I wanted everyone in listening distance to understand that this was something very special, indeed.



The four-string banjo has four strings. The five-string banjo has five. The five-string banjo has a truncated string running half way up the neck. It is called the fifth string and is rarely fretted. It creates a drone. Conventional history places the addition of the fifth string around 1855., but I saw a five-string banjo, by all rights an American instrument, in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London that dated back to the 1820s. The five-string is the banjo I'm interested in.

This article appeared in Woodstock Times in July, 2004.

An American success at the tips of your fingers

They sing to you, these guitars do. You propel them into action, sure, and your will sculpts the sound, defining the curves, the shadows, the space between and the shape of each of the notes. But you can perform these motions on a variety of instruments, and they give you back different things — the big ones boom from the bass, thesmaller bodied, light-finger models chime from the upper registers with the alternating dropped thumb of a Travis pick; the sweetness of mahogany; the hard-toned ones of flamed curly maple sides; the holy grail, Brazilian rosewood, with a book-matched Adirondack spruce top thin as a reed, a sleek ebony fingerboard, no fancy inlay but just mother-of-pearl dots marking positions, double ones at the third, seventh and twelfth frets. The music becomes pure color for the ear, the tones so round and full…and that’s even if ya can’t play.


Hooray! They did it!!!!

The Powder Kegs, a rowdy group of old-timey bluegrass players, took home the prize at NPR’s Prairie Home Companion’s “Performers In Their Twenties” contest last night. The six young adults played at a battle of bands and of course, The Powder Kegs came out victorious.
The Powder Kegs will be playing live on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion this Saturday evening, April 21st, at 6PM. The band consists of five members, three of which are current HVBA members students (Sam McDougle, Jake Hoffman, & Pete Winne). It is a “Talent in Their Twenties” competition between 6 bands, and our submission of our CD won us a spot as finalists on the show — they’re flying us out to St. Paul Minnesota to
play the live broadcast at the Fitzgerald Theatre on Saturday! We’re very excited for the show and hope you can all tune in. ALSO, people can VOTE FOR US ONLINE about half way through the show. Here’s how:

The show starts at 6PM Eastern time. Online voting will open at around 7PM Eastern time and end at 7:30PM Eastern time. The URL is: www.prairiehome.org. [The voting link won’t be on the website until “around” 7PM; if you go before it’s posted, you need to remember to refresh the page to see it].

If you want to hear the show on radio instead of streaming online you can get NPR in this area at 90.9 AM and tune in at 6PM. Thanks everyone and we’d really appreciate your support!

Sex, Drugs, and Flatt and Scruggs!

Pete Wernick (“Dr. Banjo”) brings his nationally renowned Bluegrass Jam Camp back to Copake, NY preceding the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival. The camp will be held July 16-19. The camp is open to pickers of all bluegrass instruments, of all skill levels. No jamming experience necessary! Read More

What is “Jam Camp?” In a low pressure, encouraging and fun environment, Pete shows “closet pickers” how to fit into a bluegrass jam session at their own ability level. Pete and his singer/guitar player wife, Joan, provide hands-on instruction as students jam in small groups. All participants have to know is how to tune their instrument and change smoothly between a few simple chords.

A pioneer in bluegrass teaching, Wernick taught the first weeklong bluegrass camp in 1980, and over 100 bluegrass and banjo camps since. He is also well known for his performing with bluegrass supergroup Hot Rize, with Pete Wernick & FLEXIGRASS, and in the duo Pete & Joan Wernick (“Dr. & Nurse Banjo”), which will perform at the Grey Fox Festival.

For more information and registration, visit www.DrBanjo.com.

River Station
Poughkeepsie, NY
Sunday March 25 1PM to 5PM

The Bands:
Jennifer Kara & No Brakes, Blue Plate Special, Steve Blake & The Swing Commandos,
Cold Feat, Robert Stump

The HVBA is proud to present five bands at our annual fundraiser on Sunday afternoon March 26 from 1 to 5PM. For the second year, the show will be held in River Station’s stunning upstairs dining room, which offers sweeping views of the Hudson River, bluffs and both historic bridges.

Admission is $15/$10 for HVBA members. Kids are free. Food and drink will be available from River Station’s menu, so come hungry and leave happy. We thank River Station for providing use of their dining room and hope you’ll enjoy a late lunch or early dinner there.

Jennifer Kara & No Brakes

At last year’s fundraiser, Jennifer Kara, daughter of No Brakes’ mandolinist Frank Kara, stole the show when she sat in for a few tunes with the band. This year, Jennifer gets well-deserved top billing.
No Brakes is a popular local group with a big-time sound. Their many fans have caught their gigs at The Dutchess County Fair, Bodles Opera House, and the Willow Creek and Greenville bluegrass festivals.
In addition to Jennifer, the will band feature Frank Kara (mandolin), Eric Spaulding (guitar), Gary DiGiovanni (banjo), Andy Bing (dobro, mandolin), and Rusty Boris (bass).

Blue Plate Special

Blue Plate Special plays a blend of American roots music featuring strong three part vocal harmonies, mixed with the acoustic sounds of accordion, banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and upright bass. Members include Dave Gross, Jay Friedman, Tom Wise, and Dan O’Dea.
Two of the cuts from their CD “Nowhere Fast” are included in documentaries. The PBS series “The Appalachians” featured the title cut “Nowhere Fast”. Jay’s song, Bluebird of Happiness, appeared in the documentary from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Bill Couturié, “Into the Fire,” which aired on the History Channel last October.
Whether in a concert setting, casual party atmosphere or interactive children’s workshop, Blue Plate Special offers highly engaging performances. Their sheer love of what they do, resonates with audiences of all ages.

Robert Stump

Robert Stump has been creating original music and performing covers in various local and regional country bands on and off for twenty years. His early musical experiences came from his grandfather, an old vaudeville actor musician, who loved country music and kept Robert’s guitar in tune.
Recently Robert has been making trips to Nashville to try and find a home for some of his songs. Playing open mics such as the famous Bluebird Café and meeting and learning from other songwriters has helped him raise the bar on his compositions.

Lately, he has been writing a lot of songs about vanishing America. The concept for the Americana Project started to reveal itself. North Country Public Radio will be recording a session of this material in July.


Steve Blake and The Swing Commandos

To say the least The Swing Commandos are eclectic. They move seamlessly from Swing, Standards, Jazz, Country, Rock, Blues, and, on occasion, even a little Latin.
Steve Blake was an original member of “Dickie Doo & the Don’ts”. In 1958 he had the number 28 billboard hit in the USA with “Click Clack.” Steve has entertained in Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Canada, and Alaska as well as more than 40 other states in the USA. He plays bass, guitar, and handles most of the vocals.

Joe Ricciardi is an extraordinary guitarist. He plays in the style of the great Chet Atkins as he fuses a song’s rhythm and melody together. Joe was recently inducted into the Connecticut Country Music Hall of Fame.

Ed Schaffer has been playing for over 40 years. His musical background began as a guitarist in a rock band during his undergraduate studies at Cornell University in NY. His transition to the mandolin led him to embrace swing, jazz and bluegrass.

Doug Mathewson (dobro and vocals) grew up listening to country/western, swing and standards. He was a jazz drummer and a rhythm guitarist until four years ago when he started playing the dobro.

Bill Petkanas, Guitar, Mandolin, Bass and Vocals. Bill is a versatile musician flowing easily from standards to bluegrass.


Cold Feat

Cold Feat is a traditional acoustic Bluegrass band from the mid-Hudson Valley region of New York. They promote the acoustic sound and play a variety of old favorites covering the repertoire of Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, traditional fiddle tunes and a few original compositions thrown in for good measure.
The Band consists of Dave Angell (mandolin) Dave Cobb (guitar), Mary DeBerry (bass), and Roy Coates (banjo).

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