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   The Highlander String Band   

Music Just for the Fun of It!!


The Highlander String Band is a collection of Rockingham County musicians playing traditional Appalachian Mountain music.  We play the Top Ten Tunes of the 50's and 60's - 1850 that is.  We play all types of music from instrumental dance tunes, such as jigs, reels, hornpipes and waltzes, to the slow, mournful and powerful tunes depicting the sorrow and tragedy of frontier mountain life.  We also include lots of songs that provide a vivid portrayal of the history of the early settlers throughout the Appalachian Mountains.   Members of the band have been collecting tunes for most of their lives and truly enjoy sharing their love of the music with you.


The band members include Jim Gaskins on fiddle and viola, Phyllis Gaskins on Appalachian dulcimer, Allen Kennedy on mandolin, Suzanne Kennedy on upright bass and fiddle and Gene Bowlen playing clawhammer banjo, mandolin and octave mandolin.


      Booking Contact info:  Gene Bowlen  540.421.4756

Detailed Band Bios or - more than you ever want to know!!!

Phyllis and Jim Gaskins have been playing traditional music for over 25 years as a duo and in several bands.  In addition to performances at local folk music/craft venues, dances, and weddings, they have performed in concerts in North Carolina, Illinois, New York, Ireland, and Canada. They are featured performers on the concert CD Dulcimer Celebrations. 

Jim Gaskins

  • fiddle player and composer
  • other instruments include clawhammer banjo, bodhran, and mandolin
  • plays traditional Irish, Appalachian Old Time, and Scottish music
  • numerous ribbons from old time band competitions  also include a 2nd place Old Time fiddle at Galax Fiddlers Convention 1980 and a  first place Scottish Fiddle at the Richmond Celtic Games 1995
  • learned from old time greats Luther Davis, Tommy Jarrel, and Albert Hash
  • studied in Ireland with John Kelly, Jr.  and with  Irish master of the fiddle Moira O'Keefe
  • studied with Cape Breton fiddle maestros John MacDougall and  Buddy MacMaster
  • composes  reels, jigs, hoe-downs, polkas, etc. with the traditional sounds of these genres
  • featured as accompanist  on Phyllis's  3 CDs playing fiddle, banjo, bodhran, and mandolin

Phyllis Gaskins

  • performer and instructor of the traditional Galax noter style of lap dulcimer playing style learned over 25 years ago from Galax dulcimer player and maker Raymond Melton
  • born and raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where she learned the mountain style of singing from her grandmother and mother
  • numerous ribbons for award winning performances in dulcimer contests
  • three CDs: Traditional Dulcimer - Galax Style, Home Now, and Old Virginia
  • instructor at dulcimer workshops: Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC; Augusta Spring Dulcimer Week, Davis and Elkins College, WVA; Cranberry Gathering, Binghamton, NY; and The Great River Road Festival, ILL.
  • composer of  songs and tunes with that "traditional" sound and educational children's songs
  • sings the "old songs" and plays bodhran (Irish drum), clawhammer banjo, and piano

Suzanne Kennedy

Suzanne's musical roots stem from Southwest Virginia where her family played mountain string music. She has fond memories of attending the Galax Fiddler's Convention as a child where her interest in playing the music originated. When Suzanne broadcast "Country Afternoon," a traditional music program for WMRA Public Radio at James Madison University, she produced "Galax: A Heritage of American Music," a one-hour documentary featuring the music and the history of the Galax Old Fiddler's Convention. This experience renewed her interest in traditional music. She followed in the footsteps of her forebears learning banjo, fiddle and bass. Today Suzanne's interests in music range from old time music to its Celtic origins.

Allen Kennedy

Allen has a great appreciation for the traditional music and heritage of Appalachia and a love of the mountains.  He is a self-taught musician, having picked up tunes from other mandolin and fiddle players throughout Virginia for over 30 years.  He attends festivals and jams, plays and sings traditional music including old time, bluegrass and Irish at festivals and jams whenever he can.
Gene Bowlen

Gene walked into a dance hall in Seattle over 25 years ago and was bitten by the "old-time" bug.  Ever since that night he has been chasing tunes and jams across the United States.  For the past ten years he has been playing clawhammer banjo in various bands in the Shenandoah Valley.  He was a member of the Port Road String Band, which included Jim and Phyllis, where he began adding mandolin tunes to his playlist.  Gene also holds down the sound duties for the band - we prefer to play sans electricity, but some venues require that added punch from amplification.  He provides both live sound reinforcement and studio recording capabilities when needed. See details on his sound equipment on the BeaRcade Music Production page.

Gene co-produced, recorded, mixed and mastered Phyllis' latest CD - Old Virginia.  Sound clips can be heard on the BeaRcade Music page. 

The band's first commercial CD is currently in production.

    The band in action at the BRCC Folk Arts Festival.