2015 Instructors

We're excited to announce the 2015 Academy faculty, including 3 stellar bands-in-residence, including the recent changes to the fiddle faculty.

Guitar | Mandolin | Banjo | Fiddle | Dobro | Bass | Songwriting & Vocals |
Bands-in-Residence | Kids Camp | Instrument Building

Please note: instructors are subject to change.

Updated May 6, 2015: Allie Kral has replaced Casey Driessen on the fiddle faculty.

Guitar Instructors
Andy Falco
Andy Falco is a guitarist from Long Island, New York specializing in American roots music.  He spent his early years cutting his teeth playing blues, funk and R&B on Long Island and in the New York City music scene of the 90's when it was defined by the various small venues curating vibrant musical environments.   Clubs like Manny's Carwash, Chicago B.L.U.E.S., The Bottom Line, and C.B.G.B's were alive and well, and were the heartbeat of The Big Apple.  The scene provided opportunities to learn from and occasionally sit in, [more...] jam, or work with many great musicians like Jimmy Vivino, Johnny Johnson, David Amram, Gavin Degraw, Vanessa Carlton, and Levon Helm.  His musical journey led him eventually to an acoustic direction, specifically in Bluegrass music.  After relocating to Nashville, TN in 2004, Andy toured with The Greencards and The Alecia Nugent Band, until joining The Infamous Stringdusters in 2007 (www.thestringdusters.com).  As a member of The Infamous Stringdusters, he tours all over the United States, Canada, and Europe.  The Infamous Stringdusters have earned three IBMA awards, as well as a Grammy Nomination.

While The Infamous Stringdusters are his main focus, Andy branches out to work with other artists when time permits including Joss Stone, The Travelin' McCourys, Keller Williams, David Bromberg, Scott Law and Leslie Mendelson among others,  as well as his own side project with his brothers called (appropriately) The Falco Brothers (www.thefalcobrothers.com).  Andy also produces, engineers and mixes albums in his home studio on Long Island when not on tour. [less...]
Uwe Kruger
Uwe (Oo-vay) Kruger, lead vocalist and guitarist for the Kruger Brothers, has been playing music since early childhood. When they were very young, Uwe and younger brother Jens placed a guitar on the floor between them and played it together, one brother taking the upper three strings and the other the lower three. Uwe was introduced to American folk music through the brothers’ father, who would return to Switzerland from business trips to the United States with folk music records. [more...]

For more than twenty-five years Uwe has been playing guitar and singing as a professional musician. Performing in Switzerland’s relatively limited music market required Uwe to develop versatility, and he became proficient on other instruments including the electric guitar and the banjo.

Today, Uwe astonishes audiences with his blend of guitar styles. His rich, resonant, and mellow baritone voice has an uplifting affect on all who hear him sing. Diverse influences range from Doc Watson, Jerry Garcia, and Eric Clapton, to Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms. Uwe’s unique style, a blend of flat picking and finger picking, is an experience to behold. [less...]
Chris Luquette
Chris is one of the hardest working musicians from the Seattle music scene. You'd be hard pressed to find another twenty-something year old seamlessly switching from International Music to Jazz and from Rock to Bluegrass so comfortably. He has even studied Brazilian Jazz with Seattle based Brazil music legend, Jovino Santos Neto. Chris' musicianship reflects the multitude of musical influences he turns to for inspiration. His acoustic guitar playing really stands out, but this virtuosic, multi-instrumentalist is equally at home [more...] playing mandolin, drums, bass, electric guitar, banjo, and Greek bouzouki! In addition, Chris was a founding member of Seattle based, Northern Departure, and has found himself sitting in with Jerry Douglas, Emmylou Harris, Rob Ickes and many others. Don't miss an opportunity to hear him shred his Martin guitar in half! [less...] Top
Sandy Munro
Sandy has been a long-time instructor at the Academy and helped shape its programming since its inception. He has been teaching music classes at Colorado Mountain College and at his music store Great Divide Music in Aspen, since 1976. Sandy is a multi-instrumentalist and currently performs with the Flying Dog Bluegrass Band and the Crowlin' Ferlies both from Aspen. Sandy is one of only two instructors that have taught at every Academy since 1992. Having created a loyal student following both in Aspen and Lyons, he will once again be serving as a guitar instructor this year. Top

Mandolin Instructors
Sierra Hull
A good chunk of popular music’s real estate has been carved up along lines of age these last half-dozen decades, and we’re used to seeing young musicians aim exclusively for young audiences then flounder as they outgrow teenaged listeners’ tastes and concerns. Pan-generational mentoring and mingling has done much to insulate bluegrass from this coming-of-age quandary. Still, Sierra Hull is the rare soul to make it through these years entirely unscathed. Secrets—the debut album she recorded at 15, and released at 16—struck the ear [more...] with sensibilities that seemed both seasoned and fresh; kids’ stuff this was not. Three years and a move from her family’s home in tiny Byrdstown, Ten. to Boston’s Berklee College of Music later, she’s followed with one of the most surefooted transitions into early adulthood put to record. Thirty seconds into the opening track, she sings a line that puts a fine point on it: “I’m not a child anymore.”

Of course, the evidence of Sierra’s uncommon maturity—musical and personal (one might say she embodies the perfect balance of humility and capability)—has been there all along, and won her formidable fans: by age 11, Alison Krauss had called with an invitation to the Opry stage; by 12, Rounder was expressing interest; first Ron Block and now Barry Bales have served as co-producers, and her studio bands have featured the cream of the contemporary bluegrass crop—Stuart Duncan, Randy Kohrs and Bryan Sutton this time, alongside members of Sierra’s own crack band. Then there’s the fact that Berklee gave her the school’s most prestigious award, the Presidential Scholarship, a first for a bluegrass musician; her choice to accept it, to delay her dream of hitting the road full-time after high school in favor of expanding her musical worldview, was hardly a light one.

If ever the “child prodigy” label did Sierra justice, its usefulness has completely fallen away and a distinctive new identity emerged. What you hear on Daybreak is one of bluegrass’s few full-fledged virtuosic instrumentalist/singer/songwriters, and one who’s gracefully grown into her gifts. While her mandolin playing has always possessed clarity and fleet-fingered precision, here she attacks her solos with newfound spontaneity and depth of feeling; she calls it “playing with a point to prove.” Her singing—always straight and true—has more heartfelt power behind it, to results Bales describes, simply, as “doing the songs justice.”

As for the songs, Sierra’s first album held just a few originals, but she wrote seven of these twelve, a collection that stands up quite well next to the outside material. There’s a pair of sprightly instrumentals, her first-ever western swing number and several that show her emotional sophistication: in songs that fall squarely in the bluegrass tradition, feelings are out in the open; during country-leaning compositions, she ponders relationships from more introspective angles; and the title track—a breathtaking pop ballad—is the most ruminative moment of all.

Boundaries—age, genre or otherwise—don’t hamper an artist like Sierra. She’s already earned considerable respect in the bluegrass world, the IBMA’s voting members having nominated her for no fewer than five awards over three years—there’s a good chance she’ll be the first woman to win the mandolin category. But as a player, a singer and a songwriter, she also has remarkable range, the potential to win over ears unfamiliar with Bill Monroe and give performances of broad cultural importance, as she’s done at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and the National Prayer Breakfast. Matt Glaser—head of Berklee’s American Roots Music Program—put it this way: “She has no limitations as a musician.” Daybreak is certainly a noteworthy arrival; you can’t help but feel it’s also just the beginning. [less...]
Don Julin
Don Julin, author of the best-selling Mandolin For Dummies (Wiley 2012), is regarded as one of the most eclectic mandolin players and top mandolin instructors on the scene today. Don’s patient, detailed teaching style is appreciated by students of all levels; his YouTube mandolin instructional videos have garnered more than three-quarters of a million views. Don has previously taught at the Mandolin Symposium (Santa Cruz, Calif.), Elderly Instruments (Lansing, Mich.), [more...] Dusty Strings (Seattle, Wash.), Classical Mandolin Society of America conventions, National Oldtime Fiddlers Festival (Weiser, Idaho), Richter Mandolin Camp (Bloomington, Ind.), Cesare Pollini Conservatory of Music (Padua, Italy), Midwest Mandolin Festival (Indianapolis, Ind.), and others. His hands-on workshops focus on developing good left- and right-hand skills, along with a dose of ear training and music theory. [less...] Top
Frank Solivan
At the highest levels of acoustic musicianship exists a mystery — the mystery of tone, taste and timing… It can best be illustrated by giving a good musician a good instrument and asking him to briefly strum, pick, bow, — whatever is required to produce the best sound. Then, by way of comparison, hand that very same instrument to a GREAT musician and ask for the same. It is a phenomenon that manifests itself every time that Frank Solivan picks up a mandolin, guitar or violin. What you see may be the same pick or bow, [more...] on the same strings, on the same fretboard that the good player demonstrated, but the sound… Ah… there’s the difference!

In Frank’s hands, these instruments take on a life of their own. You hear power. You hear volume. You hear crispness, clarity, timing and taste. All combined with passion and drive. A physicist might slow it down to analyze the strum against string — but he wouldn’t find the answer. For that, you have to know Frank Solivan, a man who has a powerful life force that’s as raw, natural and pure as the place he spend much of his youth, Alaska. Frank is a hunter, a fisherman, a gourmet chef, a beautiful singer, a poet and songwriter of tasteful ballads and of blazing instrumentals. A man of sturdy build who is known to holler out out a powerful, “Son!” whether it be in response to a hot solo, or some hot sauce he concocted in kitchen. It’s as if all these things for him are an affirmation of life. An awareness that all five senses are humming along on overdrive. That life is short and all these gifts are not to be wasted.

Those who are privileged enough to be around it, are richer for it. Musicians, especially, in his presence step up their game, but I suppose you could say the same about gourmands, or fishermen. People sense that life force around Frank and they want a piece of it.

The physicist curious about the mysteries of tone, timing and taste would do well to spend some time around Frank. He would find no definition, no explanation of how it happens but he would see it right there. And you should, too. [less...]

Banjo Instructors
Jens Kruger
At age six, when Jens (Yens) heard the banjo on one of his dad’s American records, he yearned to play it. But having no access to one, Jens played their mother’s accordion, accompanying Uwe, who played their father’s guitar. When Jens turned ten he acquired a tenor banjo and started to play Dixieland jazz, hoping that one-day ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’ would somehow flow from the instrument. A year later, Jens and Uwe made their first public appearance, and two years later Uwe bought Jens his first five-string banjo. [more...]

At age 16, Jens and Uwe left home and traveled throughout Europe calling themselves the Rocky Road Band, attempting a living as street musicians. Their adventure paid off in the form of a record contract with CBS. In 1982, at the age of 20, Jens crossed the Atlantic, heading for the Bean Blossom Festival and Bill Monroe. Monroe introduced Jens to the Grand Ole Opry, as the first known European banjo player. After living with Bill for the summer and following his advice, Jens returned to Switzerland to develop his own musical style and repertoire. For four years, Jens spent days and nights learning tunes from all the records he could find.

In 1986, Jens and Uwe reunited to form the Appalachian Barn Orchestra, the forerunner of today’s Kruger Brothers. Since MerleFest 1997, the event that launched the Kruger Brothers’ career in America, Jens has performed with Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, John McEwen, Willie Nelson, and Ricky Skaggs, to name only a few. Like Uwe, Jens can play many stringed instruments with proficiency, and like the Kruger Brothers, Jens’ style and virtuosity cannot be characterized with a word or phrase. But those who have heard Jens play banjo know that he is truly a master of his art. As a composer, Jens’ comprehension of music in all of its forms is becoming well known among his peers, colleagues, and the Kruger Brothers’ growing audience. [less...]
Mike Munford
Mike is one of the hidden treasures of the five string banjo world. Mike grew up in the sixties and seventies in the bluegrass hotbed of Baltimore and D.C. and assimilated just about everything that all the great players in that area could offer. Then he took off on his own. How best to describe him? Imagine this conversation among banjo players huddled around a fire at some pickin’ party or festival. "How did J.D. do that lick?" "I dunno, but Munford’s over there, ask him." [more...] "I just got a '37 Granada but it ain’t sounding like it should…" “Have you taken it to Munford? Best set-up guy around." "Damn! Why can’t I get that tone?" "I dunno… go watch Munford, He’s right over there."

Now well past forty years old -- the age at which, they say, life begins, Mike Munford retains a child like enthusiasm and curiosity for all things banjo. He has no qualms about driving hours through rush hour traffic to go see J.D. Crowe play at some obscure club… then rave about the performance even though he might have seen it or heard it dozens, maybe hundreds or times. He has imbibed everything that J.D., or Earl, or Bela, has thrown his way -- and can mimic those players with uncanny accuracy, but has found his own style, too.

It can best be described as hard-driving melodic… but such a description diminishes what’s actually going on. When Mike Munford plays you hear all things that great banjo player strive to achieve. Power, drive, impeccable timing, exquisite tone and jaw-dropping technique.

Mike is also, indeed, about the finest set-up or fret job guy around, and is a walking encyclopedia of banjo trivia. He is an inspiration to countless players in the mid – Atlantic region.

Most of the country hasn’t really seen all that much of Mike’s playing. He, throughout most of his career, has preferred the comforts of home to the road. It is testament to Frank Solivan’s powers of persuasion ( i.e. talent) that Mike is hitting the road as a part of this fine ensemble. [less...]
Chris Pandolfi
My grandparents, Frank and Carmela Pandolfi, started the Connecticut Opera Association in 1942. I never met my grandfather, but my grandmother lived next door as we grew up (my brothers and I slept under her grand piano–it took up half the house). She got us started with music at a young age. Ultimately inspired by my older brother Jono’s musical tastes and exploits, I got my first banjo in the summer of 1997. The next ten or so years flew by. During that time I got my undergrad degree at Dartmouth College [more...] and then went on to be the first ever banjo principal at the Berklee College of Music before moving to Nashville, TN in 2004. Along the way I was lucky to work with many amazing people, but ultimately I started a band with great musicians who are also my great friends–The Infamous Stringdusters. We have been touring for 7 years, have 5 albums, a Grammy nomination and our own festival. We strive to make good original music, explore the world and enjoy life.

I have a few solo albums that I wrote and produced (Looking Glass and the Handoff), that feature some of my absolute favorite acoustic players. I also work as a producer for other artists/bands, helping them craft their music, a job I absolutely love to do. While my solo side of things focused on the banjo for a long time, lately I have been working on a newer sound: TRAD+. It’s a landscape of sounds–electronic, acoustic, vinyl sampling, live drums, and more. I’m working on my first album now. Some of those sounds can also be found in Falco and my side project, Founding Fathers.

Music has always been my passion, but I also love to write and create short motion pictures. I started working on video around 2007, filming the ‘Dusters hijinx, documentary style. Since then I have enjoyed finding more and more creative ways to use the camera/editing software, from stop-motion to performance to ski vids. My writing focuses mostly on our adventures and our musical scene, a subject that’s always interested me along my journey from the Northeast to Nashville, Virginia and now Colorado. Bluegrass is its own world, filled with incredible musicianship and a short but vibrant history of crazy characters, trends and changes. A few of my pieces about the current state of the bluegrass world reached a big audience. In the wake of that attention the International Bluegrass Music Association asked me to deliver a keynote address at the 2011 World of Bluegrass in Nashville, TN (their annual business conference), giving some real recognition to a new vision of a bigger, more connected acoustic world. We are excited to be a part of whatever comes next for bluegrass.

I moved to CO in 2013, a place that has always been an unofficial home for the Stringdusters. Before I played banjo I was a fly fishing guide and a skiing addict. After years away from mountains and rivers, the ‘Dusters have made a connection with the world of outdoor brands and non-profits, giving a voice to some important issues/organizations and getting us back to the great outdoors. Colorado has endless outlets for quality music, interesting people and outdoor recreation. Denver is my new home base. [less...]

Fiddle Instructors
Jeremy Garrett
Since moving to Nashville a few years ago, Jeremy Garrett has turned heads with his soulful lead and tenor vocals, dynamic fiddle playing, and intense stage presence. Raised in Idaho, he began fiddling as a child, cementing his skills with a stint in the Bluegrass and Country Music degree program at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, where he was named Bluegrass Male Vocalist of the Year in 1996. From Texas, he returned to Idaho, joining his father Glen and other area musicians to form The Grasshoppers. [more...] Upon his arrival in Nashville, Jeremy collaborated with the Chris Jones Coalition, touring nationally and immersing himself in songwriting and additional stage and studio work. Jeremy teamed up with Ronnie Bowman and The Committee in the fall of 2004, and with Bowman and other members of The Committee, was part of a small acoustic ensemble backing Grammy-winning country singer Lee Ann Womack on her year-end tour. Jeremy has also played and toured with such artists as J.D. Crowe, Bobby Osborne, The Waybacks and many others. In addition to working with The Infamous Stringdusters, Jeremy recorded a bluegrass gospel album with his father titled Jeremy Garrett and Glen Garrett. [less...] Top
Alex Hargreaves
Violinist Alex Hargreaves is an active performer, playing on stages around the world including Austin City Limits, A Prairie Home Companion, Grand Ole Opry, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Panama Jazz Festival, Bonnaroo, Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, as well as venues in the UK, France, Italy, Canada, and South Korea. He is a member of world-renowned mandolinist Mike Marshall’s Big Trio, along with bassist Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers) and [more...] has toured with the trio extensively following the 2008 release of their self-titled album on Adventure Music. Matt Glaser, artistic director of Berklee College of Music, American Roots Program, states simply, “Truly, Alex Hargreaves is the best young jazz violinist in America.”

Hargreaves also performs and tours with singer/multi-instrumentalist, Sarah Jarosz, appearing on her two critically acclaimed albums, Song Up In Her Head, Follow Me Down and Build Me Up From Bones (Sugar Hill Records), as well as being featured on her Grammy-nominated instrumental, Mansinneedof.  He’s also toured with Jerry Douglas, David Grisman, Bela Fleck, Danilo Perez, Darol Anger, Bruce Molsky, Noam Pikelny and has shared the stage with many others including Mark O’Connor, Chris Thile, Brian Blade, Joe Lovano, Mumford & Sons, Tim O’Brien and Sam Bush.

Throughout his career, Alex has received countless honors including the Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin from Mark O’Connor’s Strings Conference, and the Alternative Styles Award from the American Strings Teachers Association (ASTA). He is the youngest ever (age 15) to win the Grand Champion division at the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest in Weiser, Idaho, and in 2009, won the Grand Masters Fiddle Championship in Nashville. In October 2010, at the Monterey Jazz Festival, Hargreaves was awarded the Jimmy Lyons Scholarship, a full tuition scholarship to the Berklee College of Music.

In February, 2010, Hargreaves' debut album, Prelude (Adventure Music) was released, featuring master acoustic musicians Mike Marshall, Grant Gordy and Paul Kowert, and special guests Bela Fleck and Noam Pikelny. Prelude portrays Hargreaves’ maturity not only as a cross-genre violinist and improviser, but also as a composer, with his original compositions comprising half the album.

His playing on Prelude has been acclaimed by critics and musicians alike. All Music Guide cites Alex’s “undeniable,” “pure, raw talent,” and David Grisman comments, “[Alex] plays with wit, authority and soulfulness belying his years. In my opinion, he's destined to be one of the fiddle giants of the 21st century.” For Mike Marshall, Alex is “arguably one of the greatest improvising violinists in America today.”

In pursuit of his passion for jazz and improvisational-based music, Hargreaves has completed the prestigious Berklee Global Jazz Institute at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Under the artistic direction of world-renowned pianist Danilo Perez (Dizzy Gillespie and Wayne Shorter), this new program admits only a handful of students each year, providing them with the opportunity to work one-on-one with a select group of faculty, including Perez, Joe Lovano, John Patitucci, Ben Street and Jamey Haddad.

Most recently, Hargreaves is featured on Danilo Perez's upcoming album, Panama 500 (Mack Avenue Records), set to be released in February 2014. The all star lineup on the recording includes jazz icons John Patitucci, Brian Blade, Ben Street, Adam Cruz and others.  [less...]
Allie Kral
Born in St. Charles, IL, Allie began playing the violin at the age of 5. Suzuki trained, she learned by ear. All of her time was filled with rehearsals, performances and lessons for Orchestras, The Elgin Youth Symphony, The DuPage Youth Symphony, Vivaldi Strings Tour Group, quartets, trios, giving and taking private lessons, etc. She took first place in every school district competition she ever played in, and won first place in Geneva, Illinois' Swedish Days Competition. Allie was first chair for a number of years in her high schools chamber orchestra, and was a member of a small handful of choirs as well. [more...] Summers were spent at music camps all over the country. This girl lived and breathed violin.

In her college years, Allie was a violin performance major at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. It was there when she picked up bluegrass with her first band, Green Mountain Grass. Her love for bluegrass took her back to Chicago, where she learned improvisational skills with her decade long dedication to the band Cornmeal. She found jam bands through the Grateful Dead, and was attracted to the improvisational nature of the music. Allie lived and breathed to perform live, and enjoyed the fact that every performance was fresh and unique. Now residing in Portland, Oregon, Allie has played internationally on thousands of stages with the biggest names in country, bluegrass, jam, classical, rock, and more. [less...]
Please note: Casey Driessen has had to cancel his participation at the 2015 Rockygrass Academy due to a major family and professional life change. He is moving to Valencia, Spain, where he has accepted a position at Berklee College of Music's recently opened international campus as the new Director of Contemporary Performance masters degree program. Congratulations, Casey! We'll miss you at the RockyGrass Academy.

Dobro Instructor
Billy Cardine
Billy Cardine is an innovative, genre-blurring slide guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, touring artist, and educator.  He has performed at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, the Ryman Auditorium and major festivals, such as Bonnaroo, Merlefest and Rockygrass.  He is an internationally featured artist touring in India, Japan, Europe and Canada as well.  Billy's dobro playing was recently featured on a Jerry Douglas' production, Southern Filibuster, honoring one of the forefathers of the Dobro.  [more...] Billy's unique stylings and expertise attracted innovative analog music mogul, Moog Music.  During 2010, he helped Moog design their first electric slide guitar, which he then debuted at MoogFest the following year.  Billy’s distinct voice on all things slide has lead him to collaborations with Led Zeppelin's own, John Paul Jones and world renowned, Edgar Meyer in his Porous Borders of Music.  Billy's productions have won national and international awards and recognition including Indie Acoustic Music Project’s Roots Album of the Year, Chicago Tribune’s Best Bluegrass records of the year and an Apple iPod Playlist Hot Pick.  His memorable compositions and exquisite playing have been featured on The History Channel's "Our Generation", BBC World's "Destination Music", and PBS' "RoadTrip Nation".  Billy newest release for July of 2012 introduces the Dobro to Gypsy Jazz music in a ground-breaking album featuring an extraordinary band. [less...] Top
Andy Hall
Andy Hall plays and sings with excitement, passion, precision and a dynamic that is quickly establishing him as one of the top players in acoustic music today. Based in Nashville, he plays resophonic guitar, guitar and sings lead, tenor and baritone vocal harmony parts. A graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA with a degree in Music Production and Engineering, Andy's credentials include a long list of live performances and recordings with various artists. He has recently been featured on projects by Dolly Parton, Ronnie Bowman, [more...] Charlie Daniels, Moody Bluegrass, Dale Ann Bradley, Matt Flinner and others. Andy is currently a member of the new acoustic band The Infamous Stringdusters. Andy's first solo recording Red Wing features some of Andy's original bluegrass and new acoustic music. Instrumentally, look to Andy for driving instrumental breaks, tasteful instrumental backup, and sensitivity to the groove. Vocally, Andy provides a blend that enhances the harmony structure of the artist and song with equal finesse.[less...] Top

Bass Instructors
Travis Book
As the bass player for The Infamous Stringdusters, Travis has spent the last 10 years at the center of a rippling bluegrass jam. But in the last few years he's released a solo album and started a rock trio with his wife, songwriter Sarah Siskind and drummer Brian Caputo. Originally from Colorado, with some time in Nashville, he currently lives in the Virginia mountains with his wife and daughter. Top
Danny Booth
Hailing from the Chugach mountains near Anchorage, Alaska, Danny Booth grew up in a thriving bluegrass and country music family and community. His first “gig” was at age 12 with Doug Dillard and Ginger Boatwright at a bluegrass camp concert. Heavily influenced by his father Greg, a master of pedal steel, dobro and banjo, Danny soon graduated to join his dad in the seminal Alaskan bluegrass band, Rank Strangers. There he met an 18 year old fiddler/mandolinist named Frank Solivan. To most people, growing up in Alaska [more...] doesn’t suggest a strong musical background, but they haven’t heard Dan or Frank!

Danny’s own style and sound has been influenced by some of the greatest bassists of acoustic music: Todd Phillips, Mike Bub, Mark Shatz, Barry Bales, Byron House and Edgar Meyer. His supportive bass lines are laden with excellent timing, feel, powerful tone and fluid technique. Danny recalls, “My dad was never shy about telling me when something didn’t work… that gave me the perfectionist attitude I have today.”

In addition to Danny’s impeccable bass playing, he is a remarkable singer. He’s known for his powerful lead and seamlessly blended harmony vocals. “Working with Kathy Kallick taught me a lot about blending harmonies. Combining voices is like rubbing two sticks together – when done correctly it can catch on fire!”

Danny has toured with the Kathy Kallick Band, Spring Creek, Bearfoot, and even performed with one and only Dr. Ralph Stanley. He is the newest member of Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen and brings his own musical voice and vision to this rising band. Stand by to be blown away when Danny Booth gets up to the mic. [less...]
Joel Landsberg
One can only imagine the number and variety of musical influences—Broadway, classical, jazz, rhythm and blues—that surrounded Joel as he was growing up in New York City. Like Uwe and Jens, Joel began his musical career early in life, and picked up the bass at the age of 12. Like many musicians, Joel began learning music with classical training on the piano. After several years of piano lessons he switched to the bass and decided to devote all of his attention to playing the instrument. Joel has devoted his full attention to the bass [more...] ever since he first discovered his love of the instrument.

Destined to find Uwe and Jens, in 1989 Joel moved to Switzerland and began a successful career as a bassist with various country/rock and jazz groups based throughout Europe. It was during this time that he met the Kruger Brothers and developed what would turn into a deeply rewarding musical alliance and friendship. In early 1995, Joel was initiated into the ‘Brotherhood’ and has been performing full time with the band ever since. [less...]

Songwriting & Vocal Instructors
Sarah Jarosz
Since signing to Sugar Hill Records at age 16, Sarah Jarosz has barely stopped to catch her breath, even as she leaves audiences and critics alike breathless. Rolling Stone has compared her to Gillian Welch; Mojo labeled her a “newgrass prodigy” for her skills on banjo, guitar and mandolin; and the normally reserved New York Times hailed her as “one of acoustic music’s finest talents,” with songwriting chops to match her instrumental prowess. Exciting as that all may sound, that was before. For with her new album Build Me Up From Bones, [more...] Sarah Jarosz, now 23, has graduated in every sense of the word. The album came to fruition as she finished college at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and Bones incorporates the many lessons she learned there as she delved into other artistic realms.

Ask the Austin, Texas native how she feels about the disc, and her reply is decisive: “It’s the truest representation of my music at this point.I wanted to create a rollercoaster of different sounds, emotions and feelings, and not one even line. It has rocking numbers, and it also features the trio I play with—it incorporates those guys more. It feels true to me: unique and new.”

She adds: “I feel like I’ve grown as a person, especially in these last few years. I latched onto music as a child and it became my main way of expressing myself. But through college I got into other creative outlets: art, painting and poetry. It helped me to come back to music in a deeper way, to follow deeper trails and meanings and feelings.”

That depth manifests itself from start to finish on this 11-song record, as Jarosz creates sonic atmospheres that shimmer with equal parts acoustic majesty and electrifying mystery. “Mile on the Moon” ambles along with a familiar folky stride. Yet the melody and slipstream musical track suggest somewhere far away and beyond, a translucent vision where ardor blooms in nocturnal hues: “I dreamed we fell into the night/ Your darkness shined the brightest light/ We drove for miles on the moon/ I’d go anywhere with you.”

Did lunar forces tug at Sarah’s songwriting tides? As she puts it, “I never go into a record thinking I want a recurring theme throughout. But after the fact—and I certainly didn’t plan this—there are four songs that mention the moon in some way. For me, songwriting is an ever changing nature; it’s always fresh, and the moon is sort of like that: always changing, always pulling.”

That the song also takes on love as a subject matter shows Jarosz growing, enough so that she tackles this oldest of topics in surprising new ways. “I feel like my favorite songwriters leave enough things in the song to keep you digging,” she says. “The goal is to write songs that people will make personal to themselves—even if they may be very personal to me.”

That said, it’s a neat trick that Jarosz covers songs by two artists with fiercely loyal followings, and makes them all her own. Her version of harpist Joanna Newsom’s song “The Book of Right-On” stays true to the original’s freak folk funkiness, but Jarosz goes a step further by giving the song a winsome honey-gilded vocal to pine for. And as for taking on Bob Dylan — which she did on her 2011 disc Follow Me Down—Jarosz didn’t expect she’d do it again. But a backstage jam session with cellist Nathaniel Smith (part of the trio behind the new album, along with fiddler Alex Hargreaves) proved, indeed, “A Simple Twist of Fate.”

“We just kind of played that song for ourselves, not even thinking we were going to work it up, and it happened so naturally—we said, ‘Man, that felt good,” Jarosz says. “Live, it’s gotten a very good response.”

Speaking of the live stage, Jarosz finds it a big plus that she’s yielded an album that puts the focus on her and her trio. While much was made of the guest stars eager to join her on past albums, Jarosz found herself eager to fly on the strength of her new material, and capture a performance-friendly vibe as much as possible. More songs on Build Me Up From Bones were cut live than on any of her past studio efforts.

“A lot of it feels like it will translate well into the trio setting,” she says, “And it’s always fun to see these songs take on their own life on the stage; you don’t have to hear it live the same way as on the record.”

As for how she wrote many of her new songs, the alchemy might prove challenging for a lesser artist to imitate. For starters, she finds that whichever instrument she picks up on a given day—and Jarosz plays quite a few—determines how a song took shape. She’s recently taken to octave mandolin, and on “Rearrange The Art,” the song blossomed the instant she switched it from guitar to banjo. Its rollicking rhythm unfurls with sublime cinematic scope, like the soundtrack to a movie where a songwriter takes wing: “The ruby hues that outline all my words/ Are chapped and humming chords/ I’ve never used before.”

“Rearrange The Art” also reveals how Sarah’s college training taught her to view songwriting from new vistas, especially in her final year there. “I had the melody circling in my head for a long period of time, and it’s a great example of how the poetry and art worked their way into my music.”

With this new album, Jarosz speaks of an invisible line where, after she nurtures a song long enough, it now becomes something organic she carries with her: “I’ll play something, leave it alone, come back to it, and play it and play it and play it. The songs almost need to settle within me before I can play them for anybody.”

That said, she has a trusted compatriot in co-producer Gary Paczosa, who worked on her last two discs and returns once again to help her bring these new recordings to life. She also singles out the contributions of Dan Dugmore (Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks), whose guitar work lights up tracks such as “Mile on the Moon” and “Over the Edge.” “It was really magical: He played what I heard in my head all along,” Jarosz says.

Yet it’s clear that what Jarosz carried in her head and nurtured in her heart brandished plenty of magic to begin with. In the conservatory setting of her final college days, she assailed the dual challenge of crafting new songs and cramming for exams. Instead of bowing to the pressure, she flowed with it, harnessed it, and passed with flying colors … leading a musical graduation day of a distinct and rare kind.

“There were days where I thought, ‘I really need to get this homework assignment done, and I need to get this song written,’” she says, laughing. “But in the end it was great, because it prodded me to go forward. So here I am, at the end of school, and I’m finishing up this album, and the timing couldn’t be better. It’s like turning the page.” [less...]
Caire Lynch
Long recognized and praised as a creative force in acoustic music, Claire Lynch is a pioneer who continually pushes the boundaries of the bluegrass genre. The current Claire Lynch Band is a powerful juggernaut, a quartet that has the innate ability to perfectly interpret the beauty, subtlety, and genre-defying sophistication of Claire’s music. Blazing her own trail in the mid 70's when there were few role models for a young woman in the genre, Claire Lynch made history when she led the Front Porch String Band, [more...] which evolved in the 80’s and 90’s into “one of the sharpest and most exciting post-modern bluegrass bands on the circuit.” She formed her own Claire Lynch Band in 2005 and has consistently been a top pick of prestigious publications, critics and audiences across the nation ever since.

Claire grew up in Kingston, N.Y. until the age of 12, when the family moved to Huntsville in northern Alabama.  There she began her education in country music and got caught up in the bluegrass revival of the 1970's, joining a band called Hickory Wind.  Later, the band changed its name to the Front Porch String Band with Claire’s vocals as its centerpiece.

In 1981, after their first nationally released recording, the group retired from the road, and Claire pursued dual careers in addition to raising a family.  As a songwriter, her tunes have been recorded by such luminaries as Patty Loveless, The Seldom Scene, Cherryholmes, Kathy Mattea, the Whites and Stephanie Davis.  At the same time, she became a much sought-after session vocalist

In 1991, the Front Porch String Band was resurrected with the album, “Lines and Traces”, a move that ultimately led to the launching of Claire’s solo career in earnest.  Friends for a Lifetime was released in 1993 followed by Moonlighter in 1995 (Claire’s first GRAMMY nomination) and Silver and Gold in 1997 (also nominated for GRAMMY glory).  She was named the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1997 and enjoyed many chart successes.  The band wrapped up the 20th century with the album “Love Light,” in 2000.  At that time Claire took what she thought would be a full-fledged break from music, stepping away from the grind of daily touring.  She wasn't sure when–or if–she would return.  “I never thought I'd come back.  Then one day I opened my catalog of songs and realized that I'd written my life,” she said.

Little by little, the lure of music worked its way back.  She sang harmony on “The Grass is Blue” and “Little Sparrow” which led to promotional touring as backup vocalist for Dolly Parton (Dolly has described Claire as "one of the sweetest, purest and best lead voices in the music business today.")  She graced albums by other artists with her background vocals including Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Pam Tillis, Alison Brown, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea and Ralph Stanley.  Today, the impressive list of other guest appearances continues including spots on albums by Donna the Buffalo, Sara Watkins, the Gibson Brothers, Jonathan Edwards and Jesse Winchester.

In 2005, Lynch struck out on her own, forming the Claire Lynch Band and releasing the aptly named “New Day” CD. It was a hit on the bluegrass charts and earned her IBMA nominations for “Song of the Year” and “Female Vocalist of the Year.”  In 2007, Rounder Records featured her brilliant catalog of music from her previous five albums on their label and titled the anthology collection, “Crowd Favorites”. More IBMA nominations followed as well as an induction into the Alabama Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

“Whatcha Gonna Do,” Claire’s most recent release (2009) has been called “a stripped-down production with sumptuous acoustic atmospheres” showcasing Lynch's award-winning vocals and the instrumental brilliance of her four-piece band — described by The Bluegrass Blog as what may be “the best backing lineup of her career.”  After a busy touring schedule in 2010, Claire received three IBMA nominations including “Song of the Year” and “Recorded Event of the Year,” winning the 2010 trophy for Female Vocalist of the Year

As one observer writes, “Listening to Claire Lynch sing is not something to be undertaken casually.  Her songs and stage presence demand the listener’s rapt attention.  She’s an intensely soulful singer, whose distinctive voice resonates with power and strength, yet retains an engaging innocence and crystalline purity.  She’s also a songwriter of extraordinary ability who can bring listeners to their feet with her buoyant rhythms or to their knees with her sometimes almost unbearably poignant and insightful lyrics.”  (Dave Higgs, Bluegrass Now)

The current Claire Lynch Band, in particular, has Claire animated and energized.  Her career has come full circle:  once again, she’s a creative powerhouse at the top of her game, performing with one of the sharpest and most exciting post-modern bluegrass bands of the current decade. [less...]

Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
With their new release Cold Spell debuting at #3 on the Billboard Bluegrass Charts, and just being named IBMA's Instrumental Group of the Year for 2014, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen can't slow down! Since Frank Solivan left the cold climes of Alaska for the bluegrass hotbed of Washington, D.C., he's built a reputation as a monster mandolinist — and become a major festival attraction with his band, Dirty Kitchen. Solivan, with banjoist Mike Munford, guitarist Chris Luquette and doghouse bassist Dan Booth, [more...] simmer a bluegrass/newgrass stew from instrumental, vocal and songwriting skills so hot, they earned a three peat 2012, 2013 and 2014 Best Bluegrass Band honors from the Washington Area Music Association as well as Mike Munford receiving the 2013 IBMA Award for Banjo Player of the Year, and Guitarist Chris Luqette taking the 2013 IBMA Momentum Award Instrumentalist of the Year. [less...] Top
The Infamous Stringdusters
When The Infamous Stringdusters first emerged eight years ago, the band was immediately branded fast-picking Nashville wunderkinds, a new-generation super group built to revive the high lonesome sound. Then came immediate accolades—IBMA awards, a chart-topping self-titled album for Sugar Hill Records and a Grammy nomination for “Best Country Instrumental” (for “Magic No. 9″ from the 2010 album Things That Fly). [more...] Incendiary chops, complete with undeniable instrumental virtuosity and heartfelt harmonies, immediately positioned the band to be longstanding bluegrass torchbearers. 

But for the five members of The Stringdusters—Andy Hall (Dobro), Andy Falco (guitar), Chris Pandolfi (banjo), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle) and Travis Book (upright bass)—reverence for traditionalism has always been only part of the equation. The group has always remained intent on fostering something bigger, more original. It’s this desire—and the combined efforts of uniquely creative minds—that has brought the quintet to its current place as multi-dimensional string explorers, mixing tight song craft from a variety of musical styles with a flare for improvisation. Armed with an exhilarating, often-unpredictable live show, the open-minded approach has certainly resonated and allowed the band to easily fit on a diverse set of stages—from Telluride and Grey Fox to Bonnaroo and High Sierra—building crowds along the way that fill some of the country’s best rock clubs.

The past year was particularly transformative, as the band members realized there was no need to go through the formulaic motions in a shaky music industry. Bolstered by the support of a loyal and dedicated grassroots fan base, The Infamous Stringdusters are constantly looking for opportunities to create new experiences. Oftentimes it happens on stage, like the recent sit-ins from Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh or jazz guitar legend John Scofield. Other times it’s through accompanying adventures, like the band’s August 2013 trip on the Middle Fork of Idaho’s Salmon River.

Following the group’s 2013 summer American Rivers Tour, which doubled as an awareness campaign for water sustainability issues in partnership with prominent outdoor industry companies including Patagonia, Klean Kanteen and Osprey Packs, the band members and select fans and friends embarked on a six-day float trip through an unspoiled wilderness area. With instruments in tow, the band played music daily, standing on the banks of the river or sitting together in campsite circles. The inspiration of natural surroundings yielded fresh songs that landed on the new album. “Middlefork” is a newgrass instrumental that conveys the mood of being free in pristine open spaces. “Where The Rivers Run Cold” features a fast progression and introspective lyrics that peak with a bold chorus about enjoying the beauty that surrounds.

The members of The Infamous Stringdusters now all reside in different locations. Hall and Pandolfi recently felt the calling of the mountains and both moved to Colorado. Guitar ace Falco returned to his roots in Long Island to be near family, while Garrett remains in Nashville, where he’s known as a prolific songwriter. Book dwells quietly in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, near the site of the band’s annual October festival The Festy Experience.

Occasional separation has proven to be a good thing. It’s important to remember these are five musicians with unique individual talents, but they all realize they have an undeniably special chemistry when they come together. That was apparent from day one. But now after years of growth—both personal and professional—the band has cast off labels and found an existence where music is about a greater connection. Through friendship, democracy, skill, passion and open minds, it’s a broader lifestyle filled with community and plenty of celebration. [less...]
Kruger Brothers
Born and raised in Europe, brothers Jens and Uwe Kruger started singing and playing instruments at a very young age. Growing up in a family where music was an important part of life, they were exposed to a wide diversity of abiding musical influences. The brothers were performing regularly by the time they were 11 and 12 years old, and they began their professional career in 1979. Joel Landsberg, a native of New York City who also had a very ex­tensive musical upbringing, joined the brothers in the early 90s and together they established [more...] the incomparable sound that the trio is known for today.

Since a formal introduction to American audiences in 1997, their remarkable facility with their instruments and unique take on the American Songbook have made the Kruger Brothers a fixture within the world of acoustic music. Although initially staying fairly close to a traditional repertoire, the group later turned to song writing and composition in order to draw more closely from their personal experiences. The result is a catalog of songs distinguished by rich detail and an insight into the delicacy and complexity of everyday life. The honesty of their writing has since become a hallmark of the trio’s work.

The Kruger Brothers personify the spirit of exploration and innovation that forms the core of the American musical tradition. Their original music, composed by Jens Kruger, is crafted around their discerning taste, and the result is unpretentious, cultivated, and delightfully fresh.

The Kruger Brothers were awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant for Music from the Spring a sym­phonic suite composed and orchestrated by Jens Kruger, which premiered in 2007. In late 2010, the Kruger Brothers premiered the Appalachian Concerto, a concerto for banjo, bass, guitar, and string quartet. In addition to their regular concert schedule they perform these pieces regularly with select symphony orchestras and string quartets throughout the country.

Through their numerous CD releases, radio and television performances, lectures, and collaborative efforts, the Kruger Brothers powerful artistic state­ment inspires and enlightens. [less...]

Kids Camp Instructors
Kate Hamre
Kate grew up in Anchorage, Alaska listening to her parents and friends play bluegrass, old tyme, and folk music. At the age of 14, she joined Bearfoot, a nationally touring band, and played festival such as Merlefest, Greyfox, Wintergrass, Rockygrass, and Telluride to name a few. As a Compass recording artist, Bearfoot cut their 4th album, called "Doors and Windows" in April 2009, which quickly rose to #1 in the Billboard Bluegrass Charts. Kate is also the director of the renowned bluegrass music education program, "Bluegrass Camps for Kids", which has taught thousands of children internationally in the last decade. This year [more...] will be her 9th year leading the Rockygrass Academy for Kids, along with 10 other camps in 2011 in various locations across the U.S. Kate also has a B.S. in Elementary Education through the University of Idaho and is now teaching in San Francisco after leaving Bearfoot last April. [less...] Top
Justin Hoffenberg
Justin Hoffenberg is originally from Illinois, but now makes his home in Boulder, CO. When he was in the fifth grade, Justin began playing the violin for school orchestra, and shortly after discovered bluegrass. Ever since, he has dedicated much of his life to the music, and is now on the road to achieving his goal of being a professional bluegrass musician. Currently the fiddle player with Long Road Home, Justin has shared the stage with such performers as the Yonder Mountain String Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, The Del McCoury Band, Hot Rize and others. After high school, Justin decided to give full time music a shot [more...] instead of going straight into college, and is still touring and producing full time. Justin draws his inspiration from a variety of sources, including the classic styles of Benny Martin and Chubby Wise, the blues and jazz of Vassar Clements and Darol Anger, and the newer sounds of Jason Carter and Stuart Duncan. [less...] Top
Amanda Kerr
Born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, Amanda Kerr grew up in a musical family. She began her fiddling career at the age of 3 with a Cracker Jack box with a ruler taped to it. A few hundred "Mississippi Hot Dogs" later, Amanda began competing in fiddle contests around the country. After winning the Alaska State Fair Grand Champion title 4 times, Amanda went on to win many more fiddle competitions across the country including the Junior Division at the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho. [more...]

Amanda began teaching private music lessons in 2003. What started out as a couple of students a week in the living room quickly turned into a full-time teaching studio. Amanda completed her Suzuki Violin Method training for Book 1 at the Anchorage Suzuki Institute in 2007 and recently completed Book 2 training at PhoenixPhest in 2014. The method that gave her the technique she uses today is now being passed on to the next generation of musicians. Besides teaching private lessons, Amanda has had a lot of experience in teaching workshops and group classes. In 2009, Amanda spent 2 years teaching violin, viola, cello and bass at the Aurora Waldorf School in Anchorage. She has also taught fiddle, guitar and even banjo at many music camps around the country. She now teaches group, private and Skype lessons out of her home in Alexandria, VA.

In addition to teaching, Amanda also enjoys performing. In Anchorage, she was a member of the well-known Bluegrass and Old-Timey dance band, High Lonesome Sound. She also played in the Anna Lynch Band, Hot Dish, Red Elk, and the Emeralds. You can hear Amanda on Anna Lynch's newly released self-titled album and on two albums released by the Emeralds in 2003 & 2004 ('The Emerald Edge' and 'Off the Edge'). Dan Booth and Amanda hope to release a duo album soon! [less...]
Eli West
Eli West is a Seattle-based multi instrumentalist and singer. He is one half of the acclaimed Cahalen Morrison & Eli West (Rockygrass 2012), an active ingredient in both Jayme Stone's Lomax project and John Reischman and the Pine Siskens, as well as a strong solo artist both regionally and internationally. Eli teaches regularly at music camps, including Targhee, Nimble Fingers, Centrum Voice Works, and others.
Leslie Ziegler
Leslie Ziegler began dedicating herself to the upright bass at a very young age. Beginning as a classical musician, she followed her passion to study and pursue a future in music at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. During her time there, she focused her studies on Music Education and performed in various orchestras and string ensembles around the Midwest. While pursuing her studies at WMU, she immersed herself in the rich local music scene of Kalamazoo, revealing a love for Bluegrass and folk music. She soon found herself playing several times a week with locally popular bands such as [more...] The Mossy Mountain Band and Who Hit John? on upright bass, fiddle and vocals. Currently, Leslie lives in Lyons, CO, and is well know along the Front Range for her versatile musical talent as well as her ability to educate and motivate a variety of students. She has performed with popular musical acts such as Spring Creek, The Jaspers, and Ashleigh Flynn, and others. By day, Leslie teaches orchestra music in the Boulder Valley School District, where she nurtures and encourages a future generation of music lovers. She is also an active member of the bands Magnolia Row and The Railsplitters. [less...] Top

Instrument Building Instructors
Michael Hornick
Michael Hornick is the builder of Shanti Guitars. After building his first guitar in 1985, he worked at Santa Cruz Guitar Company, and presently works alone in his shop in Missoula, Montana, building about twelve instruments a year. Michael has built the first place guitar prize for the nationally recognized Telluride Troubadour contest from its inception in 1991, and helped design the original mandolin and mandola kits. His love of lutherie is reflected in the high quality of craftsmanship found in each of his custom instrument. [more...] Michael has assisted students in the building of well over two hundred mandolin kits over the past seventeen years. [less...] Top
Brody Klemer
Brody Klemer
Brody has been apprenticing under Michael Hornick since March of 2012. Under Michael's tutelage, Brody is primarily assisting with the guitar building process at the RockyGrass Academy. He has also recently completed his first full size guitar under Michael's wing. Top
Gary Lunde
Gary Lundy
Gary has been assisting instrument building students off and on for many years. He has apprenticed with Dan Roberts and currently lives in Montana, where he teaches college classes. Top
Chuck Midgley
Chuck Midgley
Chuck has known Michael Hornick since 1992, owns a Shanti guitar, and has assisted Michael with the mando building class since 2002. Each year Chuck produces a mandolin while assisting other students with theirs. In his other life, he is a master mechanic building hot rods in California. Top
Dan Roberts
Dan Roberts began his instrument making career with Flatiron Banjo and Mandolin Company in Bozeman, MT. He was production manager for Gibson Montana Division before moving to California as luthier and production manager for Santa Cruz Guitar Company. Dan lived in Santa Cruz for 6 years before moving back to Montana to work for Santa Cruz out of his own shop. There he built the SCGC archtops, did new model design and some prototypes, and was the warranty repairman, service manager, and production manager with the help of an on-site [more...] shop foreman. After 17 years with SCGC Dan hung out his own shingle and is a Custom guitar maker building Roberts Guitars. Dan has been teaching the mandolin building class at Rockygrass Academy since 1996. [less...]Top
Bobby Wintringham
Bobby Wintringham is returning for his sixth year as an instructor at the Academy's mandolin building experience. He is a full time luthier building San Juan Mandolins in his shop in Dolores, Colorado.  Says Bobby, "The only thing more rewarding than building instruments is being able to share that knowledge with others." Top