SPAH WEEK Presenters and Performers

Here is a list of confirmed performers (See below for full bios.):

--- Wednesday: Gateway Harmonica Club, Catriona Sturton, Steve Watne and Dick Gardner, and the Teach-in Terrors (7 faculty).

--- Thursday: Steve Baker & The Family Band, Fiddle Tunes (several performers), Nic Clarke & Kid Andersen, Boaz Kim, and closing with Steve Guyger.

--- Friday: Mike Fall & Mikael Bäckman, Kiersi Joli, Rob Paparozzi & Chris Bauer, and the Aki Kumar Trio featuring Jon Lawton & June Core . 

--- Saturday: SPAH Awards followed by Antonio Serrano, The Message, and Hermine Deurloo as our closing act! 

We are pleased to announce that we are planning on offering presentations about all things harmonica from the following presenters:

Michael Handler
Michael Rubin
Neil Adler
Ronnie Shellist
Jason Ricci
Todd Parrott
Kelly Cunningham & Jim Longley
Don Ceasar
Paul Davies
Joe Filisko, 
Antonio Serrano and
David Kachalon



Gateway Harmonica Club 

The Gateway Harmonica Club was organized in 1987 for the purpose of preserving and advancing the playing of harmonica music in the Greater St. Louis, Missouri (USA) area.  In the period since its founding, the club has provided not only fellowship, learning and enjoyment for its members, but also a source of entertainment and cheer for audiences both young and old.  Performances by the Gateway Harmonica Club have been warmly received in a variety of locales, from nursing homes to juvenile institutions, from social gatherings to civic celebrations.  They have appeared as guest artists with Richard Hayman and the St. Louis Symphony Pops Orchestra, have been featured performers at the Sheldon Concert Hall and have played the National Anthem for the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Individual members have performed at church services, funerals, ethnic festivals and for other private occasions.

The club’s motto, “Have Harmonica, Will Travel”, has found expression in virtually every corner of the St. Louis and Metro East areas, as well as gigs in Columbia, MO and Pacific, MO and at the SPAH conventions throughout the United States. In 1996, 1999, 2004, 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2018 GHC hosted SPAH’s national convention in St. Louis and it would have hosted again in 2020 if the Covid-19 virus pandemic had not resulted in its cancellation.

GHC a Missouri non-profit organization. Income is used to meet operating expenses and to support St. Louis area benevolent and charitable causes. The members who participate in the 50-60 gigs a year provide their own transportation, harmonicas and time without reimbursement or financial gain of any form. GHC teaches in two community colleges in the St. Louis area, reaching hundreds of beginning harmonica players. 

Catriona Sturton 

Big Heart, Big Lungs. Sings like an angel, plays like a beast.  One woman, harmonica-driven band. After learning to file harmonica reeds in a back alley, Catriona became the bassist for Halifax teen-rockers, Plumtree (who inspired the cult-favourite book and movie, Scott Pilgrim, with their song of the same name). Multi-instrumentalist who plays harmonica, violin, guitar & bass (often at the same time). Her biggest claim to fame might be that she "May have written the best song to date about butt-dialing — “Calling From My Pants” - Critics Pick, Nashville Scene. 

The Twin Cities Harmonica Society

The Twin Cities Harmonica Society was formed in 1977 by Don Allen and Jack Bacon. Each came from professional music backgrounds. Don playing with a trio in Ohio and Jack was part of a local 5-player group. 

Jack passed away in 2012 and Don in 2014.

The initial purpose of the club was simply getting together to play and share information. There was no intention to do "play-outs", but as word of the group spread, so did requests to hear its music. Before long, it had purchased a sound system, band attire, and was performing in a variety of venues. We continue to perform, playing arrangements by Jack, Don, Steve Watne, and others. We also play for schools and hand out free harmonicas for the kids.

Current meeting focus is on sharing information, group playing, and on breakout sessions to pursue areas of specific interest with other like-minded members. The group continues to attract musicians of all levels, from beginners to accomplished professionals, including internationally known Dick Gardner of the Harmonicats.

The video for the virtual 2020 SPAH convention was recorded in Steve’s backyard in July, 2020.

Teach-in Terrors

Rob Roy Parnell 

Singer, songwriter, and performer, Rob Roy Parnell has been mixing rockin' blues, boogie woogie, R&B and soul for over thirty-five years playing for audiences throughout the USA. 

Parnell was born into a music family. His father played guitar and sang in vaudeville shows as a kid. His mom was an opera singer. Bob Wills was a family friend and had a great influence on Parnell’s desire to play music. As a young man in Stephenville, TX, he played trumpet, excelling in jazz improvisation and receiving awards for his jazz solos. At age seventeen his brother, Lee Roy, introduced Rob Roy to the harmonica. Parnell played harmonica in front of an audience live for the first time at 18. As a college sophomore, Parnell began supporting himself though school playing country and blues harp. His leadership in those college bands brought forth awards and accolades from the public and his peers. 

Over the years Parnell has played all over the United States and was the first performer to play for the Armed Forces at camp delta at “Gitmo” Cuba. For 20 straight years he has played before the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma Red River Shoot Out game and has become part of this long-standing tradition at America’s largest state fair, the State Fair of Texas. He remains busy touring, songwriting and session work in the studio. One of his songs “Oughta Know” was cut and is on the Delbert McClinton and Glen Clark CD’S “Blind Cripple and Crazy”. For fourteen years, he has been musical director and teacher at the Kerrville Folk Festival Harmonica Workshop. 

Deak Harp 

Deak Harp has been playing harmonica since he was 12. His early inspiration was the music of James Cotton. Deak toured with the James Cotton blues band, eventually opening acts and playing along with “Superharp” himself. Deak has since played with multiple bands and has shown his flexibility in the varying performance styles, including the Deak Harp Band and the Kilborn Alley Blues Band. He has showcased his innovative one-man show at the King Biscuit Blues Festival, as well as the Juke Joint Festival. Combining diddley bow, snare drum, stomp box, amplified harmonica, and vocals, Deak’s one man band became a regular feature in the Delta, and across the country, including SPAH and the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise.

When he’s not touring, Deak will be in his harmonica shop. Deak’s Mississippi Saxophones & Blues Emporium in Clarksdale, Mississippi, just down the street from Ground Zero. Deak makes custom harmonicas, offers harmonica repairs & lessons, CD’s, and t-shirts. Deak is a promoter of Big City Rhythm and Blues Magazine, and you can always find the latest issues in his store. 

Charlie Barath 

Hohner artist, Charlie Barath, is a true student of traditional harmonica styles. His appreciation for and respect of those traditions is evident in his harmonica playing as well as his singing, and it shines brightly on the bandstand. Equally adept at both teaching and performing, Charlie makes the most of his 40+ years of experience with the harmonica. & 

George Miklas 

George Miklas has been a member of SPAH since he was twelve years old, a former member of Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats, a founding member of The HarpBeats, and has recently joined the Filisko Teach-In Team. He has performed on SPAH convention stages for many years as an accompanist, playing chord or double bass harmonicas. In addition to the orchestral harmonicas, Miklas plays and teaches Chromatic and Diatonic harmonicas.

One of Miklas’ greatest accomplishments is teaching his daughter Janalyn to play the Chromatic. Together, they have performed across the continental United States at SPAH conventions, the 2013 World Harmonica Festival in Germany, at various venues, and adjudicated and performed at the 2016 Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival in Taiwan. 

George and Janalyn were inducted into the National Traditional Country Music Association Hall of Fame in LeMars, Iowa in 2014. George was inducted on behalf of Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats and Janalyn as the 2014 Rising Legend of the Year. 

Miklas recently earned the Master of Arts degree in Music Education, with an emphasis in Harmonica Performance. His current pursuit is academic research into the historical and contemporary applications of the harmonica, as he works toward his Doctorate.

Lonnie Joe Howell 

Lonnie Joe Howell is a nationally known Country Style Harmonica Artist. His musical career has spanned many years of performing, recording, merchandising, teaching, producing instructional CDs and DVDs, and writing books for Mel Bay.  He will be releasing a new album this year titled HAPPY TEXAS, a 10 song CD featuring 6 new originals, 2 instrumentals, and 2 covers.

His Texas roots contribute to his Country-Flavored harmonica playing, yet he is fluent in other styles, including Gospel, Rock, Blues, Bluegrass, and Western Swing.  This will be his 15th year as an active participant in the SPAH Teach-Ins, Seminars, and other related events.  

When Lonnie Joe takes the stage or steps in front of the camera, the audiences are guaranteed a lively and entertaining experience whether he is engaged in the art of playing or teaching. His video performance at this year’s SPAH will feature him playing harmonica in the Rack while strumming guitar and singing. 

Howell was born in Lubbock, Texas, graduated from Texas Tech and Belmont University (Nashville), spent 20 years in Nashville playing sessions on harmonica, recording Albums for Armadillo Records, creating Instructional DVDs for Texas Music and Video, and writing books for Mel Bay Publications. Lonnie Joe currently lives in Levelland, Texas, where he is the owner of Texas Music Supply, a member of the Hot Texas Band, and part in his church’s Praise Team. 

Don Ceasar 

Ceasar hails from the bayou of Louisiana in the heart of Creole and Cajun country, where his grandfather, Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin and Iconic Cajun fiddler Canray Fontenot were pioneers and founding fathers of the Cajun Zydeco music movement.

People who experience a Ceasar Show, do just that, experience the show. The Ceasar show has that certain joie de vivre and flavor that entices all men, and children to participate and share. The musical resonance of the harmonicas and clatter of the washboard heard in the Zydeco tunes combined with the down home in the bayou blues and soul find audiences either on the floor or on the stage. No one can resist the captivating, electrifying, and infectious charm of a Ceasar show.

Ceasar has been entertaining audiences of all kinds since childhood, sharing the stage with some of the music industry’s legendary artists:Fats Domino, Dr. John, The Nevilles, B.B. King , Ruth Brown, Gatemouth Brown, Allen Toussaint, James Brown, The Platters, The Drifters, The Clovers, The Temptations, Prince, Dionne Warwick….. to name a few!

Ceasar was asked to join and be lead singer and front man for the British group The Foundations and still does concerts with the The Foundations on special performances. Ceasar has also done some “Off Broadway” show productions in “Spoleto Festival”: “The Duncan Storm”.

Since then, he has evolved into today’s consummate, multi-talented act performing on drums, harmonica, and keyboards along with singing lead vocals and exuberant dancing which leaves one breathless after watching his high energy performance. 

Cheryl Arena 

Cheryl Arena grew up in the Boston area. Music has always been an integral part of her life since childhood playing several instruments before finding her true calling, the harmonica. She is a triple threat – singer, songwriter and blows the harp like there is no tomorrow. A top-notch entertainer that loves what she does and shares that love and excitement with her bandmates and audiences. In her 33 year career she has put out several CDs & toured throughout the US and abroad.

Cheryl's also been teaching harmonica lessons for the last 20 years which she claims has made her a better player. She teaches group workshops around the country, on line lessons and blues ensembles in her home town of Arlington MA. 

Cheryl is a Hohner endorsee and plays Marine band harmonicas. 

Steve Baker 

Few musicians can claim to have made their living from and with the harmonica for the past four decades; even fewer have had such a formative influence on the development of their instrument, or played such a significant role in defining how it is taught. Steve Baker is definitely one of them. A lengthy career as a professional harp player has taken him around the world and made him one of today’s most influential harmonica artists. His work as a live and studio musician, groundbreaking author of instructional books, teacher and workshop instructor has inspired and influenced a generation of harmonica players in many different countries. He has worked as a consultant to harmonica manufacturer Hohner since 1987.

Characterized by subtle, rhythmically accented phrasing, Steve’s unique sound draws on the blues harmonica tradition and combines it with elements from country, folk, funk, soul and jazz to create an exciting and individual fusion, with an emotional intensity which finds its way straight to the hearts of his listeners. After over 40 years as a sideman recording and performing with artists including Tony Sheridan, Chris Jones and European blues legend Abi Wallenstein, Steve released his first album as singer, songwriter and bandleader on Timezone Records in February 2018. “Perfect Getaway” (TZ 1473) features 14 original compositions ranging from singer/songwriter to country, gospel, blues, funk, rock’n’roll and rock.

His latest album “The Great Divide” (TZ 1884), released in March 2020, delivers an uncompromising set of original songs which highlight his development as a writer and singer. Featuring 11 new originals as well as a riveting cover of Dylan’s “This Wheel’s On Fire“, the album was recorded in Hamburg’s Chefrock Studios with Steve’s regular band the LiveWires. 

In 2019 Steve Baker was honored by SPAH with the Pete Pedersen Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his services to the harmonica community.

Fiddle Tunes Worldwide

Winslow Yerxa & Colin Cotter 

Winslow Yerxa and Colin Cotter first met as members of San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers and have long shared a love of the traditional music of Scotland, Québec, and anywhere harmonica, guitar, and fiddle are played together. Winslow is past president of SPAH, co-producer of the Harmonica Collective, and author of the books Harmonica For Dummies and Blues Harmonica For Dummies. Colin, a singer, songwriter, violinist, and guitarist, is a member of the trio MAC in addition to accompanying various fiddlers on guitar, and teaches both guitar and violin as a faculty member at Mike Block’s String Camp and Alasdair Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddler School. They share a residence at San Francisco’s Park Presidio House and frequently host visiting musicians from all over the world. 

Tony Eyers 

Tony first encountered harmonica as an undergraduate at Yale. He played blues for many years before specialising in American bluegrass and old time music. He is the creator of the Harmonica Academy teaching site, with counterparts in Chinese and Spanish. He has been a judge at the Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival on multiple occasions, and writes for the Harmonica World and Harmonica Happenings magazines. In 2017 Seydel released a harmonica model based on his Major Cross tuning. He performs regularly with the Tony Eyers Trio. 

Seth Shumate 

Seth Shumate (of Chicago via Arkansas) is an old-time harmonica player and co-founder of The Ozark Highballers (Roy Pilgrim, Aviva Steigmeyer, and Clarke Buehling) and former member of Shout Lulu (Paul and Skye McGowen and Pete Howard). He has cameo harmonica appearances on “The Women Wear No Clothes At All” by The Old 78s (Curly Miller and Carole Anne Rose, Clarke Buehling, Paul McGowen, and Ray and Melanie Palmer) and in a duet with David Bragger in his Old-Time Tiki Parlour and was interviewed by and played tunes with Benjamin Smith for Oldtime Central. In addition to posting ad-free content to YouTube, passing up more than a dollar a year in earning potential, Seth teaches old-time harmonica annually at the SPAH convention under the patronage of the great Joe Filisko, various old-time festivals, and remotely upon request. His favorite contemporary old-time harmonica player is Dave Rice of Ohio via Oklahoma. Seth’s great-grandmother played the harmonica (a 1920s Flying Ace from the F.R. Hotz company) and was one of six people known to be recorded playing the quills (a precursor to the harmonica predominantly played in African American tradition).  You can learn more about old-time harmonica by reading his article at 

Grant Dermody 

In the hands of harmonica master Grant Dermody, the harp rumbles like a freight train, sidles up like a soul singer, purrs like an electric cat, rings out in a rhythmic dance. Pair it up with his voice, a strikingly honest vocal approach that resonates in the direct center of your chest, and the intrigue just increases.

The swamps of Louisiana, the wide-open skies of Montana — all that’s deep and sweet and awe-inspiring about Americana and its musical roots — reside there. There’s simply nothing like the growling grace that emanates from Grant Dermody. 

James Conway 

James Conway is an Irish-American musician based in Chicago. He has played traditional Irish music all his life, first starting on flutes and whistles and then taking the tunes over to diatonic and chromatic harmonica. To the traditional music of Ireland, Conway applies his techniques of bending, trilling, and chording that he learned in the west side blues joints from blues master harpists such as Junior Wells and Sugar Blue. In the jigs, hornpipes, and reels that he so masterfully plays, one can hear the sounds of Old Ireland, and at times hear the growl of the Mississippi Delta. 

Paul Davies 

On a backpacking trip to Europe in 1970, with his first harmonica, Paul began tinkering with brass vibrations which to date has slowly consumed him.

Learning to play the harmonica was a self-taught endeavor at the time, as instructional material was just starting to be published. Paul’s interest in Old Timey and Bluegrass music set him on an acoustical course, attacking fiddle tunes and country licks. In 1980, Swallow Hill Music Association in Denver, hired him to teach the “Tin Sandwich”, which continued through 2002. During this time, he started the Mile High Harmonica Club, which is coming up on its 26th year. The club gathers twice a month to share tunes, jam and learn.

The harmonica convention in 1992 blasted opened new doors into the international world of the harmonica. The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica (SPAH), which started in 1962, introduced Paul to the world’s most renowned players, all willing to share and teach what they know. Excited to get involved, he served as President, and for many years as SPAH’s Artistic Director, booking entertainment for the annual conventions.

Richard Sleigh (photo credit- “Photo by © Karen Pulfer Focht”)

Richard Sleigh, best known in the harmonica community for his high performance customized harmonicas, is also a soulful musician who has played onstage with Paquito D'Rivera   and the Wooster Symphony Orchestra, Bo Diddely, Taj Mahal, and Maria Muldaur is also a guitarist, vocalist, writer, artist, graphic designer, and instructor. He has recorded two solo albums, Steppin Out and Joliet Sessions and Dennis Gruenling and Richard Sleigh (Backbender Records). He has  recorded for radio and TV and other film projects playing guitar, slide guitar, harmonicas and pennywhistles. 

Jerry Devillier 

Based in the Eunice, Louisiana, Jerry was part of the first Cajun group heard at the Newport Folk Festival and has played often at the famous Liberty Theatre.

Jerry was born in 1938 and has accomplished much in his lifetime. Two days after graduating from U.S.L., he was drafted into the US Army. After his discharge, he taught math and coached high school sports for years, and taught at what is now ULL while pursuing his graduate degree there. He took a lifetime interest in photography, left ULL and became nationally acclaimed for his career and works as a photographer. 

Like his father, Jerry played the accordion well, but he chose to play harmonica and is recognized as world class by his peers at SPAH, where Jerry's mission has been to teach Cajun style harmonica to SPAH Convention attendees as part of the Joe Filisko Teach-in. Jerry has enjoyed playing sessions with a standout list of performers such as, D.L. Menard, The Balfa Bros, Nathan Abshire, Alphonse "Bois Sec" Ardion, and many, many others. 

He learned Cajun tunes by listening to his Dad play his accordion and mimicking the sounds it made while trying to match him note for note. In his teens he also learned to play blues harmonica.

Jerry is a major part of Cajun music history as a member of the Mamou Cajun Band along with Cyprien Landreneau and Adam Landreneau. A year after the assistant secretary for the Smithsonian Institute, Ralph Rinzler, discovered them in 1964, "The Mamou Band" played at the Newport Folk Festival and were the only group to receive two standing ovations and two encores. As the story goes, the energy from the crowd was so high afterwards, the audience didn't want them to leave the stage. Many remember that festival as the year Dylan made his controversial electric guitar debut, but this group from the Mamou, Louisiana area was significant in introducing Cajun music outside the state’s borders. The traditional three-piece Cajun band of accordion, violin, and harmonica toured large popular festivals in the US and in Europe in the late 50s and 60s, and recorded the album "Cajun Sole". In 1966 Jerry was asked to play harmonica and guitar on a Louisiana blues single "Street Walkin' Woman" by Donnie Jacobs. He also was known to have played several sessions with the group "The Boogie Kings." Jerry played the harmonica or the triangle occasionally with his father and his band at many festivals in the 1960s. 

For many years, Jerry, has dedicated his time teaching students how to operate video and sound for the "Rendez-Vous Des Cajuns" Cajun music radio & TV shows in Eunice. Jerry has received accolades and awards from the State of Louisiana, the City of Eunice and the CFMA Acadiana Chapter for being an ambassador to his Cajun heritage and an instrumental pioneer in the preservation of Cajun Music. Jerry was inducted into the CFMA Lake Charles Chapter Cajun Music Hall of Fame for his music and his important role in the preservation of Cajun music.

Nic Clark 

Nic Clark is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Denver, Colorado. Nic began his musical journey at the age of 11 when he started playing harmonica. He quickly became recognized as a soulful player, and has been fortunate enough to have met and played with many great harmonicists including Lazy Lester, Rick Estrin, Jason Ricci, Charlie Musslewhite, and Billy Branch. Apart from his talent on the harmonica, Nic is also a fingerpicking style guitarist and songwriter. As a performer he has work alongside Ruthie Foster, Shinyribs, David Dondero, Austin Lucas, and Big Head Todd & The Monsters. Nic is a Hohner endorsed artist. 

Boaz Kim 

Boaz Kim is a harmonica teacher and performer based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His love of the harmonica is shared with his grandfather, who played for homesick US troops during the Korean War, and with his father, who taught 12 year old Boaz the single note basics. Boaz soon started to imitate classic Chicago Blues recordings on his diatonic.  While receiving his Music degree, he began a chromatic approach t hat has led to many recording sessions and performances, most notably at a Phillies baseball game and at the SPAH harmonica conference. Since then, his repertoire has expanded to chromatic, chord, and bass harmonicas playing in various genres. When not performing or teaching, he repairs and customizes harmonicas for clients around the globe. Boaz plays Easttop bass harmonicas exclusively.

Steve Guyger

Philadelphia is home to one of the finest blues harp players in the world, much to the surprise of people not “inside” the blues scene. Over the past forty-plus years, 2009 Handy Award nominee Steve Guyger has been dishing out some of the finest blues to be heard anywhere. Whether in a duo, trio, or with his band, The Excellos, Steve always rocks the house. 

Steve has toured with the late Jimmy Rogers, among others, and has played with many of the great Chicago bluesmen and contemporary players, yet he remains one of the best kept secrets in blues. The late William Clarke called Steve “the best harp player I’ve ever seen.”  Mark Hummel called him “a monster player.” If you have heard Steve play, you know what they’re talking about. If you’ve never heard him, you’re missing a major page in your blues portfolio. 

Mikael Bäckman 

Mikael has been performing and recording with his harmonica since the early 90’s. In 1995 he joined blues-band Ramblin Minds and has been with them ever since, releasing six albums and touring all over Sweden as well as Finland and Norway. 2008, Mikael and Ulrika Weinz formed John Henry, a Country / Americana-band that has released three albums and performed numerous concerts in Sweden, Finland, Norway, France and Switzerland. John Henry was also a part of MS-Blows!, a collection of various Harmonicists (Kim Wilson, Rick Estrin, James Conway, Joe Filisko among others) helping a cause and a friend. John Henry was the only European act on the album. Mikael has a masters degree in Music Pedagogy (2006) and Musical Performance (2017). He is currently working on his PhD in Musical Performance. Mikael has been teaching the harmonica since the early 2000’s and among his former students are Joel Andersson of JA Harmonicas and Mikael Fall, World Champion in Trossingen 2013.  & 

Mikael Fall 

Mikael "Mike" Fall is a 34 years old university educated harmonica player, teacher and composer from Sweden. He has composed several pieces for harmonica alongside different ensemble constellations like string quintet, piano, percussion and Symphony Orchestra. He's been hired as a studio musician many times along with many great artists and bands, toured with several bands and artists, released a couple of albums as a solo artist, composed and arranged for films and documentaries and also became the World Harmonica Festival 2013 prizewinner in Trossingen, Germany. His latest record "Born in A Different Time" got many great reviews, especially from Steve Baker at and Stephen Harrison from Blues Matters Magazine UK that said: "This could so easily have been performed by Billie Holiday herself. It’s that good." 

Kiersi Joli 

Kiersi Joli is only 12 years old but plays Harmonica well beyond her years! She started playing Harmonica at age 6. That year she also started lessons Sandy Weltman, who helped Kiersi blossom into advanced Harmonica skills and playing the blues. The following year she added Todd Parrott into her learning circle with his unique sound in Gospel & country songs. Her passion in music is evident. She also plays the guitar, sings & is writing songs. Kiersi has been a scholarship recipient for the William Rosebush SPAH Youth & with Pinetop Perkins blues workshop. She’s been a concert opener for her county fair, performed & interviewed on “Show-Me-St.Louis” channel 5 TV, played the National Anthem on Harmonica for many Mizzou televised athletic events, as well as numerous performances (solo & accompanied). In November 2018, Kiersi became Hohner’s youngest endorser! She released her first Country-Blues song last summer called “Movin Blues” & continues to evolve as a songwriter. Kiersi and her family moved to the Nashville area last summer where it hasn’t taken long for many in the music world to take notice! Not knowing where the good Lord is going to lead her next, with a supportive family, there is no doubt she will be a fun and exciting one to keep an eye on!

Facebook: “In the key of Kiersi” 

Rob Paparozzi (photos)

New Jersey-based frontman, singer, & harmonica player Rob Paparozzi has been a blues performer since 1967. But Rob is far from being strictly a blues musician. In fact, he's at home playing a wide range of music, ranging from rock to blues to jazz to pop. This versatility is reflected in the long and remarkably diverse list of major artists Rob has worked with, including B.B.King, Dr. John, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Carole King, Roberta Flack, Culture Club, Cyndi Lauper, Randy Newman, Jimmy McGriff, and James Galway.

Rob has toured the world with the “Original Blues Brothers Band”, featuring guitar legend Steve Cropper and special guest Eddie Floyd and also as Frontman-Lead Singer for the Legendary "Blood Sweat and Tears" 

Chris Bauer 

Downbeat Magazine proclaimed Chris Bauer “is an excellent harmonica player…with a free sense of swing and joy.” Residing in Yardley, Pennsylvania, Chris performs popular jazz standards on the chromatic harmonica with a repertoire from upbeat bop tunes to cool Latin numbers to soulful ballads. Playing harmonica for over 50 years, his performance and recording experiences are diverse including jazz gigs, harmonica trios, church worship bands, and production library tracks. He even recorded “Mack the Knife” with a reggae band! He performs and gives harmonica technique seminars at many harmonica festivals and conventions. 

Born and raised on New York’s Long Island, Chris was surrounded by the harmonica since his father had a harmonica trio of his own. He started playing at age nine and began appearing on stage with his father’s harmonica trio by thirteen. At sixteen, Chris placed third in a worldwide harmonica competition and in 1987, placed fourth in a field of 27 at the International Harmonica Federation competition, both times finishing as the highest placed American harmonica player. since then, Chris has performed at many venues including B.B. King’s (guest artist for Dickey Betts) in New York, Shanghai Jazz in New Jersey, and also the harmonica role in the play “Big River.

Chris was a regular contributing writer to The Harmonica Educator magazine on jazz topics and continues to work on recording projects that exemplify jazz harmonica. He also performs both in jazz trio or quartet settings, as a soloist utilizing custom backgrounds that provide the sound of a jazz ensemble, or can sit in with rock, blues, or jazz bands. Chris plays Easttop harmonicas exclusively and uses Audix microphones. 

Aki Kumar 

Sony Music Recording artist Aki Kumar, aka “The Only Bombay Blues Man,” left his home in Mumbai with the intention of working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. Then he discovered the blues, and his life dramatically changed. Singing and playing harmonica, he steeped himself in the music and became a fixture in blues clubs throughout Northern California, where he developed an unique, audacious blend of Chicago-style blues which then led to playing retro Bollywood pop mixed with the blues.

When he began performing, Kumar initially attempted to downplay his ethnicity and perform straight, Chicago-style blues. “I wanted to make a statement that I was a traditional blues man, so I wanted to be playing blues and have nobody even wonder where I came from.” His attitude soon changed, and with his Little Village Foundation debut, Aki Goes to Bollywood, he began integrating elements of Indian music into his musical and visual presentation, making for a multi-cultural mash-up that sounds like no one else, yet never loses touch with its blues foundation.

That unique blend of East and West reached a new creative plateau on Aki’s second Little Village Foundation album, Hindi Man Blues, which boasts Aki’s most ambitious cross-cultural fusion to date, and features liner notes by veteran blues great Charlie Musselwhite. “My first album was really about my identity,” the artist states. “Now I feel it is time to be more direct about what’s happening out there in the world. The blues scene is my home, and the scene can be pretty conservative, but I want people to know where I stand. There’s a good amount of focus on Bollywood classics on the new album, and I even throw in a song about President Trump called ‘All Bark No Bite.’ 

Kumar’s visionary stylistic mix has already won him widespread attention. In addition to the local blues venues, where he’s built an enthusiastic audience, he’s performed at the prestigious Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, been featured on PRI “The World,” and has toured in Russia and Scandinavia. Now, after spending more than a decade developing his sound with the help of some of the Bay Area’s finest blues players, Aki Kumar continues to take his love for the blues to new and fascinating place.

In August 2019, Kumar recently made major news with the announcement of a record deal with Sony Music India and the world-wide launch of his debut single "Dilruba".

Hailed as a star among the next generation of West Coast blues artists and versatile in many different styles of roots music, Kumar is equally at ease rocking a Jimmy Reed number in English as he is belting out a signature, swingin' re-interpretation of a Bollywood classic in Hindi. Cleverly crafted originals featuring his masterful blues harmonica riffs are a highlight of this charismatic entertainer's, hi-energy live performances 

Antonio Serrano 

Antonio Serrano is a harmonica virtuoso, a reference model in contemporary Spanish jazz and one of the most requested session musicians. Serrano exercises a great versatility that shows in his long history of musical collaborations. He seems to feel at ease in musical fields as distant from each other as jazz, flamenco, pop, and classical.

At age 13 he played at a United Nations event in Paris, duetting with Larry Adler. This feat marked the beginning of a long relationship that boosted Antonio's already promising career. Adler became his mentor and they went on to play together countless times. In 1992, at 18, Antonio performed in Belgium the Opus 46 Concerto for Orchestra and Harmonica by Malcolm Arnold, a piece written precisely for Adler.

Having focused mainly on classical music, Antonio eventually started exploring other genres. He began playing with blues, jazz, and pop acts and was soon recognized to be one of the best Spanish improvisers of his generation. To date, he has participated in hundreds of album sessions in every musical style.

As a soloist he has collaborated with the Symphony Orchestras of Belgium, Cologne, Heidelberg, Kiel, and Istanbul, among others, playing original concerts for harmonica by H. Villalobos, M. Arnold, V. Williams, etc.; and arrangements of works by G. Enescu, G. Gershwin or R. Korsakov.

After becoming known as a harmonica virtuoso, it was inevitable that he would receive the call from the most important Spanish guitarist of all time: flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía.

Eventually, Antonio Serrano became renown for introducing the harmonica in Flamenco, a musical genre that is practically inaccessible for musicians not born into flamenco. He became a member of Paco de Lucía's band during his last 10 years of life and went on 8 world tours with him.

As a jazz musician, Antonio has played with Wynton Marsalis, Jerry Gonzalez, Chano Dominguez, Lou Bennett, Jorge Pardo, Vicente Amigo, Tomatito, Perico Sambeat, and Javier Colina, among many others. As a session musician, he has featured on over 300 recordings with most of the best Spanish pop-rock artists (Pedro Guerra, Joaquín Sabina, Ana Belén, Victor Manuel...), and he’s also participated in film soundtracks such as in Almodóvar’s “Carne Trémula”.

His teaching activity includes music improvisation courses at several European conservatories and flamenco courses at Berklee College of Music. He has also taught at the University of Khartoum and participated as a jury member at harmonica contests in Germany, Taiwan, and South Korea.

Antonio Serrano's own discography comprises a total of 12 albums. HARMONIOUS, his first solo work, is a retrospective of his career in which he performs his own material as well as covers of songs that have been important in his musical development. 

The Message 

The Message is a Reno/Tahoe six-piece group formed by group leader Mick Valentino to bring original and selected jazz music to the public in his own unique way. Mick selected some of the best musicians in the Reno/Tahoe area to accomplish this. All members of the group have rich performance histories with some of the most famous musicians such as Johnny Puleo, Engelbert Humperdink, Jaco Pastorious, Dizzy Gillespie, Elvis Presley, The Jackson Five, Frank Sinatra Jr., Prince, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Chuck Berry, Mose Allison, Robert Goulet and more.  Chromatic Harmonica takes a prominent position in the arrangements of “The Message.” For this performance, Carolyn Dolan, a huge Jazz, Blues and Country Artist will join us and enhance this exciting SPAH Week Event. The group members are:Mick Valentino – Guitar, Craig Fletcher - Guitar, Synth, Vocals, Tom Stryker - Chromatic Harmonica, Tony Savage – Drums, Joe McKenna – Bass, Terri Campillo – Vocals, Carolyn Dolan, Vocals & Jazz/Blues Harmonica.

Hermine Deurloo 

Hermine Deurloo of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Conservatory trained as a saxophonist, picked up the chromatic harmonica after hearing Toots Thielemans. While she has deep jazz chops, her musical tastes and activities are broad ranging and take the harmonica into a wide variety of novel and unusual contexts, including, modern jazz, string quartets, big bands, African music, and film soundtracks. 

Over the years, she has performed with a wide range of jazz musicians and orchestras, such as the Metropole Orchestra, The Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw, Al Jarreau, Candy Dulfer and Tony Scherr, while her latest album includes drummer Steve Gadd. 

Recently she played a new piece of composer Saed Haddad on the Donaueschinger Musiktage with the SWR Orchestra and conductor Tito Ceccherini. In 2018 Hermine won the Bernie Bray Harmonica Player of the Year Award. 


Michael Handler - Beginner's Topics 

We will cover beginning techniques including (but not limited to) tone control, single notes, how to hold the harp. If time permits, we will also discuss the dynamics of playing with others.

John Schaman - COVID-19: Benefits of Harmonica Exercise vs Risk of Harmonica Playing 

Where a Medical Problem Meets a Musical Solution?

John P. Schaman, M.D. set up the first private practice in Canada in Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine in 1978. Since that time, he has assessed, treated, and rehabilitated more than 56,000 patients at his Ontario Aerobics Centre.

In 2007, Dr. Schaman shifted focus to lung function, after seeing data that showed it was normal for us to lose half of our lung function between the ages of 30 and 70. He attributed this loss to present day lifestyles in our present digital world where “movement” is no longer required.

It is well known that heart and muscle function can be significantly improved with exercise. Hoping that this could also be achieved with the lungs, he started a program involving the harmonica, as this is the only instrument in the world that exercises the inhaling muscles. His research led to the development of the “Medical Harmonica.” 

The harmonicaMD or ”Medical Harmonica,” a diatonic chord harmonica that plays 8 chords, is designed to be played with multiple simultaneous notes. It’s use is a lot easier, from a skill point of view, while moving more air, thus providing a more effective physiological challenge, while at the same time allowing enhanced musicality especially in older beginning harmonica players.

In February 2020, Dr. Schaman entered into a research collaboration with the University of Wisconsin and the Mayo Clinic (harmonica therapy in COPD patients), scheduled to begin in June of this year. This has been postponed until next year due to COVID-19.

Speaking of COVID-19, there has been significant reported experience that aggressive breathing exercise can have a positive impact in reducing morbidity and mortality in the early phases in those unfortunate enough to contract this disease, while at the same time, providing an effective rehabilitative therapy approach in the convalescent phase in the survivors. Strong evidence suggests that fit lungs and stronger breathing muscles may reduce the likelihood of contracting COVID-19.   

Dr. Schaman will present results from his Harmonica Exercise for Lung Program (HELP), which works the pulmonary system out of its comfort zone and strengthens the muscles of breathing. He will discuss the pros and cons of harmonica playing as it relates to COVID-19.

Michael Rubin - Beginner's Chromatic 

We will talk about the layout of a standard 12- or 16-hole C chromatic. We will discuss some of the most common techniques used on a chromatic. We will use the layout to find the G major scale.  We will talk about a concept called inventory. Between these ideas, you should be able to play in the key of G on a C chromatic and use these concepts to play in any key in any style of music.

Michael Rubin plays and teaches harmonica in Austin, Texas.  He is married with two daughters.  He plays diatonic, chromatic, bass, chord and harmonetta. He has performed on Broadway and with such luminaries as Cyrill Neville and Ruthie Foster. Charlie Musselwhite says about Michael, "I think your instructions are the best and when people ask me about learning harmonica, I tell them about you." 

Neil Adler - Chromatic: Learn, Improve and Beautify Any Melody 

We will discuss and demonstrate aspects of good musicianship that makes a melody more impressive and memorable. In this presentation I will take melody request from the audience and demonstrate how to carefully learn the melody, make it sound musical and finally enhance it to be an artistic presentation.

Neil is a chromatic harmonica artist, busy concertizing, recording and teaching. As a top notch pianist, he incorporates that musicality uniquely on the harmonica. The favors 12-hole instruments and is the major chromatic endorser for Seydel instruments. In 2014 Toots Thielemans anointed him as " my favorite harmonica player, at the moment". He continues to perform at major venues in the San Francisco Bay Area, and internationally. He has been a frequent SPAH presenter with focus on fundamentals of the chromatic harmonica.

Ronnie Shellist - Organizing Your Practice Sessions 

Are you interested learning how to organize your practice sessions for the diatonic harmonica to maximize your level of productivity and enjoyment? If so, join Ronnie Shellist as he shows you how to subdivide your time into categories and create sessions that flow. It's so easy to get caught up just jamming and not really accomplish anything when it's time to practice. In this webinar, Ronnie covers which topics to incorporate and how to go about doing it. You'll walk away with a solid plan for getting more out of your practice time and have fun doing it. 

Jason Ricci - Scale Exercises 

How to develop scale exercises for any scale, in any position to improve your improvisational abilities and break personal habitual breathing patterns.

Michael Rubin - Bass Harmonica 

We will be discussing holding the bass and different ways to produce a note.  We will look at the role of the bass player in a band and talk about how to choose good sounding notes and when to play them. (For a bio, see above seminar)

Crispy Aguirre - Tango for Harmonica Bands 

Cristian will use chromatic, chords and bass harmonicas to give a perspective of Argentine Tango using a performance focus on different technical elements of interpretation, as well as how to make your own arrangement for a harmonica group to play a Tango. He will use Sibelius and PDF programs to show and explain Tango arraignments, and audio files to illustrate different kind of orchestral examples of tango, and the different kinds of harmonicas to play over them.

Crispy Aguirre was born in 1987 in Buenos Aires. He is a musician, composer, teacher, and artistic events producer. Passionate about harmonica, he got his first approach to the instrument at the age of 3 through a gift given by his mother.

His enthusiasm and curiosity led him to develop skills in different types of harmonica, such as diatonic, chromatic, chord, and bass harmonica. In an effort to bring the old school harmonica bands back, extinct in Argentina, he founded ‘IL harmonica trio’ in 2011. The trio is still active today with his band mates Lucas Chamorro and Andrés Chorny. The trio, playing both original pieces and covers, focuses mainly on tango and jazz repertoire. Their music has travelled around Argentina and abroad.

To formalize his musical knowledge in 2012, he began his formal studies as instrumental musician specialized in harmonica-tango at the Avellaneda School of Popular Music (EMPA).

In 2017 “Crispy” made a trip to Europe to participate in the World Harmonica Festival. On his way there, he participated in some shows in Barcelona, Mallorca and Paris. During his time at the festival, he received the certificate of excellence for his performance on his own arrangement of  “La Última Curda”, a tango by Aníbal Troilo.

The following year the German music house Hohner awarded his video “The Crispy clones”.

Besides his participation in a wide range of music genres and band formations, his teaching vocation led him to present workshops on orchestral harmonicas in Buenos Aires, inland Argentina and Uruguay. At the beginning of 2020 he dictated a clinic on the chromatic harmonica and presented shows in Peru, and later in Colombia. Back in Buenos Aires, he was summoned by the "International Harmonica Institute" to teach classes.

Todd Parrott - The Art of Melody Embellishment 

Often the harmonica is not the only part of a musical arrangement. But, how can you, as a harmonica player, be sure that it is the best part of the musical arrangement? Todd will teach you how he approaches putting the icing on the musical cake so that audiences will eat it up and ask for more! Find out how you can make the melody that someone else is playing sound with your complimentary embellishments and as a result become a more well-rounded (and sought-after) musician!

Kelly Cunningham & Jim Longley -A Newbie's Guide to Tuning Up Your Tin Sandwich 


  • You are curious how your harp works and what can make it work better for you. 
  • You’ve heard terms such as “embossing”, “gapping” or “flat-sanding” and want to know why this might be important or how you would do it. 
  • You want to know where do you start with working on your own harp… is there a good process to follow?
  • You’ve wanted to tune your own harmonicas to customize them to your style of play.
  • You’d like to optimize your harp for better bends and easier playability. 
  • You’d like to know what you need to do to get overblows. 

SYNOPSIS: The attendee will step through a logical process of taking a diatonic harp and making it more playable and better tuned. Through live camera demonstrations magnified on screen as well as narrated visual presentations, Jim Longley and Kelly Cunningham will demystify the “hows and whys” of optimizing your harp and tuning it for best performance. The program is not aimed at experts or exclusive to the technically gifted – it is intended to be accessible and informative to anyone who is curious or interested. It is hoped that the attendee will be inspired to take the plates off their own harps and get their “hands dirty”.

James F. (Jim) Longley

Jim was a pretty fair folk and country flat picker until an unfortunate car wreck resulted in an injury to his left hand that prevented him from playing.

Jim carried around a Hohner Pocket Pal complete with instruction book in its box for years, and eventually figured out how to tongue block well enough to pick out “Oh Shenandoah” which became his signature song. Jim discovered DFW HOOT, and counts the many members of HOOT and SPAH as mentors and coaches.

Kelly D. Cunningham

Kelly had also been an accomplished guitar player and suffered an injury to his wrists that resulted in it being somewhat uncomfortable to play. Kelly came from a very musical family and missed making music.

Just after Kelly first met Jim at a Home Depot, they passed a parent with a small child who was not pleased to be shopping. Jim pulled out his trusty harmonica and played “You Are My Sunshine” and the child calmed right down.

Kelly asked Jim to help him learn. Jim supplied Kelly with several low cost (unused) harps. It didn’t take long before he needed to upgrade. Kelly also realized that tightening up, retuning, and repairing went hand and hand with his style of play.

Don Ceasar - Developing Showmanship as a Harmonica Player 

As a harmonica player, whether alone or in a band, you have the opportunity to invite people into the joy of music. But even if you technically perform well, unless you offer them some entertainment value, people will not want to see you perform again because you were uninteresting to watch.  You sounded good, yes.  But what was there for them to see, in addition to what they heard?  What would they tell someone else about going to see you play?  Don will talk from personal experience as to how to be a great entertainer!

(For a bio, see Performance section, above)

Paul Davies - Double Harp Techniques 

Explore the diatonic as a powerful chord machine.  This seminar will go through double harp tricks of the trade especially chugging.   Learn to make chord changes to the simplest songs to advance your playing. Four harmonicas will be used, G, A, Low F and The MD Harmonica if you have one.

Joe Filisko – Diatonic Harmonica Playing Fundamentals 

Ever wondered why you are struggling to improve?  Taking a very close look at the fundamentals "according to Joe Filisko," may be just the answer you have been looking for.  Fundamentals are the equivalent to the foundation of a building or the roots of a tree.  The highest it is, the deeper the foundation and roots must go.

A master harp player, teacher, custom harmonica pioneer, researcher and  historian, Joe Filisko is arguably the world's foremost authority on many aspects of the diatonic harmonica and a key figure in today's harmonica scene.

David Kachalon - Groove, Chugging & Rhythm 

We will explore and focus on the core of all music: Groove! The most important aspect of music in my opinion. You will learn several different Grooves you can play on the harmonica (or multiple harmonicas at once) while following different song/chord forms. The Train Rhythm, Chicago Hard Shuffle, the Box Shuffle, the Rhumba, Cha-Cha, the Tramp, and B.Diddley groove will all be demonstrated. Learning how to lay down a solid groove on the harmonica is vital knowledge for all levels of harmonica players and greatly increases the sounds and tone of the small harmonica. 

David Kachalon primarily plays 10-hole Diatonic but also plays the Chord, Bass, and 16-hole Chromatic. He teaches using the Filisko Method of Tongue Blocking, and has studied with Joe Filisko for over ten years. David has been teaching blues harmonica for over 7 years, at Harper College, the College of DuPage in the Chicago land area while also giving private lessons. His experience is with Pre-War Chicago Blues, Post War Chicago Blues, Solo Pieces and Country Blues, Train Imitations, Fox Chase, Lost John, Cajun, folk, and Klezmer harmonica pieces. He focuses on Rhythm, Tone, Chord Structure, and Tongue Blocking to achieve single notes. 

David has played in several bands over the past 20+ years in Chicago, including the Spanish Blues Band “Azul De Noche,” the 3 time Chicago Battle of the Jug Band Winners “Strictly Jug Nuts,” The “Muscovy Ducks” Cajun Harmonica Ensemble Led by Zoe Savage, The “Three Kings Harmonica Trio”  w/ Kevin Burrows and Asher Kaufman, and for just the past  7 years has been fronting his own Blues band called “David and the Frozen Ground.”  He is the band’s musical director, lead singer, harmonica player, and song writer.

Antonio Serrano - A personal approach to the chromatic harmonica. 

My experience learning the instrument and making a professional career on it.

(For bio, see Performances, above)