Carla Gover (Beginning Banjo) is a Letcher County native who first learned banjo from Lee Sexton and mountain singing from her grandmother. Since earning a degree in Appalachian Studies from UK, she has pursued a career as a dancer, songwriter and musician. She performs with the band Zoe Speaks, and her original music has been featured in documentaries, film, and television. She has won numerous songwriting awards, including Merle Fest’s Chris Austin Contest. Through her music and teaching, Carla seeks to change stereotypes about Appalachia and celebrate the strengths of mountain culture.
Brett Ratliff (Early Intermediate Banjo) grew up in the historic coal camps of Van Lear, Kentucky. Brett has toured extensively with groups such as the Clack Mountain String Band, the Dirk Powell Band, and Rich & the Po’ Folk, and as a solo artist released Cold Icy Mountain in 2008 and Gone Boy in 2017. He has also taught mountain music at numerous workshops and music camps including the Swannanoa Gathering in North Carolina, Augusta Heritage’s Early Country Music Week, Sore Fingers Week in Oxfordshire, England and the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington.
John Haywood (Southeast Kentucky Banjo Styles) is an award winning artist and banjo player from Floyd County, Kentucky. He attended the Old Regular Baptist Church with his papaw, where he heard him sing the old unaccompanied songs of Zion. He was a Kentucky Folklife apprentice to George Gibson, a banjo player from Knott County and this year’s master in residence. John performs with Rich & the Po’ Folk and can be heard on their recording When the Whistle Blew. He is also a visual artist whose work represents the history and music of east Kentucky.
Jimmy McCowan (Melodic Dropthumb Banjo) is from Pond Creek in Pike County, Kentucky a musical neighborhood that included Paul Smith, Burt Hatfield and Owen ‘Snake’ Chapman. Together with his wife Ada, Jimmy has performed at the Grand Ole Opry, Renfro Valley and the Carter Family Fold. Jimmy has recorded several old time CDs including Banjo the Old Time Way and From These Mountains. Jimmy has taught workshops at the Harrietville Bluegrass and Traditional Music Convention in Australia and Banjo Camp North in Massachusetts.