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Ken Kolodner and Laura Risk
Ken Kolodner - hammered dulcimer
Laura Risk - fiddle

School Performances

In their school program, Ken Kolodner and Laura Risk take the students on an exciting musical journey to Ireland, Scotland, Quebec, Appalachia and beyond. They deftly combine musical selections with explanations of the historical and cultural context of traditional music. They explain how the hammered dulcimer and fiddle work and demonstrate the variety of styles that can be played on their instruments. They also discuss how they learned to play, point out the differences between traditional music and other genres such as classical or pop, and demonstrate several styles of traditional music (e.g. Celtic, Appalachian) and what makes these styles unique. Since most students have never seen a hammered dulcimer before, Ken explains the instrument's history, demonstrates its' inner workings, and offers the students an opportunity to play it after the presentation.

The program can be geared towards students of all ages. If requested, Ken and Laura can also focus on specific musical concepts, i.e. identifying different rhythms (4/4, 6/8, 3/4, etc); understanding the various components of musical arranging (melody, harmony, bassline, timbre); ensemble playing; composing and improvising; recording; or even making a living as a professional musician!

Related areas of study in the classroom:
The fiddle (or violin); the hammered dulcimer
The concept of 'tradition'
Immigration and the transmission of cultures
History, geography and culture of Ireland, Scotland, Quebec, and Appalachia, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries (many of the tunes date from this era)
Traditional Irish, Scottish, Quebecois, or Appalachian dancing
Composing in a traditional style

Ken Kolodner and Laura Risk: a biography

Ken Kolodner and Laura Risk's approach to Celtic music reflects both a deep respect for the tradition and a healthy spirit of creativity, as they effortlessly combine classical ensemble precision and musicality with a mastery of the improvisational freedom essential to traditional music. The duo plays with a lightness, quickness, and precision that captivates audiences of all ages, and their enthusiasm for the music is infectious.

Ken is considered one of the best hammered dulcimer players performing today and Laura is widely regarded as one of the top Scottish fiddlers in North America. Recent duo performances include a concert-length Radio-Canada broadcast recorded live at MontrealŐs Maison de Culture, Frontenac; an appearance at Baltimore's Meyerhoff Symphony Hall; concerts at Longwood Gardens (PA) and the Frontier Cultural Museum (VA); headliner spots at the Clarion Folk College and the Texas Acoustic Music Winter Festival; and several appearances as soloists with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society (broadcast to over a million viewers in the Washington DC area on ABC TV).

As a soloist and an alum of Helicon, Ken Kolodner has toured extensively throughout North America and Europe. Known for his expressive and improvisational style, Ken has taught at countless festivals and music camps and has been featured in nationally broadcast concerts on NPR, German National Radio, CBC, and the Voice of America. His 1999 appearance as soloist with a combined chorus (The Baltimore Choral Arts) and chamber orchestra from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra was broadcast in an Emmy-nominated CBS-TV Christmas special. His recording "A Winter Solstice with Helicon" recently won an Indie for Best Seasonal Recording.

A California native, Laura Risk began playing Scottish fiddle music as a teenager. Her love of traditional fiddling has led her into a rich journey of performing and teaching the beautifully diverse repertoires of Scotland, Cape Breton and Quebec, where she now lives. Laura has toured extensively as a soloist and as a member of numerous bands (Ensemble Galilei, The John Whelan Band, Cordelia's Dad), performing at venues such as The Newport Folk Festival and Celtic Connections (Glasgow, Scotland). Her credits include numerous CDs - her first solo CD was one of The Boston Globe's 'Top 10 CDs of the Year' - and five years as an Instructor of Fiddling at Wellesley College.

For bookings and info:
Laura:, 514-727-3171
Ken:, 410-243-7254