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My wide-ranging curiosity about the sounds I hear has led me across oceans and mountains, and through doorways into log cabins, splendid temples, Asian bazaars, and farmers’ markets. Old-time fiddle tunes, Tibetan chanting, classic jazz, western swing, modern classical music and Nepali folk tunes; these are what I have lived to learn, play, teach, and pass on through transcriptions, recordings, and in live performance.  This website is my attempt to gather all my untidy and wide-ranging musical interests into a pixel-basket for my fellow musical travellers.


- Hilary Dirlam, 2013




In the 1970s, Hilary Dirlam played piano, bass and guitar with the Arm and Hammer String Band in Vermont. The band played for for dances, at festivals, and in coffee houses and concert halls up and down the east coast. Festivals included the Philadelphia Folk Festival and the Festival Northeast, sharing an evening with Ola Belle Reed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and with Martin, Bogan and Armstrong at Davis and Elkins College. Hilary sang the title cut on the band’s album “Stay On The Farm”.


In 1980, she moved to western North Carolina. During the next two decades she performed and recorded with notable traditional bands including the Carroll Best Band and the Luke Smathers Band, both of which were North Carolina Heritage Award winners. She recorded with Round Peak fiddler Otis Burris and performed at the Kent State Folk Festival with his band, which included Alice Gerrard. With Phil and Gaye Johnson, She was part of the house band in the Liberty Flyer radio series; and also appeared frequently on Nashville Network’s Fire On The Mountain TV series. She recorded two albums, “Vintage Fiddle Tunes” and  “Fiddlers Dozen”, with acclaimed old-time fiddler Bruce Greene. Her bread-and-butter career included bass gigs with lounge bands, playing in local country clubs and hotels. In the late 80s she went back to school, receiving a BA in modern music composition, studying under composer Dr. Douglas Ovens. Her composition “Lascaux” was chosen to be performed at a national undergraduate research conference in San Antonio. In 1991 she was chosen to be the program director for the Blue Ridge Old-Time Music Week at Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, NC. She continues to share that position, which allows her to teach classes in guitar, banjo and bass during the week. She is also one of the founders of the Old-Time Herald, an old-time music journal.


In 1993, she traveled to the Everest region of Nepal, and became interested in the musical traditions of both Nepal and Tibet. She has returned many times to make on-site recordings at Kopan

Monastery (seven albums to date). Learning Nepali folk tunes from sarangi master Parashuram Bhandari led to her booking and managing two US tours for the trio Shringara Nepal.


In the early 2000s she began giving music lessons at Mary and Lo Gordon’s store, Celestial Mountain Music, in Brevard, NC. Teaching banjo, guitar, bass, mandolin, dulcimer and fiddle (and some theory along the way) re-ignited her interest in music composition. One of her tunes, “Holloway”, has been recorded a number of times, most recently by Rodney Miller. Hilary and Mary Gordon (an accomplished fiddler) perform as a duo Antique Roadshow. They have co-authored several banjo/fiddle books together. Hilary’s book of simple banjo solos, “Banjo Without Tears” has gone into a third printing, with sales across the US, in the UK, France, Germany, Australia and beyond.


Hilary plays bass with with the Orpheus Supertones, a Pennsylvania-based stringband including Highwoods String Band veteran Walt Koken. A recently released CD of Jerry Lundy’s fiddle tunes, with with Hilary’s guitar backup, is available from the Field Recorders Collective.


Upcoming projects include a book of Nepali folk tunes and a new Tibetan recording, soon to be released, of the nuns of Tsum Valley, a remote Shangri-la, a week’s trek from the nearest road.


Listen to Hilary's original music at her Soundcloud page

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