2017 Blue Sky Folk Festival Concert Lineup



THE FAMILY DOG‘s music is a cross section of roots, blues, folk and gospel music.

Members of the band have history together going back in some cases to early childhood years, felt in the spontaneous smiles, laughter, and warmth shared as each musical short story is experienced. They find their adventures together, and with you the audience, to be the anti-venom to the sting of life, full of respect and love.

Band members are Donald Landies (vocals, harmonica, guitar), Jeff Martin (bass, vocals), Pops MaGooch (percussion), Eric Miller (guitar/dobro) and Dr. Noel Black (guitar, banjo).

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Matt WatrobaMATT WATROBA sings songs that you will feel and remember for a long time. You will love his music, you will love the journey that his music takes you on, and you will love the place that his music takes you to.

Many know Matt here as former producer/announcer at FolkAlley.com. Previously he was known as the voice of folk music in Michigan for his 20-year stint at WDET–Detroit Public Radio.

Watroba has come in contact with many aspects of folk music and culture, shaping a repertoire and presentation that is unique on stages across the state and country. He has shared the stage with some of our greatest performers, including Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie, Christine Lavin, Peter Yarrow, and Richard Thompson. Add Matt’s own special brand of humor and you are in for a most entertaining day.

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Lost State of FranklinLOST STATE OF FRANKLIN repeatedly astonishes audiences with layered trumpet, guitar and voice with a simple loop pedal to create a fresh orchestra of rock, folk, jazz and country sound. Albums are like treasured books; listeners quote, underline, and live by phrases that describe their own lives.

Cleveland native Scott Franklin is a modern renaissance artist, winning admiration worldwide as a vocalist, songwriter, poet, jazz trumpet player and as an innovator in loop pedal performance. Scott is the winner of the Frank Brown International Songwriter Festival Contest and has played concerts supporting George Jones, Ralph Stanley, Huey Lewis, the Oak Ridge Boys and Stella Parton.

Lost State of Franklin

The group pounds out tales of lost love and the love you’ll never leave, coal mines and shiny cars, rusted trucks and relentless steam trains. Band members are Scott Franklin (guitar, trumpet, vocals), Tyler Postma-Franklin (vocals), Jeremy Cottrell (bass), Dan Morris (steel guitar) and Dan Allie (percussion).

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Dan Bankhurst

“Dan Bankhurst is a terrific guitar player. He has an amazing fingerpicking style that sets him apart.” – Jim Henke, former curator of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and Rolling Stone magazine music editor

With roots in rock, blues, soul, funk and jazz, the popular Nashville-based guitarist DAN BANKHURST (previously from Chardon) brings a new groove to traditional and contemporary fingerstyle guitar playing. He has shared the stage with the likes of Phil Keaggy, Muriel Anderson, Jim Nichols, Thom Bresh, John Knowles, Brent Mason, Johnny Hiland, and the late Pete Huttlinger. Bankhurst was winner of the 2013 International Home of the Legends Thumbpicking Competition, and albums have received critical acclaim. He was featured at the Woodchoppers Ball in Kent in 2013 and 2015.

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HOT DJANG! is an acoustic jazz quintet featuring violin, clarinet, acoustic guitars and upright bass.  Their inspiration comes from the style of jazz made popular in Paris during the 1930’s known as “Gypsy Jazz.”  In addition, they play jazz and swing standards from the American Songbook.

Reed Simon of Hot DjangReed Simon (violin) has worked with many of Cleveland’s top jazz musicians and national artists including guitarist Tony Mattolla, vibraphonist Gary Burton and as a special guest on a Duke Ellington program at Severance Hall.

Kevin Richards of Hot DjangKevin Richards (guitar) is highly regarded in the local roots music scene and has shared stages with  Mac Martin, John Hammond, Jorma Kaukonen, Howard Armstrong, and local blues legend Robert Lockwood Jr.

Brad Smedley of Hot DjangBrad Smedley (guitar) is the heartbeat of the band. He has studied under several of the best jazz guitarists of this genre including Frank Vignola, Gonzolo Begara, and Robin Nolan.

Bryan Thomas of Hot DjangBryan Thomas (contrabass) has numerous performance credits including Terry Gibbs, Junior Mance, Vic Damone, Russell Malone and locally with The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and Ernie Krivda.

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Grass Party

Paul Kovac – banjo, multi-instrumentalist, singer & writer – is joined by Northeast Ohio’s finest acoustic pickers performing bluegrass and classics with distinction, humor and flair. With Scott Pearson, Bill Lestock, Ronnie Bonkowski and Drew Bonnis.


Paul Kovac is a busy working musician in NE Ohio and beyond. He has taught at the Midwest Banjo Camp, Augusta Heritage Center & The Swannanoa Gathering.  A multi-instrumentalist, he’s performed with Bill Monroe, Hazel Dickens & Roy Clark, and as a member of the popular local band Hillbilly Idol,  and has toured internationally with a variety of ensembles.

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Alas, David Mayfield had to cancel his advertised date with the Blue Sky in Paul Kovac’s bluegrass ensemble.  David was given a showcase slot at the Americana Music Conference in Nashville – an opportunity too good to pass up. However, we are thrilled that Scott Pearson could step in.


Scott Pearson previously appeared on the Blue Sky Main Stage with his wife Cathy and the progressive bluegrass band Border Ride in 2015.  From Warren, PA, Scott has placed in the top five in the Walnut Valley National Mandolin Championship in Winfield, Kansas some 10 times including 2016. He has played the mandolin for 34 years and also plays the guitar and fiddle. 



Bill Lestock is a multi instrumentalist and has been playing music in NE Ohio for several decades. His band The Bill Lestock Trio features his mandolin compositions, a variety of something new and different in folk music to the area. His music comes from several walks of life. Many tunes are of the culture of firefighting here in Cleveland, Ohio. With more than 40 years of performing in bands and as a side man to several of the area’s song writers, Bill reconnects with long-time friend Paul Kovac to play and promote his new bluegrass album at the Blue Sky Folk festival.

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Andrew Bonnis is a talented multi-instrumentalist who plays the electric bass, guitar, upright bass, ukulele and sings. He is currently working on banjo and mandolin. Drew has been a professional musician for 12 years. He has played with many bands spanning multiple genres including Long Road Home from Boulder, CO featuring Pete Wernick on banjo (Hot Rize).

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Ron Bonkowski has been a familiar face, and friend, on the region’s bluegrass music scene for the last two decades. Ron cut his teeth on traditional country and bluegrass, but is well known for his versatility, playing and singing many acoustic genres. He has contributed to many local and regional bands over the years as either a member or hired gun, and is the current, veteran guitarist and vocalist for Buzz Matheson and Family Pride. He now makes his home in Mantua, OH.




Please donate to Northeast Ohio Musical Heritage Association to help ensure the vitality of folk music in Northeast Ohio!