Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Founder Comes to Play, Help Young Musicians at Syracuse Festival

May 17, 2018

John McEuen and The String Wizards will be playing at the Sunrise Music Festival, and also mentoring young musicians

A Syracuse Music Festival this weekend will be enriching to more than just the audience that goes to hear former Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Founder John McEuen and other musical acts.  Aspiring youth musicians in the area will get a chance to learn about the music business from someone who’s been in it for more than 50 years. 

WAER’s Chris Bolt and Live Space Entertainment’s Tom Honan spoke with McEuen and festival creator Greg Hoover about the Sunrise Music and Youth Mentoring Festival.

  (Full Interview with McEuen, Hoover, Honan ans Bolt below)

McEuen might be best known to people for his work as a founding member of  the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  He’s also played solo, produced records, and collaborated with many iconic musicians.  He’ll be sharing some of that knowledge and experience with area youth who aspire to make their marks in the music world.

“The music is one thing, but if they’re going to get into the music business, they need to know how folks work together.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just that they maybe don’t have an idea.  Oftentimes people will write a song and they’ll wonder, ‘where do we take this? How do we do this?’ They don’t know what to do after that.  And I hope to give them some advice on that, as well as their music.” 

The Sunrise Music Festival is the creation of Greg Hoover, as both a chance for the youth musicians to learn about the business and as a fundraiser for the local Rotary Club.

Local musicians Loren Barrigar and Todd Hobin will help out with the youth mentoring part of the festival.  Prformances by the young musicians will take place 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.

“I had great music teachers and wonderfully supportive friends growing up,” says SAMMY Hall of Famer Todd Hobin, “I just wish I’d had somebody like me to tell me the real deal about the business I have learned to love.”

The festival is organized by Greg Hoover, a member of the Syracuse Sunrise Rotary.  He says many of the musicians who will take part are 13-16 years old and notes their families are very invested as well. 

“I wish someone had done this for me.  John gets it, the real guys get it, to bring your experience and expertise here.  I get to see what they get out of it.  John’s already going to know because he’s probably done this throughout the years for other kids.  You can’t replace it; we all remember our mentors.  And John, you get to be in the memory of some kids for the rest of their lives because we all never forget our mentors.”  

After the youth portion of the event wraps up, a concert takes place featuring John McEuen and The String Wizards.  He plans to play some Nitty Gritty Dirt Band songs, as well as other blue grass numbers.  Hobin and Barrigar will also perform. 

McEuen has recently released a book.  “The Life I’ve Picked: A Banjo Player’s Nitty Gritty Journey ” is a memoir of the stories he collected in 50 years of show business and travel. 

The Sunrise Music Festival is a fundraiser, set up by Hoover to benefit the Syracuse Sunrise Rotary club.  Funds raised from the event will help the Rotary support a variety of charitable causes including:

  • Worldwide eradication of polio
  • Clean water projects in Zimbabwe and South America
  • Student education in Gambia
  • Procuring safety equipment for firefighters in Chile
  • Clean up of Erie Canal towpath in Dewitt
  • OnPoint for College
  • Person to Person Citizen Advocacy
  • Books for the World
  • International Youth Exchange programs at local high schools
  • Local charities including Sarah’s Guest House, CNY Honor Flight and more

More information and tickets can be found at 

McEuen, Loren Barrigar and Todd Hobin all play as part of the Sunrise Music Festival, Sunday, May 20th.
Credit Tom Honan/