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A Weekend of Entertainment, Participation and Exhibits

Along the banks of the historic Suwannee River in White Springs, Florida, folk artists have gathered to celebrate Florida’s land, people, and diverse cultural heritage. Since its humble beginning in 1953, the Florida Folk Festival has not only grown to become Florida’s most prestigious affair, but also named “Florida’s Best Cultural Event.” The festival has recently been recognized by the Southeast Tourism Society as a “Top 20 Event” in the southeastern United States for 2015.

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Download your copy of the 2016 performer schedule today and get ready for a weekend full of fun and entertainment for the entire family!

Arlo Guthrie – Saturday evening

Legendary musician, performer, and folk historian Arlo Guthrie, presented by ICM artists, will headline the 64th Annual Florida Folk Festival.  Arlo Guthrie was born with a guitar in one hand and a harmonica in the other, in Coney Island, New York in 1947. He is the eldest son of America’s beloved singer/writer/philosopher Woody Guthrie and Marjorie Mazia Guthrie, a professional dancer with the Martha Graham Company and founder of The Committee to Combat Huntington’s Disease. Arlo’s father, Woody, composed and performed hundreds of songs, including the still-celebrated “This Land Is Your Land.”

Arlo practically lived in the most famous venues of the "Folk Boom" era. He witnessed the transition from an earlier generation of ballad singers like Richard Dyer-Bennet and blues-men like Mississippi John Hurt, to a new era of singer-song writers such as Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs. He grooved with the beat poets like Allen Ginsburg and Lord Buckley, and picked with players like Bill Monroe and Doc Watson. He learned something from everyone and developed his own style, becoming a distinctive, expressive voice in a crowded community of singer-songwriters and political-social commentators.

Guthrie gave his first public performance in 1961 at age 13 and quickly became involved in the music that was shaping the world. His career exploded in 1967 with the release of Alice’s Restaurant, whose title song premiered at the Newport Folk Festival and helped foster a new commitment to social consciousness among the ’60s generation. Arlo went on to star in the 1969 Hollywood film version of Alice’s Restaurant, directed by Arthur Penn.

With songs like "Alice's Restaurant", too long for radio airplay; "Coming into Los Angeles", banned from many radio stations (but a favorite at the 1969 Woodstock Festival); and the definitive rendition of Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans", Guthrie was no One-Hit-Wonder. An artist of international stature, he has never had a 'hit' in the usual sense. He has usually preferred to walk to his own beat rather than march in step to the drum of popular culture.

Over the last four decades Guthrie has toured throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia winning a wide, popular following. In addition to his accomplishments as a musician, playing the piano, six and twelve-string guitar, harmonica and a dozen other instruments, Arlo is a natural-born storyteller, whose tales and anecdotes figure prominently in his performances.

Alongside his thriving performing career, Guthrie launched his own record label Rising Son Records in 1983. In addition to Arlo's complete catalogue of music, RSR includes recordings by Abe's band, Xavier, Sarah Lee's debut album "Sarah Lee Guthrie" and Johnny Irion's recording of "Unity Lodge". Their collaboration on "Entirely Live" and "Exploration" (2004) as well as Johnny's new release "Ex Tempore" are now available from the label. Arlo is also heard on "This Land is Your Land" alongside the voice of his father Woody Guthrie. The album has won several awards including a 1997 Grammy nomination as "Best Musical Album for Children".

Arlo's other wide-ranging activities have included acting roles on the ABC series "Byrd’s of Paradise" and on the USA network series "Renegade". He has written and published The Rolling Blunder Review, a popular newsletter, since 1986, and is the author of an award-winning children's book "Moose’s Come Walking" illustrated by Alice May Brock.

In 1991 Arlo purchased the old Trinity Church. It was Thanksgiving 1965 that events took place at the church which inspired Arlo to write the song "Alice's Restaurant". Named for his parents, The Guthrie Center is a not-for-profit interfaith church foundation dedicated to providing a wide range of local and international services. Its outreach programs include everything from providing HIV/AIDS services to baking cookies with a local service organization; an HD walk-a-thon to raise awareness and money for a cure for Huntington's disease, and offering a place simply to meditate. The Guthrie Foundation is a separate not-for-profit educational organization that addresses issues such as the environment, health care, cultural preservation and educational exchange. Arlo Guthrie, Rising Son Records, and The Guthrie Center & Foundation are on the World Wide Web at "risingsonrecords.com."

 

Jim Stafford – Friday Evening

Winter Haven native; Jim Stafford is a comedian, singer, songwriter, and entertainer extraordinaire. He wrote and recorded his first chart making song, “The Swamp Witch”, produced by his boyhood friend Kent LaVoie a.k.a Lobo in 1974. He followed with a gold single, “Spiders and Snakes”, which stayed on the American pop charts for 26 weeks. The hits just kept coming and included “My Girl Bill”, “Wildwood Weed”, and the wonderfully satirical “Cow Patti”, written for the Clint Eastwood movie, Any Which Way You Can, in which Jim appeared.

For over 20 years the Jim Stafford show is always named a favorite by audiences and critics alike. The singer, songwriter, comic genius, and entertainer extraordinaire is self-taught on guitar, fiddle, piano, banjo, organ, harmonica and the human brain--he might bring any of them into play at any moment. 417 Magazine, the Springfield News Leader and the Branson Entertainment Awards have voted Jim Best Entertainer, Best Personality and Best Comedy Show. Mayflower Tours has named Jim’s Show as one of their top ten suppliers in North America. Jim wrote many of the songs for which he is famous and has brought his inimitable style to several movie soundtracks. He received a gold record for his work in the Disney movie The Fox and The Hound and writes for many other popular artists.

Jim launched his television career with The Jim Stafford Show on ABC in 1975. His numerous television appearances included music specials, variety shows, and talk shows. He co-hosted the popular prime-time show Those Amazing Animals with Burgess Meredith and Pricilla Presley. Jim also hosted 56 episodes of Nashville on the Road and made 26 appearances on the Tonight Show. In 1987 & 1988, Jim was a regular performer and head writer/producer for the Emmy-nominated Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Jim’s first love has always been live performance. During his show Jim combines hysterical comedy with masterful performances on the classical guitar as well as with heart-warming stories of the human spirit. Critically acclaimed as the “Victor Borge of the Guitar”, Jim creates hilarious antics from everyday life taking laughter to a new art form.  He’ll share his secrets for creating stage presence.

 

Billy Dean – Sunday Evening

Festival favorite, Billy Dean, a native of Quincy, Florida, was raised appreciating the value of music and has a diverse array of musical influences. After attending college on a basketball scholarship, Billy moved to Nashville in 1983 and by 1990 had recorded his first Top 5 Hit "Only Here For A Little While." Since then, Billy has transcended genres with his unique repertoire earning numerous awards, including: The Academy of Country Music's Song of the Year for "Somewhere In My Broken Heart", ACM New Male Vocalist of The Year, BMI Pop Awards, BMI Song Awards, BMI Million Air Plays Award, Country Music Television Rising Star Award, NSAI Song of The Year, and a Grammy for a "Country Tribute: Amazing Grace."

Billy's appeal reaches beyond the music world. He has appeared on numerous television shows as well as made-for TV movies, including: Blue Valley Songbird, A Face to Kill For, Lois & Clark, One Life to Live, Diagnosis Murder, Good Morning America, The Tonight Show, The Montel Show, and many others.

After twelve albums and eleven Top 10 singles spanning over a period of eighteen years, Billy has founded the publishing company BDMG (Billy Dean Music Group). Billy continues to make contributions to the Country Music world by building brands with music and empowering children, by being a spokesperson for Averitt Cares For Kids, and Sunkist's Take A Stand Program.

His latest album "Let Them Be Little" was inspired by those closest to him, his two children Hannah and Eli. Billy's illustrious career was recently recognized with a proclamation from the State of Tennessee House of Representatives.

 

John McEuen – Sunday Evening

Three years before he became a founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, teenage magician John McEuen discovered that he liked being in front of people. His love of acoustic music history and being onstage is evident to all those who see him putting his banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, lap steel, and piano together with songs and comedic storytelling.

 Searching for a path to showbiz in 1965, with money borrowed from his father, McEuen booked Bob Dylan for a concert in a Long Beach high school auditorium and it sold out. John paid back the loan and bought a new banjo. He found his chance at fame when "a bunch of guys” playing together at McCabe's Guitar Shop (where John was teaching banjo in 1966) in Long Beach, California, joined forces as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, a jug band that headed out to play everything from "folk to rock to country...”.

With Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, he's made 34 albums, including the platinum-selling Will The Circle Be Unbroken, produced by the band's manager, and John's brother, Bill McEuen for United Artists Records. Indisputably "one of the most important recordings ever come out of Nashville", Circle... is recognized today as a music milestone and integral part of Americana history. It was inducted in to the Library of Congress as “one of America's most important historic recordings.”

Multi-instrumentalist McEuen has ventured into varied musical genres simultaneous with band pursuits, making 6 of his own CD's and producing 10 others. John has received recognition and awards in different formats including television specials, film scoring, albums and concert production. In addition to keeping up an active concert schedule, both solo and with Nitty Gritty, he also recently won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album for his production of The Crow - New Songs for the 5-string Banjo by Steve Martin on Rounder Records. Over the years John has performed and recorded with many well-known acts including Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger and many more. These days, John spends time at his home in Florida with his family and continues to play on the road, performing about 130 concert dates a year, either solo or with the band.

 

Les Dudek - Friday evening

Whether you know it or not, you’ve heard Les Dudek’s guitar playing thousands of times.

Les’s parents moved from Rhode Island to Auburndale, Florida when he was six due to his father’s retirement from the Navy. His first real musical love was The Beatles, which he heard playing through his sister’s bedroom wall when she was a teenager. In 1962, at the age of ten, Les asked his parents for a guitar for Christmas. They bought him an acoustic guitar from Sears & Roebuck and changed his life forever as he gained more musical influences from Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and The Ventures. Dudek had built quite a reputation around the Florida area as a proficient guitar player, having started playing in local bands as a teenager. That reputation would lead him into the path one of the most influential groups of the 1970’s, the Allman Brothers Band, where he was invited to record on the                   Brothers & Sisters album. Les played guitar harmonies with Dickey Betts on the well-known song “Ramblin' Man" and acoustic guitar on "Jessica".

After his brief recording stint, he began touring with Boz Scaggs and the Steve Miller Band during the Joker era. When the tour finished, Miller invited some artists from Scaggs’ and James Cotton’s bands to cut some new tracks in Seattle. “Fly Like an Eagle”, “Book of Dreams” and “Living in the 20th Century” were all from those sessions and are thought of as some of Miller’s best hits.

Les was signed to Columbia as a solo artist after playing for Scaggs and Miller for a few years, and he released four successful solo albums and one collaborative band album. His solo work is best remembered with two singles, “City Magic” and “Old Judge Jones” which were played frequently on local radio stations.  During this period Les began working with Cher and got a part in her movie Mask, as well as writing some of the music for the feature. He also toured with Stevie Nicks on her Whole Lotta Trouble tour and is featured on her Rock a Little album.

Since the early nineties Les released three more albums with Eflat Productions; Deeper Shades of Blues, Freestyle and Delta Breeze. Dudek hit the road again with his own band, and has been performing songs from all his records, plus a few hits he's recorded with other artists. Les has also worked for NBC, ABC, ESPN, Fox Sports, and E! Entertainment Television. He can be heard on many television series including Friends

 

Frank Thomas – Sunday evening

Born and raised in rustic Clay County, Florida songwriter Frank Thomas has native Florida lineage dating back to the late 18th century. Few other songwriters can claim such a strong Florida heritage and sharing his love of Florida is the inspirational thread woven throughout his music and storytelling. He has been given many titles including the Dean of Florida Folk (for the many song-writing assignments he has given over the years), The Grand Old Man of Florida Folk, and is considered one of the most prolific songwriters in Florida.

In the 60s, Thomas toured nationally with several well-known bluegrass groups, most notably the legendary Arkansas Travelers.  Thomas and beloved wife Ann settled into the "Cracker Palace," a Florida style home down Rattlesnake Hammock Road on the ridge just outside of Lake Wales. From there, Frank and Ann Thomas became the most well known duo in Florida music. Ann's big daddy thumping bass, deep rooted harmony singing and humorous jabs at her husband helped make them one of Florida's most popular acts. Frank and Ann Thomas traveled Florida, performing their unique music at schools, festivals, music and folk clubs, on television, and on concert stages. During the 80s, they produced and hosted the first Florida folk music radio show, weekly, on Tampa's WMNF.  Their video "Florida History in Song," won the Florida Historical Societies coveted Golden Quill Award. Other awards received include the prestigious Florida Folk Heritage Award, The Inaugural Jillian Prescott History Award and The Stetson Kennedy Foundation Fellow -Man & Mother Earth Award. Frank was recently honored and inducted into the Florida Artist Hall of Fame -- Florida's most prestigious recognition!

Since Ann's death in 2004, Frank has continued his art as the patriarch of Florida folk music and is still a prolific songwriter: his catalogue numbers more than 500 songs -- all about Florida! A portion of them can be found on his nine albums, including Cracker Nights, Florida Stories, Bingo, Spanish Gold, and Just another Day in the Life of a Florida Cracker. For many years, Frank has hosted the River Gazebo stage at the Florida Folk Festival, where he personally welcomes and presents the state's best singer/ songwriters, reviews their work, gives out songwriting assignments and lots of praise.

While his accomplishments are certainly legendary, humble Frank Thomas will describe himself in one of his favorite cracker phrases: "I ain't nothin' extry."

 

The Lee Boys – Friday evening

The Lee Boys are one of America’s finest African-American sacred steel ensembles. This family group consists of three brothers, Alvin Lee (guitar), Derrick Lee and Keith Lee (vocals) along with their three nephews, Roosevelt Collier (pedal steel guitar), Alvin Cordy Jr. (7-string bass) and Earl Walker (drums). Each member began making music at the ages of 7 and 8 in the House of God church they attended in Perrine, FL. Born and raised in Miami, each of The Lee Boys grew up in the church where their father and grandfather, Rev. Robert E. Lee, was the pastor and a steel player himself.

“Sacred steel” is a type of music described as an inspired, unique form of Gospel music with a hard-driving, blues-based beat. The musical genre is rooted in Gospel, but infused with rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, funk, hip-hop, country and ideas from other nations. Influenced by the Hawaiian steel guitar fad of the 1930’s, brothers Willie and Troman Eason brought the electric lap steel guitar into the worship services of the House of God church in Jacksonville, FL. The Pentecostal congregation embraced the soulful sound, and over time this unique sound became the hallmark of the church. The pedal steel guitar was added to the mix and soon became the central instrument. The Lee Boys are part of the fourth generation of musicians in this faith.

When The Lee Boys bring their joyous spiritual sound to the stage, audiences instantly recognize that this is not “sitting and listening” music: dancing, shouting out, and having fun are considered essential parts of their tradition. Founder and bandleader Alvin Lee explains “The inspiration and feeling that comes along with our music is the reason that people feel good. It is like the new music on the block and it’s just getting ready to explode!” It’s mostly original material, with a few standards and hymns the group “blueses up a little.” Audiences often dance, shout out, and always have a great time. In 2008-09 alone they performed for more than 250,000 music fans at festivals throughout the United States. In the process, their unique sound has attracted musical artists such as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers Band, The Black Crowes, Los Lobos, Gov’t Mule, Umphrey’s McGee, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk and The Travelin’ McCourys- all of whom have played with the Lee Boys and/or invited them to tour with them.

They’ve performed throughout the United States, Canada and Europe and will continue influencing audiences worldwide with their “sacred steel”. Their tour calendar includes over 100 major festival performances, including headline stops at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Memphis in May, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, MerleFest, DelFest, Wanee and All Good Festival. In December, 2008, the band debuted on national television with a rousing performance on NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien that had the host jumping out of his chair and raving about the band.

The Lee Boys have been in the studio with The Travelin’ McCourys completing a joint album entitled “Meetin’ In The Middle” which illustrates their amazing bluegrass/sacred steel festival shows and adds to their growing discography.

 

Papaloko & Loray Mistik - Ambassadors of 101 Vodou Nations – Saturday Evening

“Mystic Thunder”, this is the meaning of Loray Mistik, an exciting group which emanates from the hills and villages of the mysterious, ancient land of Haiti. Their music brings forward the truth of their traditions, Vodou music, the traditional music of the people of Haiti, with rhythms played out on the drums like the sound of the mystic thunder of the Gods.

The fall of the brutal Duvalier regime in 1986 unleashed a sound onto the shores of America, the likes of which many had never heard before, Rara music. This was the means by which messages were sent throughout the island. As the popular folk music rooted in Vodou, Rara brought news to the people of the villages and towns. Throughout the year, the Samba (singer of the Rara band) listens and takes notes. When the traditional peasant Carnival season comes at Easter, the escapades of the rival groups are exposed and any acts are described in songs, much to the embarrassment of the opposition. The music is also played in weddings, funerals, and all social events.

Vodou speaks to the heart of Haitian people, putting forth a message of social conscience and spiritual strength. It also typifies the music of the Lwa (the Spirits or Orishas) of Africa, with many songs bringing prayers to the 101 Vodou Nations that look over mankind and protect us all, believers and non-believers alike. In slavery days, Haiti became a melting pot of African tribes. Here were gathered tribes from Congo and Dahomey (now known as Benin), together with the Nigerian tribes of Nago, Rada, and Ibo of the Yoruba faith. The slaves brought their religions with them, often serendipitously, hiding in the hills far from the Catholic priests who were trying to convert them. In the cities, the Lwas were transformed into Catholic Saints so that the townspeople could worship them without prosecution, but in the hills the Lwas reigned and traditions were preserved. Here we find the rhythms of the many tribal religions blended with a new rhythm created by Don Petwo, a Vodou priest, who combined the attributes of the spirit of Metal, Iron and Justice, Ogun, with Congo rhythms creating Petwo music. Rhythms of the already present Arawak and Taino Indians blended with immigrant African rhythms and the sound of Rara was born. The North West coast of Haiti became a heaven for Vodou, and here, in the many temples, was the music preserved. Loray Mistik performs Vodou music, including Rara and Petwo, continuing the tradition.

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jude Thegenus, better known to some as Papaloko, is an artist, whose work is born through trance, the act of falling into a deep meditative state and then being possessed by a spirit whose purpose is to paint strokes of life onto canvas. At about age six, Jude moved on to study sculpture and ceramics, in addition to his dimension interest, at the Art Institute of Saint Jean Bosco and later completed his education at Lycee Antenor Firmin. Thegenus has mastered all the disciplines of Haitian art, from native to modern. He has developed a unique and personal style of working with acrylics. His one-of-a-kind textural compositions create a serene excitement.

Thegenus’ work experiences are in the field of education, illustration, graphic design, sign making and many other disciplines of the visual arts. Solo and group exhibits have been held in his native Haiti as well as Trinidad, Canada, France, and the United States. Papaloko’s work can be found internationally in galleries, private homes, cafés, restaurants and nightclubs. He is currently putting the final touches on a eighteen-year project at Mango’s Tropical Café on Ocean Drive in South Beach, where he was commissioned to design a tropical atmosphere (that covers the entire the facility) within the realms of his extreme creative talent, with paint that shines vibrantly during the day and turns 3-dimentional in the evening hours. A full mural by Papaloko is also featured in the private home of championship boxer Lenox Lewis, as well as at locations such as Tap Tap in South Beach, Club Paradise in New York, and outside the United States in Aruba, Switzerland and Panama.

Rich in natural passion, Thegenus brings a vivid awareness of man’s closeness and attachment to the “Spirit World” through his art. After completing a period of study for the Roman Catholic priesthood, Jude determined that a more culturally rooted spirituality would be the road he would take and thus begun a more in depth study of the Vodoun Temple. In 1989 he turned again to music forming Loray Mistik. Prior to Loray, Jude got his feet wet with the popular Rara band Koleksyon Kazak. Branching out with Loray allowed Jude to more fully exhibit his talents while teaming up with the power of Vodou ceremonies, panorama, and songs of the drum.

In 1999 Jude founded in Miami Jakmel Art Gallery, Cultural Center and Caribbean Backyard, a center for cultural diversity, awareness, positivity and creation. Jakmel Art Gallery, located in Miami in the heart of Wynwood Art District, houses and displays original artwork by local, national and international artists and maintains a contact-based art-sharing network for artists.

In 2004 Jude established a non-profit organization, Papaloko4Kids, with the mission of empowering the youth from all communities through the arts. Having witnessed the tragic living conditions that many children experience in Haiti, he committed himself to help the youth in need using the talent he was given, his art. Papaloko4Kids came to life with the goal of providing a space for the children to learn music, dance, arts and crafts, express their talents and be exposed to a positive environment to help their growth with a sense of community and unity.

Papaloko & Loray Mistik performs true Vodou music, not like the staged folklore performances. Traditional instruments like the kleroon, graj, fe iron, conch shell, cha cha, jon, hand bass, and the drums (Petwo, Congo, Nago, Rara, Dahomey and bongos) unify with the eclectic sounds of the guitar, bass and saxophone to create what they call “Vodou pop”. It is not uncommon for a person to enter a state of trance while encountering the music of Loray Mistik. Jude believes that many come to their performances for the spiritual aspect of the music. Many songs are based on social issues, and prayers are sung for the many suffering in Haiti and around the world today. When Loray Mistik performs it is a much for themselves as is it for the audience. They feel the music first, they never just put on a show.

 

Ben Prestage – Friday evening

Festival audiences better hold onto their seats and prepare to enjoy a mesmerizing and stunning performance when the award winning, multi-talented one-man-band maestro, Ben Prestage, takes the stage.

Born the grandson of a Mississippi sharecropper, Ben Prestage has been soaked in Blues tradition and Mississippi culture since birth. Growing up in the swamps of south central Florida, Prestage began to mix Mississippi Country Blues with his own brand of Florida Swamp Blues. This muddy- water- meets- black- water stew has led him to perform from California to the Carolinas to the Florida Keys, in large festivals, every kind of bar, and sometimes on downtown sidewalks.

Prestage spent some time as a street performer on historic Beale Street, while living in Memphis, TN. He used to share a spot in front of the New Daisy Theatre with modern blues legends Robert Belfour (Fat Possum Records) and Richard Johnston (2001 International Blues Competition winner). He has won numerous awards including "The Most Unique Performer" and he is the only two-time recipient of the Lyon/Pitchford Award for "Best Diddley-Bow Player." Ben is also a 2012 nominee for both the Independent Music Awards and the Blues Music Awards.

Being a street musician in the "Blues capital of the South" threw Prestage's music in a new direction.  His innovative approach to instrumentation, songwriting, and singing, all painted on a traditional historic background produces a vivid picture of the next generation of Blues and Americana music.

To his show, he added a cigar box guitar (made by Memphian and one-man-band John Lowe), which has stereo guitar, and bass strings that can be played independently or at the same time. Then Ben added a series of four-foot pedals that can be manipulated by the heels and toes of both feet to play a drum kit. The final result is Ben playing guitar, bass, and drums while singing his own brand of Blues that leaves bottles empty and dance floors full where ever his music takes him.

 

Mark Johnson & Emory Lester – Saturday Evening

When two super players collide with impressive passion great duos are born, specifically Mark Johnson and Emory Lester. The result is cool bluegrass with overtones of traditional folk, progressive acoustic, new-grass and old-timey all mixed into one.

Mark Johnson hangs his hat in Florida but learned his trade from Jay Unger while living in New York. It was in the early 1970s, that Mark learned from this consummate fiddler the basic technique of claw hammer banjo. He also learned the three-finger style of bluegrass picking as his familiarity with the instrument unfolded. Mark moved to Crystal River in Florida in 1981 where he met the Rice brothers, Larry, Tony, Ronnie and Wyatt. Through that relationship, his manner for style and creativity was forever changed. Calling his new creation Clawgrass, Marks blends the folk and old time traditions with his energetic melodies to create something entirely his own.

Emory Lester is one of today’s foremost experts on the acoustic mandolin. The power and attack of his mandolin playing are unmatched, and his sound is infectious. A life-long Virginia native, but currently residing in Ontario Canada, Emory has been teaching master series workshops at events such as the Steve Kaufman Acoustic Kamp, the Mandolin Symposium, the Swannanoah Gathering, the Goderich Celtic College, and many other prestigious schools and workshops far and wide. His multi-instrumental abilities and sharp playing has earned him the reputation of a master, one he well deserves.

Mark and Emory have toured all across the U.S., released four albums, and have been featured on several performances with Steve Martin, most notably on the ‘Late Night with David Letterman’ television show in September of 2012, where Mark received the third annual Steve Martin Award for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music and were nominated in 2007 for Instrumental Recording of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association, featured in Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Now, and on Nashville Public radio.

 

The WillowWacks – Friday evening

The WillowWacks are comprised of newlywed's Micah and Lauren Gilliam. In a day where many youth are losing touch with the 'live' music of yesteryear, both Micah and Lauren play multiple instruments, write music and sing. The WillowWacks sound is defined by Lauren's timeless, tender vocal style and Micah's diverse, playful acoustic instrumentation.  

The WillowWacks have a truly 'home-spun' approach to all aspects of their music. "We make our t-shirt designs, banners and cds ourselves. We stamp each copy by hand, using our own designs and Lauren's hand-carved linoleum prints. It coincides with what we want people to feel when they hear our music; something organic and intentional, made out of love and gratitude."

 They released their debut EP "The WillowWacks" in October of 2013, since then garnering a strong local following and becoming regular performers at the Gamble Rogers Folk Festival, The Natural Life Festival and The Clean Water Music Festival, a benefit put on by local stars Flagship Romance. They have also performed multiple times at the world-class Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, sharing the stage with acts such as Shawn Colvin and the Blind Boys of Alabama. They embarked on their first U.S. tour last fall, traveling as far as Portland, Oregon and played at the legendary Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles.

 "We prefer to play in peaceful, focused settings, no matter how small, where you can literally hear a pin drop. We excel in environments where people are present and listening and really along for the story we are weaving. For us, nothing can replace the feeling that a deeply intimate atmosphere brings, and we thrive on rising to the challenge of making those moments special, meaningful and worthwhile to the listeners." Apart from The WillowWacks, Micah and Lauren lead successful artistic lives, Micah as a studio producer and studio musician, and Lauren as a blown-glass artist and musician. They are currently writing and recording the beginnings of their next record, which is being produced and engineered in Micah's home studio with the help of other local musicians and friends.

 

Rebecca Zapen & Friends – Saturday evening

REBECCA ZAPEN is a third-generation musician from a musical family tree including players of violin, viola, guitar, piano, bass and accordion. This is Rebecca's 9th year performing at the festival. Her most recent album is called Nest, and was awarded Florida Album of the Year 2011.

A native of Jacksonville, Florida, she now calls St. Petersburg home, where she lives with her husband pianist Jeremy Douglass, who plays melodica and piano in the group and was the recording engineer of Rebecca's award-winning album Nest.

In the "friends" part of Rebecca Zapen & Friends we also have vocalist Barb Ness, bassist Daniel Navarro, and drummer Dave Hamar.

Barbara Ness has been singing for more than 30 years. She attended Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL, for music performance, but completed her BA in English/Creative Writing at USF. Musically, she has been a choir director, small ensemble leader, cantor, soloist, songwriter, lyricist and private voice teacher. Although classically trained in voice, she has also collaborated in other genres. Ness currently studies guitar, provides voice lessons, writes songs, and performs at open mics.

Daniel Navarro is a bass guitarist, born in Guadalajara, Mexico. Soon after moving to Florida, he developed a love for bass guitar. Since age 14 he has invested most of his time to studying, learning, and playing music. Daniel is currently residing in Tampa Bay, where he arranges, composes, and performs regularly.

Dave Hamar is a professional drummer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida in Music Studies with an emphasis on Jazz Percussion and Music Theory. Upon obtaining his Associates' Degree with Honors for Percussion Performance at Hillsborough Community College, Dave was also awarded "Performer of the Semester" two times in a row. He studied with renowned Jazz Musician Steve Davis for three years and has been teaching percussion for eleven.

Other awards and honors include: winning Best Cabaret Album & Song at the Just Plain Folks Awards 2009 in Nashville for her previous album Japanese Bathhouse; she was awarded Jacksonville's Musician of the Year 2008; she was the 2nd Place winner in the Bushman World Ukulele Video Contest 2008; and she was a finalist in the DiscMakers' Independent Music World Series 2007. She was more recently voted Best Local Classical Musician in Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay contest 2015.

 

Brother Brother – Sunday evening

Singer-songwriters Bradley and Brett Anderson, known as Brother Brother, create new generation Americana folk. The energy of this sibling duo brings light to today's roots music revival. The boys have original harmonies like a breath of fresh air and songs ranging from “foot-stompers to tear-jerkers”. Their lightning fast finger-picking is featured on both acoustic and electric guitars and banjos with some mandolin and creative percussion thrown in for good measure!

The brothers' generational grass roots are in Florida where they grew up on a homestead near the Myakka River. Literally raised in a barn, the Andersons were schooled at home and learned off-grid life as they farmed and made music with family and friends.  The boys’ musical career sprouted from Gospel and Bluegrass in the church down the road and farmers markets then grew into their own alt folk rock style as they were welcomed by Florida music festivals and events around their home state.

The next season of Brother Brother's career began when they were invited to perform at the Jim Stafford Theater in Branson, Missouri. Bradley and Brett started making music with their father and they continue to grow and yet remain grounded by advice from music greats they've had the privilege of meeting. Along with mentorship by Jim Stafford they've learned from treasured moments with folk music father Frank Thomas, original "pickers and grinners" Roy Clark and Buck Trent, country music legend Mickey Gilley and John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Brother Brother recently toured from the mid-west to Nashville, Birmingham and throughout Florida before returning for another season of performances in Branson. . The brothers are currently creating a third recording project, preceded by their namesake album, Brother Brother and first EP/CD as The Anderson Brothers. No matter where the journey takes them, Bradley and Brett always look forward to making music with their Florida folk!

 

Chloe Channell – Sunday evening

Chloe Nichole Channell, the youngest of 3 children and the only girl, was born December 27, 2001 in Pensacola, Florida to Jeff and Kim Channell. Being the only girl in the family, Chloe learned quickly to not only play rough and tough, but also how to wrap even the most hardened of hearts around her tiny finger. Chloe has a way with others that even makes strangers feel as they have known her for years, helping her become somewhat of a local sensation with several segments on the local news stations in Pensacola, Florida and the local paper. Her following around the area is impressive for someone so young!

It became apparent Chloe was going to be a great vocalist when she started singing as soon as she could form words. Chloe took the stage for the first time at the age of six, and she knew right away that it was where she wanted to be. In February of 2009, at the age of seven, Chloe became a full-time member of The Sawmill Band at the Chumuckla Farmer’s Opry.  At the age of eight, Chloe went into Coleman Studios in Navarre, Florida, with a native Nashville band, to record her first self-titled CD.

Chloe has performed in over 300 shows all across Northwest Florida, Southern Alabama, and Georgia, opening for such stars as: Tracy Bird, Rodney Adkins, Little Big Town, Craig Morgan, Ronnie McDowell, Gene Watson, John Conlee, and the “Queen of Bluegrass” Rhonda Vincent. In the fall of 2013, Chloe was cast in the Toy Shoppe, a Kenny Rogers Musical, starring with Billy Dean in Branson, MO. Recently, Chloe fulfilled one of her life long dreams of performing for the Grand Ole Opry with Billy Dean at the Ryman Auditorium.

The two artists that have inspired Chloe the most are Loretta Lynn and Martina McBride. She admires Loretta Lynn’s ability to tell a story through her music. With her “small frame and big voice,” she likes to compare herself with her all-time favorite Martina McBride. Chloe Channell is a little fireball with a great personality and a driving passion to perform, and she credits all that she has to God who blessed her with an insatiable personality and incredible voice.