2017 Festival Performers

The Fretless

The Fretless is a new approach to folk music that is quickly gaining high acclaim around the world.  This unique band is taking string music to fascinating places as it transforms fiddle tunes and folk melodies into intricate, beautiful, high-energy arrangements.

With the release of their debut album Waterbound in early 2012, which features their fresh styles, compositions, as well as collaborations with singers Ruth Moody and Norah Rendell, the quartet grabbed the attention of critics and fans across many genres.  This recording fueled a busy summer of festivals across Canada, a month long tour of Germany in the fall, and world wide sales and radio play. The year was capped with 3 awards, bringing the album, and the band further into the public eye; Instrumental Album of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards, and at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, the Fretless walked away with both Ensemble of the year, and Instrumental Group of the Year.

Musically, the goals of the group are to expand the rhythmic, harmonic and structured arrangement style of the many folk genres they play using only string instruments. There are countless fiddle styles across Canada and around the globe that have been stagnating over time, and The Fretless is working to incorporate a new approach and a new audience. As a band, all four members have come from very different traditional and contemporary backgrounds, and are influenced by a vast array of art. However they are unified in their goal to continually develop their amalgamated sound in order to push traditional music as far as possible.

The Fretless is an innovation in music that must be heard.  They harbor all the energy of fiddle tunes, while shattering all expectations in writing, creativity and performance.  www.thefretless.com


Bing Futch

With a big smile and wild dreadlocks, Bing Futch kicks off every performance with a buoyant energy that is inviting and energizing.  Using Appalachian mountain dulcimer, Native American flute, ukulele, drums and electronic effects, he deftly navigates the varied waters of traditional and modern Americana with passion, wit and a genuinely huge heart for sharing music with a crowd.

Known for his musical shape-shifting, Futch switches the channels on style with every new song, sung in a limber tenor voice and woven together with the other instruments. His casual way with any audience, coupled with a fierce originality on the lesser known mountain dulcimer, makes each show a one-of-a-kind and good-timing romp.

As a nationally touring solo performer he's headlined at such events as The Florida Folk Festival, Old Songs Festival, The Big Muddy, Kentucky Music Weekend and Common Ground On The Hill.

With a strong love for traditional music, Futch has enjoyed a career on both sides of the folk and rock divide, first as guitarist for CCM post-punkers Crazed Bunnyz in 1986 and much later in 1999 as co-founder of Mohave on mountain dulcimer.  That band, with bassist Mike Burney and drummer McGyver, took off after their debut performance at the House of Blues at Walt Disney World and over the course of the next seven years would become a crowd favorite and open for the likes of Molly Hatchet, St. Somewhere and The Crests.

In 2006, Futch began performing solo at county fairs and festivals across the country, along the way opening for Grammy-award winning act The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Grammy-award nominated artists Sam & Ruby, bluesman Scott Ainslie and sharing the stage with Grammy-award nominated act The Dixie Beeliners among others.

He has recorded a number of albums and published several music-education books including the best-selling "Blues Method For Mountain Dulcimer 101." His love for blues music has led him to teach workshops on playing Delta blues on the mountain dulcimer all across the country as well as writing articles on the subject in Mel Bay's Dulcimer Sessions and Dulcimer Players News. As a member of the Orange Blossom Blues Society, he helps with the organization's mission of presenting, preserving and promoting the blues by participating in the "Blues In The Schools" program in central Florida. In 2014, Bing won the "Solo Artist" award in the Central Florida Blues Challenge competition, earning a coveted entry into the 2015 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN. Taking the mountain dulcimer where it had never gone before, Bing competed in the quarterfinals and advanced to the semifinals, gaining new notice and fans for himself and this unique instrument. Several months later, Bing competed in the 2015 Central Florida Blues Challenge and won the Solo/Duo Award for the second year in a row, which led him back to Memphis to compete in the 2016 International Blues Challenge.  There, he advanced all the way to the finals and was given the award for "Best Guitarist" in the solo-duo category, despite competing solely on the mountain dulcimer.

Futch's music has been featured in film and video productions, video game soundtracks and exhibits at the Orlando Museum of Art.  He was composer and musical director for "The Jungle Book: A Musical Adaptation" which ran for 66 shows at Stage Left Theater in Orlando, Florida.  He also contributed music to the soundtrack of The Castle of Miracles at Give Kids The World Village in Kissimmee, Florida.

Futch can often be found teaching music workshops at various festivals and colleges, presenting music education programs at schools and libraries and producing episodes of his video podcast "Dulcimerica" which has been viewed by over a million people worldwide and is currently in its eighth season. He is also the host of "Rhythm Roots", an hour long video program on DittyTV, The Americana Music Network. 

In traveling over 30,000 miles a year, Futch's home away from home is a 26 foot long Fleetwood Itasca Ranger that has been dubbed "Imua."  While off the road, he lives in Orlando, Florida with his wife, Jae, and a menagerie of critters. www.bingfutch.com 


Ken and Brad Kolodner

The dynamic father-son duo Ken & Brad Kolodner weave together a captivating soundscape on hammered dulcimer, banjo and fiddles pushing the boundaries of the Old-Time tradition into uncharted territory. Regarded as one of the most influential hammered dulcimer players and Old-Time fiddlers in North America, Baltimore’s Ken Kolodner has joined forces with his son Brad Kolodner, a rising star in the clawhammer banjo world. Together, they infuse their own brand of driving, innovative, tasteful and unique interpretations of traditional and original fiddle tunes and songs. They perform tight and musical arrangements of original and traditional old-time music with a “creative curiosity that lets all listeners know that a passion for traditional music yet thrives in every generation.” In concert, they regularly perform as a trio with bassist Alex Lacquement who locks everything together with his commanding and tasteful choices. They also perform on occasion with multi-instrumentalist Rachel Eddy (fiddle, banjo, guitar and vocals), a former member of the Old-Time supergroup Uncle Earl.

Ken’s musical journey began in the 1980’s when he taught himself to play the fiddle. The hammered dulcimer followed shortly thereafter. He is a founding member of the world folk music trio Helicon with Chris Norman and Robin Bullock. Born in 1990, Brad grew up around his father’s music. It was only a matter of time before he picked up an instrument. In the summer of 2007, Brad took an introductory banjo class at a music camp in Maine. He was instantly hooked. Ken & Brad initially expected they would focus primarily on the fiddle and banjo combination, the classic pairing in Old-Time music. They experimented with the hammered dulcimer and banjo pairing and recognized they were on the edge of a musical breakthrough. Ken & Brad are locked in from the second the mallet hits and the nail strikes the strings. They have a creative bond and danceable groove that is unmistakable.

The duo started performing regularly in 2009. Two years later, they released their first recording, Otter Creek, which became the most played instrumental recording on the international Folk-DJ Radio charts. Brad’s original composition “Otter Creek” was the most played instrumental on the charts. Through performance and on the strength of Brad’s first recording, the recently named Strathmore Hall Artist In Resident and WAMU Bluegrass Country DJ has rapidly gained national recognition for his delicate touch and writing. Ken & Brad released Skipping Rocks, their second album, in September 2013. Their latest project “is both technically impressive and musically tasteful, a lovely exploration of both tradition and creativity (and of a warm musical relationship)." - Rick Anderson, CD Hotlist. Skipping Rocks debuted at #4 on the Folk-DJ Charts and in the top 20 on the Roots Music Charts.

"This is old time music played in the purest way: at home, with family, with heart, and with a creative curiosity that lets all listeners know that a passion for traditional music yet thrives in every generation." -- Dulcimer Player News April 2011

Wisconsin DJ Mark Pedersen writes: “Ken is regarded as one of the most accomplished hammered dulcimer players performing today. While not easy to describe, Otter Creek is all instrumental of traditional Appalachian music with hammered dulcimer, fiddle and banjo. What makes this recording special is thatKen collaborates with his son Brad who plays the banjo and banjola. It is what folk music is all about in my opinion.” Dulcimer Player News writes “this is old time music played in the purest way: at home, with family, with heart, and with a creative curiosity that lets all listeners know that a passion for traditional music yet thrives in every generation.” A recent review by Sing Out! writes "Ken Kolodner is a world class multi-instrumentalist...Otter Creek is a joyous recording featuring two fine musicians who playing excellently. There must be something special to that father-son thing." The Old Time Herald writes: “father and son have reached that musical telepathy that family members can sometimes achieve.”

Among Ken Kolodner’s many credits are a featured solo in an Emmy-nominated CBS-TV Christmas special, over a dozen recordings with sales well over 150,000, an “Indie” winner for Best Seasonal Recording in 1999, a #1 World Music title (Walking Stones) and bestseller for BMG (with over 55,000 copies sold), and numerous books and instructional recordings (including a book/CD on old-time fiddling for Mel Bay and two recent books on arranging for the hammered dulcimer, also for Mel Bay). Ken toured with the world music trio Helicon for over a decade and continued to tour as a soloist. He was the first and remains the only U.S. player to be invited to play at the International Hackbrett Festival in Germany along with the world’s best players. His extensive repertoire of thousands of pieces includes the traditional music from over 30 countries on all continents. Ken has performed in every state in the U.S. and teaches locally in Baltimore with over 75 fiddle and hammered dulcimer students. His three week Sandbridge Dulcimer Retreats are attended by up to 60 players from all over the U.S. and beyond (www.sandbridgedulcimer.com). Music was not always in Ken’s vision. Kolodner graduated from Lawrence University in 1976 and a few years later pursued a career in public health, working on a PhD in epidemiology at The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. While in grad school, he taught himself first to play the fiddle by listening to recordings. A few years later, he discovered the hammered dulcimer and quickly became recognized among a handful of the best in the U.S. Since completing his PhD at Hopkins, he has worked primarily as a musician (touring as many as 140 dates a year) but has continued to consult in public health, and has published widely with over 100 articles in medical journals.

Brad didn’t start playing banjo until age 17 when he attended a music camp where his father was teaching. After just two years, Brad won the 2010 Takoma Park Old-Time Banjo festival winning a Kevin Enoch banjo and a performance spot at The Birchmere, sharing the stage with banjo legend Tony Trischka, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, Adam Hurt and other notable banjo players. In 2012, Brad won first place in Old-Time Banjo at the prestigious Lowell Fiddle and Banjo Contest. In the summer of 2013, Brad won the inaugural Banjo Hangout National Clawhammer Banjo contest. His version of “Boatman” was the highest rated submission out of all 69 entrants. Most recently, Brad was a finalist at the prestigious Appalachian String Band Festival (Clifftop) for Old-Time Banjo. Brad guest-recorded on Out of the Wood, a 2011 release by Elke Baker (a Scottish National Fiddle Champion) and his father. Brad graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Television/Radio in 2012. In the summer of 2013, Brad signed on as the host of “The Brad Kolodner Show” a weekly bluegrass show on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, a 24/7 bluegrass radio station in Washington D.C. Brad has amassed a stable of over 30 banjo students in Baltimore. He has added fiddle, guitar and vocals to his repertoire.

In addition to performing and teaching, Ken and Brad are avid supporters and developers of the Old- Time community in Baltimore. In the spring of 2013, Ken and Brad founded the wildly popular Baltimore Old Time Jam, a bi-weekly gathering of dozens of musicians and Old-Time music fans at Liam Flynn’s Ale House in the heart of Baltimore City. In November 2013, Brad spearheaded the launch of the bi-monthly Baltimore Square Dance at Mobtown Ballroom. The first two dances were packed with over 200 people at each dance.  www.kenandbrad.com


Charm City Junction

Baltimore-based roots group Charm City Junction puts a new spin on old-timey music, carrying the torch of fast-picking bluegrass and toe-tapping Celtic music. Featuring fiddle, clawhammer banjo, the button accordion and upright bass, this quartet isn’t afraid to take roots music to new places — but always with an eye on tradition.From dance inducing Old Time rhythms and foot stomping Irish melodies to hard-driving Bluegrass, Baltimore-based Charm City Junction creates a fresh soundscape that keeps listeners on the edge of their seats wondering where they'll go next. The band is comprised of four of the most talented and promising young acoustic roots musicians in the country: Patrick McAvinue on fiddle, Brad Kolodner on clawhammer banjo, Sean McComiskey on button accordion and Alex Lacquement on upright bass. Drawing from separate musical backgrounds, the four members have found a common ground on which to develop their unique approach. Patrick McAvinue, one of the most in-demand and highly respected bluegrass fiddlers in the country, takes charge with his virtuosic, powerful and musical approach to the fiddle. Clawhammer banjo wizard Brad Kolodner adds his playful, driving, melodic and groovy Old-Time touch. Sean McComiskey, an incredibly talented Irish button accordion player, soars through the tunes and fills the gaps with his soulful playing. The versatile bassist Alex Lacquement drives the train, locking everything together with his commanding and tasteful choices. Charm City Junction embodies the essence of what acoustic roots music is all about, a shared and burning passion for blazing new trails while respecting the tradition. They are torchbearers with a clear message that the future of acoustic music is in good hands. They released their debut album on Patuxent Records in the fall of 2015. The album hit as high as #15 on the Folk-DJ Radio Charts.  www.charmcityjunction.com


Cathy Barton & Dave Para

Children of the folk revival, both Dave and Cathy can credit older sisters with sparking their interest in folk music in the early 1960s, during what Martin Mull referred to as the Folk Scare. While echoes of those folksingers can still be traced in their music, the couple’s life in rural Missouri has focused their interest.  The youngest of three children in a military family, Cathy Barton lived many places before coming to Columbia, Mo. in 1967 and attended junior high, high school and college there. It was just earlier in Hawaii when she became interested in folk music and took well to the ukulele classes in her school. Her visits to the Polynesian Cultural Center also began a life-long appreciation for native culture.  While in high school she learned to play the banjo from Lee Ruth and his brother, Jim, and in her senior year won a school-wide talent show at Hickman High school playing “Dueling Banjos.” Her humanities teachers at Stephens College encouraged her interest in folklore, and she received a master’s degree at Western Kentucky University. Cathy also attended workshops at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Ark., and worked there with folklorist Bill McNeil, and toured some with Jimmy Driftwood and the Rackensack Folklore Society.  She also met Ramona Jones there and worked with her for some summers at her gift shop and dinner theater.Her friendship with Ramona took her to Nashville where she met Roy Acuff and his band members, including “Bashful Brother Oswald” Pete Kirby and fiddle legend Howdy Forrester. Cathy performed on the “Grand Ol Opry” and “Nashville Now” with Ramona a few times, but it was the jam sessions with the legendary country music old-time musicians that she enjoyed most.

A recognized master of the frailing banjo style Cathy has twice won the Tennessee Old-Time Banjo Championship, and Acuff often called her his “favorite banjo player,” because her playing reminded him of earlier days of country music.
Cathy can also be credited for some of the growing interest in the hammered dulcimer in the Midwest. In the mid-1970s, she was one of the first to play it at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kan., providing a number of current players with their first hearing of the instrument.  Dave Para took his sister-in-law’s guitar to classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music in his hometown of Chicago and rekindled his childhood interest in folk music. While attending college in Cathy’s hometown of Columbia, Mo., Dave lived at and helped manage the Chez Coffeehouse, a focal point of folk music in Central Missouri for 30 years. There he started accompanying several fiddlers, like master and champion Taylor McBaine, and began playing in local string bands like the Little Dixie Hoss-Hair Pullers, developing a distinctive back-up guitar style; and he met Cathy there, as well.

Dave studied journalism at the University of Missouri; and after marrying Cathy in 1979, he worked at newspaper jobs in Western Kentucky and Central Missouri, the last as editor of the Boonville Daily News. The couple remained in Boonville after Dave left the paper to pursue his life in minstrelsy with Cathy.  Dave and Cathy met Bob Dyer at the Chez Coffeehouse in the 1970s, and when they moved to Boonville in 1981 they lived in a duplex next door to Bob for seven years. Dave and Cathy were the first to record some of Bob’s songs and induced him to record albums of his own. In 1986, they first collaborated for a school assembly program for Young Audiences in Kansas City on Missouri artists and musicians and subsequently concertised together on occasion. They started the Big Muddy Folk Festival in 1991 and a few years later produced two albums of Civil War music from Trans-Mississippi West. These albums gained the trio wide respect among Civil War historians in the region and put them in demand for seminars and performances at national parks, re-enactments and historical meetings throughout the state, including the third funeral for Jesse James, in 1995.  With Paul and Win Grace, the trio formed the Discovery String Band, and produced a significant album of music related to the Lewis and Clark journey in 2003 in time for the commemoration of that event in 2004-2006. The band toured up the Missouri River valley mostly in 2004 in conjunction with national and local events. Bob passed in 2007 and Dave and Cathy continue to be inspired by his friendship and creativity.  They met Ed Trickett at Winfield after persuading that festival’s organizer to hire him. Ed’s music pervaded the numerous albums from Folk-Legacy Records that Cathy lent Dave when they first met.  Ed invited Cathy and Dave to tour with him in the Northeast in 1981 and introduced them to Sandy and Caroline Paton at Folk Legacy in Sharon, Conn. They recorded with Ed and did three albums for the company that treasures recordings of traditional artists as well as contemporary interpreters with an established affection for the tradition. The label inspired them to “put the song before the singer,” mindful that they are caretakers of a long musical heritage, and to collect music in their own home region. Missouri is a social and geographic meeting place, and its rich cultural diversity continues to inform Dave and Cathy’s music and broaden their repertoire.

In 1996, Dave and Cathy were invited as guest performers aboard the legendary Delta Queen steamboat, and for 13 years returned as guests for cruise themes such as the Civil War, music of the rivers, American folklife and Lewis and Clark aboard the Mississippi Queen, the American Queen, the Queen of the West and Empress of the North.  They joined a close-knit group of passengers, crew and entertainers and historians with years of dedication to the boats’ preservation and enjoyment of that singular life on the river. Dave and Cathy have also appeared on boats of other companies like American Cruise Lines, America West, Blount Small Ships and the River Explorer Barge.

In their mission to introduce new audiences to folk music, Dave and Cathy participated in the artists-in-education program for the Missouri Arts Council since the early 1980s and work with Young Audiences, Inc., of Kansas City. They have done folk arts residencies and assembly programs in schools across the state. In addition to the Big Muddy Folk Festival, they produced a smaller festival in historic Arrow Rock, Mo., the Boone’s Lick Country Folk Festival for 20 years.  Dave and Cathy continue to live in Boonville in a Greek-revival house that was built in 1859 by one of the town’s early photographers. Among other interests, Cathy continues her lifelong fascination and study of Native American culture, and Dave enjoys home brewing.  www.bartonpara.com


Spencer & Rains

Tricia Spencer is a Kansas fiddler who grew up learning the tradition of old time music from her Grandparents.  At an early age, she was perched up on some stage tapping her foot to the beat of fiddles, banjos, mandolins and guitars.  While growing up, her free time was spent traveling to festivals and fiddling contests throughout the Midwest where she learned from the likes of Pete McMahan, Cyril Stinnet, Lymon Enloe, Dwight Lamb, Amos Chase, and Lucy Pierce. Tricia is multi-instrumentalist who has studied with some of the great masters and is highly sought after as a performer, dance fiddler, and instructor.

Howard Rains is a native Texas artist and a fourth generation fiddler (or “VY-lin,” as his grandfather would say) from a musical and artistic family whose two obsessions are painting and playing the archaic style of fiddling of his home state. Howard plays rare, old tunes learned from friends, family, mentors, and old recordings. As much known for his painting as his fiddling, Howard has painted many of the great old time musicians, both living and gone.

Together, Spencer & Rains have performed and taught nationally and internationally, preserving and building upon the traditions of their region. The husband and wife duo are known for their twin fiddle harmony, which is a product of the influence of midwestern Scandinavian fiddlers Tricia heard as a child.  At the same time,  Howard’s distinct repertoire reintroduces listeners to the pre-contest styles of Texas fiddling. That same sense of harmony is in their vocals, as well, which they pull from all manner of American folk music. Both multi-instrumentalists, they are steeped in tradition and are dedicated to the preservation, performance, and teaching of old time music. Tricia and Howard will provide the music for the contra dance with Tamara Loewenthal calling. www.spencerandrains.com


Roger Netherton & Friends

Roger Netherton taught himself to play fiddle at age 11, and within a year, he found his musical home in the old-time tradition of Missouri, Illinois, and Appalachia. Now, 10 years later, he is well known for his powerful, energetic style and prize-winning performances at national, regional, and local fiddle competitions, notably the prestigious Old Time Fiddle Championship at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas, where he won first place in 2016. Old-time music remains one of his central interests, even as he explores many other musical styles, ranging from swing to blues. He plays regularly with a wide variety of bands and accompanists within and beyond his home of St. Louis, and has performed at events such as the Looking Glass Music and Dance Festival (Michigan), the Jackpine Jamboree (Wisconsin), the Festival of the Rivers (West Virginia), the Big Muddy Festival (Missouri), and the Tajimi Mountain Time Festival (Japan), as well as for countless contra and square dances in cities from Chicago to Louisville. He and his fiddle also make frequent guest appearances for various bands’ stage sets and CDs. When he’s not performing at a dance hall, restaurant, or festival stage, he’s probably jamming at a local pub, on a neighborhood street, or in someone’s living room. In his spare time, he’s finishing undergraduate degrees in statistics and mathematics at the University of Missouri.
For his appearance at the Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering, Roger has assembled an all-star ensemble of young old-time performers: banjo and dulcimer champion Hunter Walker from West Virginia; international multi-instrumentalist Rachel Eddy, and bass builder and player Nick Lloyd of Ohio.


Kountry Kernals

The Kountry Kernals from Battle Ground traditionally open each Indiana Fiddlers' Gathering. Currently the band is made up of Jim Withers, Walt Wilson, Kevin Brown, Chuck Klinker and John Watson. The band plays old-time country music as it was heard in the 1920s. Many of its former members have performed at most every Gathering since its inception in 1973.


Bahler's "Golden Age" Band

Bahler's "Golden Age" Band hail from Bennett's Switch, Indiana and are fronted by Brad Bahler on mandolin/banjo, John Bahler (guitar, mandolin), Karen Bahler (upright bass), David Bahler (fiddle, banjo) and Alec Hurtubise (banjo). They play music from the "Golden Age" of rural music at the roots of Bluegrass, Brother Duets, Early Country music, Western Swing and Gospel with a special emphasis on vocal harmony and "working the microphone" with their instruments. It's an entertaining show that takes the audience through a nice variety of traditional music. Bahler's "Golden Age" Band will also be featured at Sunday morning's Gospel Concert at 10am, which often features a segment on Sacred Harp Singing.  Bahler's Golden Age Band on Facebook


Tamara Loewenthal

Tamara Loewenthal has been performing and teaching various styles of American and Celtic step dance for over 30 years. Growing up in the Appalachian foothills of southwestern Pennsylvania, Tamara fell in love with clogging as a young adult and has been flatfooting ever since. A founding member of the nationally acclaimed dance company Rhythm in Shoes, she has toured across the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Japan. She has won awards for her clogging, including a blue ribbon at the Mt. Airy, NC, Fiddler's Convention. Tamara is also an accomplished French Canadian step dancer and, in 1999, received a prestigious Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Fellowship to study with masters in this field. Tamara is much in demand for her work with children of all ages and works extensively with Arts For Learning (formerly Young Audiences of Indiana) and the Ohio Arts Council's Arts Learning program. She has produced a CD and booklet, Dance Together Children! , of long-playing dance tunes and play party games, as well as a Square Dance booklet, published in 2016, entitled Square 'Em Up!   She regularly calls square and contra dances for groups around the country and teaches step dance classes in Bloomington, and workshops wherever she goes.  Tamara's passion for dance has led her to many different communities, and she is much beloved for the clarity of her calling and teaching.  Tamara will lead and call the Square Dance on Saturday night.  http://www.fiddlenfeet.com/


Mark Lyons

Popular Children's performer Mark Lyons from Chicago will return for our 10am Saturday Morning Children's Concert at the main stage.   He'll have the kids (and adults) singing, jumping and dancing!