Newest Farmjazz member began playing trumpet at age 8 then added other brass instruments until at age 11 he settled on the Sousaphone which he carried home every day for an hour of practice. From that point on, the full bass sound stuck solid and has never let go. At a young age Mike studied concert tuba performance and music theory under Dr. Richard Adams and performed several years with Amateur musicals in Durham, North Carolina.
During 2002, Mike and his wife moved to just south of Danville VA where he is the principal tubist and arranger for the Pittsylvania Brass. Other continued work involves composition and arrangement of over 175 musical scores for brass and other ensembles. It is Mike’s familiarity and appreciation of south Louisiana and Chicago forms of jazz that allow a mellow blend of the classical tuba sound with guitar, banjo and other instruments. He currently has added “Bee Keeper” to his many accolades. See: http://www.thebeeschool.com/ and http://www.woodhingefarm.com/
Michael Willis: Musician / Composer
Robbie Link is a performer and teacher on the double bass, cello, electric bass, viola da gamba, and violone. Link performs and records with many period instrument, chamber, jazz, and folk music ensembles and enjoys performing everything from Baroque to Bluegrass. He has taught at Duke University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, and East Carolina University. He currently maintains a private teaching studio near Chapel Hill, NC. Link attended the School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He has performed with The Bach Sinfonia, North Carolina Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Louisville Symphony, Ensemble Vermillian, and Ensemble Courant as well as with many jazz notables including Maxine Sullivan, Tal Farlow, Mose Alison, Mark Murphy, Carol Sloane, Margaret Whiting, Bobby Enriquez, Joanne Brackeen, and Scott Hamilton and appears on over 75 recordings, including “Nickels to Diamonds” Live in Concert & The Winter Wonderland CD’s.
Check out his website at: http://robbielink.com/
Dr. Janet Phillips is the first musician I had the pleasure of performing with when I relocated to the Northern-Piedmont area. Janet & her family reside in Danville and she initially graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Music Therapy. She most recently earned her Master’s & Doctorate degrees in Flute Performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is Principal Flautist & board member of the Danville Symphony Orchestra. She is a Professor of Music at Averett University. In addition to performing with Michael, she performs locally & abroad as a soloist & with various other ensembles. Good friend of Ronnie Milsap, she has been essential in getting Ronnie to perform in the area. Janet was a “quick-start” with playing jazz & “ear-charts” ; as well as being a truly a marvelous person & player with which it has been my honor to know & share the stage with on numerous occasions.
Musician and film artist, commissioned the cd Farm Jazz with a large cast of great pickers.
Renee Henry has been entertaining at festivals, coffeehouses and clubs for years in diverse music combinations. Renee's track record speaks for itself, recording FarmJazz with Grammy Award winning artist Dan Tyminski, the renowned mandolinist Tony Williamson, and guitarist Michael Thompson.
Renee vocal versatility will take you for a journey through traditional folk to bluegrass, from jazz to rock. She flavors One String Over with her vocals, guitar, Celtic harp, bass and percussion. ReneeHenry.com
This group is hotter than a firecracker lit on both ends, and is on the cutting edge of the current old time music revival.
The FarmJazz world-class Wedding Trio comprised of Mike Willis: harps & keyboards; Janet Phillips: flutes; and Michael Thompson: guitars; have a strong background in classical-performance studies. These virtuoso-level musicians utilize various instrument combinations to present unique and elegant musical-offerings for your most special occasions. The music for your ceremony will be customized to provide just the right ambience from the Prelude to the Recessional. They will also provide professional accompaniment for vocalists, and create transitional "segues" so that those "special-moments" unfold smoothly with style and grace.
MIKE WILLIS – Jazz, Classical, New Age & Folk Music : Percussion, Harp, Vibraphone, Keyboards & Synthesizer.
Lifelong friends, Thompson & Willis friends since 1962, began performing together in high-school in 1968 w/ the formation of their combo “The Deep Six”. Since that time they have each worked as solo artists as well as performing in a large number of group venues from small ensembles to orchestral settings.
On Michael’s CD: “The Sleepy Gypsy”, Willis provided percussion, synthesizer, keyboard, and marimba. He also plays on the “Nickels to Diamonds” Live in Concert CD. He currently performs in the US & Japan. In addition, Mike W. is working with Michael T. on the new up & coming Cd: “Blue Cedar Dreams”.
Jazz, Bluegrass, Classical, Fusion.
Tony grew up in a musical family, playing at home and in church yet heavily influenced by music he heard attending fiddlers’ conventions. One of his most notable influences was the late-great Bill Monroe, who, “sort of took me under his wing” according to Tony, then about age 11. Tony began playing professionally around age 14. He graduated from UNC at Chapel Hill, with a degree in English Literature; and won a First Place prize in Mandolin at the coveted World-Championship-Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention in Union Grove , NC . He has since produced many bluegrass music albums; received nominations & IBMA awards with his brother Gary, as “The Williamson Brothers” and has toured the world performing in France, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil and most recently, Peru. Tony lists performances on stage and/or in the recording studio with his son: Hardy Williamson, Alison Krauss, Chris Thile, Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Bobby Hicks, Tony Rice, Vassar Clements, David Grisman, Sam Bush, Mike Marshall, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Don Stiernberg, and Robin and Linda Williams of Prairie Home Companion fame. He is featured on the Christmas album “Winter Wonderland”; and also Michael’s “Nickels to Diamonds” Live in Concert CD. Tony & Michael had the honor of performing for Luciano Pavarotti at the artist dinner & reception in Raleigh, NC. following his performance for the NC Opera Society.
Be sure to check out his website: www.mandolincentral.com on the web.
Considered by many to be “Musical-Outlaws on the Run”; John (Ace-Barrelhouse style-Piano Man) & Michael met while MT was serving as Artist-in-Residence at Wilson Technical Institute with the NC Arts Council, and John was a VP in Trusts at BB&T’s home office in Wilson. From their first “pickin’” session, MT & John embraced the “bluesy-
juke-joint” sound. They played together whenever they could even when Michael traveled on to other residencies around the state. As time would have it though they lost touch over the years. Some 35 years later John inquired with Bluesman Lightnin’ Wells after a show & Lightnin’ gave John the info he needed. John & Michael reunited in 2015, and have been “reeking musical havoc” since. John contributed piano on the “Music for the Carpenter” Thomas Day Files CD ; and the duo has been performing around the Piedmont and “down-east” where John resided in Wilson, NC
David Sheppard puts the drive in The SC Broadcasters sound. Like a freight train coming on down the line his style of playing gives The Broadcasters an unmistakable sound. He's got a great knack for songwriting and can be downright funny when he wants to. He is a world-renowned luthier and expert restorer of vintage acoustic instruments. Michael and David met as music classmates at UNC at Chapel Hill in 1970. Good buddies, they performed duos in classical guitar & when David introduced Michael to Ragtime Guitar, they was no turning back. Over the next few years David opened David Sheppard Instruments & Repair in Greensboro, NC, (now in Mt. Airy, NC) and David continued to keep Michael’s guitars & banjos in good shape as well as perfecting his Luthier abilities. On the Instruments page you can view the beautiful Spruce & Tiger Maple Cutaway # 003, a super-fine example of his work.
Tony performing in Kaoshuing, Taiwan
Photo by Atamo Shakti
Guitarist, is the first individual to earn a degree in guitar performance from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He won First Place Guitar at the 50th Anniversary of the Union Grove World Championship Old-Time Fiddler's Convention in Union Grove, NC. He received his Masters in Music Education w/emphasis in Music Therapy from East Carolina University. After serving for over 10 years in Artist-in-Residence programs with the NC Arts Council, he worked as an Entertainer aboard the Mississippi Queen Riverboat for several years before returning to NC to teach, perform and record. In addition to performance schedules, Michael teaches private lessons at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex in Roxboro; and coordinates the Farm-Jazz Musicians Co-op Project; in which he books engagements, performs, and records with the many accomplished musicians he has befriended over the years. Recently, Michael entertained with mandolin-artist Tony Williamson, on the behalf of the NC Opera Society, at the Artist Reception for Luciano Pavarotti.
Mike Willis's formal training includes study at Brevard as well as Appalachian State University. He has performed with the New York Quartet, and performs regularly with The Neal Davenport Group; The Jerry Lambert Trio; & crossover Renaissance group "Puddingstone. He has produced three Cd's with Neal Davenport - as well as his own Cd "Sending the Magic". The Puddingstone group has produced numerous seasonal audio offerings. He also performs on harp & keyboards with Dr. Janet Phillips & Michael T. as "The Wedding Trio".
Copy & Search: Mike Willis. www.dianielentertainment.com
Music from Mike's Cd: "Sending the Magic"
Blue Plantation is an acoustic string band specializing in a diverse variety of authentic musical styles. These styles include Bluegrass, Irish, Blues, American Folk, Country, and Jazz. The band is made up of four musicians with a wide background of musical experience and a high level of expertise. They currently reside and work out of the Charleston, SC area.
Stars of the Lowe Vintage Radio Show, John Boy and Billy recording artists, and masters of primitive bluegrass, The South Carolina Broadcasters bring southern music at its finest to the stage. Their razor sharp harmonies, exceptional multi-instrumentation, and fabulous song selection will have listeners riveted to their seats. This unique trio has put their own spin on the music of the foothills. They've been members of The Smokey Valley Boys and Roan Mountain Hilltoppers yet they're not looking backward. Between Andy Edmonds' and David Sheppard's ability to write a new song that sounds old and Ivy Sheppard's prowess for digging up obscure field recordings, The Broadcasters most always have new songs in the works. Their recent critically acclaimed release "Tell Me Truly" features a broad and mature mix of sounds ranging from Surry County bluegrass to Carter Family country and even the Cajun sounds of Lafayette. Audiences wherever they go connect with the Broadcasters through heart songs and good old fashioned entertainment.
Bob & Michael met in 1974 at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. Bob was finishing his Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy & Bass Performance; Michael was a graduate fellow working on his Masters’ in Music Therapy/Education. They became instant “best-buds” and started performing together in the music therapy venues that were required for their degrees, as well as forming the first ‘Nickels to Diamonds’ group, playing at coffee-houses, weddings, festivals, you name it. They would continue to work together for the next 20yrs, arranging & performing their music all through Michael’s tenure as a Visiting Artist w/ the NC Arts Council. Bob’s keen, intelligent approach to bass & guitar arranging became the “norm” for many bass players playing “Dixie Jazz” in Piedmont NC. You can hear his fine performance technique on the Cd “The Wildcat Quartet-Live at Michaels”. Bob is currently the lead administrator for the NC Providers Council, supporting special-needs populations all over the southeast based in Raleigh, NC.
Bob Hedrick with 1865 German Fickler Bass
Pianist Stephen Smith studied classical and jazz piano, composition, and arranging at Berklee College of Music. He has released three albums of original music and has played piano and organ on albums by many others. Stephen was keyboard player in Keith Henderson's “Illusions of the King” show from 1999-2011 and also performs solo and in duos. Stephen & Michael became friends & formed their first band “The Mystics”, together in the 7th grade . All through high-school they played organ(Steve) & bass(Michael) for “Gary Starr & the Delmars”. Stephen shared his “organic blaze” to Michael’s “Sleepy Gypsy” CD on the Laurindo Almeida tune – “When Night Falls”. E-mail Stephen at: email@example.com
David Sheppard Instrument & Repairs – Facebook
A “Cool Swing Trio” with long time pickin’ buddy Dan Wolber & Arley Ivey encompass years of friendship & Piedmont performance strategy. Dan & Michael met during MT’s artist residency in Winston-Salem in 1987. Over the years they have played everything from Bluegrass to Blues –Classic Swing to Jazz & Ragtime. These guys are truly high-energy …. “musicians w/o borders”.
Hailing from Windsor NC, by way of a twenty year stint in Nashville TN, Allan Thompson now makes his home in beautiful Mt. Pleasant, SC. Here Allan teaches music to those with a complete desire to learn folk, bluegrass, Celtic, and many other styles. Brothers in "name-only" Michael T. and Allan T. go "way-back" to the late1970's in the eastern part of NC where they first met, and begin "pickin' & grinnin'" together at every opportunity.
Allan plays the 5-string banjo, dobro, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and harmonica. His main musical influences are Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Josh Graves, Kevin Burke and Charlie McCoy. Allan has vast experience on the road with major country artists and has graced the stage of the Grand Ole Opry as a sideman.
Susan Merritt & Michael Thompson became close friends in the late 1970’s while Michael was in Graduate school at ECU-Greenville, NC. Susan, at the time was living in Washington, NC, teaching piano lessons and playing bass w/ an all girl bluegrass band. Over the years they remained closest of friends. Susan moved to Palm Beach, FL, where she has created the Jazz Arts Music Society (JAMS at Palm Beach), along w/ fellow band members Marty Campfield (percussionist) & Charles Boyer jazz enthusiast. The mission was to encourage the performance, promotion, preservation and perpetuation of America's original art form. The intent was to create a non-profit organization that would be sustainable and continue on as a major cultural influence in this area with leadership changing to keep it fresh and vital. Susan served as President of the Society for some 20 years. They brought an incredible amount of fresh Jazz & Artists to the area. Check out their website:
Susan continues to teach & perform in Palm Beach and area with the Susan Merritt Trio featuring: Marty Campfield on percussion & Paul Batitsky on piano.
John Bogdanovich and Michael became friends in 2004 when Michael commissioned him to build a classical guitar. You can view this beautiful Brazilian Rosewood & Cedar Guitar on the Instruments page of this website. You can hear this amazing instrument with the Trio of guitars on Corrente by W.Lawes, from Michael’s Sleepy Gypsy CD. (See the mp3 player box at the bottom of John’s bio). John relocated his shop from the North Coast of California to Asheville, NC in the spring of 2004.
Sterling Publishing had approached John to write a book for them on guitar making and in 2006 "Classical Guitar Making: A Modern Approach to a Traditional Design" was released. John moved on to the production of a 10 DVD box set entitled "Making a Concert Classical Guitar with John S. Bogdanovich". The video series was released in September 2010 and has received rave reviews from customers and reviewers alike. These products evolved over time into a full line of guitar building products geared to help new and experienced builders improve their skills, and their guitars. John continues to make concert classical guitars. He also gives guitar making classes in his shop. www.jsbguitars.com