Avril Smith is a teacher and award-winning multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. Avril’s mastery of a wide range of styles makes her a sought-after on-stage and studio performer. Her musical palette draws from country, jazz, bluegrass, rock-n-roll, and old time music. Avril has performed at top venues and festivals including the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage (Washington D.C.), Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival (Oak Hill, NY), the Birchmere (Alexandria, VA), the Knitting Factory (New York, NY), Freight & Salvage (Berkeley, CA), the Rock-n-Roll hall of fame (Cleveland, Ohio), and on the south lawn of The White House. Avril has played with Emmylou Harris, Pete Seeger, Hazel Dickens, Tom Morello, Della Mae, Joe K. Walsh, Dar Williams, Jill Sobule, Darol Anger, Frank Solivan, Lester Chambers, Boots Riley, and John Kadlecik, among others.
Betsy Rome is well-known for her flatpicked guitar, blending bluegrass, old-time, Celtic, & swing influences. Noted for her rock-solid rhythm and inventive leads, she has won or placed in numerous band and instrumental contests. Betsy teaches guitar and mandolin, both in person and online via Skype. She has taught workshops at Grey Fox, Joe Val, Podunk, Winter Village and Thomas Point Beach festivals, and Marist College. A founding member of Too Blue, one of the Northeast’s most respected bands, Betsy is also an occasional member of Stacy Phillips and His Bluegrass Characters, and plays mandolin in the Walkingwood Mandolin Quartet.
“Betsy plays with a direct, highly effective approach…Everything about her playing is catchy and infectious, the sign of a total pro.”– Dan Miller, Flatpicking Guitar Magazine feature article.
As noted in Mandolin for Dummies, Jim Richter has increasingly been recognized over the last dozen years as one to watch for a more modern application of blues and blues-based rock to the mandolin. With 30 years of stage and teaching experience on mandolin, guitar, and banjo, Jim has performed with, opened for, or recorded with Anson Funderburgh, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Andra Faye, Rich DelGrosso, Don Julin, Will Patton, and Mike Compton. Equally as fresh as his mandolin style, Jim’s instruction draws deeply from his experience as a licensed therapist. For 5 years Jim’s own mandolin camp focused on helping adult learners to overcome being “stuck” in one’s playing. Jim also has a mandolin book entitled “Richter Mandolin” that studies blues and rock using this adult learner approach. Jim regularly gigs with Gordon Bonham, Indiana blues-artist who formerly toured with Yank Rachel.
Growing up in the Southwest, Marshall Racowsky was exposed to country music at an early age. He started playing the guitar while in high school and focused primarily on country and western styles as well as fiddle accompaniment. He became a member of the Arizona Fiddler’s Association and started competing in the accompaniment division at fiddle contests throughout the state. In the early ’80’s, Marshall backed up Junior Daugherty on foreign tours sponsored by the US State Dept. By the time Marshall moved to New England in 1997 he had won the Arizona Accompanist Championship 8 times. He also became very interested in Mexican mariachi and frequently sat in with several groups at performances. He taught classes in Texas style accompaniment in Arizona and after he moved to New England.
Sharon Gilchrist has long made her home in the American acoustic music scene. Whether you have seen her playing mandolin, thumpin’ the upright bass, singing a traditional ballad or performing one of her original pieces, you’ve heard an artist steeped in traditional Appalachian music delivering these sounds with a distinctly spacious, graceful and fiery nuance. Sharon has performed with Darol Anger, the Peter Rowan and Tony Rice Quartet, Scott Nygaard and John Reishmann, Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands, Uncle Earl, the Ger Mandolin Orchestra, Scott Law, the Kathy Kallick Band, Bill Evans, and Donald Rubinstein.
Michael Daves is a Georgia-bred, Brooklyn-based bluegrass guitarist and singer who has made a name for himself as a performer through his work with Chris Thile, Tony Trischka, Bryan Sutton, Steve Martin, Rosanne Cash and others. He shares a Grammy nomination with Thile for their 2011 Nonesuch Records release Sleep With One Eye Open and in 2016 released the critically acclaimed bluegrass/electric double album Orchids and Violence, also on Nonesuch. Daves is also devoted teacher with over twenty years of experience whose instructional style is aimed at helping students develop and refine their own natural musical sensibilities while exploring a wealth of American roots traditions, particularly bluegrass. In 2016 he launched an online school in bluegrass vocals on ArtistWorks.com where he helps students around the world learn the intricacies bluegrass singing style as well as harmony singing and ear training.
Richard (Richie) Brown has been a part-time bluegrass musician in the Boston area since the mid sixties. Richie has played with several prominent New England bands and has occasionally filled in with nationally known bluegrass artists, as well. He has done mandolin workshops with Ron Thomason, Dave McLaughlin, and Lou Martin at the Joe Val Memorial festival and other events for the Boston Bluegrass Union, and with Mike Holmes at the New England Festival. He’s an “original” MCN faculty member dating from 2005-2015. In addition, he and Mike Compton supervised and taught in the Monroe Style Mandolin Camp in Owensboro, KY, from 2008-2013. Richie also was a faculty member at Mike Compton’s Monroe Style Mandolin Camp in Nashville, TN in 2016. Bill Monroe’s style and “old style” mandolin players heavily influence his playing. Richie currently plays mandolin and sings in the Boston–based Reunion Band.
Grammy nominated acoustic guitarist Russ Barenberg is known for his melodic playing, beautiful tone and memorable instrumental compositions. Long at the creative forefront of the acoustic music scene, Russ has collaborated with many of its finest artists, including Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss, Tony Trischka, Mark O’Connor, Jesse Winchester, Maura O’Connell and legendary jazz bassist, Charlie Haden. His playing has graced numerous films, most notably Ken Burns’documentary, The Civil War. For many years Russ has been part of the house band as well as a featured performer on the acclaimed BBC music programs, The Transatlantic Sessions. His most recent album, When at Last, adds to an “exquisitely original” body of work with more vibrant new melodies and rich ensemble interplay. The CD earned Russ a Grammy nomination for Best Country Instrumental Performance and was nominated for the International Bluegrass Music Association Instrumental Album of the Year.
Mandolinist David Benedict is a performer, composer, and instructor seeking to blend tradition and innovation through his music. Over the years, David’s broad tastes have led him to push the conventional boundaries of the mandolin by exploring a variety of musical styles including bluegrass, old time, Celtic, jazz, classical, and more. After a stint in Nashville performing as a member of Missy Raines & The New Hip, David now performs full time with the exciting new bluegrass band Mile Twelve in Boston.
Gaining international fame with the Claire Lynch Band, and then performing in a duet with Missy Raines, Jim Hurst twice won the IBMA Guitar Player of the Year and was nominated again for the same award in 2015. Inspired by Doc Watson and Tony Rice, Jim began as a flat-picker, but the finger-style playing of Merle Travis, Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed was the “turn in the road” for Jim. The intertwining of these musical threads defines Jim’s unique style.