Podunk Bluegrass Kids’ Academy
Kids Academy Staff
Sal Sauco is a member of one of Rhode Island’s best known local bands, “Lizzie James and the Greystone Rail.” They regularly play around the area at events such as; The Bluegrass on the Pawtuxet Festival, Bluegrass on the Bogs Festival, various street festivals, both of RI’s weekly Bluegrass shows, clubs, weddings, and parties.
Sal also runs Providence’s only weekly Bluegrass show: Bluegrass Throedown at Nick-a-Nee’s, and has done so for almost four years. During that time he has cycled many local, regional, and national bands though the club. He schedules and promotes the bands, runs the sound, and MCs each show.
He is currently the President of the Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance. RIBA serves to promote Bluegrass and its education in the southern New England area. As well as providing lessons to local musicians on guitar and mandolin, he hosts three local jams in Rhode Island regularly held on the 1st Saturday, 1st Sunday, and 3rd Tuesday in three different locations around the state.
Bill Thibodeau – started his musical career at an early age while performing with his father, Sam Tidwell and family friend Fred Pike. As a young man, Bill performed with Bluegrass Supply Company, Stan Tyminski, Union River Band, White Mountain Bluegrass, and many others.
Bill helped cultivate the launch of Main Street Music Studios in Bangor, Maine. The group shaped and offered a complete musical experience from learning, to play, to recording full length soundtracks. While on staff, Bill taught Bluegrass music for several years and enhanced the learning experience of countless mandolin and banjo students, he also provided technical support with recording production at Main Street Music Studios.
Today as a professional performing bluegrass musician and instructor, Bill Thibodeau pursues his career in music at Rick’s Musical Instruments in Cumberland, Rhode Island, where he teaches mandolin, guitar, banjo and fiddle. With over 20 years of teaching experience, Bill continues to inspire and make music fun for all levels of students. While playing in several regional and touring bands bill has experience hosting workshops, kid’s academies, slow jams, and is an active staff member of Tony Watt’s Bluegrass University. His dynamic mandolin style is a mixture of influences from Monroe to Gaudreau. Bill is currently involved in the future of bluegrass music, as he leads his own bluegrass band “The Bill Thibodeau Band” and is a founding and dedicated board member to Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance.
Jesse Burdick is a well-known banjo player and instructor from Rhode Island. He is a member of Lizzie James and the Greystone Rail, his own band The Grand Republic (who released their first album last year), and has performed extensively along the East Coast (and lately Japan) with many talented bluegrass artists. Jesse had the good fortune of being able to perform at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival with Providence luminaries Vudu Sister. It was there that he drew the attention of the Deering Banjo Company and secured a spot as a Deering Artist (the Deering Eagle II being his model of choice). Currently, Jesse is serving on the board of the Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance as a member-at-large and is working to promote bluegrass music throughout the region.
Debbie Hall cares about people and built a reputation for quality and integrity as a leader among Rhode Island’s bluegrass community when she co-founded Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance (RIBA) in 2013. Currently, Debbie holds a seat on the executive board as Outreach Director. Established as a rhythmic driving-force on the upright bass she currently performs with “The Bill Thibodeau Band.” Debbie taps into her childhood memories and draws from her deep-rooted passion to deliver an energized, authentic bluegrass experience.
Born the daughter of iconic New England bluegrass pioneer and band leader Bill Hall, bluegrass music is Debbie’s heritage and passion. Fundamentally, she cares about people and demonstrates that in her communication style. Debbie moves people through kind and encouraging words, and with authentic gestures of exceptional thoughtfulness, she assures people of their individual significance. Adjectives routinely used to describe Debbie Hall include “compassionate” “kindhearted”.
Charlie Pike grew up listening to bluegrass music every Friday night. For years his father hosted musicians at the family’s shed to play bluegrass music together. The love for the music was passed onto Charlie when he inherited his father’s mandolin and decided to start playing himself to carry on this rich tradition. Musicians from all over New England come to jam at Charlie’s on Sunday afternoons and the family tradition, now embraced by Charlie’s children, and a third generation of pickers, has been planted to carry-on the torch.
Charlie is one Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance RIBA’s founders, and Vice President and organizer of the Kid’s Academy. He brings a healthy perspective to the board for representing the children and beginner to intermediate picker in our community. Charlie is business owner with a kind and generous heart. He cares about people and he welcomes all bluegrass musicians into a safe and fun environment jam in his home and beyond.
Tom Pritchard is a talented musician, dedicated music instructor, and enthusiastic volunteer for music related organizations.
Tom began his musical journey at the age of ten when he learned to play viola with his school orchestra. Since then, he has fostered a deep passion for playing and teaching music.
Tom has earned a Bachelors of Music Education from the University of Rhode Island and is currently working on his Masters in String Music Education at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. He regularly attends seminars and conferences in order to expand his knowledge of playing and teaching music, including the National American String Teacher Association annual conferences, Creative Strings Workshop, Strings Without Boundaries, and the OSU String Teacher Workshop.
He has been a public school string orchestra teacher for four years, with positions in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and is currently teaching in the Cranston Rhode Island Public School System. To date, Tom has instructed upwards of 800 students in musical theory and practice.
Tom is the Eclectic Styles board member of the Massachusetts String Teacher Association where he seeks to promote students’ learning of jazz, bluegrass, and other fiddle styles. He is also a board member at large for the Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance, one of the largest bluegrass music associations in America.
An accomplished musician, he is currently playing with “Lizzie James and the Greystone Rail”, voted Motif Magazine’s “Best Rhode Island Bluegrass Band.” He has also played with the “Blue Train Bluegrass Band,” “Dancing Nancy Dave Matthews Tribute Band,” and the “Good Ol’ Boys Country Band.” He is also an experienced orchestral and jazz musician.