Al Petteway has had a long and illustrious career as a fingerstyle acoustic guitarist and composer has had the honor of playing with some of the greats in bluegrass, folk & Celtic music, both on stage and on their recordings. His own projects as a solo artist and with his partner Amy White have won many awards including an Indie Award for “Best Instrumental Album” and a Grammy for “Best Pop Instrumental Album”. His composition “Sligo Creek” was used as the main theme for Ken Burns’ Emmy-winning The National Parks documentary along with a number of his other instrumental compositions used throughout the seven part PBS series. Other Ken Burns documentaries that feature Al’s music include Mark Twain, The Dust Bowl, Baseball-The Tenth Inning, The Roosevelts, and most recently Ben Franklin. Al was the Guitar Week Coordinator for The Swannanoa Gathering until he retired from full-time performing and teaching in 2019. He now enjoys his life as an eccentric hermit on his private mountaintop in nearby Weaverville, NC where he lives with Amy and a menagerie of domestic and wild critters that manage to keep them both entertained. Videos of bears and other wild creatures caught on the vast network of trail cameras placed around their property can be viewed on Amy’s YouTube channel: Fairview Critter Cams. The pair continues to write and record original music in their home studio, Fairewood Studios.
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 first recording, River Coffee, won the Best Independent Release of the Year Award (2002) from Acoustic Guitar magazine and music from the recording has been published in Japan’s Acoustic Guitar magazine and Mel Bay’s Master Anthology of Fingerstyle Guitar, Vol. 3 (2005). His subsequent recordings, Indigo (2008), and Sphere: the Music of Thelonious Monk offer compelling portraits of 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 Summer 2012 cover of Fingerstyle 360 magazine. His most recent solo guitar recordings include Thanksgiving & Christmas Tidings (2014), a collection of seasonal hymns and carols arranged for solo guitar, My Fair Lady (2015), a collection of songs from Lerner & Loewe’s masterpiece, and Union Station (2021), a collection of original compositions for jazz organ trio. 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. He has also presented and performed at the Jazz Education Network conference in New Orleans, the International Symposium for the Performing Arts Medicine Association in Aspen, CO, and numerous College Music Society national and regional conferences. 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, and the author of Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar Solos and the Stringletter book/DVD instructional projects, The Acoustic Jazz Guitarist, Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar Essentials and Holiday Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar. Sean has also produced a dozen courses for TrueFire.com, covering the topics of fingerstyle jazz, improvisation, and comping.
Winner of Guitar Player magazine’s esteemed ‘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. Italy’s Soave Guitar Festival and hundreds of venues and Performing Arts Centers across the US and abroad. In addition to her dazzling instrumental skill, Vicki is an award-winning singer/songwriter with a high-energy stage presence. Drawing from folk, jazz, pop, soul and world music, whether covering the tunes of others or presenting her own compositions, 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 nine 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. During the pandemic, Vicki and her wife/engineer Tay Hoyle produced a weekly Livestream called Front Porch Thursday’, where many of the Swanannoa ‘gang’ were featured as musical guests! The show will resume in 2022 so stay tuned! Vicki is thrilled to be back for the 30th year anniversary of camp! “If I could play like Vicki, I’d stay home and entertain myself.” – Steve Vai
When master fiddler Vassar Clements heard Grammy-winning Mike Dowling play guitar, he did the sensible thing. He hired him. Mike was the guitarist in Vassar’s first touring band and recorded with him and many other artists, including Jethro Burns and Joe Venuti, before embarking on a solo career. Mike’s songs have been recorded such artists as Del McCoury Band, Tim O’Brien, and Kathy Mattea, and has he’s recorded ten critically-acclaimed roots-based albums on his Wind River Guitar label. David Chamberlain, host of Sagebrush Boogie on WRFG-FM Atlanta, called his most recent CD, Tracks, “One of the best recordings I have ever heard.” Mike currently lives in Mexico and continues to tour and teach at music camps throughout the U.S. and abroad.
Somewhere between musical wanderer and uncertified ethnomusicologist dwells Cory Seznec and his unique world. Busking misadventures with Malian musicians in the Paris metro led him to Songhai songsters in Timbuktu and ancient omutibo guitarists in Western Kenya. Feverish touring with the world roots trio Groanbox gave him his sea-legs, but a three-year stint in Ethiopia is what cracked everything open. Seznec held a weekly gig in Mulatu Astatke’s jazz club while recording two albums with musicians in Addis and embarking on rugged field recording trips across the Ethiopian highlands. These experiences shaped Seznec into an artist who traces the through-line across musical cultures and whose songs let the past reverberate in the present. A French-American in Paris, Seznec’s fingerstyle guitar-playing is syncopated, polyrhythmic, cross-pollinated, and idiosyncratic. He also sings, plays old-time banjo, and wades in the deep river of American song. Seznec is currently at work on three projects—a solo album entitled Deep of Time; a collaboration with Senegalese musician Amadou Diagne called Touki (their album was recorded at Real World Studios); and a research project celebrating the life and music of Malawian musician Daniel Kachamba (1947-1987).
Paul Mehling | www.hotclubsf.com
One of the world’s foremost Djangophiles, Paul Mehling has for many years been at the forefront of Gypsy jazz in America. A professional musician since the age of 11, Paul plays the guitar, violin, tenor, plectrum banjo, string bass, mandolin and vocals. He is a leader of the Hot Club of San Francisco, producer of 7 instructional DVDs on HomespunVideos (guitar lessons), and was named by PBS as the “Godfather of gypsy jazz in the US.” He has recorded15 CDs with the the Hot Club of San Francisco and has made numerous appearances on other recordings. Paul also plays in a variety of settings from blues to swing to New Orleans jazz.
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 little over ten years as a professional musician, Tony McManus has come 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. He is a regular performer at the Chet Atkins Festival in Nashville, and has appeared at guitar festivals in Soave and Pescantina, Italy; Frankston, Australia; Issoudun, France; Kirkmichael, Scotland; Bath and Kent, England; Bochum and Osnabrueck, Germany and five of Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Kamps in Maryville, TN. 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.
Ranked among the “100 Greatest Acoustic Guitarists” by DigitalDreamDoor.com, 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, a Governor’s Award from the Maryland State Arts Council, a bronze medal at the National Mandolin Championships in Winfield, KS and the Gathering’s Master Music Maker Award. Robin maintains a busy international touring schedule, performing solo, with Guitar Week colleague 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. Robin’s discography of nearly two dozen solo, collaborative and group CDs includes the first volume of the Bach Cello Suites on solo mandolin; The Carolan Collection, a compilation of the legendary Irish bard’s compositions, sales of which benefit North Carolina animal rescue organizations; and most recently, his debut duo CD with harp champion Sue Richards, Highland Ramble. Robin co-hosts the monthly Carolina Celtic concert series in Black Mountain, NC, leads the annual Robinwood Guitar Retreat in Sharpsburg, MD, and teaches guitar and mandolin anywhere in the world via Skype. 2020 marks the twenty-fifth consecutive Swannanoa Gathering for Robin, now a proud resident of nearby Black Mountain.
Music Radar’s “Acoustic Guitarist of the Year”, singer/songwriter Christie Lenée has been described as ‘Michael Hedges meets Joni Mitchell and Dave Matthews,’ integrating melodic pop lyricism with catchy hooks and percussive, harmonic textures. Her captivating performances have shared stages with Tim Reynolds (Dave Matthews Band), Andy McKee, Amy Ray (Indigo Girls), Melissa Etheridge, Antigone Rising, Kaki King, Jake Shimabukoro and Christopher Cross to name a few. Christie has released five albums, with Stay one of three finalists for “Best CD of 2016” (Indie Acoustic Project Awards). She is featured on the Grammy Museum’s virtual program streaming from Los Angeles, and in a variety of articles in Guitar Player magazine and Acoustic Guitar magazine. Guitar World magazine included her in their list of “Best Acoustic Guitarists in the World Right Now”, and in 2017, she won the International Fingerstyle Guitar Championship. Christie has performed at festivals, theatres, concert halls and listening rooms across the globe including the UK, Paris, Rome, Prague, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, Canada, South America, Australia, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shanghai and Beijing as well as a four-city tour of Poland with Tommy Emmanuel.
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.
One of digitaldreamdoor.com’s “Top 100 Acoustic Guitarists”, Steve is a Rounder Records recording artist and a pioneering Celtic and old-time fingerstyle guitarist and banjo player. He produced and plays on the landmark Banjo Gathering double CD, which was recently described by Bluegrass Unlimited as “a momentous undertaking and a ‘must’ addition to any serious collection of old-time music.” He is the author of five guitar books by Mel Bay Publications, a DVD on clawhammer technique called The Power of Claw, and appears on the Rounder Records Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar series. His recordings have made the “Editor’s Pick” list at Acoustic Guitar magazine three times and his book, Gospel Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar, was released in 2019 by Stringletter Media. One recent project is the Zen Banjo DVD, produced with Rev. Heng Sure, Director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery.
Combining four decades of scholarship with more than five playing guitar, Scott Ainslie presents a beguiling mix of the African, and American roots of the blues. His teaching has consistently earned him high marks in student evaluations over the years. During the pandemic, Scott has maintained an active schedule teaching Skype lessons, leading workshops, writing, recording, and presenting online performances. He has also established a growing archive of instructional materials and notes on blues history at his Patreon page: http://Patreon.com/ScottAinslie. Coming of age during the Civil Rights Era just outside of Washington, DC and having raised his sons in North Carolina for twenty years; Ainslie now makes his home in Brattleboro, Vermont.
Greg Ruby began playing swing and early jazz music while leading the bohemian life of a busker 25 years ago. He has since become a respected guitarist, teacher and author. As part of the Django Reinhardt renaissance of the early 2000’s, Greg co-founded the seminal group Hot Club Sandwich and later joined Pearl Django. His rock-solid rhythm guitar propelled the group through multiple recordings and their debut performance at the legendary Festival Django Reinhardt in Samois-sur-seine, France. In 2010, he released a record of all original compositions inspired by the great Django, titled Look Both Ways, which reached #1 on the Roots Music Review radio chart. In 2016, he was awarded arts, heritage and cultural funding for Syncopated Classic – a project which unearthed, restored and recorded the lost compositions by the eminent 1920’s Seattle jazz icon Frank D. Waldron. The resulting record was awarded the “Northwest Jazz Recording of the Year” in 2017. His most recent recording, Just Like That, celebrates the music of swing-era guitar maestro, Oscar Alemán with classic arrangements and original compositions. He has taught at Django in June, DjangoFest NW, and is the Guitar Week Coordinator for the Swannanoa Gathering. He has authored the Pearl Django Play-Along Book Vol.1, Frank D. Waldron: Seattle’s Syncopated Classic, the Oscar Alemán Play-Along Songbook Vol. 1 and writes for Acoustic Guitar magazine. In November 2019, Greg moved to New York City – just months before it shuttered due to COVID-19. At the onset of the pandemic, he took the A Train south to Rockaway Beach, NY, where he now lives, surfs, and continues to lead a creative life composing, recording and teaching online guitar lessons.
Steve James has been a regular at Swannanoa Guitar Week since the program’s inception. An autodidact with 60 years of playing experience, his transmissible enthusiasm for things that go twang was initially inspired by performances of blues, roots country and folk music and the self-self invented seer/songsters who also imparted the importance of originality and the value of sharing music. “If I were going to learn roots and blues guitar, there’s nobody I’d rather get it from than Steve James.”– Happy Traum
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. Ed is an accomplished songwriter, and a powerful rhythm and lead player with a deep abiding love of traditional music.