From Monsterball to old-time music

In 2008, Brad Kolodner, then 18, plays the game he invented, called Monsterball, in his family's Guilford back yard. Now, at 22, he's playing something different, the banjo, with his father, Ken Kolodner, an already established musician. The two play traditional and original Appalachian folk music together and made a CD. (File photo/2008 / May 24, 2008)

The backstop fence still sits in his family's deep backyard in Guilford, with a sign that reads, "Monsterball. Commissioner Bradley Kolodner."

Kolodner, who is 22 now and prefers Brad, was a teenager at Friends School when he invented the game Monsterball. Dozens of teens and adults would gather from around the neighborhood and beyond, to play a cross between baseball and kickball.

Kolodner and his dad, Ken, 57, were playing again in the yard on Fenchurch Road earlier this month — but what they were playing were banjo (Brad) and fiddle and hammered dulcimer (Ken).

Monsterball is a memento of Brad's youth. But recording and performing traditional and original Appalachian folk music now defines the father-and-son duo as a nationally known act.


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That's what they'll be playing Aug. 5, at a backyard concert for which tickets are $20 per person in advance, or $22 at the door. The yard seats 150 people.

For Brad, a recent graduate of Ithaca College in New York with a degree in Radio and Television, music is a fine stopgap while he decides on a career. The duo's first CD, Otter Creek, climbed to the top of Billboard magazine's instrumental folk music chart last year

"I don't know what I want to do eventually, but for now, this is it," Brad said.

Ken Kolodner, a part-time epidemiology consultant and a Friends School grad, is a longtime recording and touring artist, perhaps best known as a member of the band Helicon, which stopped touring in 1997, but still plays winter solstice shows at Goucher College in Towson and draws about 1,500 people. This year, Helicon will play two shows on Dec. 22.

In years past, luminaries like Doc Watson and Allison Krauss came by the Kolodner house to jam with Ken and Helicon in the Kolodner living room.

"All kinds of people came though," Ken said.

Now, Ken plays with other artists around the country and said music is about 80 percent of his living.

Hiding from the music

Brad had little affinity for traditional music growing up.

"I would hide," he said. "I heard it all day, every day. I liked classic rock."

"And you still do," his dad said.

But at 17, Brad began to cock a new ear towardold-time music.

"I liked the sound of the banjo," he said. His parents bought him one for Christmas.

"It got me started," he said.

Brad had tried to enroll in a harmonica and penny whistle class, but it was full, so he took a banjo class.

At 19, he entered a regional banjo contest and came in second.