MEET OUR TEACHERS
Nick Berkin – Piano, Accordion
A Charlottesville native, Nick Berkin earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013, and has been a full-time musician ever since. Performing solo as well singing/playing in groups such as Andrew Thielen Big Band and, currently, Adar. Nick’s past work also includes piano bar entertainer for Carnival Cruise Lines and band leader for Holland America Line.
Diane Cluck – Songwriting, Voice, Piano
Diane Cluck grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where she began studying classical piano at the age of seven. As a teen she accompanied her high school choir, sang in summer stock musicals, played in a goth-folk band and was a cantor for the Catholic church. Trained in theater arts at Hofstra University, she lived in New York City for nearly twelve years as an active participant in the downtown music scene. Diane has released seven albums to date, with song placements in TV and film. She regularly tours the US, UK, Europe and Canada, and has enjoyed Charlottesville as her home base since 2011.
As a musical guide Diane encourages creative expression alongside developing technical ability. Students have described her approach as “marvelously intuitive, knowledgeable, clear, precise, empathic and most of all, non-judgmental”, “using humor to dissolve my anxiety”, and “inventive, creative, and kind, with a focus on what is most important in music–finding your voice.”
Marty Collin – Beginner Guitar, Banjo, Mandolin
With a borrowed guitar from a neighbor down the road and a library card, twelve-year-old Marty Collin taught himself how to play guitar, and his life long journey in acoustic music never faded. A life devoted to teaching, university and high school English instructor, theatre director, published playwright, that musical spark accompanied him on his journey from Cleveland, Ohio, to Haverhill, Massachusetts, to Durham, New Hampshire, to College Park, Maryland, to Amenia, New York, and to Hagerstown, Maryland. Newly transplanted to Charlottesville, Virginia, he has recently taught weekly mandolin, banjo, and guitar lessons and was the faculty advisor to the folk music club at Saint James School in Maryland. From the 2017 Saint James School yearbook, his former mandolin student, Martin McGuigan, Class of 2017, writes: And of course, who could think of Mr. Collin and not immediately hear music? He is by no means shy in sharing his love of music. As he integrates his passion into almost every facet of Saint James life, he shows the true extent to which he is a member of this community. Whether playing banjo as a crossing guard for home cross country meets, playing guitar in his classes, or playing mandolin with me and the rest of our Blue Chair bluegrass group every Tuesday, his dedication to music knows no bounds.
Matt Curreri – songwriting, guitar
Matt Curreri is a Charlottesville-based songwriter, band leader, and teacher. His “catchy rock-and-roll chanteys capture
Kayde Deardorff – Voice, Piano
Raised in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, Kayde started piano lessons on her grandfather’s organ when she was six, and studied classical piano, voice, and coronet throughout school.
After college, Kayde recorded an edgy folk/rock album as Violas Heartfull, and lived in intentional communities including Twin Oaks. In 2013, she moved to Charlottesville and began playing out with The Rung and Spoke. She released an EP as Fen Swale in 2014 which has been described as heartfelt, haunting and gorgeous, and is currently recording a full length album.
In addition to music study and performance, Kayde is also trained in dance, NIA, and herbal medicine. She teaches lessons that foster the mind-body-connection in music and expressive arts and offers a supportive and loving atmosphere for students to flourish. www.fenswale.com
Malia Furtado – Bluegrass Fiddle, Classical Violin
Hailing from the Northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, Malia comes from a large family of musicians. Malia’s musical journey began at the age of 3 with classical violin lessons and took a turn, for better or for worse, with the discovery of bluegrass at age 7 when she attended her first festival, Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention. Since then, Malia has performed with a number of different groups, taken home a range of prizes, and graced the stage of numerous venues up and down the East Coast. Malia has given private lessons in both bluegrass and classical since 2006. Other teaching ventures include appearances on two Murphy Method instructional DVD’s and leading fiddle workshops at various festivals. She currently teaches adult continued education courses in bluegrass fiddle at Blue Ridge Community College in Weyer’s Cave, VA.
Jim Gagnon – World Music, Storytelling
Jim is a well traveled musician, storyteller, and performer extraordinaire. He is also an educator, performing in schools, resorts, and festivals around the world. Jim is fascinated by the diversity and the wisdom of the native cultures, especially in music and stories. He inspires a renewed appreciation of nature and culture, through the performing arts, workshops, and craft making projects. He is on staff at Jim Donovan’s Rhythm Renewal, and currently is an Artist in Residence in Albemarle County. He is also an instrument maker and recording artist, whose music has been used for film, yoga classes and several dance projects. Jim’s favorite quote, from Africa, ”If you can speak, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance.”
Craig Green – Ukulele
Craig Green has been teaching guitar, uke and facilitating community singing for over twenty years. In his teaching he fosters a playful spirit of easygoing excellence. Craig teaches uke in ways that enhance vocal confidence and understanding of harmony. He is a mugician, working magic with music while empowering students to become mugicians too.
Thomas Gunn – Guitar, Bass, Piano, Theory, Songwriting
London-born Thomas Gunn has been a performing musician, songwriter, and music teacher for decades. A graduate of Berklee College of Music (’90), Thomas is fluent in all things folk. He’s played in Americana bands, Country, Italian folk, Portuguese Folk (Fado), Rock n’ Roll, and Jazz. He is an experienced songwriter, having released two critically acclaimed albums of his own, and producer. Thomas’ current projects include upright bass and acoustic guitar with the Michael Clem Trio, and acoustic and electric guitar with The Pollocks, where he shares songwriting credits with bandleader Jason Pollock.
Christen Hubbard – Fiddle, Guitar, Mandolin, Clawhammer Banjo
Growing up in Charlottesville, Christen would often fall asleep on some couch at an old time jam, with string band music lulling him to sleep. He played trumpet in middle school band, and around the same time discovered a dusty old guitar in his parents’ basement. Thus began a three-decade love affair with stringed instruments, as Christen began plunking out Jimmy Page riffs and chunking on Metallica power chords as a 13-year old rocker. As a deadhead in High School, he gained an appreciation of American roots music and improvisation. He got his first mandolin at age 19 and soon became obsessed with David Grisman, Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, and the rich musical history of Appalachian mountain music. A 2-year stint touring with The Larry Keel Experience provided a crash course in progressive bluegrass and exposed Christen to a wonderful array of influential musicians across the southeast. While living in Portland, Oregon he continued to perform while branching out into early country, blues and swing, as well as gypsy jazz. He began playing fiddle and clawhammer banjo, and returned to his native Virginia while returning musically to the string band music that continues to be his primary inspiration.
Larry Kent – Piano
Larry Kent is a native of Albemarle County, where he had his first piano lessons and taught himself guitar. He played in a number of rock and rhythm & blues bands before heading off to major in piano at VCU in Richmond. After graduation he earned a master’s degree in piano at the University of Miami and a doctorate in composition and conducting at the University of South Carolina. Larry has spent most of his professional career in and around Tampa, Florida, where he founded and continues to direct and perform with Florida Pro Musica, a professional early music group specializing in chant and 16th century polyphony. He returned to Virginia in 2017, and continues to enjoy improvisation and popular styles of music, frequently sitting in with various groups in central Virginia, in addition to playing classical music for piano and harpsichord, both in solo and chamber settings.
As a teacher, Larry enjoys working with students of all ages, all styles, and at all levels. He strives to create a fun and creative atmosphere where students are encouraged to find their own voice to express their creativity through music. He is very excited to be a part of the Front Porch community.
Eric Knutson – Guitar
Eric earned his bachelors in Classical Guitar performance from the Lamont School of Music in Denver, Colorado. Then he accidentally moved to Nashville and starting playing in country bands. After a few years as a guitar player for hire traveling the southeast, he landed a publishing deal on music row. The next few years were spent in the writing room, at the demo session, and starting a family. Eric has recently moved to Nelson County and is loving the opportunity to play music in the blue ridge mountains. Primarily a guitar player, Eric also teaches piano, mandolin and assorted others.
Chris Leva – Guitar
christopherleva.com Christopher Leva has enjoyed teaching guitar for 20 years in a variety of styles. He performs regularly in the area with Ragged Mountain String Band and Faster Than Walking, two of Charlottesville’s classic old-time bands. He also plays flatpick bluegrass and acoustic swing in GreenHouse and electric guitar with several dance bands.Focusing on the basics while introducing subtler aspects of musicianship and ensemble playing are the keystones in his class series, “New Old-time Guitar.”
John Ashley Murphy – Harmonica
John Ashley Murphy started playing harmonica in California during his teen years. When he moved to Virginia in his thirties, he gravitated to the old-time music scene and found himself playing fiddle music — on the harmonica. He’s been at it ever since, playing with the Faster Than Walking string band and with the whole cast of old-time pickers at music festivals throughout the region. John was also a founding member of the world music ensemble Baaba Seth. He recently released his first CD of fiddle-inspired original harmonica tunes.
Molly Murphy – Voice, Guitar, Piano
Molly’s love of music came at an early age, singing in choirs from age 4, participating in all the school musicals, and making music with her family for as long as she can remember. She attended Stuart Hall School in Staunton VA as a music student in the Visual and Performing Arts program from 1999-2003, and attended James Madison University where she continued to study music.
Her performing career in music began with her first band, The Bourbon Specials, based out of Charlottesville, VA in 2005. A few years later, she and a group of friends formed The Judy Chops, and have been performing regionally, as well as up and down the east coast since 2007. “Molly’s solid musicianship and dedication have been the background for the band’s solid arrangements.” She plays rhythm guitar, sings, writes, and arranges. Molly also performs in a duo ensemble, The Marvelous Murphy Sisters with her sister Sally Murphy, in which their mother (Lorie Lichtenwalner) and younger sister also occasionally join.
Debby Norton – Creative Movement, Instrument Exploration
Debby Norton has taught children in Charlottesville for 25 years. She holds an MEd from Loyola College in Baltimore with a concentration in Montessori education. She has AMI diplomas for 3-6 year olds and 6-12 year olds. She has taught at Mountaintop Montessori for ten years, where she has a class of 6-8 year olds where she has been teaching hula hooping and creative movement in after school programs and camps as well. She is certified in Orff-Shulwerk music and movement education Levels 1 and 2 and in Hoopnotica hoop dance. She is also certified as a 5 Rhythms Sweat Spaceholder and is in training as a teacher for 5 Rhythms dance, a movement meditation practice. Debby has facilitated movement for adults in the area for 6 years, teaches a class for adults in 5 Rhythms at the Front Porch, and loves to explore movement as an expressive medium.
Malcolm Pulley – Banjo
Malcolm Pulley started playing banjo around age 12 under the tutelage of his father, Malcolm Pulley, Sr. He currently plays in the Richmond area based Commonwealth Bluegrass Band, that recently released their second CD titled Love Reunited. He is best known for his song writing having penned “In The Gravel Yard”, which was recorded by Blue Highway and nominated for IBMA song of the year, and “These Old Pictures”, recorded by James King. Malcolm’s bluegrass banjo style is heavily influenced by Earl Scruggs, Bill Emerson, and Ben Eldridge. He is extremely excited about joining the Front Porch team and particularly enjoys manning the Front Porch kids instrument petting zoo and the Monday night bluegrass jam! Malcolm currently lives in Charlottesville, VA.
Rick Ramsey – Bluegrass Bass
Rick Ramsey grew up in a musical family in Southside Virginia. From the age of three he was singing with his father and brothers and learned multiple harmony parts from them. He holds down the “low end” with his big upright bass and sings whatever part is needed.
Rick lived in Phoenix, Arizona for 20 years, where he played in multiple bands; most notably with the Superstition Ridge Bluegrass Band. Superstition Ridge won multiple awards at festivals throughout the southwest and Rick, along with singing partner John Svenson, won the 2012 Four Corners Duet Singing Championship.
After 35 years in the banking industry, Rick recently retired and move back to Virginia, settling in the Charlottesville area. He has recently played bass with Grit City Grass, a Crozet, Virginia based band and he can be heard playing bass and singing with the Blue-Collar Bluegrass Band, a Roanoke-area band
Gabe Robey – Mandolin, Guitar
Gabe Robey grew up in a musical family in the mountains of southwest Virginia, where he developed a passion for many musical forms, among them folk and bluegrass. His parents, both accomplished musicians, instilled the joy and dedication to music that he later modeled to become an accomplished musician in his own right. He began playing bluegrass guitar in his early college days, studying the playing styles of flatpicking heroes Larry Keel, Tony Rice and Bryan Sutton, while working to find his own voice. He later discovered a love for the mandolin, applying his flatpicking technique while following celebrated master Matt Flinner among others. He currently performs in several local and regional bands, keeping a busy schedule. He is a founding member of the Harwell Grice Band out of his stomping grounds of Franklin County, VA. You can also find him performing with the Charlottesville trio Southwater, the Front Porch String Band, and occasionally standing in with Gallatin Canyon as well. Gabe loves the opportunity to connect with others through music and thrives on the possibility of making musical discoveries in a group setting!
John Spangler – Bluegrass Banjo
John took up the banjo at age 13, focusing on the hard-driving 3-finger style of masters such as Earl Scruggs and Sammy Shelor, as well as the melodic ideas of Bobby Thompson, Bill Keith and Tony Trischka. While traditional bluegrass has always been a passion, he also enjoys taking the banjo into genres where it is less well known. Over the years he has played with many bluegrass/americana bands most recently in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and previously in Europe where he performed in various countries and taught banjo at the ETM cole des Musiques Actuelles in Geneva Switzerland. He has been in opening acts for Tim O’Brien, Frank Wakefield, the Jerry Douglas Band, Bela Fleck, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops among others. Lately he has been onstage with the Staunton and Charlottesville bands Bourbon Barrel Congress, the Will Overman Band, and Gallatin Canyon.
Devon Sproule – Songwriting, Guitar, Performance
Devon Sproule grew up at Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, VA. She moved to Charlottesville as a teenager, busking on the downtown mall and making friends within the local music world. Now a professional touring musician, Sproule plays regularly in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia. Her releases have garnered praise from Village Voice, New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Observer, Guardian, and have featured collaborations with (among others) fellow Virginians Mary Chapin Carpenter and the late Jesse Winchester. As a teacher, Devon’s specialty is one-on-one “musical mentoring,” helping people young and old improve their playing and singing while learning to process life’s joys and pains creatively, through songwriting. She also offers guidance in performance and music business, if desired. In general, Devon’s approach is intuitive and revolving around ear and feel, with a dash of basic music theory. The 34-year-old, in addition to being a musician, is a bird enthusiast, doula, and a student of Deaf Culture and sign language. She has been married to producer / videographer Paul Curreri for 11 years.
Jay Starling – Dobro
As the son of founding Seldom Scene member John Starling, Jay Starling had music in his bones from the start. From classical piano (he began at age seven) to delta blues and electric guitar, he was fascinated. By high school, he was reaching further, experimenting with drums, keyboards and electric bass. Nurturing a love for funk and fusion. After earning a degree in Psychology from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, Jay took off north to study drums at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston where he earned a B.A. of Professional Music.
Andy Thacker – Mandolin and Guitar
Andy is an accomplished and flexible strings musician. He has played the mandolin in a variety of different musical styles from traditional Bluegrass and Old Time to Jazz and Rock. Andy has performed with Love Canon, Walker’s Run, Irish guitarist Ryan McGiver, and in many other lineups over the years. Andy understands the musical roots of the mandolin, but challenges the instrument in a wide range of genres. He also likes beer, beaches, and delicious foods.
Pete Vigour – Fiddle, Mandolin, Guitar, and Clawhammer banjo
vigourmusic.com Pete is a familiar face at jam sessions, concerts, and music classes around central Virginia; if string music is on the menu, you’ll probably find Pete nearby, serving up a tune on the fiddle, banjo, or guitar. He also enjoys making music on other instruments, and regularly teaches mountain dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, mandolin, and ukulele. Pete first taught music as a teenager in Waynesboro more than forty years ago, and now teaches full time, including guitar and string band classes at several local schools. He keeps a busy performing schedule as well, with the bands Uncle Henry’s Favorites, Zuzu’s Hot 5, the Lovell Coleman Band, the Hintonaires, and in a duo with his wife Ellen, a fine mandolinist and dance caller.
Brandon Walsh – Trumpet
Brandon holds a degree in music from the University of Virginia, where his teachers included John D’Earth and Paul Neebe. He has studied the trumpet for over twenty years, specializing in classical and jazz, with a focus on improvisation. Brandon regularly performs in the Charlottesville area with The Hard Modes, a sextet that plays original jazz arrangements of video game music, and the Charlottesville Jazz Congregation. He has previously performed with the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra, the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, the Charlottesville University Symphony Orchestra, and in the pit for musical productions at Piedmont Virginia Community College.
Sarah Weltman – Cello
Born and raised in Maryland, Sarah holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Industry with a concentration in cello from James Madison University. Music has been at the center of Sarah’s life since age 9 when she first picked up the cello and fell in love with film scores. Although new to teaching, Sarah is classically trained and has over a decade of experience performing for weddings, private events, festivals, and with select orchestras and chamber groups in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia regions.
Becca White & Krisan Marotta – Clogging
Together, Becca White and Krisan Marotta are the primary teaching force for the local clogging team the Skyline Country Cloggers. Between them, they have over 40 years of experience teaching, choreographing, and performing Appalachian clog dancing. Their focus is on teaching at the beginner and intermediate level.