Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley has long been fertile ground for the development of old-time and bluegrass music, and the Knicelys are one of its most prominent musical families. Multi-instrumentalist A. O. Knicely was a staple at area barn dances in the 1930s; his son Glen soaked up this music as a child and, along with his wife, Darlena, passed on the tradition to his son, Danny. Danny has become one of the most respected and versatile multi-instrumentalists of his generation, collaborating with prominent musicians in the United States and abroad. He has won many awards for his mandolin, guitar, and fiddle playing, and flatfoot dancing, including first place in the mandolin contest at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Danny is also the musical director for the Mountain Music Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving traditional musicians worldwide. A musician’s musician, Danny has a chameleon-like ability to fit into any musical situation. He has recorded and toured nationally and internationally with many groups, including the award-winning Magraw Gap, Furnace Mountain, and Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, a multicultural dance troupe. He has also performed with an extensive list of musicians, from Vassar Clements to Cheick Hamala Diabate, and he is currently touring with two different trios: Wyatt Rice and Mark Schatz, as well as Will Lee and John Flower. Danny is sharing his knowledge with a new generation of young bluegrass musicians. These amazing teenagers and twenty-somethings have already left their mark on the music, with countless contest winnings on their respective instruments. These young virtuosos uphold age-old traditions and thoughtfully sculpt them for the future.
Andrew Vogts took up the violin at age four and now attends the prestigious Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington Delaware. While continuing his classical studies and playing many other types of music including bluegrass, Cajun, jazz, and Celtic, Andrew mostly focuses on Appalachian old-time music. He’s been awarded prizes at countless fiddling contest and has played in all 50 states. Andrew has also visited more than 35 foreign countries performing with the world-renown fiddle group, Barrage. Andrew’s fiddling can be heard on his self-titled debut album released on the Patuxent Music label.
Victor Furtado‘s absurdly precocious talent and understanding of old-time music is at odds with his age. The Front Royal native has won first place in the adult claw-hammer banjo category at many contests including the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention, Clifftop, Appalachian State University Fiddler’s Convention, Maury River Fiddler’s Convention, Elk Creek Fiddler’s Convention, Deer Creek Fiddler’s Convention, and the Virginia State Fair. Victor is also the Delaware State Banjo Champion and placed second in the National Old Time Banjo Championship in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, at age 15. Victor can be heard on his self-titled album also on the Patuxent Music label.
Aila Wildman, of Floyd, Virginia, began studying the violin, both classical and traditional styles, at the age of five. At eight she joined Floyd Music School’s youth bluegrass band The Blackberries, and at eleven she became one of the youngest members of the Roanoke Youth Symphony Orchestra (RYSO). Aila has twice participated in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, first apprenticing with the late legendary bluegrass fiddler Buddy Pendleton, and currently with contemporary fiddle master Nate Leath. Though barely a teenager, Aila is now placing regularly in the most prestigious fiddle contests, and is lead singer and fiddler for her family band The Wildmans, as well as playing in the RYSO’s first violin section.
Eli Wildman, of Floyd, Virginia, began playing guitar at age seven, switching to mandolin soon after attending his first Galax Fiddler’s Convention. Seven years later, in 2015, Eli won first place youth mandolin and eighth place in the adult mandolin competition at Galax. Studying both classical and traditional music at the Floyd Music School, Eli is as comfortable playing a Bach Concerto as bluegrass and old time music.
Jack Dunlap of Lorton, Virginia, is the mandolin player in the bluegrass band Bud’s Collective. In 2014 and 2015, he apprenticed with Danny Knicely in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program and together he and Danny recorded Chop, Shred, and Split, an award-winning album featuring original compositions and an eclectic mix of songs that range from bluegrass to old-time, from gypsy jazz to swing, from polka to funk. This album is tangible proof of the magic generated by this apprenticeship. Jack teaches mandolin, bass, guitar, and ukelele at Blue Ridge Community College, the Front Porch, and Divinum Auxilium Academy.