The mandolin has been turned into an instrument of melodic brilliance by
. A former member of
has continued to explore his six-stringed instrument on his solo albums and recordings with
. In addition to working with
Influenced as much by the Beatles
and Frank Sinatra
as he is by Bill Monroe
played guitar with his brother, Buster, in late-'60s garage bands. A trip to the 1972 Philadelphia Folk Festival proved to be the impetus for Baldassari
's switch to the mandolin.
After earning a bachelor's degree in music from the University of Scranton, Baldassari
moved to Las Vegas for post-graduate studies at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. While there, he befriended three musicians who were forming a tradition-rooted bluegrass band, Weary Hearts
, and he was invited to join. The group went on to win the International Band Competition held by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America in 1989. Their debut album, By Heart
, was released shortly afterwards.
Moving to Nashville in 1985, Baldassari
continued to explore the possibilities of the mandolin. While attending the Classical Mandolin Society convention in 1990, he conceived the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble
, an 11-piece group featuring mandola, mandocello, guitar, and bass. After four months of rehearsals, the band made its public debut at the Dark Horse Theater in Nashville in October 1991. Baldassari
has remained active with numerous outside projects. As a member of Lonesome Standard Time
from 1992 to 1996, he recorded three albums -- Lonesome River Band, Mighty Lonesome
, and Lonesome as It Gets
. Together with innovative bluegrass fiddler Richard Greene
and his band, the Grass Is Greener
recorded Wolves A' Howlin'
in 1996 and Sales Tax Toddle
in 1997. Baldassari
's musical career has been balanced by his work as a teacher. In addition to conducting bluegrass mandolin workshops in Nashville, he became the adjunct associate professor of mandolin at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music in 1996.