Saturday, September 19, 2020

Why I chose a Breedlove mandolin over an Eastman

 I chose a Breedlove mandolin over an Eastman for under $1,000.  Here's why:

I bought my Breedlove online through  I paid close to $700 for it new.  It came with a padded/travel case.  I've had it for several years and I still play it even though I have another mandolin I favor.  Here's the original video I made the first day it arrived from the website:

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Return to School During The Pandemic, and other news


Firstly, I will be hosting a Celtic / Irish Trad session until it's too cold to play outside.  It will be Thursdays at 7pm.  We'll socially distance, wear masks and have fun!  Meet at my house, bring music stands if you're going to read music (and a light for when it gets dark), and folding chairs.  Granby does have an ordinance against groups of 10 or more, so we'll need to keep it small for now.  Contact me if you have any questions!

This update relates to School starting in Granby on Tuesday among other things.  Since Richard will be attending "remote learning" at the school until a hybrid/phased approach in December, I will be monitoring him and providing him with the support and feedback he usually gets at school.  He enters 5th grade this year, and although his IEP is still active, because of the remote learning challenge, his teachers obviously can't "take him out of the class" as they would if he were physically there.  Autism is a challenge, especially for parents, and doubly so because I am self-employed.  This means that if I don't work, I don't get paid.  That's fairly obvious.  As mentioned in other updates, more than 3/4 of my income has disappeared during the pandemic due to wedding and other event contracts cancellation, as well as retail sales (since nobody can actually come into my studio because of the pandemic), and in person sales (at concerts that aren't happening).  

All of my colleagues and musician friends are facing the same challenges as I am, and are finding creative ways to maintain their incomes.  Online paid concerts, masterclasses via Zoom or YouTube Live are the most commonplace.

Tuesday is the first day of classes.  The plan, according to an email I just received from his teachers, is to meet everybody in one place via Zoom at 8:35 a.m. The teachers plan on scheduling classes much the same as they did last year, however there obviously will be some changes, for example, they will use Google Classroom to sort assignments and collect feedback from students.  This year they are also loaning Chromebooks to all of the students, pre-installed with software and links needed by the staff.

I am excited for him, and nervous.  It's my nature to be nervous about new things.  This seems to be an increasing experience for me.  Is it age-related?  I'm not that old, 58 hardly seems to be old enough for these challenges.  Is it related to something else? I don't know.  I try to keep anxiety in check with exercise, sleep and a good diet.  I will do my best.

Regarding the studio, I am offering various products through the website for sale to students and locals (pickup only at this time).  Violins, mandolins, strings, bows and accessories are all available to look at on my website  As always, contact me if you have questions, want to hear what an instrument sounds like, or anything else.

School "ends" at 2:30, and I expect Richard to have some kind of assignment, or "homework" each day.  That may not be the case as much more will be accomplished on the spot during the 'school day'.  I will see how it goes and amend my availability accordingly.  As it stands, I'm planning a 4pm-7pm schedule for now.  Please check my Calendar for openings before contacting me about lessons!

Friday, September 4, 2020

COVID19 Update and News

It's been months since I've posted an update.  While I was definitely teaching online after the shut down in March, I've stayed at home and not ventured out at all in public.  A few weeks back, my family visited my parents in NH - socially distancing of course.  They are in their 80s and very cautious of infection, even if we are virus-free.  Then I got my license finally from the RMV and took my car out for a spin in the rain with my son Richard.  The car was wonky - the tires had formed flat on one side, so that needed to be ironed out, but they reformed properly after a couple of miles...the brakes were also very dry and noisy.  Otherwise the car drove normally.  It was good to be behind the wheel again.  Yesterday, September 3rd, 2020, we took the car up to Lithia Springs Rd in South Hadley, parked, and walked up to the reservoir from there.  It was an easy 1 mile hike to the top.  We hung out (chillaxed as Richard puts it) for 20 or 30 minutes before heading back.  While I'm feeling a little more relaxed about everything, I'm still cautious, especially since the Board of Health in town has restricted businesses from opening for in-person service until further notice.  

There is no vaccine, yet.  I bought shares in Moderna back in March.  They will probably have the first vaccine.  It's being tested on humans in Phase 3 now.  If all goes well, something will be ready to be mass produced by January, and ready for the rest of us by May at the earliest.

School is remote, 5th grade will be strange for Richard.  I will help him with his work, or at least monitor him.  He is doing very well and doesn't need much supervision.  I'm trying to figure out how to get him back with his piano teacher since they can't meet in person and it's difficult to do a lesson online.  I would like to figure it out so he has some sense of normalcy.  It's obvious his parents are stressed out.  I wonder what effect it's having on him.

Our little dog, Lucky, has grown a bit.  She's now about 2' long and stands about 12" at the most.  She's quite friendly and doesn't bark.  She's a good companion, even if she is not house-trained.  

Monday, June 8, 2020

Mandolin and Fiddle lessons now available online and outdoors!

Now that Governor Baker has announced Phase 2 of the Covid19 "reopening" phase, mandolin and fiddle lessons are available in person outdoors in addition to online!  Register for 30 or 60 minute private mandolin or fiddle lessons by  emailing or filling out the form on the sidebar.

Thank you!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Traditional Wedding Music Available: Celtic, Classical, Country & More

Traditional Wedding Music available now for the June - September Season 2020.  Genres include Celtic or Traditional Irish, Classical and Baroque, Country and Bluegrass, Jazz, Klezmer, Christian and Soloists!  We have violinists/fiddlers, mandolinists, harpists, chamber groups and jazz combos.  
All of our musicians have been trained in Social Distancing and the use of PPE.  They are professional, many of them with 30 or more years of wedding experience.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

John Duffey - Bluegrass Mandolinist & Singer

John Duffey was known for his high-lonesome tenor, brilliantly innovative mandolin playing, and the important part he played in establishing the Seldom Scene on the highest levels of bluegrass stardom and accomplishment. He has also been credited, particularly amongst his fellow musicians, as one of the great popularizers and missionaries of bluegrass. His choice of material and refined mode of presentation helped make this basically rural music not only acceptable, but highly desirable among the urban masses. One can only presume that if Duffey had not succumbed to a heart attack in the late '90s he would have been tremendously pleased with yet another resurgence in the music's popularity that seemed to come along with the new millennium.

A Washington native, Duffey started the Seldom Scene in 1971 after about a decade of playing with Charlie Waller & the Country Gentlemen, a bluegrass group from the same general region. The mandolinist was also a musical instrument repairman, a profession that managed to provide him with an alternative to being on the road all of the time, something with which he apparently had very little patience. One reason to form the new band was the possibility for it to work regularly without straying too far from the Washington, D.C./Virginia/Maryland axis. Certainly there would be gigs enough within a two- or three-hour driving ratio, especially with bluegrass coming off a peak in new popularity from the late '60s. He enlisted only other players whose demanding day jobs would prevent them from whining about wanting to go on long road trips. These original players were physician John Starling, mathematician Ben Eldridge, graphic artist Mike Auldridge, and National Geographic mapmaker Tom Gray. Also known as mandolinist John Duffey, banjo player Ben Eldridge, guitarist John Starling, bassist Tom Gray, and Dobro player Mike Auldridge. But the part-time nature of each of these players' musical focus in the early '70s would have probably dictated that they would have listed their day jobs first. The group was even called the Seldom Scene as a joke about the fact that they wouldn't be seen much on-stage. What happened was the opposite. By staying right out on the edge in an age of great musical adventurism among the audience, the group became much in demand, as well as producing some of the best-selling progressive bluegrass records in the history of the genre. Another part of Duffey's success as a member of co-operative bands was his belief that democracy worked in music ensembles, regardless of whether it seemed to be working in society. The mandolinist's philosophy seems to have been borne through his loyal membership to just two different bands over the 40 years of his career. He grew up in a musical family, although what he was exposed to at first was about the farthest one could get from bluegrass. His father was a professional singer who at times worked for the Metropolitan Opera. As a young man, Duffey became attracted to the music of Appalachian migrants in the area. He was not particularly concerned that amongst the classical or so-called legitimate music crowd such sounds had very little status. Despite his own lack of enthusiasm for so-called hillbilly music, Duffey senior realized that his son seemed to have inherited an exceptional singing voice, with a range of about four octaves. His father went ahead and taught him the voice and breathing techniques of a classical opera singer. Duffey continued his love affair with Appalachian music, but since he realized he wasn't in any way a native of that area, he focused on expanding the concept of the music to include people like him. He created new repertoire from modern and ancient sources and developed innovative vocal harmonies. What he did was definitely pleasing to the large new bluegrass audiences, although many purists found the new developments and outlooks being expressed in the music revolting. The controversy became part of the reason crowds packed several long weekly house band stints the group maintained in the D.C. area. Members of Congress in suits would be rubbing noses with college students, as well as disgruntled members of the bluegrass "walking dead," (i.e., those who wanted everything to be done the way Bill Monroe done done it).

Duffey's professional career began with a car crash in 1957 that injured mandolinist Buzz Busby. The banjo player in the same band as Busby, Bill Emerson put out a bee that he was looking for a substitute mandolinist so the band wouldn't have to cancel its schedule of club dates. In his search for potential players, Emerson found both young guitarist Waller and Duffey, as well. It was the mandolinist who came up with a name for the new group. He pointed out that many bluegrass bands at this time were coming up with names like the Mountain Boys. "We're not mountain boys," he said. "We're gentlemen." Duffey wound up staying with the Country Gentlemen for about a decade, as the group rode the new wave of folk music thrill-seeking. Many of the innovations of the Seldom Scene are foreshadowed by this earlier group, such as a diverse selection of material that could include gospel, jazz, and folk influences. By the late '60s, Duffey was working as an instrument repairman at an Arlington music store when the Seldom Scene was formed. In addition to much research, collecting, and arranging old songs and poems for the group, Duffey also composed his own music. Some of his best pieces include "The Traveler," which was dedicated to his wife, and the eerie "Victim to the Tomb."

As this group became more and more popular, Duffey's imposing stage personality came more and more to the front. Known for being able to shut the lid on just about any heckler, Duffey has been described as one of the most riotous personas in bluegrass, famous for his politically incorrect jokes and onstage shenanigans. Although the pre-bluegrass genre of old-time music was known for crazy stage shows and broad humor, bluegrass by this time had developed into a style most often represented visually by bandmembers who stood straight as a board, their faces expressionless no matter what they were picking. And the new comic approach presented by Duffey was much more sophisticated than the laugh-grabbing days of blackened teeth and hillbilly yuck yucks.

Duffey, along with former boss Waller and the other original Country Gentlemen, were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Associations' Hall of Fame. The Seldom Scene continued to be active up to the end, playing in Englewood, New Jersey, just days before Duffey's death. They were also working on arrangements for a new recording, including an adaptation of the Delta blues number "Rollin' and Tumblin'," for a progressive bluegrass band, of course. The posthumous Always in Style project was released under Duffey's name on the Sugar Hill label. Although the best recorded legacy of the mandolinist's work are on the recordings of the groups he was in, he also pops up here and there as a session picker, including on a Linda Ronstadt album.

Celtic Music Group - Thursdays at 7pm

The Celtic Music group meets Thursdays at 7pm.  The group has compiled six "sets" of material, usually traditional celtic dance music (jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas) and song.  Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the group performed each set at a local venue.  Until we can play in person again, we meet online using a Google platform called "Meet".  Each member of the group suggests a jig, reel, hornpipe, polka, slip jig and O'Carolan tune.  The group votes on the tunes they want to learn and pick the tunes out of those voted highest.  

We are compiling tunes now for the 7th set.  I've asked students to suggest their tunes in the #celticgroup channel on  If you would like to join the group, email to get an invitation link.

Why I chose a Breedlove mandolin over an Eastman

 I chose a Breedlove mandolin over an Eastman for under $1,000.  Here's why: I bought my Breedlove online through  I paid cl...