THE LISTENING ROOM at Ron Ireland Studio presents
AN EVENING WITH THE REED ISLAND ROUNDERS.
THE LISTENING ROOM is a small, intimate house concert venue in the historic Phelps, Peck & Company House in downtown Wytheville. Reservations are recommended. Call or write (888) 265-0324 ~or~ firstname.lastname@example.org. Admission is free. Donations are encouraged. All proceeds go to the artist. Limited seating.
THE REED ISLAND ROUNDERS represents the banjo and fiddle heritage of the Appalachian Mountains. Having learned first-hand from such Old-Time masters as J.P. Fraley, Wilson Douglas and Tommy Jarrell, the band members blend their styles for a unique presentation of music and history. The Reed Island Rounders has long been known for not being your typical string band. Drawing from the lonesome hollers of West Virginia, the lively traditions of Kentucky’s fiddlers, their local Blue Ridge Mountains styles, and now the North Carolina sounds from Round Peak to the Piedmont, they weave archaic with sophisticated, soulful with foot-stomping, romantic with down-to-earth. The resulting tapestry is alive with texture and color, making for an invigorated dance hall or a lively and enlightening concert.
Each band member is a veteran of festivals, music camps, and dance circuits. BETTY VORNBROCK, BILLY CORNETTE, and KIRK SUTPHIN choose the songs they love best, add a bass for dances, and bring a unique variety of sounds to each venue. Betty Vornbrock’s fiddle bow brings energy to dance tunes, emotion to waltzes and listening tunes, and imagination to her twin fiddle harmonies with Kirk. Billy Cornette keeps his rock solid beat and fanciful bass runs on guitar. He is also the vocal lead. Kirk Sutphin, who is adept in different banjo styles, frails or fingerpicks his instrument however best it complements each song. His fiddling evokes his Round Peak roots, as well.
The Reed Island Rounders has been playing together since 1993, when Betty and Billy formed a band to compete at local fiddlers’ conventions. They have been joined by various banjoists over the years, and Kirk Sutphin has currently added his banjo and fiddle talents to the band. The band is known for their variety of music. From the foot-stomping dance tunes of the Blue Ridge, to romantic waltzes, and beyond to the dark and lonesome mountain tunes or chilling ballads, the band’s music evokes the soul of Appalachian life. Equally at home in a dance hall or on a concert stage, they will perform as a duo, trio, or add a stand-up bass for a dance. The Reed Island Rounders has a mutual love for the Old-Time music of West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Southwest Virginia where Betty & Billy make their home.
The Rounders perform regionally and internationally for concerts, square dances, contradances, festivals and workshops, and private engagements. In 1996, 1999 and 2003, they performed and taught workshops for the Friends of Appalachian Old Time Music and Dance festival in Gainsborough, England, as well as a tour of concerts and pub gigs across Ireland. In 2004 the Rounders were honored to be included in the Chicago Folk Festival and Shepherd College’s Appalachian Heritage Festival in West Virginia. The Blue Ridge Parkway Music Center often includes the Rounders in its lineup. The Rounders were proud to place fifth in the Traditional Band division in the 2002 Appalachian String Band Festival at Clifftop, West Virginia.
Betty and Kirk both teach classes and workshops in old-time fiddle and banjo, respectively, and sometimes a joint workshop on how the two instruments play with each other. Both have taught at the Augusta Heritage Workshops in Elkins, West Virginia, and Mars Hill College Blue Ridge Old-Time Music Week. Betty enjoyed teaching fiddle at the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School, in Kentucky in 2011 and 2012, and the band was on the roster for the 2011 Berea College Celebration of Traditional Music. Billy also teaches beginning back-up guitar workshops, including the workshop at Mars Hill in 2011.
BETTY VORNBROCK ~ FIDDLE. Betty Vornbrock is an accomplished old-time fiddler who draws upon the tunes and styles of Kentucky’s Ed Haley, John Salyer, Snake Chapman & Clyde Davenport, West Virginia’s Wilson Douglas, Melvin Wine & the Hammonses, and her local VA/NC greats Ralph Blizard, Tommy Jarrell, Emmett Lundy, and Harry Reed.
Betty is an accomplished fiddler in several traditional styles. Besides the music of the Appalachian Mountains (her first love), she has studied Shetland, Scottish and Irish fiddling, western swing and Eastern European dance music. She has recorded with western swing guitarist, Bill Necessary, and singer-songwriters, Tim Henderson and Bill Ramsel. Betty also co-produced a twin-fiddle album, “Side by Side,” with Kentucky fiddler, J.P. Fraley, with whom she has won top twin-fiddle honors at the Fiddler's Grove Festival for their haunting and beautiful harmonies.
Betty teaches private fiddle lessons, as well as workshop formats during festivals and for the prestigious Augusta Heritage Workshops’ Old-Time theme weeks. Spanning 1997-2000, she acted as co-teacher & facilitator for J.P. Fraley's Dream Retreat, an intensive weekend workshop with J.P., which is held at his home in Kentucky twice a year, as well as in Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Originally from Iowa, Betty settled in West Virginia in the early 1970s and migrated to Austin, Texas by the 1980s, where she held office with the Austin Friends of Traditional Music, helping to organize festivals and concerts. While in Austin she was a member of several bands: Swallow's Tale (O-T & Irish), the Hotfooters and Yellow Cat (O-T string bands), Companions (banjo-fiddle duet with Luke Faust), and Sillocks & Tatties (Shetland). Also while there she learned to call square dances and did so for four years at AFTM's regular dance. She returned to the mountains in 1987 and enjoys being part of the area’s vibrant musical heritage.
Betty has had much good luck at contests, as well. Among her many honors are First Place Prizes: Mount Airy Fiddler's Convention, 1995; Carolina's Homecoming, 1994; Ed Haley Memorial OT Fiddle Contest, 1996, 1998 and 2000; West Virginia State Folk Festival in Glenville, 1990 and 1996; Fiddler's Grove, 1990 and 2004. Second Place Prizes: Mount Airy; placed in the top ten at the Galax Fiddler's Convention on several occasions. The Reed Island Rounders have also earned ribbons in the band divisions.
The band has appeared on area radio programs, such as WPAQ Mount Airy, NC, and WBRF Galax, VA, as well as the internationally syndicated WoodSongs Old Time Radio Hour via World Radio. Other live broadcasts include Back to the Blue Ridge on WVTF Roanoke, VA, the Floyd Radio Hour, and Pittsburgh’s Saturday Light Brigade on WYEP.
Reed Island Rounders has released several albums. In 1996, they recorded “Wolves in the Wood", a compilation of 21 tunes on CD & cassette. Diane Jones and Hubie King released "There Are No Rules!" in 1997, a critically acclaimed CD of old-time banjo tunes and songs. "Side by Side" was released in 2000; it is a twin fiddling recording of Betty with Kentucky master fiddler, J.P. Fraley, playing gorgeous waltzes, 2-steps and some of J.P.'s originals. The Rounders' "Goin' Back" (2002) features the trio with Diane Jones on banjo and vocals; this album offers a wonderful blend of fiddle tunes and banjo/fiddle duets. The Rounders’ newest recording, "Hand Me Downs", with Diane Jones, was released in the fall of 2006. Kirk Sutphin also has many CDs to his credit, and the Rounders with Kirk, or a duet of Betty & Billy, have appeared on two recent recordings from Old Blue Records.
BILLY CORNETTE ~ GUITAR & VOCALS. Billy Cornette has been a great fan of folk and traditional music most of his life. Born in Kentucky to a family of fiddlers and musicians, he was exposed to a variety of country musicians and early bluegrass greats. While attending college in the early 1960s, his interest in folk music led him to the guitar. After moving to Virginia in 1989, he decided to connect back to some of these roots by teaching himself fiddle and renewing his interest in guitar. He and Betty Vornbrock met in 1990 at a local jam session, and he has concentrated on playing back-up guitar to her fiddling ever since. Billy and Betty married in 1995. They grow Christmas trees on their farm in Carroll County, VA where Betty also runs her custom sewing business, "Autumn Wind.”
Billy assists Betty with her workshops, has been a staff musician at Augusta as guitar player, and often joins J.P. Fraley in performance. He also teaches old-time guitar workshops. When not tending his trees, he enjoys learning new tunes on the banjo, as well as experimenting with building tackhead and gourd banjos.
KIRK SUTPHIN ~ BANJO & FIDDLE. Kirk Sutphin hails from the North Carolina Piedmont. He was young when he began capturing the music and styles of the area through visits with Tommy Jarrell and Lonnie Austin, going even further back to Emmett Lundy and Taylor Kimble. Versatile on the fiddle as well as the banjo, Kirk offers the clawhammer sounds of Jarrell and Wade Ward and the fingerpicking styles of Frank Jenkins and Charlie Poole. Kirk has toured and taught internationally for many renowned festivals and music camps. He was also part of the acclaimed Masters of the Banjo tour in1993.