There we all were, in a tight little circle playing bluegrass music one Wednesday night at the Pirate Canoe Club when the door opened and a young woman (who looked as if she were a teenager) with a mandolin walked into the room.  She quietly took a seat on the perimeter of the circle.  When we asked her to tell us her name, she hesitatingly answered, "Sara" in an unmistakable Japanese accent.

Oh, and then when we asked further questions, it was immediately obvious that Sara did NOT speak English very well and certainly did NOT understand us well (imagine a cacaphony of voices all speaking at once in what must have sounded like complete babel).

Jerry Oland has been involved in Bluegrass music for longer than most of us in the HVBA. For this reason I decided that an interview with him will serve to give the rest of our members some insight into the BG music scene for the past 40 years or so, both here in the Hudson Valley and beyond.  Jerry, as we all know, has been a central figure in our local jams, always contributing to hold it together, giving the right kick in the beginning, or a break that we all wish we had invented. However, Jerry's real gift to us all is his infectious enjoyment of BG music. So, here in the following is a random walk with Jerry along his BG journey.

In September of 2007 I asked Bill Keith --that is the legendary Bill Keith, if he would be available to give a presentation of the five-string banjo to my music students at Highland High School in Highland, New York. His presentation was enthusiastically received by the students, many of whom with iPods galore had never heard a banjo, let alone seen one being played by a master of the instrument. During our time together in the preparation for his visit I found myself listening to some fascinating stories of Bill’s that I thought might be of interest to the Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association members and others who might come across this website. When I approached him about doing an interview for the HVBA he again was gracious and kind enough to agree. We sat down together at the Colony Café, better known as the “Bluegrass Clubhouse,” on the cold evening of 24 January 2008 between sets. I hope you enjoy the following interview as much as I enjoyed doing it.

4.4.08

Questions for Eugene Martinez

 

Our Man in Italy The News Editor of the HVBA Website talks about how he found us, why he is still involved with the organization and tidbits of interest.

Q How did you find the HVBA? I didn't find the HVBA. I was pushed toward it by two of my very very VERY best friends in the world, Pat Dinges and Wayne Fugate. I was at a pretty low point in my illustrious life. I pretty much sucked at the mandolin, and knew it – and I had no intention of going public with that news. But they just kept at it and at it and at it. Relentlessly. Told me that there was no point in playing if you don’t play with people. Kept nagging me to go to Pirate Canoe. Eventually they wore me down. The smile that night put on my face is still on me. I still suck at the mando, but don’t care anymore if people know it!

What? You actually commuted to the jams while living in Italy? Wouldn’t anyone?

Why are you still involved? I stay involved with the HVBA because I love the people who are the HVBA and because I think it’s a vital and important organization that does a lot of good and can always do better. I used to think that you can’t make old friends. The HVBA taught me that nothing can be more false. I’ve made some of the best friends I’ll ever have in my life through this organization. And that’s why I stay involved. Oh, also… see number 4.

What is the state of bluegrass in Italy? Miserable. Absolutely pathetic. There is one very fine Italian bluegrass band, Red Wine, based in Genova. They’ve been at it for a long time – in fact, they just celebrated their 30th anniversary with a sold-out concert – and they sure deserved it. They’re a group of real quality musicians, they love and understand the music. But other than them… nada. Which is another reason why I stay involved with the HVBA – it keeps my attachment to this music alive.

Tell me about your role in the HVBA. My role in the HVBA. Oy. Officially, I’m the Editor of the website’s News tab. It’s not too easy for me to keep my finger on the pulse, living all the way out here in this Bluegrass Yennervelt, but I try to do my best. Unofficially, I’m a general nudge, snoop, big mouth, big nose and general pain in the ass.

What other interests do you have? I’m a news junky. I’m a history and art history maniac, which hopefully will soon lead me to my new and exciting career. I’m a vegetarian animal-rights activist, a card carrying member of the ACLU and I try my best to do my part, in my small way, for a variety of progressive causes. And then there are the dogs and the birds…

How many f***ing dogs and parrots did you say? There are 9 f***ing dogs and 6 f***ing parrots. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to move the f***ing parrots here yet, so my poor, big-hearted and long suffering sister is taking care of them until I can. By the way, she’s also an HVBA member and big fan of the org!

INTERVIEW CONDUCTED VIA EMAIL BY MATT BOWE

Photograph by Sandro Botticelli

Written in the Style of the NY Times Magazine Interviews

As anyone who frequents the HVBA jams at Pirate Canoe Club in Poughkeepsie knows, HVBA jams are frequented by some of the most talented and interesting people around. So that we can get to know more about our P.C. Luminaries – not that everyone who joins the jams is not a luminary! – we decided to post occasional interviews with frequent jammers so that you can get to know them better.

Our first interview features Andy Bing. Andy is an original member of the HVBA, an important attorney in New York State, and a tremendously talented and generous musician who has been kind enough to share his story with us. Thanks, Andy!

Q: Tell us a little about yourself – where you grew up, where you live, your work, your interests, family - anything you’d like to share with us.

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