As a young girl, Barb Blasch was fascinated watching her Aunt Carol play the piano, as well as observing the organist at church. She was amazed at how fast that musicians’ fingers moved over the keys! Thanks to a gift from her Aunt Donna, Barb began taking piano lessons at the age of ten from Sister Marie St. Claire of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Park Hills, Kentucky. While still in high school, Barb served as the pianist/accompanist for the high school chorus as well as playing percussion in the marching/concert band. Although offered a full music scholarship to Kentucky Wesleyan College to study piano, she chose Georgetown College, where she studied music and math. Upon graduation, Barb continued her education at NKU’s Chase College of Law, graduating in 1987. Over the years she has given piano and guitar lessons and has played for weddings and private parties. She is currently the organist for St. Jerome church, and teaches music to Kindergarten through 8th grades as well as Algebra at St. Peter in Chains school in Hamilton, Ohio. Barb has her brother, Gil Benson, to thank for pushing her to learn guitar and get into “bluegrass” music more than 17 years ago. In Skirt & Boots she plays guitar and sings both lead and harmony vocals.
Like Barb, Janice Brown also studied piano as a child and has always had a love for music. In high school she was named Miss Music her senior year. Prior to Skirt and Boots, Janice was a member of the Sweet Adeline’s Choir before deciding to learn how to play the fiddle. She has only been playing violin for about eight years, taking lessons from Kitty McIntyre of Vernon McIntyre and the Appalachian Grass, and from Gil Benson. A couple years ago she began playing guitar and is now focusing on improving her claw-hammer banjo technique. Janice takes her inspiration from all genres of music, which in turn helps give Skirt and Boots their diversified Americana style. Janice sings both lead and harmony vocals for Skirt and Boots, and plays fiddle, guitar and clawhammer banjo.
Trina Emig began studying Scruggs style banjo with Vernon McIntyre in 1988. By 1990 she was teaching banjo and touring and performing nationally with Vernon McIntyre’s Appalachian Grass. She has also played with Kentucky 31, Missy Werner, Katie Laur’s All-Girl Bluegrass band, Ma Crow, Devon Johnson, Will Kimble, and many others. Several of these bands were multi-nominees for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards during her time with them. She also played drums and recorded with the country-swing band, Dr. Twang and the Stainless Steel. Trina is the author of Becoming Banjo Worthy, a comprehensive Scruggs style banjo instruction book, which has both written and recorded instructions. She owns and operates Boopie Recording Studios and has engineered and produced a number of highly regarded CDs. She was also Miss September in the 2016 edition of the internationally distributed calendar, Banjo Babes. For Skirt and Boots, Trina can be seen and heard playing banjo, mandolin, guitar, and even bass at times, as well as singing harmony.
In 2017 Trina recorded this demo of one of S&B’s favorite songs, the Dixie Chick’s Traveling Soldier along with Janice, Barb, and Barb’s brother Gil Benson at Boopie Studio.
John Murray began playing mandolin just a few years ago with an interest in bluegrass. Having taken mandolin lessons from Scott Risner, attending bluegrass camps, bluegrass jams, and going to the Irish School of music, John can be seen throughout the Cincinnati area playing wherever and whenever he can. John is very involved in his church, St. James Episcopal in Westwood, and also co-manages Jam-uary, a very popular bluegrass music event held in January. John and Janice have been friends since high school. After a discussion with Janice about Skirt and Boots needing a backup bass player, John purchased a bass and quickly mastered it, becoming a substitute bass player before joining as a permanent member. John plays both bass and mandolin for Skirt and Boots, and adds his subtle wit and charm to the band’s personality.