Past Instructors

Bobby Hicks was born  in Newton, North Carolina, Hicks took up the fiddle after being dropped as the mandolin player in his brother's band. Self-taught, Hicks' perseverance paid off when he was brought into Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys in 1954, earning Monroe's deep respect. In 1960, he moved on from Monroe to join Porter Wagoner for three years, after which he settled in Las Vegas as the bandleader for the Judy Lynn show, a position that kept him occupied until 1970.

On the road until 1975, Hicks finally chose to return to North Carolina, where he developed a friendship with Ricky Skaggs and released the well-regarded Texas Crapshooter in 1977 (reissued in 1994 by County Records). Darkness of the Delta, a twin fiddle set with Kenny Baker, followed in 1980, as did the Bluegrass Album Band, a traditional bluegrass project that saw Hicks joining guitarist Tony Rice and others. Hicks left the informal band in the four years between the production of The Bluegrass Album Vol. 4 and The Bluegrass Album Vol. 5, but would return for 1996's The Bluegrass Album Vol. 6.

In 1981, Hicks was drafted into the Ricky Skaggs Band, which evolved into Kentucky Thunder over the years, with Hicks being the only original member left. While remaining a member of the Skaggs recording and touring unit as of 1998, Hicks has continued to play on sessions, as well as recording and releasing the star-studded 1998 solo set Fiddle Patch, on which he uses his now-standard five-string fiddle, a 1976 custom creation of the late Harvey Keck. (Steven McDonald, Rovi)

Bobby Hicks

Buddy Spicher

Buddy Spicher was born July 28, 1928 in DuBois, PA. He is the fiddler heard on all the great albums of the last 30 years and is one of the preeminent fiddle players of our time.

Buddy Spicher started out playing in Wheeling, WV. His big break came in the mid-1950s when he began playing in the country music band that backed Audrey Williams (widow of Hank). Throughout the remaining years of the 50s and for most of the 1960s, Spicher, a true country fiddle virtuoso, was on the road, playing in the bands behind Williams, Hank Snow, and other stars.

Spicher enjoyed a wide variety of music so he also played with such hybrid country-bluegrass outfits as the Charles River Valley Boys. In 1968, Buddy Spicher settled down to the life of a session musician in Nashville. Despite his busy session schedule, Spicher made time to play with Area Code 615, the progressive country outfit formed out of Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline recording sessions.

Here are a few things he’s done in the music industry that most people don’t know: played the introduction on “Amarillo by Morning” by George Straight; “Love in Hot Afternoon” by Gene Watson; and, played all the beautiful fiddle background on Crystal Gayle’s recordings. All the great fiddle playing that’s been heard on recordings as far back as the early 1960s was Buddy Spicher. He has played on more records than any other fiddler.

Since the 1980s, Spicher has continued some session playing and has started passing on his wisdom and experience to students, inspiring them perhaps the most with the his favorite free-flowing, genre-bending brands of country and bluegrass.

He continues to live and play in Nashville, and was inducted into The National Fiddler Hall of Fame in 2010.

Calvin Vollrath

Calvin Vollrath is a musical prodigy. To date, he has composed just over 400 tunes, many of which have become standard contest and dance tunes across North America & Europe. His influence in the fiddle world is very evident. He has to his credit, over 50 of his own albums, numerous music books of his original tunes and an instructional DVD. Just recently, Calvin was commissioned to compose 5 fiddle tunes for the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010 Opening Ceremonies to represent the various styles of fiddling our country has to offer. He also wrote the theme for the international fiddle convention "Fiddles of the World", held in Halifax NS in July 1999. When Calvin writes a tune for an individual, a place or an event, he has an uncanny sense of capturing their personality or expressing its atmosphere.

Mike Dowling

Mike Dowling digs deep into the musical bag of American roots guitar. From bottleneck blues to vintage jazz and much more in between, Mike’s musicality, depth, and mastery of the instrument translates fluently to flattop, archtop, and resonator guitars alike. Armed with an engaging voice, self-deprecating wit, and an arsenal of elegant interpretations of old blues, swing, ragtime, and original tunes it didn’t take long for Mike to capture the hearts of acoustic music fans.

April Verch

April Verch and her music are rooted in natural Canadian traditions -- specifically the Ottawa Valley fiddle style -- but this effervescent singer/fiddler is no stranger to blues, Latin music, Eastern European music, jazz, and Americana. Besides working all these genres into her own music, Verch also embraces the world of dance, and began taking stepdancing lessons at the age of three. The Pembroke, Ontario, native knew by the age of ten that fiddle playing and stepdancing were things she wanted to do professionally. Two self-released albums -- 1992's Springtime Fiddle and 1995's Fiddle Talk -- appeared before she finished high school. College meant Boston's Berklee School of Music and mastering more styles of fiddle playing. Within a year, the money had run out and Verch would move back to Canada, landing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and country singer Tommy Hunter's band.

A solo gig in 2000 was attended by Rounder Records' Ken Irwin, and a year later Verchuosity became her debut for the label. Rave reviews and comparisons to Alison Krauss and Béla Fleck followed, along with a JUNO award (the "Canadian Grammy") for Best Roots/Traditional Solo Album. Before she would return in 2003 with From Where I Stand, April appeared on her father's debut solo album, Ralph Verch's rootsy No Other Would Do. Her 2006 release, Take Me Back, found Appalachian music expert Dirk Powell in the producer's chair and contributing his fretless banjo playing to a couple tracks. (David Jeffries, Rovi)

Frank Ferrel

Frank Ferrel began his fiddling at age 8, influenced first by his grandfather, a traditional musician and native of Ohio and West Virginia. His father's family originally came from the Longford area of Ireland via Maritime Canada. Frank rekindled his interest in traditional fiddling under the influence of local Irish, French-Acadian, and Canadian Maritimes fiddlers while stationed at the old Charlestown Navel Shipyard in Boston in the 1960's. Those were the days when Kerry fiddler Paddy Cronin held forth at the old Greenville Tap in Dudley Square, while next door, and up and down Dudley Street, Cape Breton Irish and French Acadian maritime music drifted out of dancehall windows at such legendary venuess as the Rose Croix, O'Connell Hall and the Hibernian. There you could dance to the fiddling of Winston Scotty Fitzgerald, Bill Lamey, Tommy Doucet, and Angus Chisholm, just to mention a few. And if it wasn't the dances, there was always the old Hillbilly Ranch on Washington Street down in the Combat Zone, a good place to listen and sit in with the likes of Bill Keith, Tex Logan, and the Lilly Brothers.

Over the years, Frank has won numerous fiddling competitions and toured extensively throughout North America and Europe, including two tours as guest artist with the internationally acclaimed Celtic ensemble, The Boys of the Lough.

In 1978, Frank helped to establish the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes and served as the Director of that festival until 1986. During the 1980's he was a frequent performer on the nationally popular radio series, "A Prairie Home Companion," and is included on their compilation recording 'PHC Tourists.'

Frank currently lives in Boston where he can be found playing regularly for country dances and at local music sessions throughout New England. His music draws from the rich Celtic immigrant traditions found in North America, reflecting his own Irish heritage, and especially those traditions found in New England and the Canadian Maritime provinces.

Frank has made numerous recordings; his 1991 recording "Yankee Dreams" was selected by the Library of Congress as one of 25 recordings included in their, "Select List of American Folk Music on Record." It was also nominated for a NAIRD award for best traditional folk instrumental.

Brad Leftwich

Brad Leftwich started playing banjo at age 15 and took up fiddle a couple of years later. Since his grandfather and great-uncle had died a few years earlier, he sought the roots of his family’s musical traditions in the southern Appalachians. In 1973, at the age of 20, he met the man who became his most influential mentor, the legendary fiddler Tommy Jarrell of Mount Airy, North Carolina. Tommy’s mother-in law was a Leftwich, and in the liquor-making days of his youth, Tommy had a still near the Leftwich home in Virginia and played music with a brother and sister of Brad’s grandfather.

For the next two decades, Brad continued to seek out and learn from musicians in the Appalachians as well as in his native Oklahoma, the Ozarks, and the Midwest. In 1979, he moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where he resides with his wife and musical companion, Linda Higginbotham. Over the years he has played with a variety of bands, including Plank Road, Leftwich & Higginbotham, the Humdingers, and Tom, Brad & Alice.

Today, Brad is one of the foremost old-time musicians in the United States. He is especially regarded for performing and teaching authentic, traditional-style fiddle and banjo. He is a frequent staff member at music camps and counts the late country music star Buck Owens among enthusiastic students of his instructional videos.