As a banjoist, Phil sees his role as bridging the gap between traditional and modernistic banjo. Phil evokes the spirits of banjoists such as Earl Scruggs, Bill Keith and Don Reno in his playing. These players represent different playing techniques, but to Phil, technique is never the main thing. Expressing musical ideas is.
Phil has played with the Bluegrass Pals (Iowa), in a duet with Des Moines singer/guitarist Ron Stafford, in a duet with Twin Cities singer/guitarist Sherry Minnick, Urban Renewal Bluegrass (Twin Cities) and the Blue Drifters (Twin Cities). He enjoys the challenge of playing the arrangement-rich and varied songtypes in the Double Down Daredevils repertoire.
Phil’s music performance career started in the 1960s, at the same time he began his radio and scholarly careers. As an undergraduate at the City College of New York, Phil started playing bluegrass banjo and broadcasting folk music at the college’s radio station while taking folk music courses under the Woody Guthrie biographer, Henrietta Yurchenco. In 1981 he took the Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University’s Folklore Institute.
Phil’s career in radio began in college, and today he serves as the host of Bluegrass Saturday Morning on KBEM-FM (Minneapolis). At McNally Smith College in St Paul, he taught courses in radio, folk music and folklore, and led the bluegrass performance ensemble. He has published scholarly articles and gives talks that contribute to the dialog about bluegrass.