SMBA History

1982-2022 FORTY 40th ANNIVERSARY

Forty (40) years of bluegrass bliss, happiness, and joy made possible by many dedicated bluegrass lovers. Here is how it started! A group of bluegrass folks had the foresight to visualize an organization to promote and enjoy bluegrass music. The year was 1982. Therefore, the Mission Statement of “The Purpose of The SMBA Is to Preserve, Promote, And Enjoy Bluegrass Music And To Bring The Music To An Ever- Increasing Number Of People,” was established. SMBA has lived up to its mission statement, exemplifying the spirit of bluegrass music for forty years. The founders were: Wynne Fishel, Ina Jane Atkinson, Walt Crider, Jon Raemore, Eugene, and Esther Yost. Only Eugene and Walt survive. This group would travel to State College, PA to visit Dantes pizza to watch bluegrass bands. The founders were instrumental in bringing some of those bands to Dantes in New Cumberland, Pa. At the local Dantes they would meet on Thursday nights for bluegrass. At one of these meetings, Wynne came up with the idea to form a bluegrass organization. What would it be named? The founders realized they crossed seven mountains to arrive in State College: hence they chose Seven Mountains Bluegrass Association. The next day Ina Jane acquired the necessary paperwork from the State and the rest is history.

The Presidents have been:

1982-1982 Wynne Fishel 1st SMBA President.

Jams and meetings were held at Embers in Carlisle, Enola American Legion, and New Cumberland River Rescue. Shows included the Bluegrass Cardinals and the Del McCoury band. Wynne organized a bus trip to Maryland to see Ricky Skaggs.

1983-1984- Jon Raemore 2nd SMBA President.

Jon held meetings in Willow Mill Park, and the New Cumberland Fire Co. He established committees to enhance membership and set goals for the future. Jon chaired the Music Committee for many years. He and Walt Crider made journeys to IBMA in Louisville, Ky. Jon played banjo and bass with several bands over the years, including “Old Time Way,” and he was the winner of two Blueridge guitars over the years at our picnics.

1985-1986 Mike Hord 3rd SMBA President.

The jams continued in New Cumberland. Featured at the Stony Creek Barn were Del McCoury and American Standard. Shows were attended when weather wasn’t a factor. Mike organized a camping outing for SMBA members. Mike played guitar with “Country Rain.” A band considered on the “fringe” by traditional bluegrass fans. Mike was employed by UPS.

1986-1987 Tom Clawser 4th SMBA President

Tom was Pastor of Fontanna United Christ Church. Tom was employed by Brown Transmissions and Bearing Co. He was a singer/song writer and played banjo with the Shuey Brothers Band, having released three CD’s. During Tom’s time as president, jams continued at the New Cumberland Firehall and shows at the Stoney Creek Barn. Whetstone Run and Seldom Scene played there. When the agreement with the owner wasn’t renewed, the shows were discontinued. Tom introduced the band Hazel Creek which was outside the traditional bluegrass.

1987 – 1988 Jim Good 5th SMBA President

Jim played the acoustic bass and dobro. Jim hosted his own shows at Horst Auction Barn, as well as the Lebanon Valley Bluegrass Festival in Reinholds, Pa. He was active in the SMBA as emcee of shows and served on the Music Committee. Jim was a machinist at PENDU Mfg. He played bass for Chester Johnson and the Foggy Mountain Grass. He was a volunteer fireman for Martindale VFC. He was a promoter of bluegrass music throughout the Central Pa. area.


1989 – 1991 and 2008 – 2009 Walt Crider 6th and 13th SMBA President

Walt is the only president to serve two separate terms. He plays guitar and was lead singer for the Old Time Way, a band he founded. Walt served on the Music Committee and published the newsletter and show flyers. Walt recommended SMBA join IBMA. He introduced Lost and Found and many popular bands at SMBA shows. Walt released a CD,” Walt Sings Mac,” a tribute to legendary Mac Wiseman. In 2008 Walt organized a benefit festival held in Campbelltown, Pa., to benefit the Easter Seal Society.

1992 – 1993 Ray Gross 7th SMBA President

Ray also served as a trustee. Meetings/jams and shows were held at Fishing Creek, Fairview Fire Hall. Ray worked to keep the status quo and SMBA running smoothly. A memorable moment for Ray was introducing the Bass Mountain Boys at an SMBA show. Ray was president and CEO of Transply Corp, York, Pa. Ray is a very popular dobro player at jams and played for several bands over the years.

1993 – 1999 Marlin Henry 8th SMBA President

Marlin was the longest serving president with six years’ service at that time. He introduced many great bands at Fishing Creek. Marlin encouraged participation of newcomers at SMBA jams and shows. For a few years he held jam/picnics at his home. Marlin collected an extensive library of SMBA memorabilia. He was an accomplished banjo player.

1999 – 2003 Dick Neff 9th SMBA President

Under Dick’s leadership the jam/meetings were moved to the First UMC in Mechanicsburg. The SMBA shows were moved to the Goodwill Fire Hall in York, Pa. A music committee was appointed to schedule bands for the shows. Our Constitution, By-laws, non-profit, and tax status were all updated. Show attendance increased dramatically. Dick plays 3 finger and claw-hammer style banjo. He retired from Messiah College as a professor of mathematics. Dick formed the group The Grace Notes, playing banjo and lead vocals. They released two CD’s, “The Old Home Place,” and “Trying to Get Your Attention.” He formed another group called Stringtown Skyscrapers releasing their first CD, titled “Pennsylvania Mountains.” Dick gave banjo lessons for many years at his home in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

2004 – 2005 Bill Aldinger 10th SMBA President

Bill served as president when SMBA was going through a period of uncertainty. There was some doubt as to the future of SMBA. He realized SMBA was financially healthy, with a great membership. Bill changed the culture by bringing the membership together with an exciting picnic and members jamming. The first picnic in 2004 was attended by 130 members. SMBA’s 25th anniversary in 2007 had over 300 in attendance and featured the band Randy Waller and The Country Gentleman. Bill served as picnic chairman for over ten years and served as a trustee. Plays banjo, dobro and guitar when his arthritis allows. 

2005 – 2006 Bob Bishard 11th SMBA President Before being President Bob was chairman of the Music Committee, booking upcoming bands like Nothin’ Fancy and Steep Canyon Rangers. Bob served as vice president, newsletter editor, and continues as librarian, jams chairman and parliamentarian. With help from former president Dick Neff, Bob updated the SMBA Constitution and By-Laws to better represent the growing membership and prepare for the future of SMBA. He helped acquire a non-profit mailing permit and a liability insurance policy to protect SMBA assets. Bob established the bi-annual board meetings to better manage SMBA affairs. He played rhythm and lead guitar and provided vocals with Grace Notes and Stringtown Skyscrapers. He sought out new locations for monthly jam and that might also provide for more participation of musicians and listeners. Bob is pastor of Young’s UMC where SMBA jams and meetings are held. As former editor of the SMBA newsletter He came up with the name” Hornpipe.”


2006 – 2007 Glen Miller 12th SMBA President

Glen plays guitar and is always a gentleman and a scholar. He is a natural leader, gentle, kind-hearted with a deep radio voice that served him well emceeing SMBA shows. Glen served many years as a board member and trustee. He is a retired industrial logistics and transportation manager. Glen served in numerous local state, and national work-related associations. He served as a lobbyist and a quest lecturer at the college level. Glen resides in Northern Maryland. Glen is a proud supporter of bluegrass music and SMBA. He is impressed by how well a group of volunteers seem to run SMBA in a very business-like manner. Many years ago, Glen heard Jean Snyder describe bluegrass people as “all nice people” and has found that to be true. Glen really appreciates the way the board and members accepted him into the organization. He hopes it continues to survive as he considers it a first-class organization.

2010-2018-Dick Beckley 14th SMBA President Dick has the distinction of being SMBA’s longest reigning president. Serving 9 years as president and 12 years as chairman of the music committee. Dick’s introduction to SMBA in 2001 was through his friend James King. James was scheduled to play at Goodwill Fire Co. Dick attended the show with wife Karen, Dale Adams, and Dale’s wife. Dick joined SMBA that very night. SMBA being a good outlet for Dick’s bluegrass obsession. In his first year as a member, Dick stepped up when asked. A Goodwill Fire Hall band cancelled giving short notice. Dick made a few phone calls to bluegrass friends. He acquired the service of Jesse Cobb and the now Infamous Stringdusters. Not long after, Jon Raemore asked Dick to join the music committee. SMBA was ready to take advantage of Dick’s many connections with many bluegrass people. His connections with many bands due to all his years visiting IBMA. Dick’s favorite part of SMBA is being chairman of the music committee and writing the band Bio’s for the newsletter. Getting the word out of all areas live bluegrass events is one of Dick’s passions. He loves SMBA, it’s the best in bluegrass and his most enormous wish is to achieve a newer and younger group of bluegrass folks. For someone who is not a musician or vocalist, Dick has achieved as much as possible from bluegrass music. During Dick’s tenure as president, he increased the board with chairpersons and trustees. Dick revitalized the scholar program with fresh ideas and helped many aspiring children.

2019-Present Ursula Sheaffer 15th SMBA President

Ursula is the second woman to serve as president of SMBA. Wynne Fishel was the first woman president and founding member. Ursula also, serves as newsletter editor. Her greatest music influence was her mother. Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and Patsy Cline were also a big influence. Ursula’s bluegrass interest came from The Grass Express, American Standard, Allison Krauss, the Osborne Brothers, and Flatt and Scruggs. She plays mandolin and loves to sing and is currently nursing her vocal cord back to health. On occasion Ursula would sing with the band Circa Blue. Her best thrill was singing with Cira Blue at Wind Gap. Ursula is retired and enjoys babysitting her two granddaughters, 3years and 1 year. In her spare time, she sews. Ursula continues to lead SMBA with integrity, leadership with inventive techniques. The tradition of our founders continues with enthusiasm and love of bluegrass music and bluegrass people.

Jean Snyder Secretary/Treasurer

Jean is an SMBA member since 1984. She has served as secretary for 7 years and treasure 19 years for a total 26 years, a member 38 years. Recently Jean was Awarded a plaque for her service with a Lifetime membership and a pass to all SMBA shows. Jean’s dedication as treasurer is unparalleled in the history of SMBA. Her duties and responsibilities are enormous to say the least. She handles collection of membership dues and mailing of membership cards. She attends all SMBA shows, collects admission fees, and records critical information. She arranges band payout, issues IRS forms, and keeps track of ASCAP payouts. She picks up all newsletters at Alpha Graphics, addressing the mailing envelopes, sorting by ZIP codes, and delivering to the Harrisburg Post Office. All to reduce postage. She attends all picnics and makes all payouts to vendors, and receives the monies collected and accounts for funds to be deposited in the bank. I am sure I am forgetting something. You get the idea. Jean is retired from Boyer and Ritter CPAs as a Firm Administrator with 33 years of service. Her experience and skills at Boyer and Ritter are a huge advantage to SMBA. Jean plays bass, guitar, piano, organ, and hammered dulcimer. She sings with the tone of a songbird. She has played with The Grace Notes, Stringtown Skyscrapers and Keeping It Simple. Jean’s loyalty to SMBA is first-class. I will categorize Jean as “the salt of the earth”, as in basic, fundamental goodness.

There are so many dedicated members who served with pride and the love of bluegrass music. I will name some and pray I don’t slight anyone. I will refer as the SMBA HONOR ROLE. Kermit Kissinger, Mary Lou Gross, Mary Wohler, Bob Albert, Bob Jones Dan Oneufer, Jerry Ryan, Alice Hess, Doug Moats, Ralynn Bishop, Sue Mckinsey, Ruth Ann Berney, Mike Lebo, Tim Pritchard, Bill Coleman, Jim Wilson, Mike Foster, George Fishel, Wayne Miedwig, Kristen Schneider, Bill Gabel, Rita Persing, Canyon Moore, Gil Rhoads, David Emerick and Steve Hammond.

The SMBA management always strides with the utmost prestige as it’s number one criteria. A strong leadership treating folks with dignity, and respect, as a manifestation of its integrity.

We are proud members of the SEVEN MOUNTAINS BLUEGRASS ASSOCIATION, and here are some interesting statistics.

SMBA Show Statistics

Most Appearances By A Band Bands

By Highest Attendance- One Show David Davis And The Warrior River Boys 17 1. Flatt Lonesome 403 2. Steep Canyon Rangers 344 1987-2007 3. Michael Cleveland 325 1. Audie Blaylock And Redline 8 4. The Boxcars 322 2. James King Band 7 5. Bluegrass Brothers 312 3. Lost And Found 6 6. Vern Young 296 4. Nothin’ Fancy 5 7. Little Roy & Lizzy 294 Vern Young Band 5 8. James King Band 290 5. Bluegrass Brothers 4 9. Nothin’ Fancy 288 Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper 4 10. David Davis * 277 11. Balsam Range 260 * Drew over 200 in 14 of 17 years. Season Show Attendance Top 5 SMBA Membership 2008-2021 * 1. 2011-2012, 1806 1. 2008 431 6. 2013 368 11. 2018 450 2. 2005-2006, 1774 2. 2009 388 7. 2014 373 12. 2019 340 3. 2001-2002, 1738 3. 2010 371 8. 2015 369 13. 2020 260 4. 2015-2016, 1703 4. 2011 329 9. 2016 364 14. 2021 297 5. 2014-2015, 1684 5. 2012 393 10. 2017 330 • This is a family membership, with spouses and children, members are over 500. Membership 2020 and 2021 reduced due to the impact of COVID. Has SMBA lived up to its Mission Statement? We believe the answer is: Yes, We have for 40 years. A real success! Let’s see how it turns out. From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. John 1:16 NLT Co-Writers, Pastor Robert Bishard and Bill Aldinger Edited, Glen Miller