Bluegrass: Folk Music in Overdrive

The HVBA has a very simple Mission Statement and here it is:

The Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association — or HVBA — was founded in 1994 to knit together the bluegrass community of musicians and fans.

The HVBA is chartered as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit arts and educational organization, we promote bluegrass and related acoustic music in the Hudson Valley through jam sessions, concerts, and open mics in conjunction with other not-for-profit organizations.

In accordance with our mission, we have reached out to the community with monthly concerts featuring mostly local musicians and with two large concerts each year spotlighting nationally recognized bands and individuals.

We have also had a yearly presence at “Bluegrass Between the Bridges,” which was one of many organizations sponsored by the Bardavon for many years at the foot of Main Street in Poughkeepsie. When that project was discontinued, we began a presence at the Arlington Street Festival every Fall.

Our efforts have also educational and have spanned many years and age groups. You may view most of these projects on our website.

This year we are continuing to fulfill our mission by reaching out to the The Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI) at Vassar College with a six-week program entitled “Bluegrass: Folk Music in Overdrive.”

Led by Andy Bing, these classes will focus mostly on the traditional bluegrass instruments, their history and their place in a bluegrass band. Each week will include a timeline of bluegrass music by Andy and live demonstrations of each instruments by a very able group of musicians.

Bios of Presenters

Week One – Mando:
Tara Linhardt is  an award winning multi-instrumentalist originally from Virginia who performs on mandolin and guitar as her main instruments and also teaches mandolin, guitar, and ukulele. She has won many awards for her skills as an instrumentalist and some for songwriting. She has taken first place in such contests as The Mt. Airy Fiddler’s Convention, the Maury River Fiddler’s Convention, Watermelon Park Festival, and The Deer Creek Fiddler’s Convention just to name a few.  She also has been nominated in multiple years for Washington DC bluegrass instrumentalist of the year. She performs in her Bluegrass, Swing Jazz, Nepali, and Himalayan-Appalachian bands, as well as some others. She has performed at National Geographic, The Smithsonian Folklike Festival, The Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, The 9:30 Club, and varieties of other venues, music festivals, and universities.
She does photography and video projects and  is a founding and managing member of The Mountain Music Project, a non-profit which works with preservation, promotion and education about traditional music throughout the world, with its largest focus on the Appalachian areas of the United States and the traditional music of the Nepali Himalaya. She has presented at various venues and Universities such as National Geographic, the Rubin Museum, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Washington, DC, American University, and the Asia Society to name a few.
She has also organized Bluegrass Festivals and music camps as well as events like her  the breaking of the Guinness Book World’s Record for the Largest Mandolin Ensemble in the history of the World. “Tara and the Galax Fiddler’s Convention Mandolin Ensemble” broke the record with 389 mandolins. 

Week Two – Guitar:
Keith Edwards has been playing his unique brand of bluegrass guitar since he was twelve years old. Raised in the company of Bluegrass musicians on a dairy farm in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, it was only natural for Keith to spend countless childhood hours “parkin’ lot picking” at Bluegrass festivals where he honed his style of playing.

Keith has had the opportunity to play with several groups including South Wind, Chestnut Creek, Steve Toth and Rippling River, Horse Country, the Dick Smith-Mike O’Reilly Band, Straight Drive, Byron Berline and Goldrush, The Feinberg Brothers, Redwood Hill and Zink and Company. He has been featured on several recording projects alongside such musicians as David Grisman, Jon Sholle, Tony Trischka, Andy Statman and Kenny Kosek.

Week Three – Fiddle:
Ambrose Verdibello lives in Millbrook, NY and plays several string instruments (fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, steel guitar) in a variety of styles including blues, bluegrass, old time, Cajun, Irish traditional, early jazz and western swing. He teaches traditional music styles on fiddle, guitar and banjo and regularly plays for contra dances in the Hudson Valley and nearby.

Ambrose is the executive director of the Field Recorders’ Collective, an organization which produces CDs from rare non-commercially available field recordings of Appalachian traditional music. He is also a regular accompanist and teacher for the youth music ensemble, The Strawberry Hill Fiddlers. For the last seven years he has been a judge at the fiddle contest held at the annual Dutchess County Fair. Last year he won the fiddle contest at the inaugural Northeast Fiddlers’ Convention at Hancock Shaker Village, sponsored by the Old Tone festival.

Week Four – Banjo:
Dick Bowden hails originally from the State of Maine where he began playing guitar at age 8.  After seeing Flatt & Scruggs in person in 1964 and having his picture taken with Earl Scruggs, he started on banjo at age 11.  By age 15 Dick began playing banjo in the Bowden Family band, which morphed into the Fort Knox Volunteers bluegrass band in time for the rise of bluegrass festivals in New York and New England in the 1970s.  In the 1980s Dick played banjo in the Boston-based Berkshire Mountain Boys, and was the bench banjo player for Joe Val’s New England Bluegrass Boys, also of Boston.  Moving to Dutchess County NY in 1989, Dick switched back to guitar for a 10+ year run as half of The Case Brothers – Martin & Gibson.  Moving to Connecticut in the late 1990s Dick led The Old Time Bluegrass Singers playing mostly guitar but a little banjo.  After the Old Time Bluegrass Singers wrapped up, Dick began producing Dick Bowden’s Flying Circus bluegrass band.   He moved to the Catskills in Ulster County NY in 2017.   Dick has written for Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, and Bluegrass Today and Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association websites.   For over 10 years Dick has been an instructor at Banjo Camp North in Charlton Mass.   Dick has performed on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, at bluegrass festivals and concerts in all the northeastern states, and from Mississippi to the Canadian Maritimes.   He is extremely interested in the history of the banjo, and of country and bluegrass music.

Week Five – Dobro/Bass:
Andy Bing (dobro) has been a bluegrass fan since early childhood, when his parents noticed that he really liked the one record in their collection that featured the five-string banjo. Bill Monroe and the Osborne Brothers were early favorites. He began performing music in his teens and studied the dobro guitar in the Washington D.C. area with Seldom Scene dobro legend Mike Auldridge. After relocating to Ulster County NY, he played dobro and mandolin with several area bluegrass bands, including No Brakes, the Wickers Creek Band, CB Smith, and Burnt Hills Bluegrass. Following a move to Castleton on Hudson, he joined Washington County Line Bluegrass, which won the 2011 band contest at the Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival in Vermont. With these bands he has performed at many bluegrass festivals in New York and New England, including Jenny Brook, Noppet Hill, Southern Tier, and Plattsburgh. He also played Irish folk music for 25 years with a band based in the Binghamton area.  He has presented and/or performed with the dobro and mandolin at prior classes sponsored by the Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association.

David Gandin (bass) is a Hudson Valley resident who has been playing upright bass in the New York area for the past 15 years, with such acts as the Demolition String Band, the Brooklyn Corndodgers, Straight Drive, Sheriff Bob and the Goodtimers and Long Steel Rail.  He also occasionally receives calls to play with regional and nationally touring bands where he has shared the stage with the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, John Herald, Leigh Gibson and others.  He is a big believer that all bluegrass bands should not sound the same and is not afraid to shake things up on the bass if necessary.  Rumor has it that he has also been sighted in uniform and at full attention as a member of “Dick Bowden’s Flying Circus.” 

Week Six – Harmony/Entire Band Performance:
Gary DiGiovanni Gary started learning banjo at the age of 18, when he became aware of folksy players like Pete Seeger.  Then he got hooked on the bluegrass style after hearing Allen Shelton and, of course, Earl Scruggs.  It was too late before he realized playing banjo was not a good way to pick up girls.  Over the years, Gary has been with a number of groups in New Jersey and New York.  His longest stint has been with No Brakes, which has achieved some notoriety in the Mid-Hudson Valley region. 


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