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: info@jaminc.org


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.



Scott Street five string winner G Rockwell awarded scholarship

G Rockwell

The bluegrass division winner of our 2017 Scott Street Five String Finals scores a big one. The International Bluegrass Music Association has awarded a scholarship to G Rockwell to attend the Blue Ridge Banjo Camp, hosted by Béla Fleck.

G Rockwell, a 16 year old from Bridgeport, CT, has been playing for 8 years. He is a banjo picker and guitarist, occasional mandolin player, with a style fusing bluegrass, jazz and classic rock.

Rockwell competed live on the CarMax Family Stage at the Richmond Folk Festival on October 14, 2017. Each year the Scott Street Five String Finals, a banjo competition for young players 18 and under, honors the memory of beloved JAMinc board member, distinguished attorney and dedicated banjo player Scott Street. The competition is open for entries for the 2019 Richmond Folk Festival. Check it out.

Read more about the scholarship »


Eric Stanley’s stay inspired message connects with students

Eric Stanley started his Thursday afternoon school visit to Mary Munford Elementary high-fiving seated students while the remaining students entered the auditorium. From the first notes he played on his violin the 400 or so students were captivated. Using recorded loops, Eric connected with the students by incorporating several nursery rhymes into his performance.

At one point Eric asked if there were any dancers in the audience. Of the 30 raised hands he selected a young boy to come up on stage and show off his moves. You could tell it was a moment the youngster had been waiting for as he busted some impressive moves while Eric played. Once done Eric congratulated the student on having a big heart and the courage to get up and be himself in front of his fellow students.

Friday morning Eric visited with about 300 students at Chimborazo Elementary in Church Hill. Once again he connected immediately with the students and this time invited two to perform with him – one singing and the other dancing while Eric played. The collected students gave all an enthusiastic round of applause.

As he does at every school he plays, Eric encouraged the students to always be who they are and to stay inspired. The kids were off to a good start after seeing Eric’s performances.

Nellie McKay captivates audience at In Your Ear Studios on May 23, 2019

After board member and long-time friend Samson Trinh’s introduction of Nellie McKay to the nearly full house in Studio A, she stepped to the microphone, ukulele in hand, and began to sing without saying a word.

She immediately captivated the audience with her sweet and wide vocal range. During the rest of the evening she proved that great things really can come in small packages. Besides singing and playing both ukulele and piano, she did several funny yet poignant “conversations” with herself as subtle commentary on today’s political landscape. In a word, Nellie was entertaining.

Towards the end of the all-too-short evening, which kicked off with yet another spectacular potluck buffet, Samson joined Nellie, now on the studio’s grand piano, for a couple of songs playing saxophone. The evening was capped off when local jazz vocalist and musician John Winn (who happened to be in attendance) joined the two (at Samson’s urging) for an improvised jazz vocalization number known as “scat” singing. The audience signaled their approval of the performance, and the evening in general, with a standing ovation.

Nellie McKay is hard to categorize. She’s done Brecht on Broadway, opened for Lou Reed at Carnegie Hall, sung Woody Allen movie songs at the Hollywood Bowl, performed on A Prairie Home Companion, duetted with Eartha Kitt and Triumph The Insult Comic Dog, played Hilary Swank’s sister on the big screen, paid tribute to Doris Day, and released three wildly acclaimed albums of original music.

Nellie McKayHer music is as tuneful and clever as the best of the Great American Songbook  – part cabaret, part sparkly pop. But beneath the charming melodic surface is a wit that cuts, and a sharply tuned social conscience.

Sister Orchid marks Nellie McKay‘s seventh label release. Previous albums include, Pretty Little Head Obligatory Villagers, Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day, Sweet Mobile Home, Get Away From Me and My Weekly Reader (both co-produced by Beatles engineer, Geoff Emerick.

She won a Theatre World Award for her Broadway portrayal of Polly Peachum in The Threepenny Opera. As a motion picture actress, Nellie has been in “P.S. I Love You” and “Downtown Express.” Film soundtracks include “Rumor Has It”, “Monster-in-Law” and her music has been heard on television’s “Mad Men”, “Boardwalk Empire”, “Weeds”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “NCIS” and “Nurse Jackie”. Nellie has performed on TV shows including The Late Show with David Letterman, Conan, Ferguson, and The View.

Nellie has made numerous radio appearances on NPR’s Mountain Stage, A Prairie Home Companion, and Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz. The Chase Brock Experience produced a ballet of her album, Obligatory Villagers, and her writing has appeared in The Onion, Interview, and The New York Times Book Review.

Nellie is a recipient of PETA’s Humanitarian Award and The Humane Society’s Doris Day Music Award in recognition of her dedication to animal rights.