1984 recording from Mount Airy Fiddler's Convention

In the spring of 1984 I was a student at Virginia Tech. I discovered Mac Traynham was not only one of my classmates but was an award winning banjo player. I had always wanted to learn to play the banjo so I asked Mac if he would be my teacher.  He said he would if I agreed to attend the "Mount Airy Fiddler's Convention" first.  I agreed to attend but had no idea what to expect.  I arrived carrying my Sony hand-held tape recorder and wandered around listening to and recording some of the many jam sessions.  Years later I realized I recorded a jam session with old time music greats Tommy Jarrell and Ralph BlizardRichie Stearns was playing banjo.  Listen to the recording:

Ralph Blilzzard 1984 higher

Rock-n-Roll as a way to boost self esteem


Girls Rock Indianapolis is a non-profit rock-n-roll camp run by co-founder Lindsay Manfredi, a member of the band Neon Love Life. The program leverages the shared experience of music-making as a way to improve the way tween and teen girls perceive themselves. “They tell you growing up to reach for the stars and go for your dreams,” recalls Manfredi, “but I didn’t have the tools, I didn’t have the education, and I totally didn’t have the support. It’s time to walk the talk. I’m the adult now.”

Participants in Girls Rock learn how to play guitar, work the drums, and sing, preparing them to collaborate with members of their band and perform original songs. Throughout the process, local women join the girls as mentors through workshops that share other skills, interests, and concerns. The 2011 camp is taking place this month with 60 girls ready to rock. Manfredi says the impact extends beyond the girls: “We had one parent write us and say, ‘Thank you for curing my daughter of Bieber Fever. She’s now asking about Blonde and Patti Smith.’”

I love how Girls Rock is empowering girls through music!

What Kind of Amazing Grace?

My new friend Ian Rhett over at is an awesome singer/songwriter/musician.

I met Ian through a series of wonderful synchronistic events - - I teach a course called the VIrtual Team Leader and was looking for guest speakers and found Brian who is the CEO of MaestroConference and Brian said "I've got a good friend Jenn who works at who would also be a great guest speaker" (which she was!) and then Jenn asked me to speak on a panel about virtual teams at the annual conference of the Nonprofit Technology Network - - and THIS is when I got to meet Ian who works with Jenn at

Watch the video (below) showcasing one of Ian's wonderful songs - - it's called What Kind of Amazing Grace.

Barney the Dinosaur competes in the clogging competition at Mt Airy Fiddler's Convention

For many years I attended the Mt. Airy Fiddler's Convention (in Mt. Airy NC).  Although there is a stage where one can compete for prizes (best band, best fiddler, best banjo player, etc., etc.) the real reason I attend is to visit with friends and play music.  There are hundreds of jam sessions going on all over the park.

On Saturday night (really, early Sunday morning) after all the music competition is over there is a dance (clogging) competition.  Most people who enter really can dance.  Some who enter intend to be humorous.

One year I entered the dance competition wearing a Barney the Dinosaur costume.

John Herrmann and Tom Heck play fiddle and banjo

My daughter's first grade class is studying "sound" and the teacher invited all parents who play an instrument to come in and share.  I invited my friend John Herrmann in to join me for a couple of tunes and to talk about our instruments and the music.  The teacher captured the tunes only on a Flip video camera.

Ira Bernstein on a step-a-tune dancing near a jam session

This is a typical late night scene at a music festival.  A jam session with dancers.  Ira Bernstein is dancing on a step-a-tune (small, portable dance platform).  Ira is a also a fine musician which helps him understand how to step out the rhythms of the fiddle tune.  John Herrmann is playing banjo and Rayna Gellert is on the fiddle.  I wonder how long the tune was played - one tune might be played for a long time - it's a meditation.