Following four years of childhood piano lessons I played clarinet through college, joining the orchestra at Montana State University during high school and studying under Catherine Moore of the Oregon Symphony while at Reed College. I graduated from Reed in 1971 in music theory, with piano from Fred Rothchild, composition from Tomas Svoboda, and a thesis on Bach's “French Suite in D minor”.
My first music on the mandolin was Bach, many of whose keyboard and string suite movements I transcribed and perform as duets with the mando-cello. Included in my repertoire are settings of Scarlatti and other Baroque composers, as well as the classic mandolin works of Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Mozart (from “The Magic Flute”, performed with local tenor John Vergin and Symphonia Concertante). I taught eartraining at Reed College in the early 1970s and have been adjunct faculty on mandolin and banjo there since 1995.
The first folk pieces I learned to play (besides my Bob Dylan songs) were Doc Watson's “Deep River Blues” and Dave Van Ronk's “St. Louis Tickle”. In college I began transcribing these and and other guitar works, including versions of “Mapleleaf” and “Temptation Rags”, into mandolin/guitar duets. These instrumental styles, plus the songs of Mississippi John Hurt and those collected by The New Lost City Ramblers, constitute the main folk material I play and teach to this day.
More recently the banjo has been included, its focus being mainly on blues and 'ragging' of songs, in both finger and frailing styles. In 2008 I toured local libraries with the banjo in “For Pete's Sake”, stories and songs in the Seeger tradition, with Portland storyteller Anne Rutherford. In addition, I perform and record with singer/songwriter Kim Stafford, who joined me during my work with refugees in the 1980's in founding the Oregon Folk Arts Program.
In 1975 I began playing Irish dance music on mandolin and, with tutoring from Cathal McConnell of “The Boys of the Lough”, the traditional flute. So inspired and with many groups behind me now, including “The High Road” with Brendan Fitzgerald and Teresa Baker, I continue to perform and teach this style extensively. My current group "The Clinton Street Ceili Band" performs every St. Patrick's Day at Jake's Crawfish and the infamous Sweeney/Moran party.
In the early eighties I began pursuing world rhythm studies with several teachers: Colin Walcott of the group “Oregon”, Ghanaian master drummer Obo Addy, Jeff Strang for Congolese soukous music, bandolim (Brazilian mandolin) player Paulo de Sà, and tres (Cuban three-course guitar) player Jorge Castro from Havana's “Buena Vista Social Club.” Out of these experiences I formed two performance groups, “Cuba Ache” (son music with Roberto Gonzalez) and “Rio Nights” (Brazilian choro). As Portland's bandolim player I was invited in 2004 to perform with guitarist Alfredo Muro and the Oregon Symphony.