Welcome to the Contra Pulse Project, a series of interviews with contra musicians about contra music.

As you walk up the steps to the dance hall, you can already hear the strains of the piano and fiddle slipping out into the night. Then you open the doors; see the roomful of dancers and hear that glorious music in full – propelling everyone on the dance floor. It’s uplifting, it’s energetic, it’s fun, it makes us move, it brings us together.

Where does contra music come from? Why does it sound the way it does? How has it changed over time? In this project, we will be attempting to take the pulse of contra music today through a series of conversations between host Julie Vallimont and prominent contra musicians from all corners.  Join us in this journey through music, dance, time, space, and community.

Episode 15 – Peter Siegel

Julie sits down with Peter Siegel, the guitarist, mandolinist, and singer from the Greenfield Dance Band and The Gaslight Tinkers. They talk about the wide range of sounds in his bands, what tradition means, experimentation and innovation in the folk tradition. As well as Muppet impressions, of course. Enjoy!

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Episode 14 – Mary Cay Brass

Julie speaks with the wonderful pianist, accordionist, and singer Mary Cay Brass of the Greenfield Dance Band and Airdance - mainstays of the New England contra scene in the last decades. Mary Cay is also a talented international folk musician, and music educator. They discuss her early days playing for contras, her piano style and influences, and her passion...

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Episode 13 – George Marshall

Julie interviews the renowned musician, caller, and organizer George Marshall. They talk about his mission to share the joy of dance, his calling mentors and inspiration, his approach to working with bands, and what makes great dance music. It’s a wonderful conversation for musicians, callers, and everyone interested in the evolution of contra dance! Show...

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Episode 12 – Noah VanNorstrand Part 2

The second half of our interview with Noah VanNorstrand. whose driving fiddle, feet, and mandolin have been a rhythmic powerhouse behind some of the most popular dance bands of the last decade. In this half of the interview we talked about Noah's philosophy of fiddling for contra dances, some contra tricks, and about the future of dance weekends, and...

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Episode 11 – Noah VanNorstrand Part 1

The first of a two-part episode with Noah VanNorstrand, whose driving fiddle, feet, and mandolin have been a rhythmic powerhouse behind some of the most popular dance bands of the last decade, including Great Bear, Buddy System, Wake Up Robin and the Faux Paws. Noah freely blends traditional folk genres such as Celtic and old time Appalachian fiddling with...

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Episode 10: Lissa Schneckenburger

This episode, Julie sits down with Lissa Schneckenburger, the talented fiddler and singer. Her unique perspective as a player of many different styles, and a graduate of the New England Conservatory, makes for a great conversation about music, contra, and community.

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