When Principal Greg Muzik began to introduce the morning’s visiting musical guest, Peppino D’Agostino, to the 250 assembled students, they must have wondered where he was, as the stage was empty. They may have become more confused when they heard the sound of a guitar yet the artist still was nowhere to be seen. Peppino, who had been sitting in a back corner of the auditorium while the students filed in, began to play while slowly walking among the kids as he made his way towards the stage. He had definitely captured their attention.
Once on stage he told the students he was from Italy, “the land of spaghetti,” and soon had the kids singing along in Italian while he sang and played. He then showed the students how a guitar could be played with one hand and that the guitar can do several parts of a song. During a rhythm exercise he had the students rub their hands together, snap their fingers and then clap hands with a neighbor while he played along. Peppino was impressed with how musical the students were.
At one point during a Q&A session, one student asked if he knew the theme from Star Wars which Peppino figured out while continuing to talk and take questions. Peppino ended his performance by asking all to close their eyes and create a video in their minds based on his song, which was an enchanting way for both students and educators to go forth for the rest of their day.
In the afternoon Peppino played for about 100 students at the east end’s Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School. Once again he began by walking around the assembled students and playing up close and personal with them. He mentioned that his influences included his mother’s piano playing as well as Stevie Wonder, Wes Montgomery and the Beatles. The students, grades 4 through 8, were captivated by the possibilities the guitar presented and several seemed motivated to take up learning the guitar themselves. He gifted the school several of his CDs which the principal said they would play over the school’s announcements system to start each day. It was a fine time for all with many smiling faces as he ended his set.
Photos by Bill Rice and Tim Timberlake
Eric Stanley visited two Richmond schools as part of his JAMinc performance.
To our JAMinc family …
On behalf of our board of directors, a sincere thank you for supporting our efforts in 2019, including our seven live In Your Ear studio concerts, our partnership with VCU’s ICA Theater presenting Rex Richardson, our free screening of the documentary “Fiddlin'” at the Byrd Theater, another epic Scott Street Five String Finals youth banjo competition and our 15th year of partnering on school outreach with the Richmond Folk Festival.
JAMinc is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. We provide in-school concerts to public and private schools, many of which do not have the resources to bring music of this quality to their students. Our In Your Ear concert series that enables these appearances to happen, normally loses money after paying the performers, sound production staff, announcements and taxes. We have no paid staff or offices. All the assistants and board members volunteer their time and funds to make this work. Unfortunately, ticket fees, grants and sponsorships do not adequately cover our costs.
We understand that you’re likely getting numerous requests for contributions at this time of year, but we could really use your help. Donations have the potential of tax savings. If you are over 70½ or are already taking MRDs (minimally required distributions) we can provide information about decreasing your tax burden while benefiting JAMinc. In addition, we promise that we will not clog up your mailboxes with solicitations or ever sell email addresses or contact information. All of us at JAMinc truly appreciate your participation and wish you a meaningful and musical holiday season.
Tim Timberlake, President
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
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 »
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 »
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:
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.
photos by Charlie Reilly
photos by Charlie Reilly & Bill Rice
photos by Charlie Reilly
photos by Charlie Reilly
photos by Bill Rice
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.
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.
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.
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. »
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.
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.
JAMinc proudly presents a free screening of the film Fiddlin’ at the Byrd Theater.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.