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 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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Episode 28 – Sylvia Miskoe

This episode Julie sits down with accordionist Sylvia Miskoe. A New Hampshire native, Sylvia first learned to dance at age 12 in 1947 and has been playing her accordion for decades, ever since college where she began playing for square and contra dancing. Today she plays for contra dancing and also Scottish and English country dance. In their conversation...

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Episode 27 – Betsy Branch

This episode Julie sits down with Pacific Northwest fiddler, teacher, and music editor Betsy Branch. Betsy is a versatile musician who loves to explore multiple genres of music. She got her start at age 5 in classical music, and then in her 20’s fell in love with fiddle music. She plays for contra and English Country Dances, and is...

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Episode 26 – Owen Morrison

This episode, Julie sits down with guitarist Owen Morrison known for his driving rhythm and virtuosic flat-picking in well-loved bands such as Elixir, The Figments, and the Morrison Brothers. They dive into Owen’s musical background growing up immersed in a musical family in the midst of a rich music and dance scene of Charlottesville, Virginia. They explore his tune-writing...

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