34 CONTENT OUR STAFF MARY PARKER THE OLD BLUEGRASS CAMP BLUEGRASS AMBASSADORS THE KRAKO CAMP BLUEGRASS COURTNEY HARTMAN DAN BONER DEREK VADEN AMERICAN LUTHERIE THE TN BLUEGRASS BAND FAN PHOTOS THE SWEETEST TRADITION VIDEO CHART
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Keith Barnacastle • Publisher
The Bluegrass Standard is a life-long dream of Keith Barnacastle, who grew up in Meridian, Mississippi. For three years, Keith brought the Suits, Boots and Bluegrass Festival to Meridian. Now, with the Bluegrass Standard, Keith’s enthusiasm for the music, and his vision of its future, reaches a nationwide audience every month! Keith@TheBluegrassStandard.com
Richelle Putnam • Managing Journalist Editor
Richelle Putnam is a Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) Teaching Artist/Roster Artist (Literary), a Mississippi Humanities Speaker, and a 2014 MAC Literary Arts Fellowship recipient. Her non-fiction books include Lauderdale County, Mississippi; a Brief History, Legendary Locals of Meridian, Mississippi and Mississippi and the Great Depression. Richelle@TheBluegrassStandard.com
Rebekah Speer • Creative Director
Rebekah Speer has nearly twenty years in the music industry in Nashville, TN. She creates a unique “look” for every issue of The Bluegrass Standard, and enjoys learning about each artist. In addition to her creative work with The Bluegrass Standard, Rebekah also provides graphic design and technical support to a variety of clients.
Shelby C. Berry • Journalist
Shelby Campbell is a writer and designer whose heart beats for creativity. A native of rural Livingston, AL, she found her passion in journalism and design at The University of West Alabama, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. Shelby also has her own photography business.
Susan Marquez • Journalist
Susan Marquez is a freelance writer based in Madison, Mississippi and a Mississippi Arts Commission Roster Artist. After a 20+ year career in advertising and marketing, she began a professional writing career in 2001. Since that time she has written over 2000 articles which have been published in magazines, newspapers, business journals, trade publications.
Stephen Pitalo • Journalist
Stephen Pitalo has been an entertainment journalist for more than 30 years, having interviewed everyone from Joey Ramone to Bill Plympton to John Landis. He is the world’s leading authority on the The Golden Age of Music Video (1976-1993), mining inside stories from interviews 70+ music video directors and countless artists of the pre-internet music era. GoldenAgeOfMusicVideo.com
Kara Martinez Bachman • Journalist
Kara Martinez Bachman is an author, editor and journalist. Her music and culture reporting has appeared in dozens of publications and she’s interviewed many performers over the years, from local musicians to well-known celebrities. She’s a native of New Orleans and lives just outside the city with her husband, two kids, and two silly mutts.
Candace Nelson • Journalist
Candace Nelson is a marketing professional living in Charleston, West Virginia. She is the author of the book “The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll.” In her free time, Nelson travels and blogs about Appalachian food culture at CandaceLately.com. Find her on Twitter at @Candace07 or email CandaceRNelson@gmail.com.
SHELBY C. BERRY
MARY PARKER A Rising Star
Since she was four, Mary Parker has loved the fiddle after seeing one on TV with her parents. Learning to play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star was one of the first moments Mary remembers in her blossoming music career. “I was so excited to learn something I knew!” said Mary. “I learned to play all sorts of music— old-time, bluegrass, jazz, swing, a little bit of everything,” said Mary. At age eight, she took the stage to perform with her music teacher in her first duo group. Mary’s early inspiration was the rich musical history of her hometown, Mountain View, Arkansas, which is heavy with a love for folk, classic country, and old-time music, and Mary found her place there. “I’ve had some local fiddlers take me under their wing and teach me. I’m beyond blessed to have them shape me. They have such a heart for the young people, keeping the tradition alive. This place is like an archive keeping the traditions in music,” said Mary. In her 17 years, Mary has played with multiple bands, won awards such as the 2019 Arkansas 8
Country Music Artist of the Year, and became a ten-time state championship fiddle player. Her focus has been elsewhere in the last few years— on her solo music. “In 2020, during quarantine, I started writing my material to have my own music. “This Old Barn” was released in January of this year, and on April 15, I released “Remember Me.” I’m working on more original music too!” “Before the pandemic, I didn’t have many shows. But once it hit, I realized how much I took it for granted,” said Mary. “That’s when I really started writing.” Mary wrote her newest single, “Remember Me,” after she lost a loved one. She wanted to use her music as a way to comfort those who were losing loved ones during that time. Inspired by musical greats like Michael Cleveland and Alison Krauss, Mary is paving the way for herself—not just in the original music she is creating but also in the energy she brings to the
band Sylamore Special, writing new solo music, and is excited to release new singles very soon.
stage each time she performs.
“My goal is to go as far as I can, reaching as many stages and people as I can,” said Mary. “It’s about sharing what I love with other people. I’d like to continue this for the rest of my life. This is my happy place—being on the stage and performing. There is nothing I love more than music.”
“Especially on stage, I get into it,” said Mary. “It looks like I’ve had three cups of coffee before fiddling. I’m very ‘drivey’ on the fiddle and play with a lot of energy. I love it so much, and I’m always beyond happy to play.” Amid her musical growth, Mary joined Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars (TBS) around 2018, and since then, she has become the Junior Vice President of the group. Believing in the mission of TBS, Mary has connected with countless other young musicians over her time in the group, bonding over their mutual passions, and she credits John Colburn for much of her success. “John has helped me so much,” said Mary. “He is always putting my name out there and advertising all of the young musicians. He’s gone the extra mile to give scholarships and the youth bluegrass festival. All the kids in that group are spread out over the country, allowing us to come together and meet other musicians our age.” Dreaming of a future in music, Mary currently works towards performing at festivals with her
Kara Martinez Bachman
THE OLD SCHOOL BLUEGRASS CAMP SOMETHING COOL IS HAPPENING IN THE HIGHLANDS OF ONTARIO When Jenny Whiteley started the Old School Bluegrass Camp – which included summertime learning sessions, mentorship and camaraderie for musicallyinclined adults – she had no idea it would take off as it has over the past seven years. Back then, there wasn’t much available in her region of Ontario, Canada, and a fiddler or guitarist who wanted to engage with a bluegrass program had to travel far to find a setting for learning, jamming, and mentorship. Whiteley had a goal of keeping it all “small and intimate.” “I thought I’d try and get maybe ten people per instrument,” she said. “The first year, we had about 40 campers.” Since then, she’s put limits on growth, and today, there’s still a maximum of 50 campers per session. This is all by choice; there are waiting lists for specific instruments in many instances.
“After that first year, the decision I made was that I don’t want to get bigger,” Whiteley admitted.
“That’s a real bonus for people,” she said, “that they get these exclusive daily shows.”
At first, the camps happened on a decommissioned public school property. Then, two years ago, Whitely relocated and enhanced the experience by making it even more rural.
Whiteley is less interested in growth than creating an optimal experience for campers. It means keeping the instructors accessible and keeping the overall number of participants to personal levels. Since the camp is a 4-night sleepaway experience, the environment was based on research where environments allow groups to thrive best.
“We relocated it to our home in eastern Ontario,” she said. “It’s farmlands in the highlands of Ontario.” There’s a pavilion near a smoking campfire, where slow jams happen. The camp utilizes a nearby church hall for meals, and there’s an outdoor stage where the instructors put on nightly performances after the day of learning.
“Including all the instructors, staff, and volunteers, we have about 80 people,” she said. “That’s the number of people [in research studies] who stick together and are cohesive.” The size limitations on the camp experience – and the expectations of staff involvement – are what Whiteley feels sets the Old School Bluegrass Camp apart from other options. “They were really there at the dinners, bonfires, and the special events,” she said. The teachers aren’t just hit-and-run instructors; they become a part of the experience. The camp includes not just classes but sessions devoted to the
individual. “Everybody is able to have private lessons,” Whiteley said. Another feature she is proud of is the Band Lab, where students pair with others to make real music – despite skill level – by the end of the camp. “You are put in a band with other learning musicians,” Whiteley explained. “It’s a transformative feeling when suddenly you’re making music with other people…and it’s such a loving and supportive situation.” The Toronto native understands the performer’s emotions; the guitarist/bassist and vocalist has been in the business since childhood. She grew up in a family band; played bass in a group she started called Heartbreak Hill, which lasted several years and earned a Juno award nomination from what’s essentially the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys. Today, this performer and songwriter has attained what she refers to as “a fairly successful” solo folk and bluegrass career involving multiple record releases, live performances, and two solo Juno Award wins.
to all adults, and the skill level and demographics of who signs up vary. The age range spans from people in their 30s to those in their 70s. There are, at times, some interesting outliers. “One year, we had a 19-year-old who came with his dad,” she reminisced. “He was the youngest student. That year, the eldest camper was about 86. That was an extreme range.” Whiteley is delighted by diversity amongst the campers and strives for an experience that welcomes all abilities and people. She does provide options, however, for accommodations. Campers can pitch a tent or park an RV primitive-style (no hookups); rent a “glamping” tent; or spend the nights off-site, staying in local accommodations. This way, people can choose what is most comfortable. Whiteley said that whatever they decide so far, her campers are pleased, and many return for the following years. It seems she’s made good on her original thought: “I know we can do something cool in Ontario.”
It’s been a long time since Whiteley was in student mode – and even longer since her first live performance – but she understands the sensitivity of a fledgling performer’s first live show and loves giving some campers this experience. Whiteley said the camp is open 11
Some play bluegrass music, and some are ambassadors for the genre. The members of Henhouse Prowlers are both seasoned bluegrass musicians while also serving as serious ambassadors for bluegrass music. The band started in Chicago. “I met Jon (Goldfine) in 2004 when we were asked to play in the same pickup band,” says Ben Wright, who plays banjo in Henhouse Prowlers. “We got along well, and we started to play Tuesday nights at a dive bar in Rogers Park. I think we only missed two Tuesdays in ten years.” They honed their craft at those Tuesday night sessions and built an audience. “We turned it into a business and started touring the regional Midwest.” Ben says it was a natural progression from playing in a band to becoming bluegrass ambassadors. “We had an opportunity to tour Europe, which was exciting for us. It was challenging to make money, but we started building a following.” They applied for a tour with American Music Abroad, a program administered by The Association of American Voices on behalf of the United States Department of State. “We were selected,” says Ben. “We went to places like Congo Brazzaville, Liberia, Niger, and Mauritania, right on the Sahara Desert. While traveling, we had an opportunity to collaborate with local musicians. We would lay down a bluegrass beat, and they would rap to it. It was unlike anything I had ever heard.” Because the State Department knew the band took the tours very seriously, they continued to send Henhouse Prowlers back overseas. “What we learned is that if we took the time to learn music from the places we were going and played something they knew, the crowds would be more receptive to the music played.” The band developed a skill set that became the core of Bluegrass Ambassadors, a not-for-profit mission launched in 2013. Inspired by a unique vision of music education, the organization is dissolving boundaries of culture, country, and communication globally by teaching the universal language of music. “It has been a learning process,” says Ben. “We are leaning on our love of bluegrass as a teaching genre. We work to meet all state education standards. Our best programs are where teachers or directors of museums are just as involved in the development of the curriculum as we are.” Ben says that teaching programs to kids 13
gives the band members a chance to connect with their inner child. “We recently presented a program at the Earl Scruggs Center in Cleveland County, North Carolina, where we worked with a group of fourth-graders on knowing the importance of where they are from. We learned the history of Shelby Mills, which was a lot of fun.” Most programs are designed for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. “We are fortunate to have great folks we can bounce things off of. For example, one of our board members is a former principal of a school where we did a program.” Comprising the band is Ben Wright on banjo, Jon Goldfine on bass, Chris Dollar on guitar, and Jake Howard (a Berklee College of Music graduate) on mandolin. In addition to the U.S. State Department, the band worked with the African Studies Association, Fifth House Ensemble, and the Evanston School Music Association. This organization started the Ambassadors’ first fulldistrict teaching program across all schools in Evanston, Illinois. The Bluegrass Ambassador 14
program holds workshops and produces the Official Bluegrass Ambassadors podcast heard on platforms including Google Play, iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and TuneIn. A new program of the Bluegrass Ambassadors is the Bluegrass Ambassadors Academy. With so many musicians stuck at home without reliable income due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the academy became a way to pick the brains of musicians worldwide while inspiring students with their music. “It was yet another way to illustrate that we are all part of a global community,” Ben says. The academy is offered free to students but fairly compensates all musicians for their time. Bluegrass Ambassadors’ goal is never to turn down a request for a workshop or program. To make that happen, the organization depends heavily on donations. Donors can conveniently contribute through the Bluegrass Ambassadors website.
Kara Martinez Bachman
The late Sonny Osborne – a beloved member of The Osborne Brothers – said he had a rugged, sometimes annoying little guy living in his banjo. It started as a joke, but the banjo company that this silly, longtime kidding spawned – including creative work by Greg Rich, the legendary and charismatic figure of Gibson Banjo fame – is no joke whatsoever. It’s the real deal. Heavily involved in the company is Sonny’s widow Judy. She co-owns Krako Banjos along with Lincoln Hensley, who owns – and still plays – the banjo referred to as “Krako #1.” It was the first Krako baby born in 2019 when Osborne called Hensley – then a recent college graduate – to come on over and play an instrument he’d assembled from parts in his garage. Osborne mentored Hensley and gave him 18
banjo lessons. Hensley also performed with Sonny’s brother, Bobby Osborne, and, being the guinea pig for “Krako #1,” turned the brand-new foray into the custom instrument business. The goal was to come up with something not concerned with looks so much as sound, something with the raw feel of Osborne’s “old Granada that’s beat to death” – which Hensley described as “one of the best 5-strings ever built” – combined with the rich coveted sound quality of the beloved pre-war Gibson banjos. To do this, Osborne collaborated with Greg Rich. There was nobody more worthy to add his exceptional imprint to the new Krako line. “He’s kind of the brainchild of the Krako tone ring. In my mind, it’s what sets the 19
Krako banjo apart.” Hensley explained that the goal is to “get the same sound out of our banjos as the pre-war banjos.”
Rich engraves every instrument; the image is of Osborne’s gruff old banjo-dweller.
Admittedly, Hensley said they’re “not the prettiest,” but that isn’t usually the point for a serious musician. And who wouldn’t trade a project between Sonny Osborne and Greg Rich for looks? Who?
“I asked Sonny…what does Krako look like?” laughed Hensley. “He drew a cartoon-like character.” Apparently, Rich thought it hilarious because he sent a brass armrest engraved with the Krako image logo.
“Greg is 100-percent class as far as instruments go,” Hensley said. “He’s not gonna attach his name to anything that’s not the absolute best.”
The specs of this banjo based on a pre-war original 5-string scale include a 20-hole flathead ring; 3-ply hard rock Northern Maple rim; Curly maple neck and Hensley said Rich’s resonator; rosewood involvement made the fretboard; and even more instrument, produced in special features, such as a minimal quantities despite Sonny Osborne inlaid heel a considerable waiting list, cap. The custom armrest a type of collector’s item. is made to the customer’s He said there had been specs, and the variations no sign of a single Krako on the scraggly little dude banjo coming up for depicted in Rich’s work resale. People hold onto are one of the reasons them and are investing for no Krako banjo is alike. the future. Inlay patterns can also be customized. “People who ordered more than one early on, they According to Hensley, knew that after years go every unique creation has by, these were gonna go been a hit so far. There up in price,” Hensley said. have been zero misses. “I truly believe that these banjos will be collector’s “You can’t make every items.” instrument the same 20
because wood isn’t all the same,” he said. “I keep waiting for a dud, but so far, each one of these has been an amazing banjo.” The process isn’t massproduced or quick; it takes a year from start to finish. Right now, it’s much longer, and Hensley has had to stop adding to the waiting list. “We’ve got seven or eight more to finish, and as soon as they are, we are opening the orders back up,” Hensley said. “Selling a hundred banjos a year and rushing them isn’t our priority.” That goes along with the philosophy of the late Sonny Osborne, who was no speed demon. Hensley described the belief of this bluegrass legend he admired: “Sonny’s saying was, ‘anything really good is worth waiting for.’” Indeed.
For 36 years, Camp Bluegrass’s six-day residential camp has served bluegrass musicians worldwide on the beautiful campus of South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. From July 17 - 23, this year’s camp carries on the tradition of perfecting individual skills in guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, vocal, songwriting, dobro, and fiddle. The camp also addresses personal musical concerns and offers special sound reinforcement workshops and traditional slow jam sessions.
Students attend classes in the college’s Commercial Music building and enjoy the nightly faculty performances in the milliondollar Tom T. Hall performance facility. The new modern housing center offers comfortable accommodations for guests. The week includes instrumental, vocal, and band workshops, small group lessons, directed jam sessions, a student showcase concert, and nightly faculty concerts. Attendees study solo and ensemble singing styles, songwriting, the history of bluegrass music, sound reinforcement, and music theory for pickers. “In addition, we provide opportunities for 22
performance in group settings and special topic presentations,” said Alan Munde, founder, and co-director of Camp Bluegrass. “This year, we are offering three short presentations titled Women in Bluegrass.”
The basic idea for a summer several-day workshop came from John Hartin, the Chairman of the Creative Arts of South Plains College. The first summer workshop began in 1987 with class instruction by the various band members of Country Gazette, a
group that camp founder Alan Munde played in for many years. Chairman Hartin, fellow faculty members Joe Carr (who passed away in 2014), Paula Carr, and Alan Munde developed the original concept and the support needed to initiate the idea. They organized each year’s lineup of instructions, class topics, schedule, promotion, coordination with the school physical plant supervisors, and all the nuts and bolts that connect these moving parts. Munde and Paula Carr now helm the camp’s leadership roles. The school postponed camp Bluegrass for 2021 and 2022 for COVID concerns, Munde explained. “We will resume this year. Paula
Carr and I have continued with the support of the Administration of South Plains College. Without the school’s support, we could not have survived the pandemic.” Munde said the camp was a natural outgrowth of the Commercial Music Program at South Plains College, a stringed instrument-focused program. “We pride ourselves in the quality and
professional achievements of our faculty, which includes Becky Buller, Ned Luberecki, Bill Evans, Tim May, Dan Boner, Lauren Price Napier, Jimmy Heffernan, Elliott Rogers, and more,” explained Munde. Additionally, despite the mid-July camp, the region’s 3,500-foot elevation provides comfortable morning and evening temperatures.
Kara Martinez Bachman
Quiet, Introspective Quiet, Folk
It is clear – not just from her music but also her demeanor – that folk musician and vocalist Courtney Hartman derives inspiration from paying attention to the little things. She reaches inward first before she tries to project outward. The result is gentle, calm meaningful folk. This Colorado-born guitarist, singer, writer, and producer, now based in Wisconsin, expresses a love for all things organic, whether it’s her garden or music that strives to be communicative and honest. Like how visual artist Georgia O’Keeffe sought beauty in the subtle details of things, Hartman looks to the small and detailed when making music.
It’s not that Hartman eschews “It’s similar, with the kind of other types of music – in fact, intimate and small details of she’ll be touring this summer what our world sounds like,” with S. Carey, a member of Hartman said, describing her the hugely popular Grammyapproach and likening it to winning indie-folk outfit, the famous artist. Hartman Bon Iver. She said S. Carey’s isn’t so much interested music is more rock-oriented in big, bossy, knock-youthan what she does with her over-your-head sounds; solo work. Although very she’s interested in targeting personal folk is “her thing,” nuance and including she sees room in her life some of the details other for all types of music, and recording artists overlook. there’s a sense in which her For instance, she loves “all original compositions seem the intimate sounds our to crisscross into various mouths make when we speak genre arenas. The sound or breathe.” does not fit precisely into any preconceived notions Hartman said exploring of what folk is supposed to these quiet things is easier be. It appears as if it sits in when in the recording studio, its unique box, but it’s a box and she attempts to do so in with transparent sides, where her second album, Glade, joys and melancholy are which she’ll be performing permitted to flow in and out. songs from as she tours this summer. “I love rock,” she admitted, “and I love to crank some
Tom Petty or something… but I really love music that calls you in….” Even as a child, she began “calling people in” when she first began performing locally. She was older when she transitioned into folk because her world was bluegrass back then. “I was really influenced by roots music – and old-time and bluegrass – as a kid and teenager,” she said. She gathered some of her siblings into a band, and they began performing at festivals and homesteads.
meaning. “It’s more just a consistency of showing up,” Hartman explained. “I garner a lot from time outside. Walking has been a constant source of rhythm…it helps my subconscious just meld or come to the surface.” She summarizes her main themes in a way that seems all-encompassing, despite her focus on the minutiae of the biggest things in life: “It’s all about relationship…to yourself, to sacred, to people that you struggle with, to partners…writing for me is a way of being present, and just noticing what’s happening around me and in me.”
“We’d trade a wagonful of vegetables at the farmer’s market for a couple of sets of music,” she reminisced. Hartman said she has no specific timeframe for the Before long, Hartman would music release but is working be on the road, touring on new material. full-time with Grammynominated Boston outfit In addition to her work, Della Mae. In 2017, she she’s dipped her feet in a was nominated for the project she produced and Instrumentalist of the Year engineered for Companion, award of the Americana a “twin sister duo” she Music Association. She also describes as “really beautiful recorded a duo album with work, really deep women.” Robert Ellis in 2017 and, in 2018, a collection of duets “That was special, to be a with Canadian folk singer guide in helping people to Taylor Ashton. Her first solo be a little better at what they recording came in 2019 with do,” she said. “I enjoyed the Ready Reckoner, followed by power of having a feminine Glade in 2021. presence in a studio setting,” she added. “There’s power in When she describes her that and a strength in that.” songwriting process, it does not seem deliberate so much Although “Glade” is in as simply always remaining significant part about the conscious, noticing the Colorado of her youth, things that have personal Hartman lives in Eau Claire, 26
Wisconsin today. “My husband’s from up here, and there’s a really sweet community of musicians in the town I’m in.” When asked about where she sees herself in the future, she gave precisely the type of reply we’d expect of an artist focused more on nurturing the inner life than on gaining outer success. “There’s a lot of mystery in it,” Hartman said. “I would like to keep making music. I’d love to keep writing.” She laughed gently. “I want to keep growing vegetables.” 27
DAN BONER 28
As a music factotum, Dan Boner is steeped in the traditions of bluegrass. That may seem odd once you learn he grew up in Bridgeton, a town in southern New Jersey, although his family holds roots in the coalfields of central West Virginia. “I can remember watching my Uncle Larry play the guitar in church and being absorbed with music from a very young age,” he remembered. “Bluegrass and country music have always been the central focus of my life. It was all around.” Now, Dan Boner directs the renowned East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Roots Music Studies program and is co-author of the first-ever Bachelor of Arts degree in Bluegrass, OldTime, and Roots Music Studies, one of many facets of this brilliant musician, teacher, photographer, and amplifier technician. “I always wanted to play music,” said Dan, who learned to play guitar, banjo, fiddle, bass, and eventually the mandolin. “When I was four years old, my grandmother bought me a little guitar that I would carry around to put on mini concerts for my friends and family. Then, when I was seven, I got a guitar that I actually could learn on and started taking lessons from my uncle for about a month or two. He showed me the chords, and I started playing alongside him in church. I learned how to listen for chord changes when you didn’t really know a song, listening to the melody and figuring out which chords might fit. Soon, I was playing with a group called The Shining Lights, and then a few years later, the Strings of Gospel, which included David Reed, the son of Ola Belle Reed, a great songwriter.” “My mother’s side of the family was from New Jersey, and in fact, there’s an elementary school named after my great-grandfather in Cedarville, New Jersey, the Myron L Powell School,” he said. “But the ‘mountain’ side of the family is from down in West Virginia.” Boner started giving lessons on the guitar when he was age nine because he enjoyed taking lessons from his Uncle Larry and another West Virginia transplant and local musician, Cecil West. “By the time I was 14, I was giving about ten lessons a week, teaching banjo, fiddle, and guitar by ear,” he said. “When I was about 11 years old, Troy Spencer gave me some advice. He said that guitar and banjo players are ‘a dime a dozen,’ but I’d always have work if I stuck with the fiddle. I still tell some of my students that.” Dan attended ETSU, which boasts alumni Kenny Chesney, Barry Bales, Adam Steffey, Tim Stafford, Becky Buller, and Amythyst Kiah, and he was immediately immersed in the program. “I arrived at ETSU in the fall of 2000, and my life changed in so many ways. Within the first year, I performed with the ETSU Chorale across Italy and at the Vatican in Rome; then, three months later, I was touring Japan with the ETSU Bluegrass Band and a documentary film crew. Being part of East Tennessee State University has made for some incredible experiences over these past 22 years.” Outside of the university, Dan found ways to teach within the wider bluegrass community through festival workshops, which he attended as a former member of the Becky Buller Band, and bluegrass music camps. While teaching at Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Kamp in 2015, Dan met Alan Munde, who founded the bluegrass program at South Plains College with Joe Carr, who hosts Camp Bluegrass in Levelland, Texas. “Alan and I share a lot in common as college educators. We immediately became friends, and for several years, we would run into each other at festivals and music events. About three years ago, he invited me to teach at Camp Bluegrass, which was postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID. But I’m all set to be there for the 2022 camp this July.” As if a tremendous career in bluegrass performance and instruction weren’t enough, Dan’s interest in 29
photography has grown within the last decade. “We live in a wonderful hybrid world of analog and digital, and I will switch between digital and film photography depending on my mood. Many of my interests, like photography, have grown out of necessity,” says Boner. “It’s good for anyone working in music to understand a little bit about photography, graphic design, social media, live sound, video, and recording.” Another passion of Dan’s is amplifiers and working to alter, amend, or perfect guitar amplifiers for sound control and quality. “Talking about doing things out of necessity, the electronics stuff started by wanting high-quality audio equipment without paying $1,200 or $1,500 per channel for good microphone preamps. So, I learned how to build my audio equipment in hopes of saving money, and it turned into a real passion. I love vintage microphones as well. Seeing photos of Flatt and Scruggs around a vintage ribbon microphone tugs at the heartstrings,” he explains. Dan believes his combined love for things artistic and mechanical is genetic. His mother is a skilled painter, and his father is a machinist. “The heart is happy when the hands and mind work together,” he added. “I have been developing some really nice vacuum tube recording equipment over the past five years that I’m pleased with,” he continued. “I have gradually moved away from simply cloning well-known pieces in favor of making designs inspired by my own sonic choices. I’ll spend hours and weeks testing different transformers, components, and circuit arrangements and listen intently, oftentimes asking my musician friends for their opinions.”
If this paints a portrait of Dan Boner as a very busy man, it’s accurate. “What am I going to do today?” he laughed. “Let me tell you—I’ll be going to the university at noon. I have a rehearsal with the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band and a guest singer who will be performing a Kenny Chesney song with us at the Down Home in Johnson City tomorrow night. We will rehearse that song along with the rest of our material. After that, three of my students will be recording videos of their finals for voice and fiddle lessons. One of our scholarship donors is in town visiting from Florida, so I’ll catch up with her this afternoon. And then, at six o’clock, we’ll be at the Down Home in Johnson City for the second night of our program’s final shows for the semester. There will be about six student bands that play tonight. Tomorrow morning, Brittney Haas will be given her send-off, having been our artist in residence at ETSU this year, along with Mike Compton, so we’ve got a little thing scheduled for them at 11. “Back at home, I have a shipment of electronic PCB boards arriving soon. That way, when summer gets here, I can start prototyping some new circuits. The vacuum tubes are here already, but I need to order some audio transformers from Cinemag. I need to follow up with a company in China where I’ve been sourcing the metalwork. I do the front panel designs in Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator and want to make sure the graphics look perfect before ordering the final products. And there may be a couple of Fender guitar amps on the bench that need new capacitors.” Dan seems to flourish in this organized chaos of creativity and instruction because he thrives on variety and living in the moment. “I am quite a spontaneous person and love when good things happen unexpectedly. That’s what makes life interesting. As they say, it’s not just about the destination, but the getting there.”
DEREK VADEN Derek Vaden recalls when the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame inducted Bill Emerson in 2019; Sonny Osborne did the introduction. “Sonny called Larry Stephenson and we all rode to the IMBA together,” says Derek. “That was the first time I ever met Sonny. We ended up texting almost every day for two years until he had the stroke that killed him.” Derek says he and Sonny talked about banjos, bluegrass, and life. “Sonny was an interesting person. He could read people instantly. If he had the slightest hint that someone was dishonest, he would respond in a very negative way. But I could ask him anything and he would always tell the truth, and he was always free with his opinion.”
Folks who follow bluegrass music, particularly those who followed Sonny Osborne, know about the mythical “Krako” demon Sonny blamed for any broken strings or mistakes he made on stage. It was only natural that Sonny named a hybrid banjo he constructed using spare banjo parts in his garage after the annoying demon. Lincoln Hensley, who became
Sonny’s banjo-making business partner, has the first Krako banjo. “I met Sonny when number two was being made,” says Derek. Sonny asked if Derek would like to test the banjo, and Derek was delighted to say yes. “Unbeknownst to me, they had started working on the banjos as a production model. I played number two for a month, and he wanted to know if I’d like to purchase number three.” Derek has played every show since October 2020 with that banjo. “Mine has a few things that number four and those going forward do not have.” Derek plays with The Larry Stephenson Band, which Larry started in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1989. 35
He moved to Nashville in 1992. “I never studied music,” Larry says. “I learned by backing the needle up on records by artists like the Country Gentlemen and Louvin Brothers. Larry has recently come out with a
a good friend and that banjo Sonny took a liking to on Derek. “Derek has been with us for a little over five years,” he says.
Lending his threefinger style of picking on the banjo and harmonizing with his strong retrospective album. baritones, Derek plays “I made use of my his Krako banjo with quarantine time,” he Larry’s band. “My laughs. “I listened to Krako banjo is the all my old shows. Many best banjo I have ever were collected from played,” he says. “Tim sound guys who gave Davis makes all the me tapes after a show. wooden parts. Both They’ve been stacked the resonator and up since the midtailpiece were things 1990s. The new album Sonny had lying around features thirteen songs in his garage. I really from shows over the do like it. Sonny and years.” I had a handshake agreement, and I’ve Larry says Sonny was been proud to play this
stage.” Derek says he has been playing banjo for twenty years this July. “I’m from Kansas, and my family played music for fun. We had a family band of sorts. I started playing violin when I was in the school orchestra in the sixth grade, but everyone wanted me to play fiddle, and I couldn’t get my bow hand to do what it was supposed to do. I got a mandolin, and later I started to play the guitar. But my uncle had a banjo in the closet that I started playing around with. My grandmother didn’t want me to play the banjo. She said she didn’t like any of the banjo players she had met.” Determined to be a professional musician, 37
Derek studied music at Glenville State in West Virginia for a semester before moving back to Kansas City and earning an associate degree in music. He got his first professional job when Bobby Clark called him to audition in August 2011. “I played for Jerry Butler and the Blue Jays, based in Knoxville. I was commuting, and it became very difficult. I have been playing with the Larry Stephenson band since March 2018.”
Shelby C. Berry
It’s no surprise that nonprofit organizations struggle more with longevity and staying afloat for an extended time—specifically in the last few years with the pandemic. As we have approached year two of the pandemic, organizations are still struggling to adjust to their new version of normal. The long-term effects of COVID-19 and its impact on the state of philanthropy are something that most nonprofit organizations continue to deal with moving forward. However, the Guild of American Luthiers has found itself in a position of gratitude as they look back on what the last few years dealt them. “Mainly, the only thing that has changed for us since the pandemic is having to cancel our 2020 convention and reschedule for next summer,” said Deb Olsen, Vice President, Treasurer, and member of the Guild Board of Directors. “Otherwise, we’ve been able to continue all of our usual publishing and mail order services with little interruption.” The Guild of American Luthiers was created over 50 years ago when several luthiers thought it would be good to start an organization to share what they were learning to better the craft. “It has grown from a loosely knit group of around 40 people to a respected educational organization with members all over the USA, Canada, and about 40 other countries,” said Deb. Created on the foundation and the mission of providing information to all luthiers and anyone making or repairing stringed instruments, the Guild of American Luthiers prided themselves on promoting and exemplifying sharing information, which is the norm in the lutherie community today. A nonprofit, educational membership organization, the Guild focuses on the art, craft, and science of stringed instruments. “The Guild is still important to luthiers today because they can get information and inspiration on all types of stringed musical instruments,” said Deb. “We’ve set a standard of excellence in our publishing that people respect. We’ve kept to our principle that everyone has something to share and something to learn.” After a six-year break, many luthiers worldwide anxiously anticipate the Guild of American Luthiers convention rescheduled for summer 2023, which will feature lectures and workshops by prominent instrument makers on a wide range of lutherie topics. The convention also features music sessions where luthiers hear their instruments played and see new instrument exhibitions, luthier wood, and other tools for sale with vendors, concerts, open mikes, and silent and live auctions to support the guild. Since its inception, part of the Guild’s mission was to connect luthiers at its conventions, so the luthiers 41
learn from each other. Aside from their conventions, the Guild of American Luthiers produces the American Lutherie, a journal for luthiers. A membership with the Guild of American Luthiers includes four annual journal issues and access to exclusive web content, discounts on publications, monthly e-newsletters, a membership certificate, and helping to support and sustain the guild’s mission. This quarterly journal is rich in quality luthier content in every aspect of the lutherie community for which the Guild of American Luthiers is known. Starting as a small newsletter in 1972, the American Lutherie became a full-sized journal in 1985, striving to publish methods, opinions, and explanations backed by experience. The highly regarded publication makes the Guild of American Luthiers what they are today, sharing daily updates and information with the lutherie community. “Knowing that we have created a community of luthiers and a culture of information sharing within the craft that has resulted in a modern Golden Age of lutherie is the most rewarding thing we could ask for,” said Deb. As much of the nonprofit world struggled to stay afloat, much less be successful, the Guild of American Luthiers thrived and kept its mission focused on the luthiers of the world. 43
Lincoln Hensley: His Band & His Banjo
While growing up in the small community of Flag Pond, Tennessee, Lincoln Hensley never dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur and business owner. But he did love music, and by the end of his freshman year in high school, he was playing in his school’s bluegrass band. “It was started by students in the drama room of my school,” Lincoln recalls. “It ended up being a pretty big deal. I went back not long ago for a reunion show of past students who have played with the band.” All the founding members of The Tennessee Bluegrass Band were sidemen, “but we wanted to start our own band,” says Lincoln, “I think we all had similar ideas. We were hoping that within a year, we would get a record together that could get played on the radio so that we would get hired to play at some festivals. I was hoping to be on Billy Blue Records someday, and within three weeks, they contacted us. They wanted to meet with us to see how we all got along. It worked out, and here we are today. I love Billy Blue, and I’m thrilled to be on their label.” Although his parents weren’t very musical, Lincoln says his grandpa was an old-time fiddler. “He also played banjo, guitar, and piano. I guess I got the music gene from him.” Lincoln still has a few recordings of his grandfather playing, and he got his fiddle. “That’s something I treasure.” While he plays guitar and pedal steel, Lincoln’s primary instrument is the banjo. “I started listening to my uncle’s Flatt and Scruggs cassettes when I was five or six years old.” Lincoln spent time on the Banjo Hangout internet forum as he grew up. That is where he got to know Sonny Osborne. “Sonny tasked me to learn to play everything off the Flatt and Scruggs albums on the banjo. He then taught me banjo lessons online.” One day, Sonny invited Lincoln to meet for lunch. Sonny was not only a mentor to Lincoln, but he also became a close friend. “We talked about business and banjos and music. He taught me always to be ready when your number is called, and that has been an important lesson to me. He told me what a pleasure it was for him to play with his brother, Bobby.” The lesson Lincoln learned from Sonny was put to the test when Lincoln received a text from Sonny saying there was a spot on the Grand Ole Opry to play with Bobby on the following Wednesday night. “That was in 2018. I had no clue what we were going to play – Bobby has been recording music since 1949. What I did know is that Bobby is a true gentleman, and it was the biggest thrill of my life to play on stage with him.” When Sonny built a banjo from spare parts in his garage, he was pleased with its sound. “He said it needed to be played, so he handed it over to me,” says Lincoln. “I 47
The Tennessee Bluegrass Band members are Lincoln Hensley on banjo, Tim Laughlin on mandolin and vocals, Aynsley Porchak on fiddle, and new members Tyler Griffith on bass and vocals and Lincoln Mash on guitar and vocals.”
played it in a few festivals. Sonny named the banjo Krako after the demon he blames for any mishaps he has on stage. Right away, I had three banjo players wanting to know if they could buy the banjo. I took their names and numbers and gave the information to Sonny.” That event led to Sonny and Lincoln forming a business partnership to create a new line of banjos. “Sonny asked me to join him in the banjo company. I told him I didn’t have money to invest 48
in a business. He said my investment was to play the banjo and showcase what it could do. Within four months, we had twenty-five orders. We haven’t taken any orders since before Sonny passed away, and we are still two years behind on production.” Tim Davis crafts all Krako banjos from maple. The metal parts are uncoated to replicate the aged look of Sonny’s 1930s Gibson banjo. “We even take the finish off the back of the neck, so it feels like a banjo that has been played a
lot.” Inlaid on the neck on the fifteenth and twentyfirst frets are Sonny and Lincoln’s names. Each banjo features a demon engraving by Greg Rich. “This company has made it possible for me to play banjos,” says Lincoln. “My mentor invested in me, which is the way in the bluegrass culture. Bluegrass music is largely passed down orally. He taught it to me so it wouldn’t die with him.”
App ala chia’s Sweetest Tradition
HONEY Candace Nelson
Honey, the rich, golden nectar from nature, is one of man’s first and most widespread sweeteners. A Sweet History For more than 10,000 years, humans have prized this saccharine sauce for its medical, religious, and culinary uses. The sweet relationship between humans and honey predates that of potatoes, butter, and even tea. And it’s a meaningful relationship, too; its impact is evident by its prevalence across the globe - honey has been depicted in cave paintings and inside Egyptian tombs as an offering in the afterlife. But before it sat on counters in clear plastic squeeze-top bears, honey first oozed from wild bees’ nests that had been cracked open. When these wild nests were discovered through opportunistic hunting, honey gatherers protected and guarded them against other societies of people. It wasn’t long before the demand for honey surpassed the supply available, and people began creating spaces in old logs or cylinders made of clay to mimic the homes to attract honey bees to set up their hives. These early forms of beekeeping helped blaze the path for market trade and modern beekeeping methods. Like one Pennsylvania minister, early apiarists innovated new techniques that worked to preserve the colonies of bees while harvesting the honey as beekeeping made its way to America. Considered the father of modern beekeeping, Lorenzo Langstroth revolutionized the hobby by inventing the moveable frame hive in 1852. It is still in use today by hobby beekeepers. Magical Mountain Sweets Beekeeping became widespread on mountain farms by the mid-20th century to maintain a supply of sweetener for a family. In Appalachia, the most common types are sourwood, linn, and locust. “Beekeepers also collect poplar, wildflower, clover, and buckwheat, with buckwheat being the most distinctive of Appalachian honey,” writes Mark F. Sohn in his book Appalachia Home Cooking: History, Culture, and Recipes. “Buckwheat honey is collected in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, while linn honey of the basswood tree is favored in eastern Kentucky. Further south in Western North Carolina and northern Georgia, sourwood honey is popular.” Honey has subsequently played a prominent role in Appalachian food. From being spread on top of homemade biscuits or stirred into hot tea, honey has complemented many meals and drinks - whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Sohn listed honey as one of the most iconic foods associated with Appalachia in his book, likely in part due to its continued prominence in the mountains. Cane sugar grows in frost-free climate zones - but not in the mountains of Appalachia. That is one reason honey and other sweeteners like sorghum and maple syrup continue to be favored in cooler climates like Appalachia. One might put a twist on the traditional honey by infusing pears, resulting in pear honey that adds a fruity flavor to biscuits, cakes, or toast.
The Future is Bright (Gold) Bees, and subsequently beekeeping, have been declining for many years due to pesticides, loss of habitat, and pollution. Years of industry affected the natural landscape across the region. But there are organizations, like the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective, who are working to reverse the trend, strengthen the relationship with bees and help benefit the land. The organization is looking for a return to the mountains blanketed with thick forest while educating beekeepers on the trade and offering them support for an economic opportunity. “We help our partners produce honey (and income) in the ‘greenest’ possible way. Since 2016, we have helped more than a hundred partners get started in beekeeping for profit,” the website reads. The program, a project of the nonprofit Appalachian Headwaters, offers a five-week beekeeping class, mentors, 2-6 hives, a full-sized bee colony, hive boxes, smoker, veil, and hive tool. It also helps beekeepers extract, bottle, market, and distribute their honey. In turn, the beekeepers earn a sustainable income. Honey bees and humans have had a tumultuous relationship since the beginning - with man disregarding the colonies in search of the honey; to man encouraging honey bees to set up in makeshift homes; to man respecting the colonies of honey bees by harvesting the honey without disturbing them; to man working to transform the land to support honey bees, Honey bees are crucial to our future. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, one in every three bites of food in the country depends on pollinators like honey bees. That equates to honey bees pollinating approximately $15 billion worth of crops each year, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables. They are a crucial part of the American food system because they make so many crops possible, and that contributes to food diversity, security, and profitability. And they’re crucial to Appalachia. I, for one, don’t want to know a place without a fresh-baked biscuit topped with local honey.