Mandolinist Butch Baldassari Dead of Brain Cancer at 56

Jerome “Butch” Baldassari, a celebrated mandolin player, recording artist and music teacher, died Saturday (Jan. 10) in Nashville of brain cancer. He was 56. Although he established himself as a bluegrass musician in the late ’80s in the band Weary Hearts, the Scranton, Pa., native did not restrict himself to that genre. Rather, he explored in both his recordings and performances the mandolin’s more general virtuosity. In 1990, he founded the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble, whose repertoire ranged from classical and bluegrass to jazz and Celtic music. The band’s first album, Plectrasonics, was released in 1995. From 1992 to 1998, Baldassari also doubled as a member of the Lonesome Standard Time bluegrass band. He taught at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music for several years, ultimately rising to the rank of adjunct professor. In the late 1990s, he established his own label, SoundArt Recordings. He was diagnosed as having an inoperable brain tumor in May 2007. He is survived by his mother, wife and son.