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New York State
Fiddler's Hall of Fame Inductees
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2019 Mac Claflin
Malcom Claflin was born in Lacona, NY in 1934 to a very musical family, learning old time fiddle tunes from his father. He also learned other instrumentsand sang the tunes as well. Mac played with several local and regional bands playing and calling traditional old time fiddle tunes popular to the area. Mac was a well known DJ in the area and his band, Mac Claflin and the Country Rhythm Boys recorded afternoon shows. Every Saturday night they played at Maple Grove restaurant in Constantia, NY. Mac appeared with Buddy Spicher in Syracuse when Hank Williams, Jr. made his first appearance at age 15. Mac and his bandbacked up many country vocalists of the day. He has recorded two CD's on which he played rhythm guitar, fiddle, mandolin, bass and drums; even singing and harmonized with himself. One CD is titled, "The Old Red Barn and Other Fiddle Tunes". In 2003 Mac was inducted into the New York State Country Music Hall of Fame in Cortland, NY. Mac has always been open to learning and teaching other how to play old time fiddle music. He is always willing to show anyone a technique or a tune.
2018 William Place Jr
William Place Jr. was born in 1938 in Ellisburg, NY. He started playing the fiddle at four years old and recalls his grandfather making a fiddle from a cigar box with a bow made of cedar. William learned to play "Pop Goes the Weasel" followed by several other tunes. At around the age of eight, he got a fiddle made of steel. He learned to play the dobro and guitar as well. At the age of fifteen, William was in a band with his father called the Ontario Beach Combers. Some Saturday nights, William subbed as the fiddler for round and square dances. In the 1960's William played in several bands including Gordie Therrien's band, The Bounty Hunters with is wife and son, Timmy. In 1985 William started playing fiddle and guitar for the Country Stompers and then with the Black River Valley Fiddlers' Association.
2017 Joe Davoli
Joe Davoli was only three years old when his parents overheard him humming the “Star Spangled Banner" in the backseat of their car. They were on their way from a Fourth of July concert. Thinking that he may have a knack for music, they started Joe with fiddle lessons; later became a graduate of DePaul University and attended the Berklee School of Music. He has studied with improvisational greats Matt Glaser, Darol Anger, and John Blake. Joe composed and recorded music for the off-Broadway revival of Israel Horovitz’ “The Indian Wants the Bronx.” He has won two Syracuse Area Music Awards; one for “Best Bluegrass Instrumentalist/Vocalist” and the other for his CD release with guitarist Harvey Nusbaum in the “Best Folk/Bluegrass Recording” category. He served as musical supervisor for the short film “Brando from the Neck Down” in which its soundtrack features Joe playing fiddle and mandolin. Joe has published a successful method book for fiddle and mandolin that is currently in its second edition. His solo CD “Game Plan” has received international acclaim; and another popular CD has been published as well: “Joe Davoli & Harvey Nusbaum: Fiddle & Guitar.” He is a member of Ceili Rain, serves as a studio musician and is a violin teacher with students of all ages including a number of NYSOTFA Fiddlers. He is a member of the Central Chapter of the NYSOTFA.
2016 Chad L. Miller
Chad Miller from Florence, NY was honored as the New York State Inductee into the North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame. Chad became interested in playing fiddle when he attended the NYSOTFA Fiddlers Picnic as a child. He learned how to play by ear under the tutelage of New York State Inductee, Murph Baker. He is a dedicated member and current vice president of the Central Chapter Fiddlers, performs at various venues around the state including Watkins Glen Fiddlers’ Gathering and the Fiddlers Fair that takes place at Genessee Country Village and Museum. Chad works hard to preserve the music of the old time fiddlers of New York State and in Central New York.
2015 Susan K. Barrington
1946 - 2018 Susan began violin lessons in elementary school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Upon moving to New York State she continued playing in community orchestras and then joined a group that allowed her to bridge into the old time fiddle. She enjoyed fiddling with people of all ages and had advised many fiddlers, young and old. She participated in teaching programs at the YMCA After-School program, judged local talent competitions and led Kids’ Kamp in Osceola. In 1996 Susan joined the Oswego Valley Chapter and with the help of Granny Sweet, she researched, collected, transcribed, catalogued, played and performed as many fiddle tunes as she could. Susan was the president of the OVFA years had led their Tuesday evening practices. Susan was not only a born instructor, but a natural organizer as well. She served the NYSOTFA Board of Directors as member and treasurer for six years, designed the original NYSOTFA website and performed countless behind the scenes jobs. Susan was a recipient of the Ray Cronk Memorial award as well. Susan’s musical career of over 50 years has enriched the lives of so many who have come to love old time fiddling music as much as she did. Susan passed away in July 2018. Susan's memory and her musical legacy continues to thrive through the members of the Oswego Valley Fiddlers Association.
2014 Ralph Streeter
Ralph Streeter was born on May 28, 1931. The second of three boys, Ralph grew up in a very music rich household with his mom playing both fiddle and piano. Ralph learned to play the mandolin by listening to his mother and later mastered playing music by ear. His affinity for music led him to play guitar and later, the fiddle. Ralph played in his first public performance at the Castorland Community Hall with the Streeter Brothers. This group, created by Ralph and his brothers, continued playing for five years under this name until changing its name to the Adirondack Playboys. Always a showman and entertainer, he continued to play with the band into the 1980’s. The group appeared in many locations throughout eastern Jefferson, Lewis and Hamilton Counties. Ralph and his wife, Audrey, have a son who has picked up the strong musical traditions of the family. Rick, Ralph’s son joined the Adirondack Playboys in the 1960’s. Rick started by playing mandolin and eventually fiddle with the band upon Ralph’s death in 1991. Ralph’s favorite tunes to play were “Orange Blossom Special” and “Black Mountain Rag”. Ralph Streeter lived his life with music in his heart and his legacy lives on as a result of his fiddling.
2013 Laura Dennis
Although Laura’s mother came from a family of fiddlers from Quebec, Canada, Laura had little exposure to fiddling until later years. Fifteen years ago, she attended a fiddle concert and found the music magical and exciting. Desiring to learn to fiddle, Laura contacted a local fiddler and Hall of Fame Inductee, Randy Kerr, who helped start her on her way to fulfilling her childhood dream. Randy consented to get her started on the fiddle and she learned many, many old time fiddle and Celtic tunes from Randy over the years, with Jessie Gotham providing backup on the piano. Laura has shared her tunes and experiences with many people at performances and has taught beginning fiddling to a number of aspiring young people as well as adults. She is a member of both the Central Chapter and Black River Valley Chapter Fiddlers. She has presented three concerts at the Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame and performs regularly for chapter concerts, fundraisers, weddings, funerals, county fairs and church services. As her friends and family are well aware, fiddling and performing has been a great source of joy in Laura’s life.
2012 Gretchen Paige Koehler
Gretchen Paige Koehler is an important member of the North Country fiddling scene. She first picked up the fiddle at age five. During her childhood she participated in numerous fiddle contests throughout the North Eastern US and Canada and won many titles throughout those regions. She has several recordings and has been in several groups including Frog Bridge with her sister Rebecca and Fiddler’s Three with Inductee Donald Woodcock. She has encouraged others to take up the art and has an extensive group of young musicians she teaches near her home in Potsdam, NY. It is our privilege to welcome Gretchen Paige Koehler into the NYS Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame and Museum.
2011 Keith Hunt
Keith Hunt was born during the “great depression” and grew up on Wellesley Island on the Saint Lawrence River. He attended the local island dances from his earliest memory, where his father played banjo with local island musicians. Thus, he grew up with the North Country and Canadian fiddling of the area and listened to great fiddlers such as Don Messer, Ned Landry, Earl Mitton, Jim McGill, King Ganam, and others on live radio shows of the time. Keith started out playing the music on a tenor banjo, but soon found that the fiddle tunes were better suited to playing on the fiddle. Keith fi nally got a serious start on the fi ddle by attending a group fiddle lesson given by Eleanor Townsend at the NYSOTFA Fiddlers Picnic around 1978. Telleta Atwell assisted Eleanor in that class and Telleta continued working with Keith through the present. After leaving Wellesley Island, Keith always sought the kind of dancing like he knew from the island, never quite finding it the same anywhere else. However, in his search, he ended up doing the dances of many lands and international folk dancers. He also learned to call traditional square dances and contra dances such as he grew up with. Keith’s first love, musically, is the traditional jigs, reels, and related dance fiddle tunes. In the past, Keith has been the instructor for the square and contra dance workshops during the 1980’s at the Fiddler’s Picnic. Keith has taught at the Day Long Workshops at the Fiddlers’ Picnic and is serving as Vice President of NYSOTFA.
2010 Ivan Hale
1935 - 2017 Ivan Hale from the Philadelphia area in the North Country of New York State is a member of the Black River Chapter of the NYSOTFA. He started with the fiddle at age 7, and as was the case for many fiddlers of the time, he was self-taught and learned to play by ear from listening to other fiddlers, the finest who at the time could be heard regularly on live radio programs. By age 10, Ivan and his sisters were playing for regular round and square dances, attended by as many as 600. He has played with many musical groups through the years that have played on radio and opened shows for nationally known entertainers such as Hank Thompson, Tom T. Hall, Dock Williams and Waylon Jennings. Ivan has also played with the Country Stompers, and the Country Kings.
2009 Hope Grietzer
Hope Grietzer, originally from Johnson City, NY, fell in love with fiddle music in college, playing for square dances with the Geneseo String Band, led by renowned ethnomusicologist, Jim Kimball. She later studied with earlier NY State Inductee, Larry Downey, while fiddling throughout NY State and Pennsylvania. After a period of time active in fiddling in Colorado, Hope returned to the Owego, NY area where she is now the president of the Fiddlin's Fun Chapter of NYSOTFA and currently plays for concerts and contra dances with several musical groups. She has been a concert artist at North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame. A great portion of Hope's time is devoted to teaching fiddling to a large number of youths and adults.
2008 George H. Hall
1922 - 2014 George H. Hall was born in Indiana, January 23, 1922, and was raised on a farm in Scipio, Indiana. He lived many places before ending up in Central New York, Town of Ira. He served in the US Air Force in the 40s and traveled widely around the world, jamming wherever he could. Retired now, he spends part of his year in Florida. Early musical influences were his father, grandfather and uncle sparked his interest in fiddle music. His first tune was “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain.” From this he started playing square dances, barn dances, anyplace he could and developed his fiddle skills. To this day George doesn’t read music-he listens to a tune a few times and runs with it, adapting his own unique music style. George helped establish the Oswego Valley Fiddlers Chapter in the 1980s. Through the years he has played with several bands and groups in Central NY and in Florida. In his 80s, George can still be found playing music all over the area with many groups and at the NYS Old Tyme Fiddlers.
2007 Leon Boyea
Leon Boyea started playing fiddle at the age of eight on his Dad’s fiddle that was off limits, but his Mother told him that it was okay to play it. It was necessary to replace the fiddle in the case as his father had left it. One day Leon got carried away and his father walked in as Leon was playing his fiddle. To his surprise, his father was very pleased with what he had heard. Leon played for his first dance at the age of ten. In high school he played with the Future Farmers of America Hillbillies and won the state talent show in Baldwinsville, NY. Over the years he has played with local bands such as the Old Timers Band, Settlers Band, and North Country Fiddlers. He now plays with the Border Rambler Band. Leon played for Ned Landry and played with Graham Townsend, Lorimer Higgins, and Shirley Spiedel. He also currently plays with the Association of North Country Fiddlers for local events and senior citizens in the area. He is a retired farmer. Leon’s favorite fiddlers are Ivan Hicks, Graham Townsend, Ned Landry, and Lorimer Higgins who taught him a lot of the music he plays today. Leon plays strictly by ear and loves to play harmony.
2006 Curly Vaughn
1922 - Born in Chateaugay, NY in 1922, Curly Vaughn started playing fiddle at the age of 12. He taught himself to play the fiddle along with guitar, banjo and mandolin. His mother Maude also played fiddle. After playing for the Rotary Club in Chateaugay in 1935, the group bought him a brand new fiddle. He played with Reverend James Fideley who gave him two years of fiddle lessons for free. Since his father passed away when he was 14 years of age he joined the Civilian Conservation corps to help his mother. He is one of the original members of the Sante Fe Riders on WKTV in Utica, NY with Wade Patrick. He has also played with several bands including Ronnie Smith Band, Jimmy Neilson and headlined a group called Just Plain Country. Also he has backed up performers such as Hank Shaw Hawkins, Lee Moore and the Stone Mountain Boys. He has been at various events in the North Country and has appeared several times at the North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame.
2005 Philip Bnaszak
1951 - Phil was born in 1951 in Buffalo, NY and began taking violin lessons in third grade. In High School, his dedication to the violin diminished. Eleven years later, he began to practice in earnest. Influencing him were Mark O’Conner, Bobby Hicks, Richard Greene, Chubby Wise and Frank Reilly. He joined a band named “Half Grass”, and played with many local musicians. One of Western New York’s best known fiddlers, he has won the Erie County Fair Contest three times and the Empire State Resident Championship in 1991. He is on the faculty at the Community Music School where he teaches fiddle, violin and mandolin. He teaches a little at home and is a Chemical Dependency Counselor. In 2002, he released a book & CD of original neo-traditional fiddle music He plays for Contra Dances, with Groups in Western NY , at Fiddlin;s Fun Chapter events and at the North American Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame in Osceola. Phil is married to his wife, Gretchen and together they form “City Fiddle” living and teaching in Buffalo, N.Y.
2004 Vincent E. Boyea
1939 - Vincent E. Boyea was born on April 23, 1939, in Westville, NY. His paternal grandmother played the fiddle by ear. Vincent’s Dad, Everest, also played the violin. A relative of Vincent made him a small fiddle and bow when he was six years old, and that’s when he got started. Vincent plays the fiddle by ear. He only took ten lessons at the age of 14. He played his first dance at 17 years of age at a local Grange Hall. Since then he has played with several bands over the years. He has also competed in many contests. He entered his first contest in Huntingdon, Quebec in 1974 and won first place. Vince and his wife, Louise, have raised four children in Westville, NY. Since his retirement from farming and as a rural mail carrier, he can take time to play and has been participating in local fiddle flings, entertaining in area nursing homes, at local events and at the Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame in Osceola. Vince’s children are musical as well, and he shares his skills and talent with them. In May of 2003, Vincent released his first recording, a CD entitled “Vince the Prince”. The fiddle he plays on was a gift from his Godfather, who played many barn dances. Vince is an active member of the New York State Old Tyme Fiddlers’ Assn., belonging to the ANCF and Black River Chapters. He was inducted into the New York State Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame in July 2004. He has a distinctive French-Canadian flavor to his tunes and has a wide repertoire.
2003 Neal Morrison
2009 Neal Morrison was a veteran fiddler familiar to North Country audiences. He was born in Gaines, W.V., to a musical family. His father, C.K. Morrison, inspired him to the fiddle playing tradition, which was carried on by several of his 11 siblings. In 1976, he was invited to play at a bicentennial program at Hammond and then joined the Association of North Country Fiddlers. In 1986, Neal was part of the North Country contingent of fiddlers who went to the Meadowlands in New Jersey for the Statue of Liberty celebration. He participated in NYSOTFA events for many years. Neal also does some luthier work and fiddle “set ups”. He has played with many groups down through the years, most recently “The Goodtimes”. Favorite tunes include Red Apple Rag, Smith’s Rag and Chippewa Breakdown. A favorite fiddler was Kenny Baker. He and his wife, Marge lived and raised their four children on a farm in Hammond, N.Y. He passed away April 12, 2009.
2002 Jackie Hobbs
1973 - Jacqueline “Jackie” Hobbs was born in Lorraine, N.Y. in 1973. She has been playing the fiddle since the ages of 5. She acquired her musical talent from both sides of her family, but was mostly influenced by her grandmother, Alice Clemens, 3 time N.Y. State Ladies Champion. Jackie grew up fiddling with her grandmother, she entered several contests, placing 4th in the N.Y. State Division. Jackie continued fiddling while studying to be a music teacher and has played at many events throughout N.Y. She has appeared at Grand Central Station and the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, Jackie teaches music at Sandy Creek Central School. She plays with many groups, most often, the Clemens Tradition with family members. She has been influenced by many great fiddlers such as Graham & Eleanor Townsend, Donald Woodcock and of course, Alice Clemens. She lives in the Chereshnoski family home in Lorraine with her husband, Lester and two daughters, Caitlin & Elizabeth.
2001 Donnie Perkins
1941 - Donald Perkins was born in Plattsburgh, N.Y. on April 3, 1941. Donald started playing the fiddle at 5 years of age. His ancestors came from Scotland and he had a great, great grandmother, a grandfather, a grandmother, and His mother who played the fiddle. His mother also played the piano and his father called square dances as Donald played the fiddle. He has played with such fiddle greats as Jimmy Hamblin, Frank Orsini, Ken Bonner, George Pratt, and Rollie Swinton. He has played with many bands as Smokie Green, The Boys, The Kennebec Valley Boys, Bluegrass Supply Co., The Gibson Brothers Bluegrass Band, and Cedar Ridge Bluegrass Band. Don has placed 1st three times at the Cobleskill Fair, 3rd at Barre, VT., and 1st at Grand Champion at Huntington, Canada, and 1st at Tunbridge Fair, VT. Just ask Donnie for any tune—whatever style you like, or tune you ask for—he likely can play it for you!
2000 William “Bill” Miller
1925 - 2001 William “Bill” Miller was born in Churubusco, N.Y. in 1925, one of 12 children. He grew up on the family farm. Bill is a self-taught fiddler, having started at the age of 8, using his grandfather’s fiddle. By the he was 9 he was playing at house parties. In 1939, at the age of 14, he performed at the New York State Folk Festival at Madison Square Garden. He formed his first band at age 16. He plays entirely by ear. Bill retired from General Motors, Massena in 1987. Then he devoted his time to entertaining senior citizens and nursing homes with his group “Miller’s Old Timers”. Bill has been a member of The Association of North Country Fiddlers since 1989, and Black River Valley Fiddlers since 1994. Bill had been played for dances, parties and special events steadily for 60 years.
1999 Norma A. “Granny” Sweet
1916 - 2000 Born November 15, 1916, Norma A. “Granny” Sweet has devoted her life to music for others. Taught fiddle to countless people throughout her 80-some years. In her early years, she felt she never fit in with organized, classical-type music--too “structured” and “perfect.” By listening, she learned music ranging from country and bluegrass to ballads, folk and blues--people-music! Later she taught it to others, a perfect way to promote old time music. Her students ranged from age 5 to 80+. She encouraged people to play, even when they thought they couldn’t. Granny went everywhere to play music--never said “No.” From a 93-year-old whom she had playing tambourine and maracas, “I have derived many hours of enjoyment…Granny Sweet has always encouraged me…she is well loved by all who know her.” “I cannot say enough for her…her music has inspired me to dance like a 20-yearold, said an 84-year-old man. Another lady reports that “she is always thinking of others…she does a lot of good stuff for other people.” Someone else tells us that, “I have watched her work with the younger generation, encouraging and teaching them…she gives every age group her free time to entertain people at no cost to anyone…she brings much happiness.” From another Senior Citizen of Granby, New York, “I know she has helped the young folks of Granby and other places by keeping them interested in old time music, both by teaching and other ways. She was very active in helping the Senior Citizens of the Community through her shared talent. A woman from Fulton, New York says, “Norma’s help to the youth and seniors with teaching and music has greatly been appreciated. Norma is loved by everyone…And, as a Christian, she lives her belief.” Another reports that “She has gotten teens into music and off the streets.” “Through her unselfish love for music and willingness to help others, many of us have benefited in music and self-esteem.” One of the dancing seniors at Granby, New York, “My life has been enriched by the fiddle music Norma Sweet plays…The exercise is great for us old people. I know my health is better. Norma has also given me courage and hope in my fight against cancer as she has told us of her cancer operations…She just keeps playing her fiddle and being happy.” And finally, from another fellow-musician, “[she] donates her time and talent to local nursing homes and community senior citizens…she always says ‘music is therapy’” and she is so right!
1998 Fred Bingle
1932 - Fred Bingle was born in Croghan, N.Y. in 1932. Fred was 10 years old when he began playing a fiddle that belonged to a friend, Frank Jeffrey. Frank was a former French-Canadian, from whom Fred learned many of his hornpipes and reels. Fred took lessons from sister, Irene and played in the Carthage High school Orchestra. Over the years he has played at cake walks, church functions, Beaver Falls minstrel shows, and, spur - of - the - moment – dances. The first group he played with was called “The Fancy Four”, and, the last was called “The String Pickers”. Fred has spent considerable time playing at nursing homes and local venues with Fiddlin’ Friends. He likes all kinds of music, but nothing, to him, compares to the old time fiddling. He appreciates “The North American Old Time Fiddlers Association” efforts to preserve the music for the future.
1997 Hilton Kelly
1925 - 2015 Hilton Kelly was born in Upper Bedell, N.Y. on July 18, 1925. When He was 5 years old, his parents bought him a Tin fiddle for Christmas, which he learned to play, (He stills has that tin fiddle). When he was 6 his great uncle, Durward Kelly, gave him a ¾ fiddle. Hilton learned from his father, Carson Kelly, and his grandfather, Ward Kelly. The fiddle Hilton plays today is the one his grandfather bought in the 1880’s. It was passed on through his father to him. In 1937, at the age of 12, Hilton started playing at school, dances, and house parties. In 1940 he began playing and calling square dances. Hilton is very busy with his band that includes wife Stella on the piano, and 2 guitar players. They play at square dances and nursing homes in the Catskill and Southeastern regions of New York State.
1996 Jesse Hastings
1930 - Jesse Hastings was born in 1930 to Nelson and Bertha Hastings, in Copenhagen, N.Y. His father gave him his first fiddle and his father’s hired hand, Ed Stanford taught him. The first tune he learned was “Red Wing”. The first group he played with was “Higby’s Harmonic Band”. After this group disbanded, Jesse helped form a group that called themselves “The 76ers”. The name of the band was changed in the late 80’s to “The Country Stompers”. Jesse joined The Black River Valley Fiddlers Association when they were organized 1979. He is the proud owner of a handmade fiddle left to him by Deforest Holmes. Jesse was named 1995 Citizen of the Year of Champion (N.Y.) Grange. His favorite pastime is playing music whenever he can. He has been a concert artist at the Hall of Fame several times.
1995 Ernie McDonald
1936 - Ernie McDonald was born in Parish, N.Y. in 1936. His father was a fiddler and played the piano. The Wolfe family, his father’s cousins, Gerald, Kenneth, and Lester, were all good fiddlers. Ernie recalls, as a child, gatherings at his grandmother’s house. His grandmother would greet all the guests, holding whatever instruments they happened to have, and there would be a great joyous hoedown with fiddle music, square dancing and plenty of refreshments. So Ernie grew up listening to those wonderful parties. Ken Wolfe taught him many of the tunes he now knows, the first being “Flop Eared Mule”. Erne composed many tunes of his own, including one he wrote for the Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame, which Roger Thesier, titled “The Happy Fiddler”
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