Violet Bell and Mary Munford students connect over music and songwriting

As the first of 300 or so students entered the auditorium at Mary Munford Elementary School in the first week of November 2019, they spontaneously began to clap in time as Violet Bell was ending its sound check with Principal Greg Muzik. Lizzy Ross and Omar Ruiz-Lopez were immediately impressed with the students’ musicality and told them so during their 45-minute concert.

The duo was also impressed when they told the students they have played 400 shows in four years and the students immediately “did the math” to figure out that’s 100 shows each year.

During the performance, Lizzy explained that they do “original” songs meaning they write their own words and music. She told the assembled students they too could be songwriters. “Just listen to what’s in your head while you’re doing your chores, or anything really, and work on some words and a tune.” The students seemed to think that was an exciting idea.

Both Omar and Lizzy expressed their thanks to the students for being a great audience and asked if they were enjoying school. The shouted out answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!” After the show a handful of students came to the stage to thank the duo for performing at their school and to give out a few well received hugs.

Photos by Bill Rice and Tim Timberlake


JAMinc’s last concert of 2019 – dazzling guitarist Peppino D’Agostino

As JAMinc President Tim Timberlake finished introducing Peppino D’Agostino, the nearly sold out crowd could hear his guitar but could not see him. Peppino began by entering Studio A from the back and played while he slowly made his way to the front, stopping several times to play up close and personal to members of the audience – even sitting in an empty chair while playing. Peppino brought amazing guitar technique and humor to his show.

For most of his two sets he just played his guitar but did sing a few songs in his native Italian tongue. At one point he asked the crowd to join in by singing or humming as he played songs by the Beatles, Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and Jerry Jeff Walker’s Mr. Bojangles. There truly was a magical vibe in the studio.

Pepinno put on a lesson of sorts by explaining and using several different tunings which the guitar players present appreciated. He also demonstrated the versatility of the guitar by playing the opening riff of Smoke on the Water just using his left hand plucking and hammering strings on the fretboard.

He talked about the power and universality of music and towards the end of his second set asked all to close their eyes and feel his music while creating a movie of corresponding imagery in their mind. It was a most serene way to end an enchanting evening that had begun with a rich potluck buffet in the studio’s lobby.

As the evening wrapped up it was obvious, based on the animated discussions with Peppino and brisk CD sales, he had made a strong connection with the folks in attendance. All-in-all a perfect way to end JAMinc’s 2019 concert season.

Photos by Charlie Reilly and Tim Timberlake

Before performing at Studio A, Peppino D’Agostino performed at Mary Munford Elementary School and Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School. Read about his visits »

About Peppino D’Agostino

A young Sicilian artist left Italy over 30 years ago, with the dream of “playing with the greatest guitarists.” Peppino has achieved his dream and he’s now firmly planted in the “who’s who” of the guitar world.

Peppino D’Agostino emerged on the acoustic guitar scene in the early 80s as a leading member of the second wave of the great fingerstylists that helped redefine the instrument in the 90s. His remarkable technique, penchant for open tunings, and percussive effects are the basis of his unique compositional style which has been inspiring musicians and audiences alike for decades. Add to that his natural warmth, playfulness, and broad musical tastes and you have the recipe for what he calls “minestrone music.” His virtuosity and his emotional charge have also had a significant influence on the younger generation of fingerstyle guitarists.

D’Agostino continues to evolve and grow in ways that would have been hard to predict when he first showcased his melodic yet emotionally intense style on the recordings Acoustic Spirit, Close to the Heart, and Every Step of the Way which was named one of the top three acoustic guitar albums of all time by Acoustic Guitar magazine readers.

D’Agostino has performed in more than 30 countries, at prestigious international festivals and has played in some of the world’s most important theaters. He has shared the stage with Tommy Emmanuel, Leo Kottke, Laurindo Almeida, Sergio Assad, Larry Carlton, and Eric Johnson, to name a few. His solo recordings include high quality labels such as Favored Nations, Mesa / Bluemoon, and Acoustic Music Records. Recognized as “the guitarist’s guitarist” by Acoustic Guitar magazine and described as “a giant of the acoustic guitar” by the San Diego Reader, D’Agostino was voted Best Acoustic Guitarist by readers of Guitar Player magazine.

Recently Peppino had his very first sold out tour in China and a soundtrack composed for the world renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.In addition to performing, D’Agostino also makes time to teach. He enjoys meeting with individual students as well as providing group instruction and vacation learning packages like the Acoustic Guitar Cruises, Creative Vacances in La Moreau, France, or teaching with legendary guitarist Martin Taylor. The leading online instruction company Truefire has released a series of videos in which D’Agostino explains his influential guitar techniques and approach to composition. Peppino, when not performing or teaching, also has fun writing musical licks for new versions of games such as Sims – a product of Electronic Arts, or Dragons of Atlantis for Kabam.

Peppino likes to compare his musical approach to the culinary art of his native Italy: “If you want to prepare a good, succulent dish you have to know how to mix the various ingredients and, most important, have knowledge of the right amounts. Similarly, in musical composition you must be able to properly combine melody, harmony, rhythm and percussive effects with discretion and elegance.”

People never know what to expect at his concerts. Peppino’s repertoire is always changing, adapting to the rapport he establishes with his audience. His live performances, a combination of beautiful, complex, up tempo original instrumentals, memorable arrangements and engaging songs are beautifully addictive.

Read more about Peppino D’Agostino »

2019 Folk Festival Performers visit Richmond City Schools

The 2019 Richmond Folk Festival was another great success, both onsite and in Richmond city schools! JAMinc again partnered with the Folk Festival to transport eight 2019 performers to 11 Richmond Public schools, including the Virgie Binford Education Center.

The students were treated to Native American dancing, Delta Blues, Afro-Cuban, Balafon Masters and Irish step dance & music. The artists participating in this year’s RFF School Outreach were:

  • Jeghetto
  • Balla Kouyaté
  • Native Pride Dancers
  • Iberi Choir
  • Kevin Doyle & Friends
  • Conjunto Guantánamo
  • Riley Baugus
  • Super Chikan

A word of thanks

JAMinc would like to sincerely thank the following folks for driving artists to their appointed stops: Todd Ranson, Mike Murphy, Bill Rice, George Turman, Alex and Julie Fuentes, Sandy Basham, Diane Mugford, Sarah Barr and Andy Jones.

We’re also grateful to ace soundman David Waltenbaugh for setting up and running JAMinc’s Bose L-1 sound system for Thomas Jefferson HS and Fairfield Court Elementary.

And we couldn’t do it without the loyal support of Nieves Guzman with TNT Auto Rental for providing high capacity vans for the larger groups.

We strongly feel that music holds the key to bringing communities together and exposing young people to it can change lives and possibly trigger a life-long passion to play. JAMinc is proud to have joined with the Richmond Folk Festival since the beginning in this important endeavor.

Conjunto Guantanamo at Southampton Elementary School

photos by Charlie Reilly


Super Chikan at Westover Hills Elementary School

photos by Charlie Reilly & Bill Rice


Native American Dance at Virgie Binford Education Center

photos by Charlie Reilly


Kevin Doyle & Friends at Fox Elementary School

photos by Charlie Reilly


Balla Kouyaté at Fairfield Court Elementary School

photos by Bill Rice


5th Annual Scott Street Five String Finals – Oct. 12 at the Richmond Folk Festival

The Scott Street Five String Finals

The finalists in the 5th annual Scott Street Five String Finals competed live on the Virginia Folklife Stage at the Richmond Folk Festival on Saturday, October 12, 2019.

Our distinguished judges – Sammy Shelor, Riley Baugus, Brett Martin, and Malcolm Pulley – were impressed with the level of talent shown by this year’s contestants.

Contestants and judges of the Scott Strings Banjo Competition at the Richmond Folk Festival, held Saturday, October 12, 2019. (photo by Skip Rowland)

2019 Winners

Winners of the Scott Strings Banjo Competition at the Richmond Folk Festival, held Saturday, October 12, 2019. (Photo by Skip Rowland)

Bluegrass division:

  • Winner: Stewart Werner, 16. Rocky Mount, VA
  • 1st runner up: Taylor Parks, 15. Bloxom, VA
  • 2nd runner up: Jacob Moretz, 14 Boone, NC

Clawhammer division:

  • Winner: Claire Childress, 16 Big Stone Gap, VA
  • 1st runner up: Hannah Cantrell, 15. Floyd, VA
  • 2nd runner up: Nicholas Wingo, 16. Rural Retreat, VA

Winners in each division received a handsome crystal trophy, a demo recording session at In Your Ear Studios, and a $1,000 cash prize. Runners up received $600 with $400 for third place.

About the Finals

To honor the memory of beloved JAMinc board member, distinguished attorney and dedicated banjo player Scott Street who we lost in February of 2015 to cancer, in cooperation with the Richmond Folk Festival, JAMinc sponsors the banjo competition for young players 18 and under.

Held each year at the Richmond Folk Festival, there are two divisions and two sets of finalists … for bluegrass/Scruggs-style players and for clawhammer/old time players.

After a preliminary round of YouTube video entries, finalists are selected in each division by a distinguished panel of judges.

Get the full details at the Richmond Folk Festival website.

Violet Bell brings thoughtful melody to Studio A

For the North Carolina duo of Lizzy Ross and Omar Ruiz-Lopez, Studio A was the perfect setting to show off their song-writing and performance skills on Nov. 7, 2019. A nearly sold out crowd was treated to all original songs that were often humorous and spoke about everyday life. Lizzy’s strong vocals and guitar were backed up perfectly by Omar’s harmony – both vocally and instrumentally.

Self-described perfectionists, the duo used the time between songs to both tune and tell interesting stories about where their songs come from and share a bit about themselves. Their song about wearing “Daisy Dukes” in the summer and sitting in tall grass drew knowledgeable laughter from the audience when Lizzy mentioned ticks, poison ivy and the necessity of sunscreen while living in the south.

The evening’s music was as varied as the pot-luck buffet that preceded the concert, invoking many genres including Irish, Americana, country and the blues, all made unique by the duo’s interpretation. The audience was especially taken by Lizzy’s vocals – both her strength and range – that often brought Joni Mitchel to mind. During their encore, sound engineer Garrett Milich used some old school mixing techniques to full advantage creating the illusion that Lizzy was singing in a huge cathedral. It captivated the audience and was the perfect ending for an evening of many sonic highlights.



Photos by Charlie Reilly and Bill Rice

Before the concert, Violet Bell visited Mary Munford Elementary School. Check out their visit. »

About Violet Bell

Omar Ruiz-Lopez is quieter than Lizzy Ross. He considers his words, then speaks in terms of ideals, of acoustic instruments, of teaching children to play music and of bringing things of beauty into the world. Indeed, each half of Violet Bell has dedicated his or her life to the pursuit of music … Ross as a songwriter who briefly tried her hand in Nashville before returning to more receptive soil in North Carolina, and Ruiz-Lopez as a music educator and sideman who plays a staggering array of instruments (violin, viola, cello, guitar, mandolin, banjo). From his work with Kidznotes, a nonprofit that offers instrument lessons to underserved Durham schoolchildren, to his collaborations with Triangle-area musicians and membership in bands like Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboys (past JAMinc/In Your Ear favorites), Ruiz-Lopez was a busy musician for years before Violet Bell. Yet he was tired of being a sideman. He had much more to contribute.

“For a long time I had wanted to work with something I felt really aligned with,” he says. “Lizzy came, and all of the sudden there’s this depth while there is light.”

Ross thinks melodically and lyrically, while Ruiz-Lopez thinks in tones, textures and colors. To him, an arrangement is a Rubik’s Cube – a satisfying challenge that is solved by different changes, sections and timbres. As a multi-instrumentalist, Ruiz-Lopez has a broad sonic palette at his disposal. A consistent soundscape throughout a record is uninteresting to Ruiz-Lopez, as is undue obedience to genre. As simple as it sounds, his tools are rhythm, harmony and melody.

“We need things of beauty and not just products,” he says. “If people open to the arts and creativity in general, we can make the world a better place and more colorful. The tribute is to beauty when you make song and raise a joyous noise.”


We hope you’ll join for a thoughtful and moving evening in the acoustic intimacy of In Your Ear’s Studio A on Thursday, November 7th for the collaborative joy of Violet Bell.

Read more about Violet Bell »

Fireside Collective at Sabot at Stony Point

Fireside Collective at Sabot School

Following a sold out show at In Your Ear Studio Wednesday night, The Fireside Collective rolled into Sabot at Stony Point Thursday morning to entertain and educate about 200 pre-K to middle schoolers.

Harkening back to the early days of acoustic bluegrass, the five member band performed for about 45 minutes huddled around a single microphone. In addition to performing mostly original tunes, the band took questions and song requests from the students. It wasn’t long before many of the pre-K’s were up and dancing while the older students clapped and sang along. The band was impressed with how knowledgeable the students were about their instruments and music in general.

As the performance was wrapping up one student requested a Beatles song. The quintet responded with an excellent cover of “Eleanor Rigby”. Dobro player Tommy Maher added that they are the only bluegrass band they know of doing that song. Needless to say the kids and teachers loved it.

After the school performance the band jumped back in their van to head back to Raleigh, NC to continue performing as part of the IBMA celebrations where they had performed Tuesday evening at the Governor’s Mansion. The band seemed energized by the students and the feeling was mutual at the school.



Fiddlin’ movie at the Byrd Theater

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019, 7:15pm

JAMinc proudly presents a free screening of the film Fiddlin’ at the Byrd Theater.

Watch the trailer

About the movie

As a fitting followup to the 15th edition of the Richmond Folk Festival, JAMinc and the Byrd Theater are excited to provide the opportunity for you to see this lovingly crafted film before it’s general release.

Sister filmmakers, Julie Simone and Vicki Vlasic, returned to their Appalachian roots to film at the Old Fiddler’s Convention run by the Galax Moose Lodge. They were given permission to film for the first time in its 80 year history after Lodge members discovered they knew the sisters’ grandpa. Their local connection also earned them the trust of the talented musicians who opened their hearts and shared their stories.

Fiddlin’ is a celebration of true Americana and artistic expression in the face of adversity. This rollicking, inspiring film shines a light on what is best about America and shows the uplifting power of music. Fiddlin’ pays tribute to Old Time and Bluegrass music at the 80th annual Old Fiddler’s Convention where musicians travel from around the world to compete and jam with friends, without a cell phone in sight.

Wayne Henderson, a world-renowned luthier known as the “guitar god,” is both a master craftsman and master storyteller. His friendship with 11-year old Presley Barker shows just how closely knit a community of musicians can be. The endearing relationship between them is a testament to the music’s power. As Presley and Wayne vie for top prize in the ultra-competitive Adult Guitar Competition, the film reaches its climax. Determined to keep the music and traditions alive, all exclaim they will pass it on to future generations and play till the day they die!

The film also features Dori Freeman, Kitty Amaral, Eddie Bond, Karen Carr, Martha Spencer, Annabelle Watts, Ivy Phillips, Uma Peters and Virginia’s state folklorist, Jon Lohman. For fans of old time and bluegrass music, there will be many familiar faces in the film, including moments with Bill Monroe and never before seen footage of Doc Watson.

Check out their website to see more »




In the spirit of the Richmond Folk Festival, admission to this special screening is free but donations will be welcome to defray costs. For further information:


Fireside Collective kicks off fall at IYE

Arriving at In Your Ear Studios Wednesday afternoon, The Fireside Collective was greeted with a most welcome sight – “Sold Out!” – posted on the studio’s front door. In fact, the show had been sold out for several weeks. The band had driven up from Raleigh, NC after playing the night before with the legendary Jim Lauderdale at Governor Roy Cooper’s mansion as part of the IBMA.

After getting their collective fill from the evening’s pot luck buffet (quite a buzz about the Mexican cheese cake) the band and audience settled into Studio A for 90 minutes of what the band calls “honest, heartfelt music.” It was high-energy and wide-ranging string Americana music that covered bluegrass, new grass and even a bit of rock and roll. Their two sets included original tunes, a tribute to the Grateful Dead (the band’s favorite road music), the Eagles and even a cover of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” The audience enthusiastically demanded an encore and Fireside Collective served up a rousing cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You.”

Fireside Collective performed at IYE Studios on September 25, 2019. Thanks to Charlie Reilly for the photos; click for a larger look.

All-in-all it was an evening that surpassed expectations. One in the audience was heard telling their friend, “I have a new appreciation as to what bluegrass music can be.” Mission accomplished!

Thursday morning the band paid a visit to The Sabot School at Stony Point and then hit the road back to Raleigh to continue participating in several IBMA performances.

About Fireside Collective

Quickly blazing a name for themselves with their progressive approach to American folk music, Fireside Collective delights listeners with memorable melodies and contemporary songwriting. Formed in the mountain city of Asheville North Carolina, the band plays original songs on stringed instruments, intended for a modern audience. Following the release of their debut album Shadows and Dreams, the band hit the road seeking to engage audiences with their energetic live show built on instrumental proficiency, colorful harmonies, and innovative musical arrangements. Well what do you call it?

“Bluegrass, Newgrass, perhaps Progressive folk…” These are some descriptions mandolinist and songwriter Jesse Iaquinto chooses to identify with. “Depending on where you come from and your experience with folk music, you may think we’re very traditional, or on the other hand, consider us a progressive act. We appreciate both ends of the spectrum and may lie on a different end on any given night.” While roots music lies at the core of the Collective’s songs, a willingness to explore the boundaries and present relevant new material remains fundamental.

The band burst onto the scene in early 2014 following the release of Shadows and Dreams. The album weaves bluegrass, funk, rock, and blues influences into a refreshing representation of modern folk music. From the opening track “Poor Soul” with it’s energetic bluegrass overtones to the closer “Shine the Way Home”, the album takes listeners on a journey through simple love songs to complex themes such as metaphysics and coexistence. The album, recorded in Asheville at Sound Temple Studios, features guest musicians from Asheville’s rich acoustic music scene alongside members of the Fireside Collective.

In 2016 they were winners of the MerleFest band competition. In 2017 they were nominated for an IBMA momentum award for best band. They’ve become crowd favorites at prestigious nearby events like FloydFest and Red Wing Roots. If you savor the sounds of acoustic instrumentation, enjoy the excitement of energetic live performances, and delight in the creation of original songs, then join us for an engaging evening in the acoustic perfection of In Your Ear’s Studio A with the Fireside Collective on Wednesday, September 25.

Check out their website to see more »

Watch a few videos

Mary Munford makes donation to JAMinc in honor of principal

JAMinc is beyond excited to accept a very generous check from Mary Munford Elementary’s PTA, representing proceeds from a very successful coffee sale.

On the occasion of his 70th birthday, they sold more than 170 bags of “Greg Muzik’s Bluegrass Blend” from Lamplighter Coffee, in honor of their beloved principal and music lover.

JAMinc has partnered with Mary Munford for at least 60 artist appearances in their auditorium over the years, by far our most popular outreach venue. Greg’s willingness to always give our touring musicians a place to play is key to our mission. Thanks to “Dr. Muzik” and to all at MM for your continued focus on what music can mean to a young mind.

Nellie McKay and pup Bessie delight Mary Munford students

Nellie McKay and her pup Bessie

Nellie McKay, accompanied by her companion dog Bessie, performed at Mary Munford Elementary School Thursday afternoon before heading to the In Your Ear studios. The nearly full auditorium of students was delighted to see Bessie on stage.

Nellie began her 30-minute set singing “If I Fell” by Lennon and McCartney while playing ukulele. After the song she asked the kids if any of them knew who the Beatles were. To her surprise, nearly all raised their hands.

A few songs later, when Nellie added harmonica, the students laughed as Bessie began to accompany her – standing and howling along with the song. Towards the end of her performance Nellie moved to the school’s piano and was joined on a few songs by JAMinc board member Samson Trinh playing saxophone. Nellie also passed one of her ukuleles and a harmonica to the students so they could examine the instruments.

Remarking on how engaged and well behave the students were, she told them they were one of her best audiences ever and thanked them for coming to see her.