Ben Wright – Clawhammer Banjo
Ben Wright is a bluegrass guitarist, old-time banjoist, and music teacher from Guelph, Ontario. He performs regularly with the Toronto band The Barrel Boys, and enjoys playing music around the house with his wife and young son.
Ben first started playing folk music while at Queen’s University in Kingston where he was completing a degree in classical guitar. While in Kingston, he had a weekly musical residency. His band would perform a few sets of music in the evening after the old-time act Sheesham and Lotus performed fiddle and banjo duets earlier in the night. He started arriving earlier and earlier to check out the old-time music and fell in love with it. Working with them he learned to call square dances, backup a fiddle tune, and flatpick along with the fiddles and banjos.
Since then Ben has studied fiddle and banjo with John Showman and Chris Coole of the Foggy Hogtown Boys, and has made a lot of friends in the lively and virtuosic Toronto bluegrass and old-time communities. Ben excels at playing steady yet interesting rhythm guitar, loves to flatpick Bluegrass, and loves performing Old-Time fiddle tunes on his clawhammer banjo.
Today Ben lives and teaches in Toronto. He calls square dances regularly with the Hogtown Hoedown dances, and performs actively with The Barrel Boys.
Kyle Kirkpatrick – Guitar
Kyle Kirkpatrick is a prominent fixture of the Toronto Bluegrass scene, performing regularly with different artists as well as his primary group, “The Barrel Boys.” Audiences know him for his high-energy, gritty style that captivates audiences. Kyle Kirkpatrick has been working as a professional music educator for 9 years. Specializing in Guitar and Dobro, Kyle has worked both privately as well as for a number of Toronto Music Schools, teaching both young students and adults. Kyle is known for connecting with students and working with a variety of skill levels. His warm sense of humour and engaging playing make workshops and lessons a delight.
Nathan Smith – Fiddle
Growing up in North Bay, Ontario, Nathan Smith began playing classical violin at age six and Canadian old-time fiddle at age eight. Through his teens and twenties, Nathan pursued both aspects of the instrument side by side, earning a Bachelor of Music from the University of Ottawa along the way and taking a sideman role in bluegrass bands. When he eventually settled in Toronto to study Jazz and Contemporary Music at Humber College in 2012, he began singing, playing, and writing with his own innovative bluegrass collective, The Barrel Boys. The Boys have released four recordings to date, including their most recent all-original album, “Cold Spring.” A well-respected and versatile fiddler and vocalist, Nathan continues to broaden his musical horizons with explorations ranging from French Balfolk to Québecois trad to Western Swing.
Rob McLaren – Bluegrass Banjo
Rob McLaren is an accomplished musician and music teacher from Toronto who has been plying his craft on stages across Canada for several years. Originally a guitarist and fiddler, Rob first fell in love with the 5 string banjo when he heard John Hartford on the radio in his native province of Alberta. He then joined up with friends in Toronto to form The Barrel Boys, where he honed his picking, harmony singing, and songwriting. Rob has since backed up many fine Canadian musicians, including Ken Whiteley, the Fugitives, the O’pears, and the Lovelocks. When not on the road, he is in demand as a private instructor and clinician. His diverse musical understanding and tasteful accompaniment have made Rob an experienced and savvy player.
Tim O’Reilly – Bass
Tim O’Reilly is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Hamilton, ON. He is primarily a bass player, and can be heard with The Barrel Boys, as well as The Andrew Collins Trio, The Young Novelists, The O’Pears, and The Peter Graham Band. A private music instructor for many years, he was resident bass instructor at Northern Lights Bluegrass & Old Tyme Camp in 2018, and is a perennial member of the songwriting faculty at Interprovincial Music Camp.
Joey Wright– Mandolin
Growing up in Toronto, Joey began his musical journey by sneaking in to iconic clubs like Chicago’s and Grossman’s Tavern, underage, to see guitar luminaries like Jeff Healey, Madagascar Slim and David Wilcox. Joey recounts: “When I first saw those great players in bars in Toronto it shocked me. Music had always seemed like magic to me and that everything I’d heard to that point was played by a type of super hero. When I saw that people could make similar sounds to the ones I was hearing on record I was changed forever and knew then what I wanted to do.”
Inspired by all of his musical discoveries, Joey became an integral part of the burgeoning bluegrass, old time and traditional country scene in Toronto in the late 90’s. This artistic explosion spawned many talented and eager players: Heartbreak Hill, Chris Coole, High Lonesome Wednesdays, Dan Whiteley, Chris Quinn, John Showman, Marc Roy and heaps of others were all intermingling to create the scene that has become one of the richest in the land.
In 2015, Joey’s music was chosen to score the multi award-winning film The Anniversary. In June, 2015 Joey collaborated with Jill Barber and Matthew Barber on their recording Family Album which received a 2017 Juno nomination. Joey has three solo records to his credit: Camp (2003), Jalopy (2007 Black Hen Music) and Hatch (2010 Black Hen Music). He is also the co-creator and leader of the acclaimed instrumental band TUXEDO! along with Christine Bougie.
Joey has appeared on many highly acclaimed Canadian recordings. He has recorded with Sarah Harmer, John Southworth, Amy Millan, Doug Paisley, Jenny Whiteley, Jill & Matt Barber, Ron Hynes, Oh Suzanna and The Banjo Special to name a few. As well as performing his own shows, he has also toured with David Corley, The Evening Hymns, Justin Rutledge, Sarah Harmer and many others.
Kristine Schmitt – Vocals
Kristine’s big voice and joyous presence are simply transformative. She’s been performing for over thirty years, about twenty of them in bluegrass and traditional country bands, and with lots of work in jazz, blues, choral, and more experimental styles. Returning for her fifth year at the camp, Kristine’s specialty is vocal and performance coaching, general stagecraft, and songwriting guidance. Bluegrass singing is a great way to strengthen your natural voice, and to experience the full-on pleasure of singing close harmony with other voices and instruments. Kristine likes to offer some extra ingredients: how to conquer your nerves, how to enjoy playing with other people both in jams and onstage, and how to invite an audience to enjoy it along with you!
Ivan Rosenberg – Facilitator and Slow Jam Master
Ivan will be at camp leading the evening slow jams, coaching a student band, playing in the instructor concerts, and facilitating other camp activities. There is no dedicated Dobro class this year, but students signed up for other instruments or vocals can opt for their private lesson to be with Ivan on Dobro. There will also be a Dobro-themed ‘festival-style’ workshop one afternoon and, if several Dobro players attend camp, one 45-minute hands-on Dobro workshop, which would be scheduled during private-lesson/free time.
Chris Quinn – Special Guest
Chris began playing banjo in 1978. His dad, Murray Quinn, who has remained a lifelong supporter of Chris’ music, got him his first banjo for Christmas. Murray did his best to take Chris out to see live music and meet musicians. “Dad snuck me into a bar once when I was 12 so that I could see a live bluegrass band.”
A high school friend named Jimmy Kyle showed Chris a few picking patterns on the banjo and Chris took to it instantly. Spending every spare moment, Chris taught himself to pick.In 1988, Chris moved to his current home in Toronto, and quickly found himself on the music scene. Since then, Chris has forged enduring friendships and musical partnerships with: Chris Coole, Dan Whiteley, Jenny Whiteley, Andrew Collins, Max Heineman, John Showman, Joey Wright, The Backstabbers, Kristine Schmitt, Tony Allen, Marc Roy, Sam Petite, Ivan Rosenberg, and many others.
Since 2000, Chris has been the award winning banjo player for The Foggy Hogtown Boys.
With more than 30 years of experience, he is also a highly acclaimed instructor who is equally comfortable working one on one or with larger groups; Chris has even conducted a banjo workshop in a bomb shelter in the middle east once!
During his career, Chris has performed with Bob Fuller, Ray Condo and His Hard-Rock Goners, One Horse Town, Heartbreak Hill, Jughead, Rick Fielding, The Backstabbers, The Hamstrung Stringband, The Wild Irish Rogues, Stringalong, Luther Wright and the Wrongs, John McEuen, Vassar Clements, Kenny Baker and Josh Graves Jr., and Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys.