FOOTMAD (our home folk and
CD's: Listen and buy
at CD Baby
Gypsy Stars started as a band dedicated to bringing the traditional
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.
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:
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
NY to GA, Washington D.C. to Asheville, NC.
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!
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
and rhythms from West Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle
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
with banjo picking! In addition, she has contributed
musically throughout the years to the Dances of Universal
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
Clinical Services Center, she trained and supervised
students using drumming as a therapeutic approach.
Since 2009, she has developed a drum program for Good
an assisted living residential home in Malden, West