Liza & A.J. offer musical excellence, beauty, and communal experiences through a dazzling variety of acoustic music.
Based in the Catskill Mountains of New York for ten years and now landed in Kentucky, the heart of Appalachian music, they have shared their unboundaried love of music with audiences for 25 years. Their multi-faceted and engaging repertoire combines timeless traditional, roots, folk, virtuosic instrumental and original music to the accompaniment of over 20 (often unusual) instruments.
Their large repertoire of Americana music includes songs from the Catskill Mountains of New York State (as recorded on one of their five albums, “A Home in the Catskills”) and Southern Appalachian ballads and songs (gleaned during their seven years at Berea College, including two fellowship studies).
They also are award-winning songwriters, rooting their style firmly in Americana with well-crafted songs that tell great stories, insightfully explore social issues, and bear witness to the redeeming power of love.
Liza & A.J. have played venues and festivals in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, the Southwest and throughout Appalachia. In addition to their performance schedule as a duo and as folk dance musicians, the two currently work at Berea College, KY, where A.J. plays for the dance department, including the 75-year-old internationally known Country Dancers, and Liza leads the nationally recognized college Folk-Roots Ensemble and teaches classes in Appalachian music, music education, and songwriting. Both appeared on the college’s nationally broadcast CBS TV Christmas special, and Liza and the Folk-Roots Ensemble have opened for Vince Gill and performed with the Chieftains.
Art Menius, the founder of the Folk Alliance and Merlfest, said, "She can play anything with strings. He can play anything with keys. Both sing wonderfully. Liza and A.J. use ancient and original songs to connect traditional and contemporary folk music. Their commitment to social justice keeps them grounded in the present, while their research connects their music to place and history.”
Whether in your living room or a 3000-seat hall, Liza & A.J.’s music draws hearts and minds together in community and beauty. Don’t miss the chance to have these superlative artists bring their magic to your hall or home!
THE ROAD TO HERE: The girl from the right side of the musical tracks meets the guy from the wrong side of the musical tracks…because love knows no boundaries - and neither does music.
Liza & A.J.'s unlikely musical collaboration started in Liza's living room. She was running the New Jersey Songwriters' Circle (which she started and ran for eight years), and he walked through the door. She sang about being mad at her recent ex-boyfriend; he sang about forgiveness. It was admiration at First Hear. Soon, they were gigging together, and their music began to coalesce into a different animal than either of them expected, something that made room for them both and yet was a creature with its own nature and language.
Liza's "right side of the tracks" background consists of conservatory training on French horn (Manhattan School of Music, Cleveland Institute of Music, Aspen Music Festival), and ten years of freelance work in New York City. She played on Broadway, in Carnegie Hall numerous times under the batons of great conductors, and arranged for and was a member of Solid Brass. She was also twice named a recipient of the Geraldine R. Dodge Master Teacher designation during her 25-year stint teaching public school. During that time, Liza cut her teeth as a volunteer crewmember and musician on Pete Seeger’s Hudson River Sloop Clearwater (and, yes, she was one of hundreds who had the honor of performing with him). It was at that time that she started writing songs on issues of the day. She won songwriting competitions, including the Falcon Ridge New Artist Showcase and the American Songwriters' Competition, and her music has been included on a Smithsonian Folkways compilation (Fast Folk, “Songs From the Garden State”). Her book on early Kentucky ballad collector Katherine Jackson French received the Kentucky History Award and garnered a feature piece on NPR's "All Things Considered," and she has also completed a book of French's ballads and a CD of the same with the help of a grant from the Loyal Jones Appalacian Center and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. She has presented on the subject at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference, Centenary College, and the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music. She has also been honored by the Appalachian Women's Project.
A.J. grew up winning National Piano Guild and Young Musicians Guild Competitions, and in early adulthood he began playing jazz, pop, and composing. While his taste in music changed, he retained much of the early technique that allowed him to forge his signature fiery and daunting piano style. His varied work experience in music includes touring Europe with a Hungarian-American country music band, being featured on the Joe Franklin and Uncle Floyd shows, signing with Mariachi Berea, and doing a commercial for Bell Labs. His approach to the stage was shaped by his work in New York with the seminal improvisational comedy group "Manhattan Improv," and he considers any audience to be friends he just hasn't met yet. (By the time he's done, they usually are.) He has been Music Director of several Unitarian churches in New Jersey, and. has been Artist-in-Residence at historic Union Church in Berea. He currently serves as accompanist for the dance department at Berea College, where he plays everything from ballet to modern to Middle Eastern, and has toured China with the Berea Country Dancers.
As a duo, Liza and A.J. have won two fellowships from the Hutchins Library Sound Archives to research Appalachian music, a Puffin grant, and had their work on Catskill traditional music accepted into the New York State Historical Association. They have recorded five albums and have played venues and festivals across the country. One of their songs, “Look Away,” was chosen as the theme song for the show “Unreported News” on KPHX Radio in Phoenix. They both have impressive technical chops on over 20 instruments, and their programs draw on their diverse musical backgrounds.
The duo has worked since 2002 as faculty and performers at the accredited summer folk arts school Common Ground on the Hill in Westminster, Maryland. Their sixth album, "My Lord, What a Morning" is in post-production.
A.J. Bodnar: singer, songwriter, piano, piano-accordion, melodica, hulusi, marimbula, bodhran, bones, autoharp, organ, pennywhistle, spoons, dumbek, udu, various other percussion, didjeridoo, melodeon
Liza DiSavino: singer, songwriter, piano, guitar, lap dulcimer, banjo, fretless gourd banjo, tenor banjo, 12-string guitar, classical guitar, pennywhistle, mandolin, ukulele, autoharp, ukelin, bass, trumpet, cornet, pocket trumpet, French horn