Brian & Claire Vollmer live in Binghamton, NY and play American country, bluegrass, old-time, and original roots music. Full-time musicians (who also teach and lead workshops), Brian plays banjo, fiddle, guitar, and Claire plays fiddle and guitar. Both sing and harmonize. Brian, a 2nd generation Latvian-American, spent many years in the Appalachian mountains in eastern Tennessee learning to play fiddle from legendary old-time fiddler, Clyde Davenport, and studying Appalachian culture. His years growing up just outside of Washington, D.C. led to a deep understanding of the banjo and bluegrass music. Claire's love of American folk music developed after years of classical training. Their interpretation of American music is compelling and revealing; their show, charming.
Brian Vollmer follows the muse.
Brian's mom and dad both played guitar and sang, and Brian had his first professional jobs starting at age six, first as a member of the Grammy award-winning Maryland Boy Choir, then as a member of the famed Peabody Institute's Chamber Choir. It was during this time his parents gave him his first guitar lessons. But it was only after he discovered the banjo as a teenager, he'd found his passion. In 1996, he began to study with Mike Munford, Bill Keith, and Reed Martin at the age of 14 and soon he was proficient enough on both banjo and guitar to play in bands and begin teaching others.
Brian was enrolled in a Technology Magnet Program in High School, where he spent half his time on regular curriculum and the other half learning audio recording techniques and record label operations under the mentorship of Tom Mindte at Patuxent Music, a Washington D.C. based American roots music company. He continued to perform, playing in his father's band and also with the High School's official Bluegrass band, while teaching banjo at Appalachian Bluegrass Shoppe outside of Baltimore on the side. After graduating, Patuxent offered him his first full-time job as an executive at the label, and engineer for the recording company. After two years of service with them, Brian decided to pursue a college degree in the music business and he received a scholarship from Tom for continuing on with his musical path.
At Middle Tennessee State University where Brian attained candidacy and graduated from their acclaimed Recording Industry program, he first started fiddling under the encouragement of Paul F. Wells of the Center for Popular Music. Studying and practicing for hours a day, on the side of completing coursework for his degree, he eventually led the department's official band. Also around this time, he began work as a Folklorist and Archivist under the leadership of Bobby Fulcher for the State of Tennessee's Folklife Project, digitizing, field recording and collecting rare rural music from musicians of the state. With this job, he met and was taken in as a family member by the legendary banjo and fiddle player Clyde Davenport, whom Brian dearly attributes his fiddling style and techniques to. Upon finishing his degree, he rambled and lived around the traditional music hotbeds of Nashville, Knoxville, Boone and Asheville. At each stop he joined highly regarded string bands, collected music, and played concerts, festivals and dances throughout the Southeast. He has also been on numerous trips as an American banjo and fiddle ambassador to the countries of China, India, United Kingdom, Ireland, Bulgaria, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Holland.
His first CD, Old Time Music Party, was released in 2013 by Patuxent. Accompanied by a group of stellar musicians, the CD quickly received widespread national and international radio airplay—and raves from journalists and some of the finest Old Time musicians playing today. No Depression said, “Young East Coast fiddler/banjo player Brian Vollmer just picks the hell out of a bunch of great Southern old-time tunes.” Banjo Newsletter added, “a great old-time recording that honors the past while staying up to date with younger musicians who will carry on the tradition; in good hands for years to come.” Old Time Herald affirms, "Recommended." The album has had such an impact on the Old Time music community that you can always hear some of the more unusual and archaic tunes that Brian composed for the album being played at jam sessions at prestigious fiddler conventions all over the world.
In the last handful of years, Brian moved from the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina to Upstate New York. There he met and married his life partner, touring musician Claire Byrne of Driftwood, during an apprenticeship for banjo and fiddle set-up, repair and restoration in Ithaca. While studying at Selin & Harris Violins, he continued playing and teaching his music from the south with the locals, and also had a popular traditional music radio show on WRFI. After spending two beautiful seasons in that gorgeous town, and meeting and making music with his now wife, Winter came. With the foreign frigid climate, sleeping on the shop's floor for months, he found that Claire's home and being with her was what he really wanted in life. That Spring he officially brought his stored possessions from the South to the North to their indefinite home in Binghamton, NY where she is from. Brian & Claire continue to perform locally together, now as The Vollmer's, and are also in the string band Wildcat Creek playing their fiddles together.
Brian is currently involved in several other musical projects in the Central New York region as well, including performing part-time with The Gerry Jarcia String Band, The Barnyard Saints, and Nate "The Great" Marshall. He hosts and leads a public acoustic jam and square dance band called Old Time Music Party, and he teaches private lessons and workshops, including the Hands-On American Folk Music & Instrument Program.
The muse is still working magic. In addition to playing and teaching, he works on instruments in his home violin and banjo shop.