Billy Jonas Band / billy jonas

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About Billy

Biography

Biography
Some ask: "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Billy Jonas asks: “What is the sound of 600 sets of keys jingling on the downbeat? And how shall we inspire the audience to do it?”

For 25 years, Billy Jonas -- performer, singer-songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and educator -- has perfected the art of the neo-tribal hootenanny* with audiences around the globe. Using voice, guitar, and industrial re-percussion,* each concert is a soul-spelunking, heart healing, joy-filled journey.

“It began around an evening campfire in the summer of 1972 -- Leaving on a Jet Plane and Blowing in the Wind rising with the sparks into the darkness... communal singing, guitars strumming, and a bucket thumping the back beat. 40 summer campers and 8 counselors became one big, glorious, harmonizing being. I remember thinking: wouldn’t it be great to carry this ecstatic connectedness, and musical magic out into the world?”
- Billy

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Billy developed his craft in the late 1980‘s as a founding member of the Oberlin College Big Bang Theory performance art collective. He refined things further in Chicago during monthly “Bangalong with Billy” shows at the No Exit Cafe, and subsequently in the 1990‘s as a co-founder (with Bill Melanson) of the funky folk* duo The Billys. He currently tours with the Billy Jonas Band, which was honored with an invitation to perform at the White House in 2010.

Jonas has received numerous honors and awards, including an American Federation of Independent Musicians 1st place/Gold, multiple Parents Choice Golds, and a New York Times “Best” listing.*
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Originally from Chicago, Billy has lived in Asheville NC since 1991.


* = see FAQ and AWARDS on the sidebar.

For more info, or for booking, contact Susan@LoydArtists.com, 518.647.5916.

updated: 4 months ago

The Billy Jonas Band

Throw out the rules when the Billy Jonas Band hits the stage! It's a musical conversation… a sonic celebration … a splendiferous gathering of old and young, because at a Billy Jonas Band show, the ensemble is… everyone

The Billy Jonas Band

"My favorite instrument is the audience. I work to 'tribalize' the compositions … to create songs that provide an immediate opportunity for the listener to join in."– Billy Jonas


Fun for All Ages

The Billy Jonas Band loves to engage and delight both young and adult audiences. Whether performing for adults, families, school groups, faith communities, or a mix, they strive for a musical excellence that inspires, entertains, and moves people literally and figuratively. With "wild winded word magic" (Dirty Linen Magazine), homemade "industrial re-percussion" instruments, exquisite 3 and 4 part vocal harmonies, plus guitar and bass, they love to create community through song and story. Their specialty: finding and pushing your "wonder" button.

In 2010, the Billy Jonas Band was honored with a performance at the White House!


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BILLY JONAS:
(vocals, guitar, re-percussion) co-founded Oberlin's Big Bang Theory in the 80's, went on in the 90's to funky folk fame and fortune with The
Billys, and now with The Billy Jonas Band goes hummin' and strummin' and bangin' and sangin' across North America, promulgating homemade "industrial re-percussion," genre-bending "funky family folk," and the participatory joy of "everybody's in the band."




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ASHLEY JO FARMER: (vocals, re-percussion) – In turns soulful, sensual and humorous, Ashley adds an exciting vocal dimension to the Billy Jonas Band. She also leads The Ashley Jo Farmer Band (AJFB), political firebrands & festival favorites.

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SHERMAN HOOVER: (vocals, bass, re-percussion) – With a varied background in classical, jazz and progressive rock,
Sherman holds down the funky bottom for the band while adding innovative harmonies to the mix.


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JUAN HOLLADAY: (vocals, marimba, re-percussion) – Juan is a mover and a groover and adds sweet tenor harmonies. His band The Secret B Sides has been voted #1 soul/R&B band in Western NC for 3 years running!


For more info, or for booking, contact Susan@LoydArtists.com, 518.647.5916.



updated: 1 month ago

2016 #1 Best of WNC Kids Entertainer - Billy Jonas

Mountain Express, Asheville NC

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2015 Parents' Choice Gold Award

Album: "Build It Back Again"

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2013 1st Place Eco Arts Awards Creative Excellence

Song: "To Be One" from the album,"Happy Accidents"

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2009 Parents' Choice Gold Award

Album: "Happy Accidents"

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2009 USA Today's Top 10 Family Recordings

Album: "Happy Accidents"

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2004 Parents' Choice Silver Honor Award

DVD: "Everybody's In The Band"

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2002 1st Place Gold! American Federation of Independant Musicians Award

Album: "What Kind of Cat Are You?!"

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2002 Parents Choice Gold Award

Album: "What Kind of Cat Are You?!"

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2000 Parents' Choice Gold Award

DVD: "Bangin'& Sangin'

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1997 WINNER - "Road to Paradise" Ecological Songwriting Award

Song: "Some Houses"

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Frequently Asked Questions

(and frequent answers given!)

1. What is "Industrial Re-percussion?"

"Industrial Re-percussion" refers to musical instruments made from found, foraged, and recyclable objects, like pots, pans, tin cans, buckets, keys, and broomsticks

2. What is "Funky Folk Music?"

"Funky Folk Music" is genre-bending, style-blending singalongs, bangalongs, whisperalongs, soundscapes, and improvisations, using a quirky mix of traditional and conventional instruments as well as industrial re-percussion.

3. What is a "Neo-tribal Hootenanny?"

A "Neo-tribal Hootenanny" is a gloriously participatory musical gathering, featuring funky folk music, and whatever else seems to fit! It can happen anywhere, anytime, with anyone, and anything.


4. How/when/why did you get the idea of playing on recycled instruments and involving the audience?


Phase One: It all began at summer camp, around the campfire, where, just as in a tribal culture, the lines were blurred between performer and audience - everybody was part of the band! Guitars, a harmonica, buckets, sticks, rocks, and everybody singing together - Heaven!

Phase Two: In high school and college most of my friends were not musicians, yet they wanted to play, so we had massive ‘kitchen jams,’ playing pots and pans with chopsticks. In college (Oberlin, in Ohio) we turned it into a band, ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ a voice and percussion ensemble using all found objects and homemade instruments.

Phase Three: After college I began writing songs and playing them at coffee houses and ‘open stages.’ I would present them raw, with just one water bottle drum and my voice, imagining that if they worked in this striped down form, they were worthy to develop into full blown songs with guitar or other traditional instruments, but the response to the songs in this initial raw form was so strong, and the smiles were so big, that I realized they were often complete as they were. I was also imagining that when the songs were finished they would have a full band playing and singing them. To approximate that, I would give simple parts out to the audience. Again, they were so much fun in this experimental form that that often became the final form of the song.


5. What was the first instrument you learned to play & when?

Piano at five years old, guitar at eight, trombone at ten. No discipline though, so I graduated to pots and pans in high school.


6. What is it about your music, do you think, that has such a universal appeal? It's especially striking how it seems to span generations, from toddlers to senior citizens.

Enthusiasm and joy - everybody can relate to that. The participatory aspect makes it extremely inclusive, and the homemade / recyclable instruments make the songs and performances universally accessible -- everybody says “hey, I could do that!”


7. Where did you grow up? Did you come from a musical background (other family members musicians, etc.)?

I grew up in Chicago. Many people in my family have been extremely musical - my great grandfather was a cantor in a synagogue in Germany.


8. Did you always know you wanted to be a musician? If you weren't playing music, what would your second career choice be?

I knew from early on that I wanted music to be a big part of my life, but I wasn’t sure it would be a career until it started to be. If I wasn’t a musician, I’d be involved with camps and environmental education or languages.


9. Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

Joni Mitchell, Harry Partch, Parliament-Funkadelic, Igor Stravinsky, Jimi Hendrix, Maurice Ravel, Spike Jones, Pete Seeger


10. If you had to place your music in a certain genre, what would you call it?

"Turn-of-the-21st century neo-tribal hootenanny music," or "funky folk music," for short.


11. Do you have a favorite song of all time -- either yours or somebody else's?

My favorite ‘piece’ of all time is Igor Stavinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring;’ My favorite song of all time is ‘Cactus’ by Ferron.

updated: 4 months ago

“…witty, smart, raw.”
- New York Times

"...irresistible... my face hurts from smiling."
- Alison Krauss


"…the arch-elf of American music…"
- Charleston Gazette

"Billy Jonas is one of the most original, moving and simultaneously hilarious performers I've ever seen. Each song enters an unexpected world of its own, creates a film, a state of being, an unexpected. seemingly extemporaneous story; your story and mine, seen through the brilliant lens of Billy's muse and loving heart.”
- Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary)

"Some of the best family music I’ve ever heard.”
- Ezra Idlet (Trout Fishing in America)

“…lush talent … musically rich … hilarious … lovely … a near perfect blend of great music and playfully educational messages.”
- Parent’s Choice

“Billy Jonas is a multi-layered, percussion-driven, tribal rhythm, urban harmony and folk music maestro.”
- Ear Candy

"He engages the audience with a wild assortment of rhythm and word play that usually leaves them both entertained, and a little more in touch with their spiritual selves. He teaches, through experience, that music is everywhere."
- Sing Out! Magazine

“… exquisite craft!”
- Sing Out! Magazine

“… wild winded word magic!”
- Dirty Linen Magazine

“… great live show!”
- David Dye, World Café

“…you cant help but sing along!”
- Performing Songwriter Magazine

"While others … have tried to distinguish themselves with fashion or gimmicks, Billy Jonas uses genuine originality and a style that evolved naturally from his experience, to create memorable music that is both intellectually fascinating and frequently danceable, all the while avoiding the cliches."
- George Graham (public radio host/music reviewer)

… first class … compelling, humorous, beautiful and brilliant! … the highlight of our season.”

-Ron Clearfield, Conductor, Blue Ridge Orchestra



updated: 1 month ago

"It's like nothing you've ever heard and yet it immediately becomes part of your playlist. In an era where music is predictable and formulaic, Billy Jonas breaks the mold and captures your heart...forever"
- Craig Taubman

" ... a 'jaw dropper!' ... truly extraordinary, explosively creative, hilarious and consummately authentic. Billy stirs my soul ... he's one of a kind.
- Rick Recht, performer

“... take(s) people to a place of both depth and joy ... to capture wonder and take spiritual risks.”
- Cantor Ellen Dreskin, HUC-JIR, NY

"Congratulations on a job well done! What an awesome night!"
- Cantor Rebecca Robins, Temple Sinai, Washington DC

“... Billy raised spirits all over our congregation.... he has a gift for engaging people and drawing them into worship....”
- Rabbi Leah Lewis, Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot, Irvine CA

“Billy’s performances are highlights for our program, and the kids keep singing his songs all summer.”
- Seth Kellam, JCC Youth Director, Asheville NC

“...A true gift to the world of Jewish music.”
- Elana Jagoda, Peninsula Temple Beth El, San Mateo CA

“Billy Jonas Band ... is an amazing mix of talent, energy, education, spirit, and fun all rolled into one..... Great with the adult audience at an evening show, and great with the children’s show the next day.”
- Rabbi Neal Katz, Congregation Beth El, Tyler TX

updated: 1 month ago

Q & A With Billy Jonas: Recycled Instruments and Jewish Summer Camp Influences

By Melissa Apter

This excerpt appeared in the Tikvat Israel Jan-Feb 2017 Newsletter Issue. We are sharing this article with permission of Tikvat Israel Congregation, Rockville, Md.

updated: 2 months ago

A Spiritual Nomad Explores a Familiar Home

by Johanna Ginsberg

A Spiritual Nomad Explores a Familiar Home

updated: 2 months ago

The It Guy

by Daniel Hazzan Gross

The It Guy

updated: 6 months ago

Article: Recycling His Roots

by Matt Robinson

Article Recycling His Roots

updated: 6 months ago

Article: Billy Jonas: Creating Much More than Music

by Lauren Rosenfeld

Article Billy Jonas Creating Much More than Music

updated: 6 months ago