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Taylor Pfeiffer

FEATURED ARTIST - FEBRUARY 2017

Inspired to play Banjo at the age of seven after hearing the 1960's TV Series Skippy, Sixteen-year-old Taylor Pfeiffer has been playing the five-string banjo for nine years. At the age of ten, Taylor taught herself to yodel, after listening to her favourite yodellers. Taylor has performed on stage with Australian Country Music Golden Guitar award winners Lee Kernaghan (2014 Tamworth, 2013 Tamworth & Urban CMF Qld), Troy Cassar-Daley (2016 Tamworth & 2012 Barossa Valley), Kasey Chambers, Adam Harvey, The Davidson Brothers, Pete Denahy and opened shows for Amber Lawrence & Bill Chambers. Hailing from Adelaide, South Australia, Taylor regularly performs country and bluegrass music throughout Australia and credits include major festivals Tamworth Country Music Festival (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013), 50th National Folk Festival in Canberra ACT (2016), The Gympie Muster (2014) and The Urban Country Music Festival (2014).

Taylor has appeared on several TV Shows throughout Australia including ABC1 TV Show Spicks & Specks (2014 Episode 8), Channel 9 The Today Show (2015), Channel 7 Sunrise and Weekend Sunrise (2014), Channel 44 Our Time(2014), ABC1 Behind The News (2013) and she was personally invited to perform for Nashville’s Music City Roots Show (Filmed in Tamworth 2013). Taylor has had numerous in-studio radio interviews with popular 891ABC Adelaide presenters Peter Goers & Sonya Feldhoff, Ian McNamara (Macca) and has interviewed Lee Kernaghan for ABC’s Saturday Night Country.

Taylor was awarded the 2015 Australian Country Music People’s Choice Awards – Most Promising Future Star at a special presentation at Capitol Theatre, Tamworth NSW.

June 2016 Taylor released her first Album Five Strings Attached, showcasing her abilities as a professional banjo player and musician. Recorded at Red Brick Recording Studio and Produced by Anthony Stewart, Taylor not only plays banjo but also plays drums on the album. Five Strings Attached provides great variety for the listener with classic banjo instrumentals, vocals, yodelling and the first release from the album Not This Time Around, an original by Taylor.

Taylor’s previous EP You Were The Stranger, featuring 5 Original tracks was Produced by Bill Chambers and Co-Produced by Taylor. She was a Top 5 Songwriter Finalist for songs; You Were There Stranger and Toughen Up Princess in the Tamworth Songwriters Awards and Policeman Yodel won the Judges Award at the Canberra Country Music Songwriters Awards and won 3rd Place in the ACMF Songwriting Awards. Recently Taylor was awarded 2nd Place in the ASME Young Composers Award – Pop Section for her latest composition.

You Were The Stranger, Taylor’s first single reached Number 21 on the official Country Music Top 40 Radio Charts and Toughen Up Princess reached Number 18. At just fifteen years of age, Taylor’s video Toughen Up Princess was announced the Winner of the Australian Independent Music Video Awards at a special presentation in Canberra and is regularly aired on Foxtel, Country Music Channel. Check it out on youtube.com

Banjo is Taylor’s first instrument, but she’s becoming well known as a Multi-Instrumentalist. Taylor began playing Drums at the age of six, and has been awarded a Five-year Music Scholarship at a prestigious school in Adelaide. Taylor also plays guitar.

Taylor was awarded the 2013 South Australian Junior Champion of Champions and is a graduate from the 2011, 2012 and 2014 CMAA Academy of Country Music Junior Course in Tamworth.

Taylor is proudly sponsored by Australian company Bellbird Banjos and USA Company D’Addario Strings.

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Danny Barnes

FEATURED ARTIST - APRIL 2016
Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo & Bluegrass Winner 2015

I’ve been at this a pretty long time. The main thing I use to get my ideas across has been the banjo, it has an unusual sound and is capable of a wide range of expression. However, it isn’t very developed yet, in terms of what is being done with it in a current macro sense. It’s untapped.

A lot of what I do was informed by punk rock and dub music from the 70’s, I bought those records when they were new, thus starting a lifelong obsession of buying records. I received a degree from the University of Texas [Austin] in audio production, and loved the classes there about the history of audio and recorded music. That’s where I first started hearing experimental music, that’s also where I learned to be very comfortable in a recording studio. Later I became the principle songwriter/producer/singer for Bad Livers, and eventually launched my own private record label ( Minner Bucket Records ), publishing company, and solo career in about 1998.

I have some good friends in bands of various sizes, some of them are these quite famous people, though I try to learn from anyone that has an “idea.” My whole thing is music, and trying to make my own sound. I have developed a specific technique I call barnyard electronics which is an aesthetic combining various bits of bluegrass, noise, rock, and electronic music. The live aspect involves a computer program I built in max/msp and a banjo. I do about 150 domestic shows a year with that set-up.

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Jim Coston

Born in 1954 in St. Petersburg, Florida Jim is the younger of twin boys born to James & Patricia Coston. Jim was raised in Florida attending elementary schools in St. Petersburg and graduating from Zephyrhills (Fla.) High School in 1972.

While in High School, Jim worked at a Richardson's Funeral Home where he ran ambulance calls and assisted in mortuary duties such as embalming and removals.

Upon graduation, Jim obtained his E.M.T. (Emergency Medical Technician) certification at Pasco-Hernanado Community College and continued working in the EMS field at Jackson Memorial Hospital (Dade City, Fla.) and eventually SunCoast Ambulance Service in St. Petersburg.

In 1973, Jim moved west to Phoenix, Arizona where he spent two years working for Kord's Gold Cross Ambulance. Returning to Florida in 1975, Jim completed his Paramedic training at St. Petersburg Junior College and gained his state certification.

Upon completing certification, Jim was hired by Charleston County (S.C.) EMS and spent four years with the system. While working for Charleston Co. EMS, Jim gained S.C. Paramedic Certification (#172), Rescue Squad and Radiological Monitoring training.

While living in Charleston, Jim bought a tenor banjo in a pawn shop for $35 dollars, a decision that would eventually change his career path.

A love of music and show business in general led Jim to spend many hours each day practicing his new instrument. Unfortunately, there were no teachers of 4-string banjo in the Charleston area and the learning process was painfully slow. Jim drove 400 miles to Orlando, Florida on every opportunity just to listen to professional banjo players.

Finally, the realization that if he were to improve, he would need the support and guidence of other musicians led Jim to move to Orlando, Florida where he could surround himself with the talented performers from Disney World and Rosie O'Grady's.

In 1980, Jim began working for Herndon Ambulance Service in Orlando while studying the techniques of banjoists such as Randy Morris, Pat Terry Jr. & Eddie Erickson. In early 1981, there was an audition call for a new vaudeville-melodrama theatre called Daisy's Basement - Jim was hired on the spot.

Critically acclaimed by the Orlando Sentinel Star newspaper but unable to compete with the bigger downtown and area attractions, Daisy's Basement changed format in 1982 but not before Jim had gained valuable stage experience.

Unemployment didn't last long as the cruise ship "Scandinavian Sun" sailing out of Miami came calling, as did a 60 city national touring show called "The Riverboat Ragtime Revue" produced by Bill Fegan Attractions. "Riverboat Ragtime Review" featured many prominent New Orleans Jazz musicians including Bob French (Drums), Pud Brown (Clarinet) & Walter Payton (Bass).

Upon completion of the touring show, Jim returned to Orlando where he divided his time between spot jobs for Rosie O'Grady's, private parties and part time work at Herndon Ambulance.

In 1984, a decision was needed. Either Jim would renew his Florida Paramedic Certification and continue in EMS or he would pursue a full time career in show business. After 14 years of emergency work that included of 15,000 ambulance calls, Jim decided to let his state certification lapse.

Fortunately, the the choice was the right one. Within a month of leaving the ambulance service, Jim had secured another cruise ship ("Emerald Seas") as well as a six month contract at the 1984 World's Fair held in New Orleans.

While working at the Fair, Jim was hired by New Orleans Paddlewheels Inc. for their new riverboat "Creole Queen". Jim continued with the riverboat after the World's Fair closed, but the Louisiana economy suffered through off shore oil industry cutbacks and full time work became difficult to sustain.

The cruise industry again came calling with a rapid succession of headline cabaret contracts with Costa, Commodore and Carnival Cruises. In 1987, a call from the Bramson Entertainment Bureau in New York City led to artist representation that is still going strong today.

Along the way, in addition to cruise ships, Jim has been a Cruise Director on board the riverboat "Queen of the West" sailing from Portland, Oregon. Jim has also been Entertainment Director / Entertainer at Maxwell's Jazz Cabaret in New Orleans French Quarter, as well as having performed across the USA in theaters and nightclubs and numerous conventions.

An avid computer user since he bought his first Radio Shack TRS-80 in 1981, Jim has written software in BASIC, DBXL, VB5 as well as HTML design. Jim has served as a consultant for his twin brother Mike who has been a software developer for over 15 years.

In 1995, Jim was approached by Gale Research to write a chapter for their Career Advisor Series book "The Performing Arts Career Directory" pertaining to performing on cruise ships. Previously, Jim had served as Associate Editor for International Banjo Magazine from 1980 -1984 and still writes occasional articles for several publications nationally.

Today, Jim continues as a headline Cabaret Act for Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas & Oceania Cruises having appeared worldwide on over 85 different cruise ships.

For over 21 years he resided in the historic French Quarter of New Orleans, La. up until losing his home in Hurricane Kristina.

Currently, Jim is residing in Khao Sai, Thailand (just north of Bangkok) when not on tour.

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Ron Block

Ron Block has contributed banjo, guitar, and vocals to Alison Krauss and Union Station since 1991. He has also written 10 Alison Krauss and Union Station songs, including “In the Palm Of Your Hand” and “A Living Prayer”, which received a 2006 Gospel Music Association Dove Award for Bluegrass Song of the Year. Ron’s songs have been recorded by artists such as Randy Travis, Rhonda Vincent, and Michael W. Smith. Ron has also recorded with Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Josh Turner and several other artists throughout his musical career.

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Vilai Harrington

Vilai Harrington hails from a background as diverse as any.  His grandparents hail from the Carolinas, MidWest and Hawaii.  Growing up his musical interest were greatly shaped by his  Father, Grandfather and Mom's desire to shield him from the shallow lyrics of pop artists.  Therefore, the music he heard and learned to love were the sounds of Hank Willaims, Sr., Johnny Cash,  Buddy Holly, Otis Redding, Pete Seeger, the Beatles and other classic artists of the 50s. 60s, 70s, & 80s like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dean Martin and Prince.  While the music spanned decades and genres, it had one thing in common....meaningful lyrics and true soul.  Growing up, Harrington always enjoyed singing but did not take naturally to instruments. He always loved them but felt out of reach. One day his grandmother came home with an old Sears-Roebuck banjo with only one string. The young boy was intrigued. The banjo was sold soon but the seed had been planted. Throughout high school, he played trumpet, bass guitar and an old ukulele of his dad's for school praise band with friends. After high school, Harrington was gifted his own banjo. He then started to look more at himself musically. Soon he was writing music and lyrics. Now based out of Greenville, SC. Vilai Harrington travels through the U.S. sharing his eclectic story through the eyes of a Clawhammer troubadour.

"Soul filled folk music with Appalachian roots. Some of your work reminds me of what church hymns would sound like if they were for mother earth." - Adams Mitchell; Co-founder and writer for Creases Zine

"Folk On! Aiken born folk musician Vilai Harrington has recently released a self titled album that carries with it the classic down to earth sound that has made Vilai known around the region. Opening with ‘The Hike’ and a lovely ballad called ‘Pour Life’ the album begins as Vilai did with humble roots from which a vibrant tree grows. The album crescendos and climaxes with a very toe tappin’ tune called ‘Saddle Back’. The album is a truly is a quarter-hour of raw folk emotion. Vilai’s picking style along with the way he sings across the melody creates a sound that is both minimalistic and room filling." - Rick Stahman; Co-founder and writer for Creases Zine

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Cia Cherryholmes

Cia began her banjo career with the internationally acclaimed Bluegrass family band Cherryholmes at the age of 16. Influenced by the stylings of banjo heroes like JD Crowe, Don Reno, Jason Burleson, and Jake Jenkins and mentored by Bluegrass King Jimmy Martin, she developed her own style blending the traditional hard driving approach with blues and honky-tonk. Recipient of the SPBGMA banjo player of the year award three years in a row, she has helped to pioneer the way for many young female banjoists and to bring playing while singing to the forefront. The Americana ensemble Songs of the Fall is her most current musical endeavor, blending traditional banjo with, delta blues, and mountain roots.

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Hugh "Booy" Finn

Hugh hails from a small town in the midlands of Ireland, Rathdowney, in the County of Laois. His family has long been soaked in traditional Irish music and folk, and he loves these roots and is very proud of them. The annual Finn family holiday was to the traditional Irish music festival of 'The Willie Clancy Festival' in Miltown Malbay and Spanish Point in the West coast of Clare. This is where his love for music started to bud. He began playing tin whistle, then received a fiddle for his eight birthday, continuing to play that till the age of 18. He still feels sorry for his fiddle to this day, as the banjo from then on completely took over his musical life. A banjo lay in tatters in the attic of his home throughout his childhood, and often he used to get it out and look and wonder how it plays or sounds. He could only ever wonder, as there was never any strings on it.

Eventually as he grew older he began to voice his desire to change from fiddle to the banjo, he had asked his parents could he get it fixed and the rest is history. It was a 1960s John Grey tenor banjo and it stood with him for the first years of his banjo life. He had eventually outplayed this old instrument to what it had to give, so he then bought his second, an Epiphone Mayfair 1930s tenor banjo. This banjo was the one he first started gigging with at many sessions and small gigs around the country. However, the instrument he has today and treasures, is an Irish built banjo by Dave Boyle, a legend luthier from Celbridge in Kildare. Also, along the way, he had gathered a few other banjos including two prewar Vega 'Little Wonder's. As the banjo did rule king, he also had some time to play most other four string instruments, like the tenor guitar, which is prominent on the new Na Fianna album 'Unearthed', mandolin, bouzouki, (both made by luthier Dave Shapiro), and then other instruments like the didgeridoo that took to his liking. His career in music really took off when he had lost his job due to the recession in Ireland, and this in turn had encouraged him to make his living playing banjo up in the Dublin Irish music scene and eventually finding his musical comfort with Na Fianna.

Banjo playing has always been core to his music and forever will be, but he then started to put pen to paper and started to delve in to the songwriting part of music. His manager Darren, of his current band 'Na Fianna' and previous band, 'Púca' had always said, in passing, that songwriting is a fantastic skill to try and very satisfactory. Hugh had taken that advise on board and wrote songs and once the first one was written and performed, the other ideas for songs all came flowing out. Hugh now has two songs on the current Na Fianna album 'Unearthed', which are Green Umbrella and Earth Song, and has co-written two others, with Don Mescal and the the other band members, Toora Loora Lay and Let Me Take You There.

His love for folk music and traditional Irish music has overcome all other rock bands he had listened to in the past. Bands he grew up with were Incubus, and Tool, but his main influences to his musical career are the likes of Gerry O'Connor, Cathal Hayden, Crooked Still, Dick Gaughan, Wally Page, Stan Rogers, Planxty, Sweeny's Men, The Clancy Brothers, Rig the Jig, Flook, David Francey, Bellowhead, and most good folk songwriters, sea shanties, and traditional tune players from across the world. Music is not the only thing that floats his boat, as he is a keen admirer of nature and the beautiful outdoor living this world has to offer, and would travel anywhere to view a nice scenery of mountains to the sea, whilst using them as his playground too.

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Sharon Martinson

Born in the winter in the mountains of Wyoming, Sharon Martinson picked up the banjo first a young girl while on the front porch of her grandparent’s house. But she didn’t start playing it until nearly the end of her PhD studies, when it suddenly provided ample distraction from writing her thesis. Her ecology field project brought her to California, where she lived part-time in Santa Cruz and part-time in the Sierra Nevada, near her field sites. It was in the mountains that she happened upon an amazing cellist and they started the unlikely banjo-cello duo of The Littlest Birds, her current main musical outlet. She nests in the Sierra, but is more likely to be found migrating, anywhere else. She is often touring for music, sharing her soul with the world, and continues to study ecology, volunteering in countries near and far, sharing her brain (Dr. Martinson is a visiting scholar at Dartmouth College). Her unique banjo playing and hauntingly beautiful voice, innate grasp of traditional music and history of the banjo, as well as an unassuming yet powerful drive to forge ahead into uncharted musical and intellectual territories, have given her the ability to create a path of her own through this life, following none, and inspiring many.

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Christopher Holland

An avid fan of folk and bluegrass music, Christopher Holland found his love for the banjo in 2005 while studying music theory at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.

Holland grew up in the small, quaint town of Jim Thorpe, PA, and was influenced by his father and older sister to first pick up the guitar at the age of 14. After a few years of playing cover songs, spanning an eclectic collection of musicians from Jerry Garcia to John Prine, and everyone in between, he wanted to explore the genre of classical music and learn more advanced playing methods and build a deeper knowledge of composition and theory.

After high school, he went on to pursue an undergraduate degree in professional writing and communications at Kutztown, where he declared a minor in music performance with a concentration in classical guitar under the instruction of Grammy award-winning guitarist, Dr. David Cullen. He spent two years in the program and performed relentlessly with his sister who was a flutist and music education major at the same university.

During his undergraduate studies, Holland built a strong right hand and fingerpicking techniques and fell in love with the sound of the banjo after attending a few local bluegrass festivals and concerts. It didn’t take long for him to become passionate about the instrument and was heavily influenced by Béla Fleck’s album ‘Perpetual Motion’ which features classical compositions performed on banjo. From there, his love for the instrument continued to grow. Some of his biggest influences today are Béla Fleck, Noam Pikelny, Earl Scruggs, John Hartford, and Pete Seeger.

After graduating college, Holland relocated to Allentown, PA, where he met a few other folk/bluegrass musicians and formed what is now today an original stringed quintet called The Boiled Owls. The band is comprised of five-string banjo, upright bass, mandolin, and two Martin guitars.

Over the past few years the band has been making a strong presence in the festival circuit and more, playing relentlessly throughout eastern Pennsylvania and beyond.

Some of its most notable accomplishments have been performing with musicians including Sam Bush, Railroad Earth, Yarn, Cabinet, and many more.

The Boiled Owls released its self-titled EP in February 2015 and have been busy booking shows and continue to build a strong reputation in the folk, bluegrass and Americana scene. In the fall of 2015, the band will be back in the studio to record a full-length album that will be released in late winter/early spring. The Boiled Owls’ music, touring schedule and more can be found at theboiledowls.com.

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Sean Patrick

Sean Patrick is a vocalist and banjo player for The Griddle Pickers. The group originated in the summer of 2012, when Sean was invited to participate in Orillia's annual Arts for Peace rally. He assembled a family band comprised of his brother Dale Patrick, girlfriend Sarah Bea Milner, and her father Mike Milner. Realizing their potential as a band, the group formed The Griddle Pickers early in 2013, and have gone on to play various events in central Ontario, including Orillia's Canada Day Celebration and Washagofest.

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