Links of interest

contact Gypsy Stars


mostly traditional, all fun contra dance music with a gypsy flair!

picture: l-r Paula Bickham, Paul Epstein, Rita Ray


Contrarians (Paul's other contra-dance band)

FOOTMAD (our home folk and dance org)

Paul's homepage

Paul's CD's: Listen and buy at CD Baby









The Gypsy Stars started as a band dedicated to bringing the traditional New England contra dance sound of fiddle and piano to West Virginia. Paula Bickham’s accordion and hand drums add a distinctive gypsy-like flavor that allows them to play a little around the edges of the tradition. Rita Ray plays a solid, yet imaginative piano accompaniment.

The Gypsy Stars have been playing Contra dances since at least 2005, mostly for FOOTMAD, but since the band does not have an official historian, they can't say for sure...

Who We Are:

Paul Epstein has been playing music as an avocation for over 35 years in different bands. He is a prolific writer of songs and tunes and has three CDs of his own and one with Contrarians. He fiddles with the Contrarians, a popular contra dance band that has delighted dancers from NY to GA, Washington D.C. to Asheville, NC.

Rita Ray had talked for years about getting back to the piano when she retired as director of WV Public Broadcasting. Some time early in the 21st century, she decided not to wait, and played her first public dance with the Gypsy Stars in 2005. And now that she's retired, she spends big chunks of time getting better and better!

Paula J. Bickham, Ph.D. has a life-long involvement with music, learning piano at the age of nine and playing for 12 years. She took up accordion when she lived and worked in Louisiana . Recently she has been playing Traditional Celtic and Appalachian music on it with the Gypsy Stars. For over twenty years, she has also focused on hand-drumming and rhythms from West Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

She studied with Babatundi Olatunji, Gordy Ryan, Barry Bernstein, Ubaka Hill, Arthur Hull, Yaya Diallo, Mamady Keita and most recently, Jim Donavan.
She performed on a nationally distributed public television film, Multi-cultural Dance in 2001 and has recorded with various musicians. Her newest collaboration is with Joe Dinwitty, on his new CD, Solstice Shuffle, which combines hand-drumming with banjo picking! In addition, she has contributed musically throughout the years to the Dances of Universal Peace.

Therapeutically, she has worked with challenged children at the Methodist Children’s Home in Ruston, Louisiana. She continued using drums with K-12 aged children at the Marshall University Graduate College Summer Enrichment program. As the Clinical Director at the Marshall University Community Clinical Services Center, she trained and supervised graduate students using drumming as a therapeutic approach. Since 2009, she has developed a drum program for Good Living, an assisted living residential home in Malden, West Virginia.



March 16, 2013: East End Pub Crawl 7-10 pm at Bluegrass Kitchen, Charleston, WV

March 28, 2013: Fundraiser for Friends of Blackwater, Charleston Women's Club, 5:30-7:30 pm. 

Gypsy Stars on You Tube!




about the picture: we marched up Blair Mountain to protest Mountain Top Removal in the summer of 2011. L-R: Rita, Paul, Paula