Blues Week

Blues Week

July 12-17, 2020

Due to the current public health crisis, Augusta will not be holding any in-person programming in July 2020. However, we have collaborated with our artistic staff to put together an incredible offering of 150 video lessons, plus online cultural sessions and interactive online music events.

Everyone who registers will have access to all of the lessons and activities from all of the theme weeks. Video lessons will be available mid-June through September 2020. Cultural sessions, Q&As, jams and other interactive online events will take place July 6-24, 2020.

To sign up, you just visit our donation page and pay the amount you can afford (suggested contribution is $100) to have access to everything Augusta is offering in Summer 2020. You will receive an email with details about how to access the classes in mid-June.

Register for Augusta Online 2020 Here

Browse all video lessons offered at Augusta 2020

Augusta Online 2020:  Blues Week Staff

Phil Wiggins, Blues Week Coordinator

Washington, D.C. native Phil Wiggins, a Takoma Park, Maryland, resident, blues musician, teacher and artistic director, a two time winner of the prestigious WC Handy Blues Foundation awards, is only the third harmonica player to receive the lifetime honor of an NEA National Heritage Fellowship. Today he is the only living player of the instrument to hold the prestigious honor of being a “Master of Traditional Arts.” Often referred to by its unofficial designation as “Living Cultural Treasure” award, the fellowship honors and preserves the diverse cultural heritage in the United States. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) annually awards one-time-only NEA National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists, to recognize lifetime achievement, artistic excellence, and contributions to our nation’s traditional arts heritage.

The NEA National Heritage Fellowship has been bestowed on some of the greatest luminaries in traditional and folk music. In the traditional blues genre, past winners include some of the most important figures in blues history: B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Pinetop Perkins, Sunnyland Slim, Elizabeth Cotton, Clifton Chenier, Robert Lockwood Jr., Honeyboy Edwards, Brownie McGhee, Jack Owens, Mavis Staples and her father Pops Staples, and many more. Harmonica players Sonny Terry and Elder Roma Wilson are the only other harmonica instrumentalists to receive the honor.

Phil now joins the ranks of his eminent elders, friends and compatriots in the Washington, D.C area traditional Piedmont blues scene to win this distinguished award. His former duo partner, the Piedmont blues singer and guitarist John Cephas, received the National Heritage Fellowship Award in 1989. Phil’s friend and early career catalyst , the great blues singer/guitarist and songster John Jackson received the honor in 1986. The blues singer/guitarist and songster Warner Williams, who took the award in 2011, is now the only other living practitioner of the regional traditional blues besides Phil Wiggins with this recognition.

He is a versatile traditional harmonica player, continuing the Piedmont blues tradition, a gentle and melodic blues style of the mid-Atlantic region. He plays the diatonic ten-hole harmonica in the country blues style, cupping both hands around the instrument and playing acoustically. His sound is not shaped by the gear, the microphone or amplifier when performing on stage, instead by his complex syncopated patterns, breath-control and rhythm, stylistic virtuosity and fiery solo runs.

As a teenager living in Washington D.C. in the 1970s, he played at the Smithsonian National Folklife Festival with street singer Flora Molton, sitting in with blues greats Johnny Shines, Sunnyland Slim, Sam Chatmon, Robert Belfour and Howard Armstrong. By the time he graduated from high school in 1973, D.C. blues elders John Jackson, John Cephas and Archie Edwards had embraced him. He joined the Barrelhouse Rockers, a band fronted by pianist and singer Wilbert “Big Chief” Ellis, where John Cephas played guitar. They toured regionally until Ellis retired in 1977, when John Cephas invited him to join in the duo ‘Cephas & Wiggins’.

With John Cephas as guitarist and primary singer, the duo performed together for 32 years as internationally renowned stars of the country blues, and a staple on blues radio, ever present on the concert and festival circuit – all with the help of National Council for Traditional Arts director Joe Wilson. Cephas & Wiggins played Carnegie Hall, Royal Prince Albert Hall in London and the Sydney Opera House, as well as small venues worldwide, touring every continent except Antarctica. They recorded more than a dozen critically acclaimed albums, including on Flying Fish and Alligator Records, winning the prestigious W.C. Handy Blues Award in 1984 for Best Traditional Album of the Year and in 1987 as Entertainers of the Year. They even performed at the White House with B.B. King. Phil Wiggins as well as Cephas & Wiggins have been featured in major music magazines, including on the cover of Living Blues, and the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and many more. University of Maryland professor, author, blues historian and producer Dr. Barry Lee Pearson has released numerous Cephas & Wiggins tracks on his Smithsonian Folkways album collections, in addition to his frequent writings over more than 30 years, which also featured the duo and John Cephas’ autobiography.

Since the 2009 death of John Cephas, Phil has performed with numerous musicians including Nat Reese, Corey Harris, Australian guitarist Dom Turner, Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons, Sherman Holmes, the Rev. John Wilkins, Jerron Paxton, and longtime friends Eleanor Ellis and Rick Franklin. He fronts the acoustic swing/roots/blues ensemble, the Chesapeake Sheiks, and is actively engaged in reuniting the Piedmont blues with its origins of African American buck and tap dancing.
Phil has taught thousands of burgeoning harmonica players and actively continues to teach and lead as artistic director in workshops, such as at the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia and the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Workshop in Washington State. Plus, he continues to play an active role on the board of the National Council for Traditional Arts.

Additionally, he performed in the feature film Matewan about the coal mining wars in West Virginia, written and directed by John Sayles. Phil appears in the film and contributed music to the soundtrack. He also appeared in Blues Houseparty , a documentary produced by Eleanor Ellis that captures a wonderful celebration of music and culture that takes place at the home of John Jackson. Phil appears in the film and supplies the voiceover narration. Plus: Portland Mojo: How Stumptown Got the Blues Written and produced by Bob Lietch, a documentary film about the blues scene in Portland, Oregon, narrated by Phil. Letters from Mound Bayou A documentary film about the establishment of a community health center for the rural community of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Produced by an activist group in Washington, D.C. called Video Action, Phil wrote and performed the music for the soundtrack.

Joan Fenton, Blues Week Coordinator

Joan Fenton has worked as a musician, folklorist, and business woman. She is the recipient of the WC Handy award for keeping the blues alive in education. She produced traditional music shows for 15 years for various radio stations and received two National Endowment for the Arts grants to record traditional musicians. Her field recordings can be found at the D&E Library and in the Joan Fenton collection at the University of NC at Chapel Hill library. Her work with nonprofits includes serving on the executive board of the Folk Alliance.

Valerie Turner

Valerie Turner plays finger style country blues guitar and specializes in the Piedmont style of fingerpicking. She has taught at Blues & Swing Week in West Virginia, Blues in the Gorge in Oregon, the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation in Maryland, and the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Workshop in Washington. She is also the author of Piedmont Style Country Blues Guitar Basics, an independently published book that was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2017. Her guitar playing is reminiscent of traditional blues greats like Mississippi John Hurt, Etta Baker, and Elizabeth Cotten.

Valerie is a native New Yorker with southern roots. During the great migration, when millions of African Americans left southern American towns and ventured to the industrialized cities of the west and the north, Valerie’s grandparents and parents abandoned their ties with Virginia and Georgia and relocated to New York City where she was born and raised. One grandparent moved as far north as Saranac Lake, and summer visits to the Adirondacks are where Valerie was first introduced to hoedowns, square dancing, and country music. Her love of traditional, acoustic music was reinforced by visits to Washington Square Park with her parents on most fair-weather weekends, where she was exposed to New York City’s folk music scene at a very young age.

Valerie’s official introduction to country blues music came through Stefan Grossman’s book, Country Blues Guitar, which she discovered in her late teens. She had many interesting teachers over the years, beginning with Jack Baker of the Fretted Instruments School in Greenwich Village. Valerie also studied with Woody Mann, a former student of Rev. Gary Davis. Her main influence, however, was John Cephas, a world-renowned, Piedmont style, country blues musician from Washington, DC, and half of the famed Cephas & Wiggins duo which included his enormously talented harp playing partner, Phil Wiggins. By the time Valerie met Cephas, he was living on a sprawling ranch in Virginia and, in addition to attending his formal workshops, she would occasionally travel to Virginia to study with him there.

Valerie is a co-founder of the Piedmont Bluz Acoustic Duo in which she performs with her husband, Benedict Turner. The duo was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame in 2018 and, in addition to a host of domestic venues and festivals from coast to coast, these tradition bearers have traveled as far as Israel, Ireland, Spain, and Germany to share their music.

Justin Golden

Justin Golden’s origins are deeply vested in the blues. With roots in the Mississippi Delta, Chicago, and the Piedmont of Virginia, he has always felt most connected to the blues. First picking up the guitar at age 19, Golden did what came naturally and let the music flow through him. With an extremely diverse musical palette, Golden aims to bring some new ideas to traditional blues forms.

The Piedmont Blues style came to Golden in a dream. Before he had ever heard the term, he had written several songs in the Piedmont style. He seemed destined to play the blues in his own way. Now 27 years old, Golden calls Richmond, VA, his home base. He tours regionally, and as far north as Montreal.

Erin Harpe

Boston-based guitarist, singer, songwriter, and visual artist Erin Harpe is a two-time Boston Music Award-winner and three-time International Blues Challenge semifinalist. Growing up watching her dad, Neil Harpe, along with a long list of other local DC area acoustic blues players, Erin soaked it all in. She remembers being a little girl attending performances by Neil, Eleanor Ellis, Rick Franklin, John Cephas and Phil Wiggins, John Jackson, Archie Edwards, Warner Williams and Jay Summerour, and many more – and she was inspired to pick up the guitar in her teens. Early on Erin learned fingerpicking songs directly from her dad, as well as from Eleanor Ellis, who she cites as a big influence. After relocating to Boston, she continued to develop her own unique guitar and vocal style, influenced by piedmont and country blues, which often moves listeners to get up and dance. She performs original songs as well as her own spirited arrangements of songs by Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, Mississippi John Hurt, Tommy Johnson, and many more – both solo, and with her blues bands Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers and Erin Harpe’s Country Blues Trio. (She also fronts the electro dance rock band Lovewhip!) Erin has released two acoustic blues albums, “Blues Roots” and “Delta Blues Duets” (an album of duets with her dad), as well as two albums with Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers – 2014’s “Love Whip Blues” and her brand new self-produced album “Big Road” (out on the VizzTone label). In 2016, she also released an instructional guitar DVD “Women of the Country Blues Guitar,” through Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop. For more information, music, videos, tour schedule, and more check out Erin’s website:

Hubby Jenkins

Hubby Jenkins is a talented multi-instrumentalist who endeavors to share his love and knowledge of old-time American music. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he delved into his Southern roots, following the thread of African American history that wove itself through country blues, ragtime, fiddle and banjo, and traditional jazz. Hubby got his higher musical education started as a busker. He developed his guitar and vocal craft on the sidewalks and subway platforms of New York City, performing material by those venerable artists whose work he was quickly absorbing. An ambitiously itinerant musician, he took his show on the road, playing the streets, coffee shops, bars, and house parties of cities around the US. After years of busking around the country and making a name for himself, Hubby became acquainted with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Since 2010 he has been an integral part of the Grammy award winning band and continues to make solo performances.

Eric Noden

Deeply rooted in the music of ’20s and ’30s blues pioneers, Eric Noden’s percussive guitar work, timeless songwriting, and well-traveled blues vocals have earned the respect of audiences, critics, and musicians worldwide. The Illinois Entertainer described Eric as “a spiritual heir to Chicago blues guitarists of the ’20s and ’30s like Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy.”

This multi-talented acoustic artist fills an important niche in the city’s mostly plugged-in blues scene. Similarly, Eric’s artistry was also recognized in Cadence Magazine, which said he is, “intent on mastering older styles while transporting them and us into a new century where the past is not forgotten.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel adds, “The Chicago-based bluesman makes a National Resonator guitar absolutely wail.”

Eric Noden sings, shouts, and stomps while conjuring old spirits from the strings of his acoustic guitar. Varying his approach from song to song, Noden draws from a deep well of American music that fuels his high energy performances. His right-hand thumb often lays down a driving bass figure that weaves around intricate melodic parts played with his fingers. This style, favored by early bluesmen like Charley Patton, Reverend Gary Davis, and Blind Blake, is one that only a few contemporary bluesmen have mastered.

Jontavious Willis

Hailing from Greenville, Georgia, Jontavious Willis grew up singing gospel music at the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church with his grandfather. At the age of 14, he came across a YouTube video of Muddy Waters playing “Hoochie Coochie Man” and was hooked. That’s when he set his course on the blues. As a fingerpicker, flat-picker, and slide player, he explored all types of blues — Delta, Piedmont, Texas, gospel — and on harmonica, banjo, and cigar box.

Four years later he was playing on Taj Mahal’s stage. Currently Jontavious is finishing his studies at Columbus State University, majoring in sociology. But on most weekends, he can be found playing a small house show, up on the main stage, or posting music videos for his friends and fans around the world.

Jontavious was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2020 for Best Traditional Blues Album.

Samuel James

With a voice of grit and gravel, roots musician Samuel James sings with an authenticity lost in time. A modern guitar master, James’ skill has a depth and range that seems impossible for a man with only two hands. An award-winning songwriter, one of the world’s most innovative guitar players, and a Moth-featured storyteller, James brings all of this to his amazing stage show. His live performance is not just a concert, it is an event.

Tom Mitchell

Tom Mitchell’s guitar playing is rooted in the styles of the 1920s and ’30s jazz, western swing, country blues, and old-time music. Ten years of playing with the legendary Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks took him around the world and led to the recording of two acclaimed CDs including Beatin’ the Heat, which featured guest appearances by Bette Midler, Ricki Lee Jones, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, and Brian Setzer. His work with Ann Savoy and her Sleepless Knights led to a movie soundtrack spot and producer credits for the Sony picture All the King’s Men. He makes his home in Baltimore where he can be seen playing with some great players and bands including the Blue Rhythm Boys and The Redwine Jazz Trio.

As a teacher and performer, Tom has worked at many music and dance workshops and camps such as Ashokan Fiddle and Dance, Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, The Swannanoa Gathering, The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, and Augusta Heritage Center.

Tom’s love of swing guitar shines brightly through his playing, and his extensive knowledge and appreciation of jazz history and tradition brings a “true to style” integrity to any venture he undertakes.

Lightnin’ Wells

Mike “Lightnin'” Wells breathes new life into the vintage tunes of 1920s and Depression era America, employing various appropriate stringed instruments in a dynamic style which he has honed over forty years of performing. Raised in eastern North Carolina, Wells learned to play harmonica as a young child and later taught himself to play the guitar as he developed a strong interest in traditional blues and folk music. His many years of public performance began in Chapel Hill, NC, in the early 1970s. During the following decades he has presented his brand of acoustic blues throughout North Carolina, the United States, and Europe.

Lightnin’ is a life-long student and devotee of the pioneering performers in the piedmont blues tradition which once thrived in the Carolinas, including such artists as Blind Boy Fuller, Rev. Gary Davis, and Elizabeth Cotten, deceased musicians whose influence seems only to grow with time. He also produced the first commercial recordings of the NC blues veterans Big Boy Henry, Algia Mae Hinton, and George Higgs, and has traveled and performed extensively with these musicians in past years.

Since 1995, Lightnin’ Wells has had five solo CDs released with contributions to at least five other compilations and projects. This year, he will release a new CD release on the German Blind Lemon Records label. Publications have included contributions to the Encyclopedia of North Carolina, North Carolina Tar Heel Junior Historian, Music Makers, Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America, as well as various blues CD liner notes.

Besides his beloved guitar, Lightnin’ plays the harmonica, ukulele, mandolin, and banjo. He has taught blues guitar and ukulele at most of the leading “Blues Weeks” sponsored by universities and teaching organizations throughout the country. He served for ten years as a board member for the Music Maker Relief Foundation and is presently included in the North Carolina Arts Council’s Touring Artist Roster.

With his experience, knowledge and well-honed performance skills, Lightnin’ Wells has established himself at the forefront of the traditional blues revival. His musical style is personal and energetic yet remains true to the original root form. His goal is to entertain and educate using a variety of sources, influences, and techniques to express his dedication, respect, and pleasure in presenting this unique American art form. Wrote one recent reviewer, “Whether you look to performers for inspiration, education, virtuosity, or sheer entertainment, Lightnin’ Wells delivers all the above, every single time”.

Joe Filisko


Revered as a master player, teacher, custom harmonica pioneer, researcher, and historian, Joe Filisko is arguably the world’s foremost authority on many aspects of the diatonic harmonica and a key figure in today’s harmonica scene. Over the past 20 years he has had a tremendous influence on developments in the culture of the instrument. His much sought after custom harps are used by a remarkable roster of players and are prized for their superb response and tonal qualities by a client list that includes a large proportion of the world’s diatonic harmonica elite. Since the early 1990s, his groundbreaking work in improving the playability of the instrument has directly affected the production of all major harmonica manufacturers. In 2011 Joe Filisko entered into a close cooperation with Hohner as Head of Certification Process for the company’s new Affiliated Customizer Program, a bold move to guarantee standards for purchasers of custom harmonicas which is without precedent in the harmonica industry. He also made important design contributions to the latest model of Hohner’s Marine Band range, the Thunderbird, which bears his signature and has been cited as the finest low key harmonica available on the market today.

Fueled by his desire to preserve historical harmonica styles from extinction, Joe Filisko has amassed not only an encyclopedic knowledge of the entire gamut of traditional harmonica techniques, but has mastered them to an extent unrivaled among contemporary players. His passion for both the well-known and the unsung heroes of the 10-hole diatonic has made him a riveting performer in his own right, with a fluid command of a wide range of styles and possibly the most powerful hand effects ever heard. A master of tone and complex, nuanced tongue block rhythms, he has for many years shared his knowledge with students on five continents and so contributed enormously to the widespread understanding of traditional harmonica styles among a new generation of players.

In recent years, Joe’s reputation as a performer and recording artist has been catching up with his legendary status as a customizer and teacher. Since he first hooked up with guitarist/vocalist Eric Noden in 2003, the duo has released three highly regarded CDs, and has performed at concerts and festivals around the globe. Reflecting their deep affinity with the tradition, their exciting explorations of seminal pre-war styles have won them an enthusiastic international audience and cemented their reputation as one of today’s premier acoustic country blues acts. Joe Filisko was awarded “Harmonica Player of the Year 2001? by the SPAH organization in the US and performed at the induction of Grand Ol’ Opry star Deford Bailey into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006. Documentaries that feature Mr. Filisko include Harmonica Summit, Imagination is Limitless, In the Reeds, Tin Sandwich, and Pocketful of Soul. A native of Joliet, Illinois, Joe lives in the shadow of Chicago, the Windy City, and performs there regularly as well as teaching popular weekly classes at the city’s Old Town School of Folk Music.

Though his work as a scholar and a craftsman has rightly earned him a place in the harmonica pantheon, it is as a player that he truly shines. Joe Filisko coaxes sounds from the harmonica which few before him have ever created and which open up new perspectives for countless players and lovers of this remarkable little instrument.

Andrew Alli

Andrew Alli is a 27-year-old Richmond, Virginia, native. Always into music, he stumbled upon the blues while taking up his first instrument, the harmonica. He instantly fell in love with the blues and all of the history that comes with the harp. Andrew developed his style of playing by studying from the harmonica greats, including Little Walter, Big Walter Horton, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Junior Wells.

Andrew co-founded Andrew Alli and Last Night’s Blues Band with drummer Charles Hibbler in 2012. The band had a particular interest to the Chicago and Delta styles of blues. The band, which also includes bassist Ken Kellner and guitarist Mike Burgess, won the title of 2013 River City Blues Society Blues Challenge Champions. They represented Richmond in the International Blues Challenge down in Memphis, Tennessee. Andrew also has had the privilege to tour with folk musicians Tim Barry and Josh Small during US, European, and Australian music tours.

He has played with a large number of other great local musicians including Phil Wiggins, Clarence “The Bluesman” Turner, Alison Self, Cy Taggart, and The Mike Lucci Band. The Richmond Folk Festival has featured Andrew for three years, teaching harmonica lessons and performing. Andrew continues to play with his band, Andrew Alli and the Mainline (formerly “Last Night’s Blues Band”), with Charles Hibbler on drums, Ken Kellner on bass, and Ivan Applerouth on guitar. He is also in a duo with legendary Richmond folk musician Josh Small. Andrew was very excited to be featured on the recent Big Walter Horton tribute album with EllerSoul Records, where the top harmonica players from around the world contributed songs to commemorate the great Big Walter! He is also planning a full-length debut album to be released this year. [/two_third_last]

Judy LaPrade

Judy LaPrade grew up playing piano at home and in church. She started as a toddler mimicking her older sister and then began classical lessons that left her strong, natural ear in the dust. Augusta’s Blues Week in 1985 began the long road to recovery of that ear with a deep love of traditional Blues. This background makes her a somewhat nervous performer but a wonderful teacher who truly understands the challenge of leaving printed music behind. She has a gift for breaking things down in a systematic yet artistic way that blends the use of the left and right parts of the brain.

Judy has taught Blues piano for ten years in a variety of Blues camps with students who are both raw beginners and trained pianists who yearn for freedom from the printed page. She has a joy for teaching that encourages people to have fun and move past the voice in their heads that says, “This is too hard. I can’t do it.” She found this joy as a member of the Elktones, a group of women musicians from Elkins, West Virginia, known for vocal harmonies and an eclectic repertoire that included African music, blues, rock, and folk. She is a life-long teacher in every aspect of her work, since she directed music programs and the choir at a local state mental hospital in junior high school.

Judy fell in love with the blues, studying piano, accordion, and voice with Maureen DelGrosso, Ann Rabson, Erwin Helfer, and others. It is her mission to keep traditional blues alive and growing by passing this joy on to others.

Sunpie Barnes

If a career in music hadn’t panned out, a number of attractive and diverse career paths would have been open to blues harmonica player and zydeco accordionist Bruce Sunpie Barnes. Thanks to his athletic ability that earned him a football scholarship to Henderson State University in Arkansas, he had a brief career in professional football with the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs. He also studied marine biology, a background that could have led to a variety of jobs and which ultimately led Barnes to work for the National Park Service as a naturalist. Acting jobs in commercials and on Hollywood movie sets, too, have come to the musician. The entire time he was working elsewhere, however, music was always a part of Barnes’ life. Even when football provided a handsome paycheck, he chose to play a number of gigs.

Barnes, who can play seven instruments, knew enough about his chosen career in music to realize that it isn’t the most reliable work, especially in terms of a steady paycheck. When he made the leap to become a professional musician, he supported himself with a day job, putting in hours as a ranger in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Louisiana, where he also served in the capacity of a naturalist. Evenings found him on stage in New Orleans, working with such artists as bluesman “Boogie” Bill Webb, vocalist Barbara George, and the New Orleans Blues Department Band. He went on to establish a group of his own, drawing from a pool of zydeco musicians based in the city of Lafayette, and he called the outfit Sunpie & the Creole Zydeco Fanners. Along with Harold Ray Brown, former drummer for War, he established another band in late 1991 and dubbed it Sunpie & the Louisiana Sunspots. Barnes led the band through performances at such venues as Martinique’s 11th International Clarinet Festival, Houston’s Juneteenth Festival, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Blues was a part of Barnes’ life in Benton, AR, during his youth. His dad, who instructed him in the harmonica, was a blues harpist who impressed upon his son the importance of education. Good times like picnics and other family get-togethers revolved around the harmonica playing of the elder Barnes and other regional blues musicians, including Sonny Boy Williamson. In addition to the influence of his father and Williamson, Barnes draws inspiration from Carey Bell and Lee Oskar.

Ben Levin

Ben Levin is a 20 year old blues pianist/vocalist from Cincinnati, OH. Ben started playing professionally at age 11 with his father’s band, the Heaters, and now plays 100+ gigs a year while attending the University of Cincinnati. Ben has played prestigious shows/events in the U.S. and around the world such as the Cincy Blues Fest, the LaRoquebrou (France) International Boogie and Blues Festival, the UK Boogie Fest, and the Beauforthuis festival in the Netherlands.

In 2018 the Ben Levin Duo reached the semi-finals in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. In 2018 he was nominated for two awards from Blues Blast magazine: Debut CD of the year for Ben’s Blues and Sean Costello Rising Star award.

Ben released his second CD “Before Me” in July 2019 and it finished the year at number 80 on the Contemporary blues Roots Music Reports list, based on radio airplay. In 2020 “Before Me” was nominated for a Blues Music Award for “best emerging artist album.” In summer of 2020 Ben will once again tour Europe, bringing his trio to headline on Joe Bonamassa’s Keepin’ the Blues Alive Mediterranean cruise, followed by a blues festival in Belgium.

Tina Dietz

“I am a soul. A heart. A head of hair and my voice is my guide. Most just call me Tina. Now, I could sit here, list all of the things that ‘make my name valuable’ but then honestly, I don’t want to. If there is one thing I have learned this far, it’s that trying to use traditional means of explaining myself will never tell you a thing. What we can have is a conversation, then you can come up with whatever story you want to believe about me off of that. That being said, I go by many names: Teeny Deets, the one that rolls off the tongue; Christina Marie, when mother is unhappy; Miss Tina when directions are to be followed; Briar when in the garden; Queen as par for the course.There is not a time in which I can pinpoint ever starting to sing because, quite frankly, I don’t remember starting. I remember singing. There is a time I do remember, a time when I was told that singing wasn’t for me, it was to glorify The Lord. My belief in such a one may be up for scrutiny, as I have since been confused by knowledge of our world. Yet the lesson remains and its implication is that the world does not revolve around any one person.

If you can understand that a voice is an extension of oneself and therefore, just as hard to explain as why we are on this earth in the first place, then I can teach you. If you are willing to understand that though technique is important, finding a way to process emotion—and then relaying that message through song—is even more so, then I can teach you. If you are willing to let go of your fear, to sing without shame no matter how bad you think you sound, I will teach you. It’s not about how you sound. It’s about how you feel, and how that feeling can help bring others into the experience—empathy.”

Del Rey

Del Rey started playing guitar when she was four. She was introduced to the world of traditional acoustic music when she was 13, when she and a friend stumbled into a concert at Folk Arts Rare Records in San Diego. About 20 people were sitting on the floor under the record bins listening to a kid named Tom Waits play his original songs.

Lou Curtiss, proprietor of Folk Arts and artistic director of the San Diego Folk Festival, suggested she quit wasting her time playing “Stairway to Heaven” and listen to some Memphis Minnie. He put her on stage with Sam Chatmon when she was fourteen and introduced her to Lydia Mendoza and Howard Armstrong. Lou gave her recordings that still influence everything she does on solo acoustic guitar. She soaked up country blues, stride piano, classic jazz and hillbilly boogie. It was a musical education hanging around the record shop.

Thirty years later, Del Rey became fascinated with the ukulele. She tries to play the same kind of complicated rhythmic blues and ragtime on four strings as on six. She expects a lot out of the little instrument.

She now plays solo concerts worldwide and presents a concert/lecture on women musicians called Women In American Music. She collaborates and tours frequently with Steve James, Suzy Thompson, and Adam Franklin. She has contributed to projects in honor of The Mississippi Sheiks, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Johnny Cash and occasionally writes about music for various publications, including Acoustic Guitar. Her most recent release is just her, singing with uke and guitar; it’s called Solo. Her albums are available from Hobemian Records.

Ralph Gordon

Ralph Gordon

A uniquely versatile musician, Ralph Gordon brings 45 years of musical experience to the bass and cello in the genres of Blues, Swing, Jazz, Klezmer, Folk, Bluegrass, Country, and many others. Classically trained in music studies at West Virginia University and the Manhattan School of Music, Ralph went on to do a stint with the New Jersey Symphony and tour with Fred Waring & The Pennsylvanians. When it comes to knowing and holding down the bottom, Ralph is on top!!!

Ben Hunter

Ben Hunter was born in Lesotho, a tiny nation in South Africa, and was largely raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Living with his globetrotting mother, he also spent two of his formative years in Zimbabwe. There, at the age of seven, his love of rhythm began to blossom as he learned to play the marimba and perform traditional Shona music, while also continuing to pursue a better grasp of the violin. Throughout his early travels, Ben was introduced to a large variety of music, ranging from the folk traditions of the United States, down through Latin America, and across the seas to the continent of Africa.
Ben began studying classical violin at the age of 5, and was taught predominantly in that tradition. He played in a variety of youth and string orchestras before eventually majoring in violin performance at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. Adopting the Pacific Northwest as his new home, Ben moved to Seattle, WA, soon after college. After discovering the vibrant diversity of southeast Seattle, he founded a non-profit, Community Arts Create, to break down social barriers through community arts activities. In 2011, he joined Renegade Stringband after meeting its banjo player, Joe Seamons, at String Summit.
After two years of national tours in 2012 and 2013, both Ben and Joe attended the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival, where living legends of traditional blues and ragtime showed them a new musical direction. After founding a new duo act with Joe to pursue this new interest, Ben suggested that they expand their work as educators (both regularly taught private lessons and after school classes) by developing a new music project as a program of Community Arts Create. The Rhapsody Project was thus established, with the goal to strengthen communities through song and spread the gospel of folk and blues music. Rhapsody is the integration of performance and teaching through public events and school workshops designed to facilitate cross-generational, cross-cultural interactions through the medium of music.
Ben plays an active role in the southeast Seattle community, serving on a variety of boards and committees that work to develop the south Seattle region economically, socially, environmentally, and all the while, artistically. In 2013, Ben co-founded The Hillman City Collaboratory, the mission of which is to be an instrument of transformation that provides a built environment and programming specifically designed to create community and equip change-makers.

Joe Seamons

Joe Seamons is a songster and teacher of the Pacific Northwest. Raised in the backwoods of Oregon in a house built by his parents, he was exposed to local folk music of sawmill workers, loggers and fishermen whose music reflected the character of the region.
As he heard these songs in living rooms, around campfires, and at cider pressing parties, Joe also attended public school in the small nearby town of Rainier, Oregon. Consequently, he was exposed to the artistry and fierce environmentalist passion of his parent’s and their friends as well as the quiet conservatism of a tiny town full of paper mill workers and longshoremen. Living between these two cultures prepared Joe to relate to the perspectives of the great early blues artists, whose music he discovered after taking up guitar at age 16.

The poetic clarity of southern blues got Joe to thinking about the history and character of Northwest folk music, worked to deepen his knowledge of the history of Northwest folk songs by applying for and receiving a Woody Guthrie Fellowship from the BMI Foundation. He travelled to New York City, where he worked for a week in the Woody Guthrie Archives uncovering manuscripts and letters written by Guthrie during his time in Portland, OR (in 1941). This intensive study of Guthrie’s Columbia River songs greatly enhanced his appreciation of the power and value of the obscure music he had heard growing up. To properly perform and interpret this music, Joe soon took up the banjo, taking instruction from the brilliant Northwest folklorist (and old family friend) Hobe Kytr. Joe’s passion for Northwest folk culture soon took shape in a new musical endeavor called Timberbound, a revivalist band performing the region’s ballads.

Around this time, Joe met the violinist Ben Hunter, and the two began playing music together. Inspired by the community Ben was engaging in South Seattle, Joe moved from Portland to Seattle in 2013 and the two began working as a duo. There, Ben had founded his own non-profit, Community Arts Create, with programs dedicated to food, murals, and the power of art to build community. Joe & Ben co-founded a new music project under CAC, The Rhapsody Project, which helps people to engage with their heritage through roots music. They have delivered programming for this project throughout America, and in 2019 were recognized by the Ethnic Heritage Council for excellence in ethnic performance and significant contributions to the development and presentation of the traditional cultural arts in the Pacific Northwest.

Peter Davis

Peter Davis’s parents told him that when he was one year old they would listen to operas on their hi-fi and Peter would hum arias, in tune from Rigoletto. When he was five, Peter took piano lessons with an acclaimed teacher, but after six months he was fired as a student because he was playing the pieces by ear instead of reading notes. At eight, Peter finally connected with his private clarinet teacher, and continued five years of lessons, culminating in playing the Mozart clarinet concerto. It was then that he was handed a saxophone in 8th grade band class and was introduced to the 12 bar blues progression and Elvis Presley. In 9th grade, Peter was playing rock and roll music with older kids in bars around Babylon, Long Island. His dad bought him a Selmer saxophone and a Gibson guitar and gave him guitar lessons– chord/melody stylings of standards.
His parents didn’t dig that bar rock and roll influence and in 10th grade, Peter was sent to Quaker boarding school where he was exposed to political activism and folk music and listened a lot to Bach, Thelonius Monk, Mississippi John Hurt and Earl Scruggs. At SUNY Binghamton Peter minored in music – played in a jug and bluegrass band, had one of his music theory classes taught by John Cage – acted in plays, sang in a doo wop and madrigal groups and played reeds in pit bands for musicals.
Peter spent three years in Malawi, Central Africa where he directed his school’s a capella group and jammed South African zulu jive with some of his students. Peter resides in Saratoga Springs, New York with his amazingly musician tolerant wife Beverly. Peter plays with at least seven bands and is the program director for the Flurry Festival and for Saratoga Racecourse.
Peter’s multi instrumentalism includes clarinet, alto sax, 5-string & tenor banjo, piano, guitar, mandolin and whistle as well as an intuitive approach to a variety of musical genres including traditional folk, blues, vintage pop and jazz forms.
With Annie and the Hedonists Peter plays tenor guitar, piano, and clarinet, and sings. Peter’s other projects include the Whippersnappers, an eclectic string band, Reggie’s Red Hot Feetwarmers, a dixieland jazz band, which is the house band at Saratoga Racecourse each summer and, in 2011 played 6 nights a week in Shanghai, China for 3 months, Peter, Paul, and George, a group that does elementary school residencies in traditional music and dancing, Lindy Hop Heaven, Peter’s own swing dance band and The Clayfoot Strutters, a rocked-out contradance band from Vermont. He also performs as part of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s band, for their monthly radio program, “Dancing on the Air” and for festivals and concerts. He appears on Jay and Molly’s CDs including “the Lover’s Waltz” and “Relax Your Mind” and played with them on many productions of “A Prairie Home Companion” in the 1990s. In the 1980s, Peter was part of the back-up band for John Phillips and the “Mamas and Papas” with whom he did some international touring.

Dave Davies

Dave Davies is a talented multi-instrumentalist, singer, arranger, songwriter, and teacher from Ithaca, NY. His work in a multitude of musical styles has brought him to venues all around the US, Central America, and Europe. He’s at home on the trombone, guitar, and upright and electric bass, and you may also find him playing the tuba, ukulele, or drums. He’s been a solid member of the Northeast music scene for 25 years, playing with Jay Unger and Molly Mason, Lindy Hop Heaven, Djug Django, The Clayfoot Strutters, Peggy Haine’s Lowdown Alligators, The B Side, The Contradictions, The Gourmet Jug Band, and leading the HotFoot Club. Dave has toured extensively as a swing and contra musician and has been a staff member at Ashokan Fiddle and Dance for over 20 years. He has a BA in music from SUNY Oswego, and studied with Bobby McFerrin at Omega Institute. Dave was director of the CSMA Jazz Ensemble for four years, and gives classes and workshops in vocal and instrumental improvisation, music theory, and arranging, and leads ensembles of many varieties.