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Slim Harrison - Sunnyland Music: Biography

SLIM HARRISON - SUNNYLAND MUSIC & MULTICULTURAL ARTS: For over 40 years, Slim has performed at Schools and Festivals, Hoedowns & Throwdowns all over North America and around the world. Slim has had the privilege of performing with Pete Seeger, Bud & Ola Belle Reed, John Jackson, Patsy Montana, Blind Rev. Pearly Brown, Ella Jenkins, Jean Ritchie, John "Kinderman" Taylor, Ralph Lee Smith, Guy Davis, and numerous other musicians at festivals, conferences, hoedowns, house concerts & street corners.

Slim is at home on the Main Stage or back porch, leading a march at the White House with Caesar Chavez or a "Jugband Parade" with his children's participatory jugband, "The Sunnyland Band". He builds banjos & dulcimers in his workshop at Sugartree Farm & leads workshops with special needs children making stomper-doodles or whammy-diddles. He calls dances in his barn and the Inaugural Barn Dance, as well as a country wedding in Estonia and even a barn dance for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.

Considered a "Self-taught" multi-instrumentalist, storyteller & dance caller, Slim says that he, "learned a little bit from everyone I met as I traveled around this great country!" His greatest joy is sharing the music & dances of America with children & adults. He is a "Master Artist" with the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts and full-time "Artist in Residence" with the Maryland State Arts Council - Artists in Education & Touring Artists Programs.

CONCERTS: Slim's school concerts, titled: "Exploring the Roots of American Folk Music", teach children about the many cultures that brought different flavors to the American Musical Gumbo. Students are given an opportunity to join the "Sunnyland Band" and play along on spoons, jugs, washboards, skiffleboards, limberjacks, washtub bass, PA Dutch “stumpf-fiddles”, African tambourines, Cajun frattrois, Native American whammy-diddles, Chinese "gao" bead drums, Latin maracas, castanuelas & guiros.

Slim also performs Nationally & Internationally, either solo or with the "Barnstormers" (see links) and the "Rock Candy Cloggers" in concerts, residencies, festivals, barn dances, conferences and concert series.

ARTIST IN RESIDENCE PROGRAMS: Workshop Residencies teach how to make & play various instruments as well as teaching regional folk dances for an All School Hoedown where the students become the band while Mr. Slim calls the figures for an Afri'lachian Hoedown/Fiesta. In the evening, a Family Hoedown gets the whole family out on the floor dancing!

FESTIVALS: Performances include “Good Old Time Mountain Music” with the “Barnstormers String Band” and/or the “Sunnyland Band”, a jug band where kids get to play in the band as well as dance & sing along. The "Rock Candy Cloggers" often perform with both the Barnstormers & the Sunnyland Band. Slim provides accompaniment with Fiddle, Banjo, Resophonic Guitar, Jaws Harp, Spoons, Jug and his one of a kind “Kazooafone” which has 3 harmonicas, 4 Kazoos, dual airhorns, duck call and a siren whistle! If time allows, Slim often slips in a tune on the Mountain Dulcimer, Hammer Dulcimer, Autoharp, Mandolin, or Native American Mouthbow.

BARN DANCES & HOEDOWNS: Slim is also and accomplished Dance caller and Clogger and leads even the greenest beginners in some simple hoedown dances: Virginia Reel, Zodiac, Alabama Gals, Texas Star and even the Cotton Eyed Joe! Slim can even teach the “Mason Dixon Clogging Style” in 3 easy steps!

THE PEACEWEAVERS: Slim Harrison & Brynda Ambush Harrison present a residency program through the Maryland State Arts Council which includes an introductory concert of "Songs & Stories of Peace from Around the World", several workshops where the children create a "Peaceweavers' Wheel" (see photo) and learn stories, dances & songs to perform for the rest of the school at a final concert.




OBJECTIVE: To preserve America's rich Multi-Ethnic Heritage of Traditional Folk Music, Stories, and Dances by sharing them with children's & adult's audiences locally, nationally, and globally. To foster ethnic awareness in order to increase cooperation and non-violent conflict resolution.


1982-Present  WOLF TRAP INSTITUTE FOR EARLY LEARNING THROUGH THE ARTS -Artist in Residence; Headstart/Pre-K & Kindergarten Classes, Workshop Instructor-"ARTSPLAY" Teacher Training Workshops. Teaches WOLF TRAP HEADSTART and HIGHSCOPE curriculum through American and World folk music, stories, & dances. Conducts residency programs & "ARTSPLAY"- Teacher Training Workshops as a part of National Arts Education programs of Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts. Created "World Beat" & "Multicultural Roots" programs.  Aug. '94-Selected as "Master Artist" to lead Teachers' Workshops and Classroom Residencies in schools and at Wolf Trap Institute, Kennedy Center, and nationwide.   Jan. ’06-Selected as one of 5 Master Artists to begin Wolf Trap Education programs in Elementary Education.  Aug ’07 commissioned as one of 5 Master Artists to create “Small Bites” program nationally.  July 2011 featured performer for Wolf Trap Institute's 30th Anniversary Celebration. October 2013 Chosen as Wolf Trap STEM Master Artist to create and implement Arts Integrated STEM Science & Engineering Residencies.

1982-Present  MD STATE ARTS COUNCIL-ARTIST IN EDUCATION/ARTIST IN RESIDENCE:  Performing Artist in Schools throughout State of Maryland.  Performing Artist in Residence, one or two week residencies. Also: Artist in Residence for VERY SPECIAL ARTS OF MARYLAND.  Uses a "down-home, country style" approach in teaching American Folk Music, Stories, and Dances with focus on "Multi-Ethnic Roots".  Invites audience participation and direct, "hands-on" experiences.  Instruments include: fiddle & fiddlesticks, banjo, autoharp, jaws harp, guitar, slide guitar, songbow, mountain dulcimer, hammer dulcimer, washtub bass, spoons, whammy-diddle, limberjack, etc.   Program titles include: "Exploring the Roots of American Folk Culture", "African Roots of American Folk Culture", "Sunnyland Band", "Peaceweavers Wheel" w/Brynda Ambush Harrison & "Instrument Building Residencies".

1979-Present  SUNNYLAND MUSIC AND MULTICULTURAL ARTS: Founder and Owner, Self-taught Musician, Educator, Storyteller, Folk Instrument Builder, Performer, and Dance Caller.  Builds, sells and performs on Traditional American Folk Instruments including banjos, Mt. dulcimers, zithers, whammy-diddles, limberjacks, etc. Sponsors festivals, barn dances, field trips, and workshops on his historic 18th Century working farm.   Performs as a folk musician, barn dance caller, and storyteller at festivals, conferences, schools, community functions, and barn dances throughout Maryland, the U.S., and Overseas.

1978-1979 VERMONT COUNCIL ON THE ARTS: Community Artist-in-Residence.  Taught Traditional American Folk Music, Stories, and Dances to children and adults in Public Schools, Community Centers, County Jail and Vermont Achievement Center (for children with physical, emotional, and mental challenges). At V.A.C., worked in partnership with the Music Therapist for a full school year.



1971 UNITED FARMWORKERS FESTIVAL, Washington, D.C. (Guitarist & Singing w/Cesar Chavez)

1972 KOINONIA FARM CELEBRATION, Americus, GA (Performed with Rev. Pearly Brown)

1973 THUNDER BAY FESTIVAL, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada (Children’s Concert & Dance)

1974 BRANDYWINE FESTIVAL, Brandywine, PA -invited to perform with Ola Belle Reed and Family

1976 SMITHSONIAN FOLKLIFE FEST, Wash., D.C.-Slim & Boots invited to perform with John Jackson

1977-2003 INTERDEPENDENCE DAY FEST, Farm & Wilderness, VT (Band Leader & Dance Caller)

1977-1979 NEW ENGLAND FOLK FEST, Dartmouth Univ., Hanover, NH w/F&W String Band (Band Leader & Dance Caller)

1979-2009 SUGARTREE MAYFEST & SUGARTREE FALL FROLIC/HOEDOWN, Sugartree Farm, Emmitsburg, MD -Dance Caller with "Piney Mountain String Band".

1980 DANCE CALLER FOR  U.S. SUMMER OLYMPIC TEAM, Wash, D.C. ( with "Double Decker String Band")

1982 SMITHSONIAN HOLIDAY CELEBRATION, “The Barnstormers” Slim, Tom Jolin, Dave Milefsky & Fred Paul

1984 & 86  INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN'S FEST, Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA (Performer/Caller) with "The Sunnyland Band"

1985 METROPOLITAN LEARNING CENTER, Portland, OR, (Artist in Residence/Dance Caller)

1985-1986 ARTSCAPE FESTIVAL OF PERFORMING ARTS, Baltimore, MD (Featured Performer with the Sunnyland Band)

1986, 98, 02, 16  JOHN F. KENNEDY CENTER FOR PERFORMING ARTS, Washington, D.C. (Featured Performer)

1986-1987 DEER CREEK FIDDLER'S CONTEST AND FESTIVAL, Westminster, MD (Fiddle Judge)

1987 MANAGUA CULTURAL ARTS CENTER, Nicaragua, C.A. (Cultural Exchange Performing Artist)

1988-91 WINTERSONG FEST, Frederick, MD-Co-Founder, Performer/Caller with John McCutcheon & the Barnstormers and with Patsy Montana, Piney Mountain and Critton Hollow String Band

1989 WINTERHAWK FESTIVAL, Hillsdale, NY (Featured Children's Performer with The Sunnyland Band)

1996 HALSINGE HAMBO FESTIVAL, Jarvso, Halsingland, Sweden (fiddled w/Cousin Jan Lilja)

1998 SMITHSONIAN HOLIDAY CELEBRATION, Performed with the Sunshine Skiffle Band, Washington, D.C.

1998-2000 MICHIGAN-AEYC CONFERENCE, Grand Rapids, Michigan  (Workshop Instructor, Dance Caller & Performer

1999-2004 INTERNATIONAL WASHBOARD FESTIVAL, Logan, Ohio: Workshop Instructor & Performer (with Sunnyland Washboard Band)

2001-2019 COMMON GROUND'S AMERICAN ROOTS MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL, Westminster, MD:  Mt Dulcimer & African Gourd Banjo Construction, Autoharp & Jugband Instructor, Dance Caller, Festival Performer.

2002 ASSOCIATION OF EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATORS NAALA CONFERENCE, Rosebud Lakota Reservation- (Performances and Peaceweavers’ Wheel Workshop-Slim & Brynda Ambush Harrison)

2003-2019 EARTH DAY FESTIVAL-Waynesboro, PA: "Sunnyside Slim & the Sunnyland Solar Skiffle Band"

2004 INTERNATIONAL CHILD ART FESTIVAL AND CONFERENCE, Wash., D.C. (Peaceweaver’s Wheel with Brynda Harrison)

2006 VILJANDI FOLK FEST, Viljandi, Estonia –sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Estonia -Performer & Dance Caller with the Barnstormers.

2006 & '08 AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE & CONCERTS “The Barnstormers” Slim Harrison & Tom Jolin

2006-2009 WESTERN MARYLAND BLUES FEST- Featured Children’s performer with "The Sunnyland Band"

2008 GERMANY TOUR -Rudolstadt & Moelln Festivals, Schools & Concerts  with “Das Barnstormers” & "RockCandy Cloggers"

2009 ERIE BLUES & JAZZ FESTIVAL-Erie, PA: Barnstormers & Rock Candy Cloggers and the Sunnyland Band featured performers.

2010 INTERNATIONAL ART & IDEAS CONFERENCE AND FESTIVAL-Yale University, New Haven, CN: Slim Harrison and the Sunnyland Band, featured Children's performers.

2010 SOLAR FEST-Vermont: "Sunnyside Slim & Sunnyland Solar Skiffle Band" -Performer/Workshop Leader

2010- 2019 APPALACHIAN FEST AND CONFERENCE: Frostburg State Univ.-Slim with the Barnstormers & RockCandy Cloggers, Featured performers, dance caller, workshop leader.

2011 SPRINGING THE BLUES FESTIVAL-Jacksonville, Florida: "Sunnyside Slim & the Sunnyland Blues Band"

2012 JOURNEY THROUGH HALLOWED GROUND CONFERENCE-Gettysburg, PA: Keynote Speaker and Solo Historical Performance.

2009 & 2013 INAUGURAL BARN DANCE- The Barnstormers & South Mountain String Band, with Slim Calling. 

2014 & 2015 MARYLAND TRADITIONS FESTIVAL- Baltimore, MD: The Barnstormers & RockCandy Cloggers.

2015 FOX HAVEN STORYFEST- Featured Storyteller & Barn Dance Caller with the Barnstormers.

2016 SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE- Concerts with the RockCandy Cloggers and the Sunnyland Skiffle Band.

1989-2019 CHESTERTOWN COLONIAL FEST- Family Stage & Main Stage performances with RockCandy Cloggers

2018 SUSQUEHANNA FOLK FEST-  Harrisburg, PA: Featured performer with the Sunnyland Skiffle Band

2019 Wolf Trap STEM Expo at Univ. of DC-Featured performer with Sunnyland Band & recycled instruments.

2015, 2017 & 2019 New Jersey Hot Air Balloon Festival- Featured performer with the Sunnyland Skiffle Band


January 1994 "HOWIE AWARD" Howard Co. Arts Council "Outstanding Artist of 1994"

June 1995 The Barnstormers selected to perform at "A TASTE OF TENNESSEE" Celebration at the Vice President's Mansion in Washington, D.C., hosted by Al & Tipper Gore for International Ambassadors to the U.S.

December 1999 Invited by JCAC to create "SEEDS OF PEACE" program & the "PEACEWEAVERS WHEEL" in recognition of United Nations "Decade for the Culture of Peace & Non-violence" .

December 2002 Invited to perform with Pete Seeger & Tao Rodriegez Seeger at The Kennedy Center's "Tribute to Pete Seeger".

October 2005 Nominated for Maryland Governor’s Art Educators Award for “Arts Educator of the Year”

July 2006 Barnstormers selected as featured performers at Viljandi Folk Fest in Estonia, a celebration of the “Singing Revolution” in the Baltic Countries. Sponsor: U.S. Embassy in Estonia.

January 2007 The Barnstormers are selected for inclusion in Penn PAT “Touring Artists Roster”

July 2008 Featured performers at Moelln & Rudolstadt World Folk Festivals, also performed at schools & Community concerts in Germany (The Barnstormers & RockCandy Cloggers)

Jan 2009 Invited to perform at President Obama's Inaugural Barn Dance with South Mountain String Band

February 2009 Selected for inclusion in MD/DC “Touring Artists Roster” as a solo artist and with The Barnstormers, The RockCandy Cloggers & The Sunnyland Band

July 2010 Featured performer at Solar Fest in Vermont with the "Sunnyland Solar Skiffle Band"

April 2011 Featured Performer at "Springing the Blues Fest" in Jacksonville, Florida-"Sunnyside Slim & the Sunnyland Blues Band"

July/August 2011 Selected for 21st Century "Teaching Artist Institute Fellowship"

August 2011 Featured Performer at Wolf Trap Institute's 30th Anniversary Celebration at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

August 2012 Chosen as Keynote Speaker and Historical Performer to Kick-off the "Journey Through Hallowed Ground" in Gettysburg, PA

Jan 2013 selected to perform at President Obama's 2nd Inaugural Barn Dance-Performer & Dance Caller with the Barnstormers and South Mountain String Bands.

Oct 2013 Chosen as Wolf Trap STEM Master Artist to create and implement Arts Integrated STEM Science & Engineering Residencies for Teacher Training programs.

2013-2014 Selected by the MD Traditions program for a year-long Clogging Apprenticeship to Master Artist, Rock Howland, culminating in a performance at the Maryland Traditions Festival.

Earth Day 2014 Received the "Environmental Artistry Award" from Renfrew Institute for Environment & Culture.

Sept 2015 Recognized by Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts for over 30 years of service as a MD/DC/VA Teaching Artist and Master Artist Nationally.

Dec 2017 Chosen to represent the MD State Arts Council at their 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Arts.

Feb 2019 Artist in Residence (American Folk Music & Dance) at American Embassy School in New Delhi, India