Called “a world-class instrumentalist” by Sing Out!, the Baltimore-based Ken Kolodner is widely recognized as one of “one of today’s most accomplished, musical hammered dulcimer artists...” (Elderly) and a fine old-time fiddler. After years of touring as a soloist and in ensembles with the ground-breaking world music trio Helicon, Greenfire (with Bullock and Laura Risk), Scottish National Fiddle Champion Elke Baker, and many others, Kolodner has the great pleasure of performing with his son Brad along with Alex Lacquement and Rachel Eddy as The Ken and Brad Kolodner Quartet. The Old Time Herald writes “Father and son have reached that musical telepathy that family members can sometimes achieve. The blend of the hammered dulcimer and banjo is exceptional.” Sing Out! adds “There must be something special to that father-son thing!” In 2019, the quartet won first place among 40 bands from around the globe in the neo-traditional band contest at “Clifftop,” otherwise known as The Appalachian String Band Contest.
In the fall of 2022, Kolodner released two new recordings: a CD of his arrangements for two hammered dulcimers with Mary Lynn Michal: Out from the Shadows; and Live at the Winter Solstice Concert with Helicon and Friends (Ken Kolodner, Chris Norman, and Robin Bullock), with guests: The Ken & Brad Kolodner Quartet, Members of Charm City Junction, Alex Laquement, Sean McComiskey, Elke Baker, Rachel Eddy, and Jonathon Srour. Helicon’s first recording in over 20 years is a live recording of The 36th Annual Winter Solstice Concert from 2021.
Among Ken’s many other credits are a featured solo in an Emmy-nominated CBS-TV Christmas special with The Baltimore Choral Arts and The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, over twenty recordings with sales over 150,000 CDs, an “Indie” winner (Helicon’s A Winter Solstice Celebration), a #1 Billboard’s Charting World Music title (Walking Stones), a #4 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Chart (Stony Run) and various books on Appalachian fiddling and the hammered dulcimer.
Kolodner is a community builder. With his son Brad (clawhammer banjo, fiddle, vocals), the Kolodners have run for over 10 years the hugely popular Baltimore Old Time Jam which routinely attracts 50-75 players. The Kolodners are also the host band and curate and organize The Baltimore Old-time Music Festival, now in its 4th year. Ken founded the pre-eminent hammered dulcimer workshop in the U.S., The Sandbridge Hammered Dulcimer Retreats , a series of six weeks of masterclasses for 120+ players from the U.S. and beyond. Kolodner also runs The Sandbridge Old-time Fiddle Retreat. In the pandemic year of 2020, Ken continued The Sandbridge Retreats via Zoom for 185 players, produced two new recordings and the most comprehensive book on playing the hammered dulcimer (The Complete Guide to Playing the Hammered Dulcimer by Ken Kolodner with Mary Lynn Michal): Ken & Brad released their 4th CD together Stony Run; Ken and Elke Baker released their second CD (with music pals Robin Bullock & Alex Lacquement) - On a Cold Winter’s Day, featuring seasonal and winter-themed music from around the world.
Kolodner has toured extensively internationally and in nearly every state in the U.S. Notable performances include The Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, The Walnut Valley Festival, The Old Songs Festival, 37 years of Helicon’s Winter Solstice Concerts, The Winnipeg Folk Festival, and The Smithsonian Institute. Kolodner has shared the stage with Jean Ritchie, John McCutcheon, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Doc Watson, Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, and countless others. Ken’s playing has been described as “world-class” (Sing Out!), "nothing short of astonishing" (The Connection), “outstanding” (The New York Times), “marvelous” (The Washington Post), “virtuosic” (Audio), “stunning in its musicality” (Dulcimer Player News) and “not to be missed” (USA TODAY).
In another lifetime, Kolodner received a PhD at Johns Hopkins (1985) and worked part-time for many years as a consulting scientist. An avid soccer player, the 68-year-old Kolodner still gets out on the “pitch” a few days a week. Ken is also one of a handful of players of the exotic hammered mbira.
“...Outstanding...soulfully beautiful.” —NY Times
“...a fiddle and hammered dulcimer virtuoso...just the right amount of fire...totally delightful” —Sing Out, March 2005
“...A marvelous collection...delightful” —Washington Post, 2005
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