2018 Performance Stage Schedule
- 10:00 Have More Fun Stringband
- 11:00 Plaid Strangers (Karen Heil & Maxine Gerber)
- 12:00 Skillet Licorice
- 1:15 Advanced Competitors
- 2:30 Brad Leftwich & Linda Higginbotham
- 3:30 Frank Fairfield & Tom Marion
- 4:30 [Old Time Music Competition Awards]
- 4:45 All Star Old-Time Jam
Mel Durham Contest Stage Schedule
Old-Time Music Contest
- 1:30-2:30 pm
Beginners Old-Time Jam
hosted by Susan Platz
- 2:30 to Completion
Old-Time Music Contest
Meet our talented performers, teachers and jam hosts
Brad Leftwich Brad has long been the gold standard for traditional old-time fiddling, and he is a highly regarded banjo player and singer as well. He grew up in Oklahoma in a family with at least three generations of old-time musicians, and learned directly from such legendary masters as Tommy Jarrell, Melvin Wine, Violet Hensley, and the Hammonds family. In his nearly 40 years as a performer, he has released 12 feature recordings to stellar reviews, appeared on dozens of anthologies, and created teaching materials that define the genre. He has entertained at the White House, backed up Doc Watson on stage, and counts the late Buck Owens and John Hartford among his admirers. Brad also plays with Alice Gerrard and Tom Sauber in the band Tom, Brad & Alice. For more about Brad, go to www.bradleftwich.net.
Linda Higginbotham Linda is from a family of musicians and colorful characters with deep roots in the pioneer heritage of Indiana, Kentucky, and Arkansas. She learned to play guitar from her father, a Tin Pan Alley songwriter, and was introduced to old-time music as a teenager in New York by Miles Krassen. She moved to Bloomington, Indiana, in the early 1970s where she helped start an active community based on old-time music and dance. She began playing clawhammer banjo and banjo ukulele after meeting Brad, and together they spent many hours visiting and learning from older musicians in the Appalachians and Ozarks. The pair collaborated throughout the 1980s as Leftwich & Higginbotham, and in the 1990s with the Humdingers. They now play together as a duo and in the Hogwire Stringband. She is widely known for her part in popularizing the banjo uke in old-time music. “If you are alive, Linda will make you want to get up and dance” (Don Stevens, All Music Guide).
Skillet Licorice Skillet Licorice is the latest project from San Francisco Bay Area roots-music luminaries Elise Engelberg and Matt Knoth. The duo’s talents are showcased beautifully on their new self-titled CD which draws on their diverse experiences playing in numerous string bands over the years in a dizzying array of folk genres. Whether they’re playing hot fiddle breakdowns, slinky blues, sparkling banjo breaks, ragtime or dreamy waltzes the duo displays an impressive command of styles and techniques that comes from deep study and loving dedication to America’s folk traditions. With the help of their talented friends they’ve put together an incredible repertoire that is essentially traditional, yet with a modern approach that is anything but a clinical archival music. Skillet Licorice is hot, sweet, and just a bit greasy!
Maxine Gerber (Plaid Strangers) Maxine (banjo, guitar, vocals) has been a top tier favorite banjo player and taste maker for decades, and musical nucleus at the yearly Appalachian String Band Festival in West Virginia. With her banjo/fiddle obsession, and knowledge amassed from visits in her youth to the older generation of master players, she has nurtured several generations of up-and-coming musicians. Her distinctive, rhythmic and supportive banjo style brings out the best in whomever she accompanies. In Plaid Strangers, Max accidentally finds herself in a performing duo after teaming up with Karen to win both the fiddle and banjo contests last year at the Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddlers’ Festival (2017).
Karen Heil (Plaid Strangers) Karen (fiddle, guitar, vocals) is an intense and soulful fiddler, who is also known for her powerful guitar playing and singing in the Bucking Mules. More than a decade ago, Karen began making pilgrimages to southern fiddlers’ conventions and visiting the region's master musicians, thus firing up her passion for old-time fiddle music. Karen, in addition to her work in the Bucking Mules, performs in the Bay Area, plays square dances, and has a thriving teaching practice. She has been on the staff of some of the best traditional music camps around the U.S. and internationally, teaching both guitar and fiddle.
Eric Thompson took up the guitar as a teenager in Palo Alto, California in the early 1960’s, at a time when very few folk guitarists were playing more than basic rhythm guitar. Among his earliest bands were the Black Mountain Boys (with Jerry Garcia and David Nelson) and Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. He soon became nationally known as an exceptional lead flatpicker, winning the World Championship Cup at Union Grove. Since that time he’s been in many bands – the Spare Change Boys, the Graineog Celidh Band, the Blue Flame Stringband, the Backwoods Band, Kleptograss, Guitars Without Borders – and recorded innumerable albums, both solo recordings and as a support player.
Suzy Thompson Some 40 years ago, Suzy Thompson inflicted on her mother and father just about every aspirational parent’s worst nightmare. Though she had been accepted to Yale, the folk-music-besotted teenager left her Connecticut home, boarded a Green Tortoise bus and headed to Berkeley, where she knew exactly one person. She not only ended up staying, she’s played a central role in turning the city into an extraordinarily vibrant nexus for an intersecting array of American roots music traditions. A powerful fiddler, skilled guitarist, and beguilingly blues-inflected vocalist, she’s an invaluable force as a player, bandleader, and inveterate organizer responsible for the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention.
Have More Fun Stringband is an old-time string band based out of Los Angeles.
Echo Mountain is a five piece old-time string band based out of Los Angeles, featuring fiddlers Kyle McNally and Jonathan Shifflett, Peter Linden on banjo, and multi-instrumentalists Kelly Marie Martin and Ben Kramer. Together they play square dances in the LA area and have been featured performers at the Watkins Family Hour and the Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley.
Jim Mueller has been playing the fiddle since 1977 and is primarily interested in Southern fiddle styles. He plays fiddle with the Growling Old Geezers String Band, and For Old TimesÕ Sake. He has performed and taught at dances and festivals throughout California and the United States, including the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington, the Swannanoa Gathering, in Asheville, North Carolina, and the Lark in the Morning Summer Music Celebration. In his spare time, Jim is a Professor of Mathematics at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
David Bragger, our festival artistic director, is the old-time fiddle and banjo guru of Los Angeles. He directs the UCLA Old-Time String Band Ensemble and is the founder of the Old-Time Tiki Parlour, which produces CDs, videos, concerts and workshops by the best old-time musicians alive. David is in high demand as a fiddle teacher at festivals and has private students on four continents! He is renowned for his ability to break down tunes and bowing with ease and clarity. David also plays banjo, fiddle and mandolin in the old-time stringband Sausage Grinder and in several local dance bands.
Susan Platz is a powerful fiddler from Illinois who now resides in Los Angeles. She fiddles and sings for the old-time band Sausage Grinder with her bandmate David Bragger, our artistic director. She is especially fond of harmonizing and playing fiddle duets. Her debut CD of fiddle duets with David Bragger is expected later this year.
Pat MacSwyney is a Los Angeles based multi instrumentalist who plays Old-Time with The DEAD ROOSTER Memorial String Band; Traditional Jazz with The SWING RIOTS Quirktette; and Balkan with the eastern European women’s choir NEVENKA.
Ruth Alpert has been flatfooting for 35 years. She has taught workshops, danced with old-time Appalachian string bands, busked (street performed) in various cities in at least 6 states, and is a two time National Champion in Senior Buck Dancing, 2013 and 2014. Currently, Ruth is the percussion section of The Honeysuckle Possums, an all-female string band playing original and traditional music.
Rebecca Stout began clogging as a child in Cordele, Georgia, as part of the community mountain-style clogging group The Dixieland Cloggers. She went on to spend the next three decades developing and fine-tuning her unique “Tennessee Shuffle” style of free-form flatfoot and buck dance, inspired by friends, relations, masters and mentors throughout Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. Today, Rebecca teaches and performs traditional Appalachian dance with a focus on dance as a percussive instrument, while encouraging students to develop their own personal style. More info is HERE.
Andy Denes has played old-time music since the Folk Music Revival of the 60s. He starting out playing mandolin because his orthodontist nixed the trumpet. Andy is a fixture in the SoCal jam scene. He jams as often as possible and hope to travel to more festivals nationwide. In the last few years, he's developed a compact tablature for mandolin.
Joe Wack began playing old time on the banjo and guitar in the early 70's of the last century, picking up fiddle along the way. A career as a character designer in animation has not succeeded in derailing his interest in playing his home state's music. He continues to play in various groups and leads a monthly jam. With his two bandmates, he produced an album of fiddle tunes in 2013, Yew Pine Melodies.
Naming of the Mel Durham Contest Stage
“When I started playing fiddle in the late 90s, there was an 88-year old fiddler playing around the Los Angeles area that mesmerized me with his stories, humor and, most of all, his fiddle tunes. Mel Durham was a fixture in the SoCal old-time music scene then and had been for many years before I came along. He played alongside countless musicians for decades as an upright bass player and an old-time fiddler. His tunes and technique helped shape my playing and my repertoire from day one. Many of the people attending the festival this year, and years past, were directly affected by his playing and music. As a fiddle instructor, I even teach a rhythmic bow pattern named after him. Mel has had an immeasurable impact on the community, my playing and my fiddle students. This is why I’ve decided to rename the competition stage to the Mel Durham Contest Stage in honor of a great man and an inspirational fiddler.
—David Bragger, Artistic Director