted several successful and highly acclaimed bands, including The Backwoods Band, The Uncles, and The Woodshed All-Stars. Now primarily a solo performer, his prize-winning banjo picking, coupled with his unique, heartfelt singing style and warm stage presence, have made him an audience favorite the world over. As a master of many traditional banjo styles, he is a much sought after instructor at banjo camps across the country.
Howie Bursen (OTB): You may have heard his voice on Garrison Keillor's A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. You might have seen his songwriting mentioned in PEOPLE MAGAZINE. Howie Bursen is an all-round musician. CHICAGO magazine said: "Stunning guitar arrangement...easily one of the finest banjo players ever heard; he combines exquisite taste with licks so advanced that several listeners have said "But you can't play that on the banjo!" Feature articles have been written about him in FRETS magazine and BANJO NEWSLETTER, following the release of his first two solo albums (on the Flying Fish and Folk Legacy labels). Bursen is not just a virtuoso instrumentalist. He's a respected songwriter, too. His "Small Business Blues" was recorded by Ronnie Gilbert, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, and Holly Near, on their album "HARP." Pete Seeger called it "an important song," and included it in the book "Carry It On," published by Simon and Schuster. Tom Chapin recorded it, too. Bursen's song "Building Boom" (the title cut from his second solo album) is featured in a documentary movie. Howie sometimes tours with his wife, nationally known singer Sally Rogers. Together they have produced two albums: "Satisfied Customers," and "When Howie Met Sally," on Flying Fish Records, and have appeared at major festivals and on the PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION show. Until recently, Howie Bursen has been hiding his light under a bushel - a bushel of grapes. After years spent as an award-winning winemaker, Howie is stomping out of the vat, and onto the stage.
Ben Freed (BGB): Ben Freed is a bluegrass banjoist with 40 years experience of study and playing. He is currently teaching banjo out of his home in Armonk, NY and has the following recording credits: Film soundtracks for the Coen Brother film Raising Arizona, The Simpsons(Season 18, episode 22 " You Kent Always Say What You Want"), TV commercials, The Waverly Consort, PBS soundtrack, off-Broadway, and independent self-released original recordings. His current independent CD releases of original banjo instrumentals have garnered top praise in the blugrass press. Pete Wernick has said of his album"Suite for Bluegrass Banjo", "...one of the best banjo records ever."
Marc Horowitz (OTB/BGB): Marc started playing guitar in 1957 and then five-string banjo and mandolin in 1960. Initially beginning with "frailing" or clawhammer, be began picking Scruggs-style banjo shortly thereafter. Practicing six to eight hours a day through high school led Marc to winning his first competition - the Philadelphia Folk Festival Banjo Contest - in August of 1966. His first professional gig came at age seventeen when he recorded a commercial jingle for Wetson's Hamburgers. Marc has recorded and/or toured with Raun MacKinnon, Patrick Sky, Doc Watson, Steve Goodman, Tom Paxton, The Phoenix Singers, Judy Collins, Liz Corrigan, and Andy Kaufman. He has logged hundreds of recording sessions for commercial jingles, played in Broadway show pit orchestras, and has performed in the Broadway production of "Foxfire;" with bandmates Kenny Kosek and Roger Mason (and accompanying Keith Carradine.) Marc has also played on film scores including "The Missouri Breaks" (written and conducted by John Williams, starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson and directed by Arthur Penn). A proud former banjo teacher to Bela Fleck, Hank Sapoznik, Mike Kropp and scores of others, he has taught clawhammer banjo workshops at the Park Slope Jamboree in Brooklyn, at the Joe Val Festival in Waltham, MA, and at many other venues. Currently, Marc is an independent sales representative in the musical instrument industry, where he represents among others, Gold Tone Instruments.
Bill Keith (BGB): Bill has been called the father of "Modern-Banjo Styles." Beginning in 1957 with a foundation based on the playing and teaching of Pete Seeger, Bill was a pioneer in what we call, "Melodic Banjo;" a style of playing that emulates melodies note-for note by utilizing open strings, scales, and a general pattern of fingerboard gymnastics that is not dependent on continuous rolls or strums. In integrating smooth and accurate melodic playing with Scruggs's Picking, Bill interpreted instrumental tunes such The Shenandoah Breakdown, Roanoke, and Sailor's Hornpipe in a way that have become standards for bluegrass banjoists. The 1962, Bill migrated to Washington D.C. and began playing with Red Allen & Frank Wakefield. It was in D.C. that Bill met Earl Scruggs. At Earl's request, in 1963, he moved to Nashville to help co-author Earl's new banjo instruction book; "Earl Scruggs and the Five String Banjo." While In Nashville, Bill Monroe heard Bill play - backstage at The Grand Old Opry - and asked him to join the Bluegrass Boys. Known as "Brad" during his tenure with Monroe, Bill left Monroe and returned to Boston where he linked with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. Through the sixties, he played with Ian & Sylvia and Judy Collins while doing session work in New York City. Later, Bill toured Europe many times before settling in France where he met his wife Claire. While in Boston, Bill continued to refine his revolutionary tuning pegs. Called "Keith Tuners," Bill's invention allows players to quickly change string pitch (mechanically) without relying on feel or by ear. In 1964, Bill formed the Beacon Banjo Company, which continues today, as his entity for producing Keith Tuners. Bill has authored numerous banjo instruction books, including the first ones ever published in French and Italian. He has recorded several albums for Rounder, Green Linnet, and Hexagon and has appeared as a sideman on over 100 albums. A banjo-player's player, in addition to many others, Bill has recorded with Tony Trischka and Bela Fleck. A giant in the bluegrass banjo world, his influence on playing, deciphering, and improving the banjo cannot be overstated."
Terry McGill (BGB): (Bio coming soon.)
Henry Sapoznik (OTB): Henry "Hank" Sapoznik is a pioneering member of New York's old time music scene having been an active participant since the late 1970s.
Beginning with lessons with Marc Horowitz and Bill Garbus, Hank assured his knowledge of old time with numerous southern field trips to Mt. Airy, NC together with the late Ray Alden.
Sapoznik co-founded the Delaware Water Gap String Band in 1972 with whom he recorded two albums.
A recognized master of old time clawhammer, Hank is a renowned player of the classic ragtime style and of the early three finger playing of Charlie Poole and Doc Walsh.
He has produced several Grammy nominated box sets of traditional American 78 rpm reissues including "'You Ain't Talkin' To Me: Charlie Poole and the Roots of Country Music" (Sony, 2005), "People Take Warning: Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs 1913-1938" (Tompkins Square, 2007), "Ernest V. Stoneman: The Unsung Father of Country Music 1925-1934" (5 String Productions, 2008.)
In addition to old time music, Hank is one of the worlds leading experts on traditional Yiddish dance music ("klezmer") and author of several books and producer of numerous recordings.
Eric Weissberg (BGB): Considered one of the finest five-string banjo players ever, Eric has been a force on the folk scene and a ubiquitous presence in the recording studio for several decades. From The Little Red School House, in Greenwich Village, through his studies at the University of Wisconsin and The Juilliard School of Music, Eric has immersed himself in learning a number of musical instruments. A founder of New York's Bluegrass trio "The Greenbriar Boys," he later joined the folk group "The Tarriers," which led to six years of recording and touring worldwide. A top New York studio musician, Eric has done over six thousand sessions - jingles, movie
tracks, and records - playing guitar, pedal steel, mandolin, Dobro, bass, and fiddle as well as banjo for many artists including Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, John Denver, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Arlo, The Talking Heads, Bruce
Springsteen, Doc Watson, Judy Collins, Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, Frankie Valli, Burt Bacharach, Buddy Rich, Billy Joel, Shanana, Jim Croce, Rick Danko, Leon Redbone, PDQ Bach and many others. In 1967 he performed Earl Robinson's Concerto for Five-string Banjo, with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. Eric had a hugely popular single and album with "Dueling Banjos", the soundtrack from "Deliverance" which earned him two gold records, a "Grammy" award
from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and a platinum record for the Deliverance sound track. A five-time winner of the New York N.A.R.A.S "Most Valuable Player" award and a Virtuoso award, Eric has returned
singing and picking in concert as both a soloist and accompanist.
Peter Conklin (BGB Jam): (Bio coming soon.)
Alan Friend (OTB Jam): Alan Friend plays banjo, guitar and concertina, and sings traditional American and British songs. He has performed solo and with various groups such as "The Chelsea String Band" and "The Contrapolitans" in concert from Montreal to Washington, D.C , at dances and at festivals including the New Jersey Folk Festival, West Virginia's Pipestem Festival, the Park Slope Old-Time/Bluegrass Jamboree, the New England Folk Festival (NEFFA), the Kings County Opry, the Brooklyn Folk Festival and the Eisteddfod-NY Festival of Traditional Music. Alan gives banjo, ballad and old-time string band workshops and publishes articles in the Banjo Newsletter. His CD, "Had a Dog," features old-time music, with guests on fiddle, guitar and vocals.
Heidi Olsen (BGB Jam): (Bio coming soon.)
Tony Trischka (BGB): Tony Trischka spearheaded the movement to change the course of banjo music in the early 1970s and continues to do so today. What had previously been a mostly straight-ahead instrument became, in his hands, a vehicle for greater melodic and harmonic sophistication. Through Tony, the banjo found its way into many different musical forms from Jazz to Rock to Classical. His technical and conceptual advances allowed for greater freedom and opened the way for such players as Bela Fleck and Alison Brown and now Noam Pikelny and Chris Pandolfi. Long considered one of the instrument's top educators, Tony is currently at the forefront of another course-changing movement; on-line instruction. His interactive teaching website, The Tony Trischka School of Banjo (www.tonybanjo.com), is a pinnacle destination for banjo players around the world. In partnership with ArtistWorks, the website provides students one-on-one video exchanges with Tony, along with a comprehensive curriculum for limitless learning. Tony's numerous instructional books and dvds for Homespun Tapes continue to find their way into the hands of ready learners. His most recent publications, Fiddle Tunes for Banjo (Mel Bay Publishing) and The Complete Five String Banjo Player (Music Sales), have garnered critical acclaim. Tony has recorded 16 solo albums for Rounder Records and has performed and recorded with folks from all walks of artistic life -- Earl Scruggs & Ralph Stanley to William S. Burroughs & Charles Osgood, Peter Buck (REM) & Natalie Merchant to Steve Martin & Pete Seeger and the Boston Pops. Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular (Rounder 2007) received a Grammy Nomination for Best Bluegrass Album. It features Steve Martin, Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and others.
In October 2007, Trischka was given an IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) award for Banjo Player of the Year. Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular received IBMA awards for Recorded Event of the Year and Instrumental Album of the Year. Tony's Smithsonian Folkways solo album,Territory, was recently named Best Americana Album at the Independent Music Awards. In October 2008, Tony's first all-bluegrass album Hill Country (Rounder 1984) was re-issued on CD.
For 40 years, Tony Trischka has been pushing the envelope as one of the most innovative banjo players on the planet and one of its most sought-after instructors.
© 2009, Village Productions. Banner photo courtesy of Urban 75.