McKasson & McDonald
Ryan McKasson and Eric McDonald are masters of tradition who purposefully explore the dark corners floating on its edges. Their individual artistry is enhanced when together. In short, the sum creates a greater whole. The result is an alluring complexity, full of spontaneous musicality. Pulling from parallel strands of influence, they create a swirling level of intensity that traverses darkness, light, and everywhere in between. An air of mystery pervades a sound compelling enough to transcend boundaries and appeal to music lovers of all stripes. Devon Leger of Hearth Music says, “This duo really shows how two masterful musicians listen and play off each other.” The music this duo creates is to share, and live performance is the forte. Their mutual attitude stretches beyond the music. The two have been good friends ever since they met, and this is present in their live performances, which are full of organic banter and good humor to go along with the music. They create an environment of their own design, drawing in listeners without pretense. Despite both living active musical lives thousands of miles apart these two musicians have committed to working together to forge a new musical path.
“The bow drives across the strings, thick and throaty, creating a pulsing sound that feels more of muscle than tendon…a compositional sophistication that is cinematic, transporting, and tantalizingly modern”, wrote The Boston Globe. Ryan McKasson has gained a reputation as a performer, composer, collaborator, and teacher. In 1996 he was the youngest to win the National Scottish Fiddle Championship. In 1997 he was awarded a Merit Scholarship for Viola Performance from the University of Southern California where he studied with Donald McInnes.
Ryan started learning the violin at the age of 4. One of his early fiddle teachers was Carol-Ann Wheeler who encouraged Ryan to joined the Seattle Scottish Fiddlers, headed by Calum MacKinnon, where he first began to play Scottish fiddle. In 1994, he started attending Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School (VOM), where he met fiddler and teacher Alasdair Fraser, and joined a rather remarkable generation of musicians, many of whom have gone on to be notable performers and teachers.
In 2004 Ryan and his sister, Cali, formed a band, The McKassons, that eventually included Ryan’s wife, Brooke, and her brother, Matt Jerrell. The McKassons released two critically acclaimed albums, Tall Tales (2004) and Tripping Maggie(2006). Since 2002 he has also been fiddler for a renowned contra dance band, The Syncopaths. They have just released their second album, Five Gears.
Ryan has also been a member of a baroque/celtic/fusion combo, Ensemble Galilei. He helped co-write and co-produce First Person: Seeing America with them, a collaboration between Ensemble Galilei and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This multi-disciplinary project includes photographs from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, poetry and prose about America, and the music of Ensemble Galilei. He also recorded with Ensemble Galilei on A Change of Worlds (2012), and Surrounded by Angels: A Christmas Celebration With Ensemble Galilei (2013).
Ryan has recorded with Hanneke Cassel on her albums Silver, For Reasons Unseen, and Dot The Dragon’s Eye, and also with Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas on their album Highlander’s Farewell.
Ryan has also taught at fiddle camps around the US and New Zealand, most notably: Boston Harbor Scottish Fiddling School, Southern Hemisphere International School of Scottish Fiddle, Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School, Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp, and Swannanoa Gathering.
Eric McDonald has been a professional performer and instructor of traditional and acoustic music for a decade. The early part of his career was spent cutting his teeth as a mandolinist in the rich local folk and roots music scene in Boston MA. Most of his time was given to Passim, a non-profit arts organization in Cambridge with an enriching and formative community surrounding it. Later Eric attended Berklee College of Music where he studied under world renowned mandolinist & guitarist John McGann, as well as gaining a practical knowledge of music in many styles. His education continued post Berklee and he soon found a gateway into the realm of traditional music through playing for contra dances, a native form of New England folk dance derived primarily from a combination of English, Scottish, Irish and Acadian traditions. Following the path set before him, Eric’s quick ear and tasteful approach drew the interest of many around him and he found himself quickly in demand as a DADGAD guitar accompanist for musicians playing traditional music, finding a particular niche in the Scottish & Cape Breton realm. Inspired by the players around him, Eric dug deeper into the genre and developed a sincere appreciation for the music of the celtic folk revival in England, Ireland and Scotland during the 1960s and 70s. In 2014 Eric re-located to Portland, ME and began a new chapter. Now well established he maintains an active touring schedule, supplemented by recording sessions and a variety of teaching endeavors. In addition to Eric’s current projects some of his touring credits include celtic supergroup The Outside Track, hodge podge folk band The Dave Rowe Trio, up and coming Scottish fiddler Katie McNally, New England contra dance band Matching Orange, folk-pop outfit Pesky J. Nixon and renowned Cape Breton fiddlers Andrea Beaton & Wendy MacIsaac.