Welcome to the Contra Pulse Project, a series of interviews with contra musicians about contra music.

As you walk up the steps to the dance hall, you can already hear the strains of the piano and fiddle slipping out into the night. Then you open the doors; see the roomful of dancers and hear that glorious music in full – propelling everyone on the dance floor. It’s uplifting, it’s energetic, it’s fun, it makes us move, it brings us together.

Where does contra music come from? Why does it sound the way it does? How has it changed over time? In this project, we will be attempting to take the pulse of contra music today through a series of conversations between host Julie Vallimont and prominent contra musicians from all corners.  Join us in this journey through music, dance, time, space, and community.

Episode 34 – Amy Larkin

This episode, Julie sits down with fiddler Amy Larkin of Falmouth, MA - a quintessential part of the New England contra dance scene playing in too many bands and musical groups to count: Uncle Gizmo, Heyday, LocoMojo, Mr. Spanky, to name a few and a Cajun Zydeco band with her husband, Jonathan Larkin. Amy talks about her formative experiences...

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Episode 33 – Sam Bartlett

Julie sits down with musician, composer, cartoonist, and stuntologist Sam Bartlett. As a musician Sam plays in the Irish and old-time American traditions on the tenor banjo, mandolin, and jaw harp and he has been a huge part of reshaping the face of modern contra dance music. He got his start as a dance musician playing with iconic bands...

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Episode 32 – Larry Unger

This episode, Julie sits down with multi-instrumentalist and composer Larry Unger. Larry has been a full-time musician since 1984, and he has presented a diverse range of music at contra, Scottish and English dances, music camps, festivals, coffee houses and concerts all across North America and abroad. You might have heard his guitar, banjo, or...

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Episode 31 – Karina Wilson

This episode, Julie sits down with fiddler, teacher, composer, and explorer Karina Wilson. Born into a contradance family, she was dancing to the fiddle in the womb and music and dance have been her north star since before time began. Growing up she avidly studied classical violin through her childhood and youth and fostered an everlasting love affair with...

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Episode 30 – Jeff Spero

This episode, Julie sits down with pianist, caller, dance choreographer, and west-coaster Jeff Spero. Jeff has been playing piano and singing since he was five years old. At a young age he discovered an affinity for popular music and later brought his rhythmic style to American and Celtic folk and dance music. Now he plays dances, concerts and festivals...

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Episode 29 – Doug Protsik

This episode, Julie sits down with multi-instrumentalist and long-time director of Maine Fiddle Camp Doug Protsik. Doug likes to play the “old-time piano” for dances, melodramas, honky tonk saloons, and silent movies. He’s a founding member of the band Old Grey Goose and has toured the world as a musical ambassador for the US State Department. In their conversation over...

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