Bob Dalsemer and Firefly

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Bob Dalsemer

With more than 40 years of calling experience and exceptional teaching skills, Bob Dalsemer is one of the country’s most versatile dance callers.  His repertoire includes a wide range of American contras, squares, and circles as well as English and Danish dances. He has called in 35 states, Canada, England, Belgium, Denmark, Russia and the Czech Republic. Many of Bob’s original contras are danced  throughout the country.

Bob is a native of Baltimore where he started a neighborhood dance group that became part of the Baltimore Folk Music Society which he co-founded in 1975. From 1990-1996 he served as President of The Country Dance and Song Society. In 1991 Bob moved from Baltimore to Brasstown, NC to become Coordinator of Music and Dance Programs at the John C. Campbell Folk School, an  administrative position he held for 22 years until retiring last year. While at the Folk School, Bob instituted  an annual training course for dance callers (which he continues to teach) and another for dance musicians. He has been a primary teacher and program developer for the Mountain Folk Festival at Berea Kentucky, an annual weekend for middle school and high school age dancers, since 2000. In 2012 Bob was awarded the CDSS Lifetime Contribution award.

Bob has published a number of books, articles and recordings.  His book West Virginia Square Dances was termed “one every serious caller/leader should have” by the late Ralph Page. His square dance recordings Smoke On the Water:  Square Dance Classics and When The Work’s All Done:  A Square Dance Party For Beginners and Old Hands have influenced a whole new generation of callers. Folk Dance Fun for Schools and Families was published in 1995 by the John C. Campbell Folk School with support from the North Carolina Arts Council.

FIREFLY is a force of nature and nurture: a band celebrating sweet mother and daughter vocal harmonies. The band began in the mid 1980‘s as friends and daughters, casually singing acapella four part harmony for the sheer pleasure of it. Over the last
FireflyPR201220 years, Firefly has developed into a full instrumental string band of twin fiddles, guitar and bass, with shimmering harmony singing still glowing at its core. Firefly specializes in reinterpreting older music of the rural and urban south: Appalachian fiddle tunes, gospel, blues, swing, and old time country.


Pearl Shirley grew up in Black Mountain, NC, soaking up traditional Appalachian music and dance from her family. She picked up a tiny violin at age 5, and since then has fiddled her way through hundreds of foot-stomping contra dances and folk concerts. Pearl toured with the popular contra dance band Mock Turtle Soup from Santa Barbara to D.C., to England and beyond. She currently performs with the acclaimed old-time band Blue Eyed Girl and teaches Cape Breton percussive step dancing. Pearl is a school teacher and is the daughter of Julia.


Fiery and precocious, Laurel has been singing professionally from age 9, starting with Dolly Parton classics and swing standards learned from her musician parents. From these early influences she branched out to include musicians as diverse as Keb Mo and Lucinda Williams. Individualizing songs with her own trademark style came as naturally to her as playing the upright bass, which she picked up in high school. In addition to Firefly she has played with Mock Turtle Soup, the Bob Willoughby Trio, Blue Eyed Girl, The Who Alls, High Heeled Sneakers, and Owen Morrison. She traveled to Alnwick England to perform at their international music festival in 2005, and has toured the Southeast playing contra dances and house concerts. Peggy Seeger has described Laurel’s singing as “thoughtful, beautiful and inspired.” Laurel is an ultrasound technician and is the daughter of Barbara.


For 13 seasons Julia played cello with the Asheville Symphony, meanwhile moonlighting as a traditional dance fiddler. She was the artistic director of the legendary Black Mountain Festival from 1986-1993. Among her performance and teaching venues: the LEAF, the Black Mountain Festival, Berea Country Dance School, Pinewoods, Moondance, The Gypsy Meltdown, Folkmoot International. Currently, Julia plays cello with the highly acclaimed Akira Satake Band, performs with Far Horizons and Fly by Night at regional contra and square dances, and performs solo cello at The Biltmore Estate, and at various venues for weddings and special events. She is the logistics director at the Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College and the coordinator of Fiddle Week for that same event. Julia has recorded on CDs of various artists, and in 2004 she released her own acclaimed debut CD, The View from Here. Julia is an artist and member of the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild and is the mother of Pearl.


Barbara ‘s signature swing rhythm on a 1960 Gibson f-hole guitar is the driving beat behind the band. She moved to the mountains of North Carolina from the flatlands of Florida in 1980, and has been playing old time music ever since. Barbara has performed at festivals and dance weekends across the south (LEAF, Black Mountain Festival, Birmingham, Atlanta, Charleston). Moonlighting as a Mediator and Collaborative Lawyer, Barbara’s led numerous professional skill-building workshops. Ten years ago, while riding their bikes across the southern US, Barbara and Julia played music and sang for their supper all the way from Florida to California. Barbara is Laurel’s mom.

We are eager to welcome Bob Dalsemer, Pearl, Laurel, Julia and Barbara to Coos County!