Guitar Week Staff – July 28-August 3, 2024


Grant Gordy |

For many guitarists, landing a gig with bluegrass mandolinist David Grisman’s groundbreaking bluegrass/jazz quintet would be the culmination of a career in music. But for Grant Gordy, it was more of a beginning, an apprenticeship in combining bluegrass and jazz that served as a launchpad for his own music. How far he has traveled since then can be heard on Peripheral Visions, his stunning new quartet recording and welcome successor to his eponymous 2010 debut. The New York City-based guitarist and educator has emerged as a major voice on the American ‘acoustic music’ scene, and become one of the most highly-regarded young instrumentalists of his generation, performing in various capacities all over North America, Europe and in India. His music has been heard on NPR’s All Things Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts and he’s received attention from numerous international music periodicals like Jazz Guitar Today and Acoustic Guitar magazine, both of whom featured Gordy as the cover story for their respective March/April 2023 issues. In addition to freelancing as a soloist and collaborator as an acoustic guitarist, and on electric in the NYC’s thriving jazz scene, Grant’s current bands include Mr Sun, a collaborative acoustic supergroup of sorts with Darol Anger (violin), Joe K. Walsh (mandolin) and Aidan O’Donnell (bass), a duo with guitarist Ross Martin, and his own Quartet featuring prodigious acoustic talents Alex Hargreaves (violin) and Dominick Leslie (mandolin). “An exciting young player who, despite a plethora of influences, now sounds like nobody but himself.” – Fretboard Journal

Sean McGowan is a fingerstyle jazz guitarist who combines many diverse musical influences with unconventional techniques to create a broad palette of textures within his compositions and arrangements for solo guitar. His recordings Indigo and Sphere: the Music of Thelonious Monk offer compelling portraits of classic jazz standards performed on solo electric archtop guitar. Sphere was named one of Acoustic Guitar magazine’s “Essential Albums of 2011”, and Sean was featured on the cover of Fingerstyle 360 magazine. His most recent solo guitar recordings include Thanksgiving & Christmas Tidings, a collection of seasonal hymns and carols arranged for acoustic guitar, My Fair Lady, a collection of songs from Lerner & Loewe’s masterpiece, and Union Station, a collection of original compositions for jazz organ trio. His most recent recording is Portmanteau, which features timeless jazz standards & songs from the great American composers arranged for solo guitar. Sean is an avid arts educator and currently serves as Professor of Music and Chair of the Music & Entertainment Industry Studies department at the University of Colorado, Denver, one of the largest contemporary music programs in the country. He earned a DMA in Guitar Performance from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and has conducted workshops at colleges and guitar organizations throughout the country. Sean is a strong advocate for injury prevention and health education for musicians, and his workshops incorporate a holistic approach to playing. He is also a contributing editor and educational advisor for Acoustic Guitar magazine. He is the author of Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar Solos and the String Letter Media book/video instruction methods The Acoustic Jazz Guitarist, Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar Essentials, and Holiday Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar. Sean has also produced over a dozen courses for TrueFire, covering the topics of fingerstyle jazz, improvisation, and comping.

Despite musical influences primarily from the mid-20th century, Josh Turner has taken a decidedly modern approach to growing an audience as a guitarist. Starting his YouTube channel, Josh Turner Guitar at the age of 15, he slowly grew a loyal following for his innovative fingerstyle interpretations of classic songs and fearless disregard for genre. The channel now has Josh playing half a dozen instruments, singing in half a dozen languages, and performing in styles from blues to bossa nova, R&B to classical, old-time to psych-rock – and around 700,000 subscribers have decided to come along for the journey. Despite such broad tastes, Josh has always been most heavily influenced by the British folk revival and ‘American Primitive’ guitar movements, and his own compositions draw clear inspiration from Davy Graham, Nick Drake and Leo Kottke. He performed on Good Morning America in 2014, starred in A Celebration of Paul Simon’s Graceland (UK) in 2019, and has amassed a global following with over 200 million views across his channel. A transplant to Brooklyn, Josh has toured internationally as part of folk duo, The Other Favorites, and is touring internationally with singer Allison Young as The Bygones in support of their eponymous debut album. An 8-year alumnus as a student at the Gathering, Josh is delighted and honored to be joining the staff for the first time.

Justin Firmeza

Justin Firmeza is considered to be a leading figure in the next generation of Hawai‘ian musicians. A jazz pianist, his love for Hawai‘ian music began in high school when he took up `ukulele. When he graduated, Justin was apprenticed to steel guitar master Alan Akaka. Patrick Landeza says, “Of all my students, Justin has shown not only dedication but aloha and respect for the music and culture and is my finest apprentice.” Patrick, Justin and Patrick Jr. tour together as Patrick Landeza & Sons.

Vicki Genfan |

Winning the esteemed Guitar Player magazine’s “Guitar Superstar” award in 2008, Vicki plays her own percussive technique of ‘slap-tap’ acoustic guitar, and has been showcased as one of the world’s top guitarists at festivals such as The International Montreal Jazz Festival, Germany’s Open Strings Guitar Festival, and hundreds of venues and Performing Arts Centers across the US and abroad. In addition to being a dazzling instrumentalist, Vicki is an award-winning singer/songwriter with a high-energy stage presence. Drawing from folk, jazz, pop, soul and world music, Vicki’s distinctive style pushes the boundaries of the singer/songwriter genre into new territories. While hopping between continents for performances, master classes and clinics, Vicki loves teaching and has ten instructional DVDs to her credit and is in high demand at clinics and music camps all over the world. She has two CDs released on Germany’s Acoustic Music Records and three self-released CDs. She is currently collaborating with long-time touring and writing partner Sally Barker from the UK, and up-and-coming guitarist, Ali Tod from Scotland on a new musical project. “If I could play like Vicki, I’d stay home and entertain myself.” – Steve Vai

Cesar Garabini |

Originally from Minas Gerais, Brazil, Cesar Garabini is in demand internationally as a virtuoso 7-string guitarist. He especially loves choro, the historical precedent to samba and bossa nova. Choro emerged in Rio De Janeiro in the 1890s as an infectious mix of European classical music and African rhythms. Cesar is equally at home with samba, bossa nova, jazz and Portuguese fado. He has performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Jazz Standard, Birdland, Columbia University, and the Herbst Theater. He has shared the stage with Leny Andrade, Marcos Sacramento, Badi Assad, Anat Cohen, Olli Soikkeli and Douglas Lora and has been featured on NPR, NBC and Global TV in Brazil. Cesar hosts a monthly Roda with the choro group Regional de New York and is on the faculty at Choro Camp New England.

Tony McManus |

To find a unique voice on so ubiquitous an instrument as the acoustic guitar is quite an achievement. To do so within a centuries-old idiom where the instrument has no real history is truly remarkable. In thirty years as a professional musician, Tony McManus came to be recognized throughout the world as a leading guitarist in Celtic music. In Tony’s hands, the complex ornamentation normally associated with fiddles and pipes are accurately transferred to guitar in a way that preserves the integrity and emotional impact of the music. His 2002 recording, Ceol More, was Acoustic Guitar’s “Critic’s Album of the Year” and named “Album of the Year” by the Live Ireland Awards. A couple of years ago he was named as one of “50 Transcendent Acoustic Guitarists of All Time”- in between (alphabetically at least) John McLaughlin and Joni Mitchell. He has appeared at guitar festivals in Soave and Pescantina, Italy; Frankston, Australia; Issoudun, France; Kirkmichael, Scotland; Bath and Kent, England; Bochum and Osnabrueck, Germany, five of Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Kamps and ten times at our Guitar Week. Born in Scotland with strong Irish roots, he now lives in Canada and travels the world performing in numerous combinations, including intimate solo performances and various duos with friends Alain Genty, Bruce Molsky, and Alasdair Fraser, to the quartet, Men of Steel, with fellow guitarists Dan Crary, Beppe Gambetta and Don Ross.

Robin Bullock |

Ranked among the “100 Greatest Acoustic Guitarists” by, Robin Bullock has been hailed as “one of the best folk instrumentalists in the business” by Sing Out! magazine, “breathtaking” by Guitar Player magazine and a “Celtic guitar god” by Baltimore City Paper. His honors include Editor’s Pick and Player’s Choice Awards from Acoustic Guitar magazine, the Association for Independent Music’s prestigious INDIE Award (with the world-music trio Helicon), multiple Washington Area Music Association WAMMIE Awards and the Gathering’s Master Music Maker Award. Robin performs solo, with guitarist/banjoist Steve Baughman, and with four-time National Scottish Harp Champion Sue Richards; he’s also played several hundred concerts as a sideman with Grammy award-winning folk legend Tom Paxton, including four “Together At Last” tours with Tom’s fellow Grammy-winner Janis Ian. An experienced and articulate teacher, Robin has led workshops all over North America and been a staff instructor at every Swannanoa Gathering since 1996. Now a resident of nearby Black Mountain, Robin hosts the monthly Carolina Celtic concert series at White Horse Black Mountain and teaches guitar, mandolin and cittern from his home studio via Zoom and Skype. This year Robin celebrates three decades as a solo recording artist with the compilation CD, Wolf Tracks: A Retrospective 1993-2022.

in has been a staff instructor at every Swannanoa Gathering since 1996.

Mike Dowling |

When the late, great Vassar Clements heard Mike Dowling play guitar way back in 1975, he did the sensible thing. He hired him. Clements called him simply “One of the finest guitarists there is, anywhere”, a sentiment that’s been echoed by peers and fans alike throughout his long career. Grammy award-winning Mike is widely known for teaching as well as he plays. He’s mentored countless students from throughout the world at music camps, guitar workshops, in studio, and via the internet. He currently lives near St. Paul, MN where he continues a busy schedule performing, teaching, composing. And fly fishing.

Danny Knicely |

Danny Knicely comes from a musical family steeped in a mountain music tradition for generations. He first learned music from his grandfather, who played dances and social events in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia as far back as the 1930s. Danny has shared his music and collaborated with musicians in over a dozen countries spanning four continents, including U.S. State Department tours in Tunisia, Morocco, Russia and Cabo Verde. He has won many awards for his mandolin, guitar, fiddle and flat-foot dance expertise in local and national contests and has taught at some of the leading music camps in the U.S. including Augusta Heritage Center, Common Ground on the Hill, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, Millwood Blues Week and Louis Jay Meyers Music Camp. Danny has performed with many of the greatest artists in bluegrass music including Vassar Clements, Mac Wiseman, Charlie Waller, Tony Rice, Tim O’Brien, Curtis Burch, Russ Barenberg and Charles Sawtelle.

Patrick Landeza |

When Patrick Landeza became the first mainland-based artist to win the Nā Hōkū Hanohano award (Hawai‘i’s Grammy), he told the audience, “Being born and raised on the mainland never made me any less Hawai‘ian.” He went on to win it again and was awarded the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Ki Ho’alu Foundation Legacy Award in 2019, an honor recognizing Hawai‘ian slack-key’s legacy in Hawai‘ian music. Having initially learned how to play slack-key guitar from family members, Landeza later apprenticed with slack-key legend, Raymond Kāne, and was mentored by slack key masters such as Cyril Pahinui, George Kuo, and Dennis Kamakahi. Landeza has taught slack-key in classes and music camps nationwide, had lessons published in Acoustic Guitar magazine, and was the the youngest recipient of the Kapalakiko Aloha Spirit award. His book, From The Island Of Berkeley, and film documentary, Aloha Everywhere, told the story of his journey and discovery of cultural identity through slack-key guitar and Hawai‘ian music.

Internationally acclaimed Toby Walker is an award-winning, roots music fingerstyle guitar virtuoso and songwriter who has toured the US, the United Kingdom, Canada and Europe. Blending the styles of blues, ragtime, country, bluegrass, old-time jazz and rock, Walker has developed his own style and received numerous awards, including 1st Place at the International Blues Challenge Award in Memphis, and the NY Music Award for best instrumental CD. Walker has been inducted into the NY Blues Hall Of Fame, and is a nationally-recognized guitar instructor, having taught at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch, Woody Mann’s Guitar Seminars, The Swanannoa Gathering, the Big Jersey Guitar Camp and the Guitar Intensive in Maine. Walker also has eight instructional DVD’s on Happy Traum’s Homespun Music Instruction label and has produced hundreds of instructional videos for his own website. Toby’s passion for blues, rags, folk, and other traditional American music drove him to leave an apartment crammed full of recordings, books and instruments for the Mississippi Delta, Virginia and the Carolinas where he tracked down some of the more obscure, but immensely talented music makers of an earlier era. He learned directly from Eugene Powell, James “Son” Thomas, Etta Baker, and R.L Burnside, among others.

Born in Toronto, Ruby’s early years were spent near Pittsburgh before moving to the west coast in the late 1990’s. On the forefront of the Django Reinhardt renaissance, he co-founded the seminal group, Hot Club Sandwich, and later joined Seattle’s Pearl Django. With appearances at the burgeoning west coast Django festivals, Ruby accompanied such jazz guitar greats as Howard Alden, Patrick Saussois, Frank Vignola, Gonzalo Bergara and John Jorgensen. By 2010, Ruby stepped out on his own and released Look Both Ways, an album of all original compositions which Dan Hicks (of the Hot Licks) declared “is a soundtrack in search of a movie.” The album reached #1 on the Roots Music Review radio chart. In 2015, Ruby’s attention turned to the roots of jazz in the Pacific Northwest with Syncopated Classic – a project which unearthed, restored and recorded the lost compositions of 1920’s Seattle jazz pioneer Frank D. Waldron. The record was awarded “Northwest Jazz Recording of the Year.” His most recent album, Corner Café, cowritten with accordionist Steve Rice, evokes mid-century Parisian swing bands. Ruby is the Coordinator for the Swannanoa Gathering’s Guitar Week, and has taught extensively including Django in June, DjangoFest NW, and the Seattle Jazz Night School. He authored the Pearl Django Play-Along Book Vol.1 (2005), Frank D. Waldron: Seattle’s Syncopated Classic (2018), the Oscar Alemán Play-Along Songbook Vol. 1 (2019) and is a contributing author for Acoustic Guitar magazine. Ruby recently moved to Los Angeles & set up a studio in Venice Beach where he continues to live a creative life composing, recording and teaching online guitar lessons.

Clive Carroll |

Clive Carroll made his musical debut at age two as a banjo-strumming cowboy singing nursery rhymes, and went on to earn a 1st Class Honours Degree in Composition and Guitar from the famed Trinity College of Music in London. Clive’s solo tours have taken him around the world, and he has been recognised with an array of awards, composed scores for major films, and collaborated with guitar greats such as John Renbourn, John Williams, Tommy Emmanuel, Xuefei Yang, Ralph Towner, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and Al Petteway. The Abbot, Clive’s latest release, is already being hailed as a modern-day classic. Featuring the music of British guitar legend John Renbourn, The Abbot sees Clive joined by 20 guest musicians and a medieval ensemble. Renbourn’s finest compositions stand alongside several of his never-before-heard pieces, all presented in new arrangements that Clive delivers with his own unique musical voice. Clive is also a sought-after teacher, and has given workshops and masterclasses at University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee, Aldeburgh Music’s Britten-Piers Foundation, Bristol and Brighton Institutes of Modern Music, Colchester Institute, Marlborough College, the Irish World Academy at the University of Limerick, Newcastle University, The Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, and The Swannanoa Gathering, among others.

Scott Ainslie |

One of our instructors who consistently receives rave reviews regardless of what he’s teaching, Scott brings a wealth of musical and historical experience with him into the classroom and takes the community of the Swannanoa Gathering to heart. Coming of age during the Civil Rights era and the protests against the Vietnam War, Scott continues to have a deep reverence for cross-cultural exchange and a commitment to social justice. He is the author of Robert Johnson/At The Crossroads and the video instructor on the instructional DVD, Robert Johnson: Signature Licks. With six solo recordings to his credit, Scott’s latest, the award-winning The Last Shot Got Him, garnered strong reviews here and in Europe.

Ed Dodson |

Ed was the lead guitarist and singer for Wood & Steel, a bluegrass band based in the Piedmont region of North Carolina that featured the legendary Snuffy Smith on banjo and The Dukes of Drive’s Joey Lemons on mandolin. Bluegrass Unlimited called their 2007 release, Poor Boy, “a masterpiece of hard-driving bluegrass.” Tony Rice calls their music, “Bluegrass, in one of its most pure, unfiltered forms; played by good musicians.” Wood & Steel’s music was featured nationally in Home & Garden Television’s 2002 special, Barns Revisited, and Ed has recorded three albums with mandolin player/builder Skip Kelley, including their 2010 release, Hopped That Train and…Gone. In 2022, he released an all electric album with the Asheville-based band, Catz in Pajamas. Ed is an accomplished songwriter, and a powerful rhythm and lead player with a deep abiding love of traditional music.


Ray Chesna |

An accomplished guitarist and songwriter, Ray Chesna has developed his performance abilities in many styles, but especially western swing, blues and bluegrass, all represented on his CDs. Originally from the Northeast, Ray relocated first to Georgia and finally to Asheville. Atlanta’s Creative Loafing called him “…a local treasure who sings with the teddy-bear softness of Leon Redbone while playing some of the gentlest, most appealing …guitar you’re likely to hear”. Ray has appeared on stage in bands with Hazel Dickens, Kenny Baker and Josh Graves, Bela Fleck and others, and he has shared the stage with Taj Mahal, Jimmy Rogers, Chris Smither, Geoff Muldaur and Peter Rowan. Along with performing and his instrument repair business he has been a private music teacher since 1971. Ray has also been on staff at the Augusta Heritage Center, at the Kerrville Folk Festival as a featured performer and teacher, at Guitar Intensives, Bar Harbor, at Club Passim in Cambridge MA. and here at the Swannanoa Gathering. Currently he can be seen around western NC in the acoustic trio, Bones Creak, and the jug band, Moonshine, Stills & Mash. At his studio he continues to teach guitar, mandolin and bass guitar.