The BeginningBorn during the Roosevelt administration (FDR, not Teddy); nearly-lifelong resident of western New York, and a recently-retired civil servant by profession.
Getting StartedHooked on the Kingston Trio in high school, bought my first banjo as a Harvard freshman, and hung out at Cambridge's legendary Club 47 rather than go to class. Undergrad highlights: jamming with Bob Dylan (really!) on Mister Tambourine Man on the banks of the Charles, and singing on the third Vanguard album by Joan Baez (that's me with 400 others in the chorus of Kumbayah in Sanders Theatre).
First Public PerformanceAs a petrified PFC with a new Appalachian Autoharp, at "open night" at Harry Tuft's Denver Folklore Center sometime in 1966.
The Bluegrass YearsWith a Gibson A-1 mandolin literally found in my grandfather's attic, founded the Flower City Ramblers with my brother John and banjoist Bob Olyslager in 1970. For the next six years the FCR played all over western New York, including NPR's Folk Festival USA as well as local coffeehouses, clubs and festivals. Broke up after a triumphal performance at the Bicentennial Freedom Train stop in Rochester.
Golden LinkA dozen folkies, me included, in a Rochester living room founded a folk music club in 1971; more than 30 years later, it's still going, with hundreds of members and a full program of concerts, sing-arounds, and an annual festival. (You can check out Golden Link's current activities at www.goldenlink.org.) I've held club offices from President to dogcatcher for two decades of GL's existence.
Blues Etc.Began working with teenage wunderkind Nancy Lee Park in 1975, a ten-year association first as a duet, then as the core of the band Bluesgrass. What a wonderful picker and singer Nancy was (and still is)! Bars, concerts, festivals, with National slide guitar, blues harp, 5-string banjo, and a touch of mandolin.
Back to SchoolAt the same time, Barbara Jablonski and I began working schools and libraries with a series of educationally-oriented programs (one presumptuously titled History of American Folk Music). Barbara's a talented and energetic multi-instrumentalist, and we're still very active as a duet and as members of the band Innisfree.
On the AirGolden Link and WGMC, a small suburban public radio station, gave me a chance to DJ for a dozen years, hosting programs like Folk Fest and Folkus for literally dozens of weekend listeners. A wonderful experience, before "format" developed such a stranglehold on the airwaves.
A Long Step Backwards1976 also began my long association with the Genesee Country Village restoration; an initial single concert was the start of the Flint Hill Folk, and more than a quarter century later I'm still coordinating a program of 19th century music that's spread throughout the area concerts, dances, private affairs and educational programs. From Mother's Day to Yuletide we're busy at the Village, playing period music in period costume.
In the StudioBy 1980, I was beginning to appear on albums by local performers: Mitzie Collins, Joe LaMay, Al Power, Vincent more than a dozen to date. I've travelled to New York and Boston to add tracks to my friends' CD's, and contributed music to the High Falls laser show soundtrack, to radio and TV commercials, and to historical documentaries on cable.
A Folkie CEO?In the mid-'80's, I formed Trillium Productions with two friends, and staged concerts with performers like the Battlefield Band, Rosalie Sorrels, Bill Staines, Cathy Fink, and the Klezmatics. "It may sound a little bit funny, but we didn't make very much money..." Anyway, thanks, Marty and Kathy.
The Celtic Era BeginsThistledown, a fiddle-based Scottish band, began its four year run in 1987, and achieved much success: appearances at the Old Songs and Hunter Mountain festivals, a strong regional reputation, and an excellent 1989 album, Hills of Lorne. Those jigs and reels were so much fun, that I joined Innisfree, another Celtic band, when Thistledown broke up. We're still playing that lively, infectious music.
Them That Can't...Play enough, and you get asked to teach, and I began doing that too: classes in harmonica, Autoharp, mandolin etc. at Hochstein Music School, Greece Continuing Education, and a variety of folk festivals and folk weekends in New York and New England.
Bonnie ArrivesIn 1990, I partnered with Bonnie Abrams, award-winning songwriter, 1991 Kerrville "New Folk" finalist, and expert blender of Jewish tradition with contemporary folk. We've been working together ever since; I've assisted in her last two albums, and we've played in New York, New Jersey and New England as well as locally. Our latest project is the trio Love and Knishes with violinist Glenna Chance, performing music from "klezmer lite" to original Bonniesongs.
Going RegionalThe last decade has provided opportunities to work outside the Rochester area: annual appearances at the New England Folk Festival, staff jobs at Pinewoods Camp in Massachusetts, performances and workshops for the Pinewoods Folk Music Club of New York City, trips to the Big Apple to record with Double Trouble and Evy Mayer,and to Boston to help Two for the Show with their first album. No national stadium tours are planned yet, but it's nice to see things gently opening up...
The most important things, in summary, are the wonderful closeness between the folk musician and the audience, and the unparalleled insight folk music gives us into the real life and history of our country. Over nearly four decades, I've sought the roots of America's traditional music, and tried to share it in a way that expresses the love I have for it. It's a strange, wonderful journey, and the end's not in sight!
For info, updates, and booking call (585) 482-6062 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org