An Afternoon of American Folk Music

April 28, 2018
Folk music poster

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director, James Madison Program, Princeton University, and friends

Free and open to the public. 

Robby George hails from West Virginia, where little boys are issued 5-string banjos at birth. Like all banjo players who were trained in the tradition of Appalachian classical music (also known as “bluegrass”), his principal influence was Earl Scruggs. Aficionados also detect in his playing traces of the styles of Don Reno, Ralph Stanley, and Bill Keith. Although a traditionalist, he has been known to sneak a bit of Bela Fleck-style playing into his performances. His guitar playing is in the “thumbpicking” style of Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, and Jerry Reed. In high school, he played with the bluegrass and folk music ensemble known as the “Fresh Air and Simplicity Band.” At Swarthmore College, he led the bluegrass and country band “Robby George and Friends.” In recent years, he has performed country blues and bluegrass with “Blue Heart” and all sorts of different styles of music with his pal Professor Michael Smith of Princeton’s philosophy department. He is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University.

The Friends:

Randy Bailey is the proud son of a West Virginia coal miner. Before his family moved to New Jersey in 1962, he developed a love for folk music from the inspiration of his grandfather and father. At the age of 17 (1971) he joined the jams at Joe and George Albert’s Home Place (which evolved into the Albert Music Hall) where he played guitar and went on to learn the bass. He has played bass with Bob Paisley, James King, Ronnie Stoneman, Rose Maddox and Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys, along with many local groups. From 1984 to 2012 he was the co-host of Bluegrass Jam radio, broadcast from Brookdale Public Radio 90.5 FM out of Lincroft, New Jersey. He is a long-time member of the Pinelands Cultural Society (Albert Hall) and the Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association of New Jersey.

Susan Brison is Eunice and Julian Cohen Professor for the Study of Ethics and Human Values at Dartmouth College and will be Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University in 2018-19. She has been a Mellon Fellow in the Program in Law, Philosophy, and Social Theory at New York University and an NEH-funded member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. She is the author of numerous articles in social/political/legal philosophy and of Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self. She’s been most influenced, musically, by Pete Seeger and Sarah Vaughan and enjoys combining jazz standards with Appalachian folk songs. Lately, she’s taken to singing in the middle of some of her philosophy lectures and, so far, she’s gotten away with it.

Jenny Glenn has been singing and playing guitar and mandolin in a variety of folk and blues groups in New York and New Jersey. She’s performed with acoustic roots groups Blue Heart Band, Sequoia Sun, and Just Left Town, and currently performs in Moggy Hill, at concerts, cafes, and farmers’ markets.

Stephen Hendershott, a Canadian who was raised in Montreal, stumbled upon a banjo while at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. This banjo led to a discovery of American acoustic and bluegrass music as Stephen moved to New Jersey. In the mid-Seventies he played banjo in the Millstone Valley Boys, a local bluegrass band. Building on that experience, Stephen worked on the fiddle and mandolin and played and sang backup vocals in several old-time and bluegrass bands including The Jersey Travelers, Borderline, and Riverside. Stephen has recorded with Mark Cosgrove and played in concert setting with Tony Trishka and Buddy Miller. While playing bluegrass, Stephen also maintained a love for old-time fiddle tunes and played local square dances when the opportunity arose. In 2011, Stephen started a NJ-based classical mandolin organization known as the Maidenhead Mandolin Society.

Daniel Miner, M.D. is a radiologist practicing in Exeter, New Hampshire and plays guitar in various ensembles and a variety of styles, including folk, jazz, rock, and bluegrass. He has been involved in many performances and recording projects over the years. He and Robby George played together as students at Swarthmore College.

Ron Radosh is an Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute and a Contributing Opinion Writer for The Daily Beast. His books include The Rosenberg File and Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War. He is a Professor Emeritus of History at CUNY. A banjo student of Pete Seeger in the 1950s, he has been involved in the folk music world for many years.

Michael Smith is McCosh Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Princeton University. His research focuses on topics that lie at the intersection of metaphysics, philosophy of mind, moral philosophy, political philosophy, and philosophy of law. He first joined Princeton in 1985, and during the late 1980s co-taught a memorable philosophy of law graduate seminar with Professor George. At around the same time, they discovered their mutual love of guitar when, as neighbors in the old Stanworth housing complex, they saw each other playing guitar in the garden while watching over their infant sons.

Richard D. Smith was introduced to bluegrass during the 1960s Folk Revival. In addition to performing the music, he's actively chronicled it as a long-time staff writer for Bluegrass Unlimited magazine and author of the award-winning biography Can't You Hear Me Callin': The Life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass. He lives in nearby Rocky Hill, N.J.

Mark Stermer is a guitar player and vocalist who was honored to share the stage with Robby George in a roots/country/bluegrass band called Blue Heart that began in the summer of 2008 as a weekly evening jam session in the backyard. Their original band name, "The Cicadas," honored the boisterous accompaniment from the woods nearby. Blue Heart played iconic N.J. venues such as Albert Hall, the Heartlands Hayride, and Café Improv at the Princeton Arts Council. Mark now enjoys playing with Robby George and Jenny Glenn down by the banks of the Delaware River and at home gatherings throughout the year.

Lauren Weiner, associate editor of Law and Liberty, has been playing the guitar since the age of eight. As a high-schooler in suburban Chicago, she took guitar lessons from the great mandolinist Jethro Burns, who showed her how to use a flat pick. 

Video:

An Afternoon of American Folk Music - Part I

An Afternoon of American Folk Music - Part II

Location:

Nassau Presbyterian Church - 61 Nassau Street

Photo Album:

  • Folk music event
  • Folk music event
  • Folk music event