"Take one sizzling violin, add one sensuous voice ...
and you have the essence of the stylish talents of Woodstock's Betty MacDonald."
Mike Raab, Poughkeepsie Journal

"Take on sizzling violin, add one sensuous voice ... and you have the essence of the stylish talents of Woodstock's Betty MacDonald."
Mike Raab, Poughkeepsie Journal

One of the brightest flowers in the music garden, now or ever“
Joe Beck, guitarist, recording artist, composer, producer

“Her music and her celebration of life gets better and better with no end in sight.”
Warren Bernhardt, pianist, composer, recording artist

“Musical magic that turns into love right before your eyes”
Ruth Simpson, author

"Betty is musician as priestess ~playing jazz violin in the tradition of Stuff Smith and Stephane Grappelli; singing and scatting in her elegant heart-felt voice; inviting her audience to make music with her; and connecting us to the source. She reminds us that one of the great gifts of being alive is the opportunity to share in the feast that is music.”
Burrill Crohn, Jazz Historian, Documentary Film Maker

"Betty's music is like fine wine - seasoned to the peak of perfection, elegantly smooth and heart warming."
Marilyn Zych, Film Exec.


Beck, MacDonald’s  ‘And Here’s To You’ ... stunning
By David Malachowski
Kingston Freeman
Friday, April 30, 2010

Jazz great Betty MacDonald has released a stunning new CD recorded with the late Joe Beck, her friend and colleague and a master guitarist, who sadly died before the release of this recording.

Posthumously, Pete Levin rescued the tracks from Joe’s hard drive to finalize them with Beck’s vision, and then Levin mixed them.

Well loved and well respected, Beck had played with Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and James Brown, as well as releasing his own compelling recordings. A local light singer and violinist, Hudson Valley-based MacDonald has played with Fathead Newman, Jimmy Cobb, Kenny Burrell and has released CDs on her own.

Joining this dynamic duo are other regional treasures — Warren Bernhardt, Mike Mainieri and Pete Levin, so you get the idea.

This kicks off with Beck’s lovely inversions in the intro of “So Nice To Come Home To” with MacDonald’s warm soulful voice drawing you in closer. Soon a meaty violin solo gives it some edge, and finally Beck chimes in with a harmonically perfect solo.

Chestnut “Georgia On My Mind” is sung and played like it was brand new, with spirit and verve. MacDonald sinks her teeth into it, while Beck floats above it with spare but elegant comping and inventive harmonic tapping.

“Stella By Starlight” and “My Funny Valentine” are done in the same manner, well-known compositions reinvented refreshingly. Levin’s lovely melodica solo in “September in the Rain” is just priceless (and gives the other regional melodica slinger Donald Fagen a run for his money).

Joe Beck’s composition “And Here’s To You” is simply stunning. Bernhardt’s evocative playing is brilliant, but MacDonald’s thick vibrato steals the show with its emotive depth. They stretch out a bit with Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade” to great success. Mainieri’s haunting “In Remembrance” closes out this disc respectfully and beautifully.

The polar opposite of “smooth jazz,” this is an exquisite album of emotional depth and grace that can only be made by master musicians who have lived a good life. Brilliant musicians should never be neglected or taken for granted.


Woodstock jazz violinist Betty MacDonald dies at 72
By Kyle Wind
The Freeman, Kingston, NY
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WOODSTOCK — Jazz musician Betty MacDonald died Monday at her Woodstock home, serenaded by friends and colleagues who remembered her as a leading figure of the Hudson Valley music scene. She was 72.

Later Monday night, hundreds of people gathered at the Village Green to “sing to the heavens” in her memory for about two and a half hours, said Ms. MacDonald’s younger sister, Chris Crawford.

The MacDonald family called it “a glorious send-off.”

“We were all as one with her, celebrating her great escape from the illness that held her down,” the family said in a statement.

“Woodstock is kind of in a state of shock right now,” said pianist Peter Tomlinson of West Hurley, who recorded a Billie Holiday tribute with Ms. MacDonald in 2006.

“Virtually everyone knew her, played with her, and looked up to her,” said Tomlinson. “She always made people want to play music, be around music, and appreciate the soulfulness of music. She believed music should really emote.”

Several people familiar with Ms. MacDonald’s work, including Maverick Concerts Chairwoman Susan Rizwani, described her as “tremendously talented” as a performer, both with her violin and vocals, and as a composer.

During her performances, Ms. MacDonald liked to include the audience and often passed out rattles and tambourines, Tomlinson said.

“Sometimes the audience can keep a good beat; sometimes they can’t,” he said. “She didn’t care.”

Ms. MacDonald recently released the album, “And Here’s to You,” recorded with her friend, the late guitarist Joe Beck. She had performed all over the world, including Red Square in Moscow as well as Belgium, India, and Turkey, according to her family.

Tomlinson said Ms. MacDonald was the “go-to person” when it came to promoting jazz in the Hudson Valley. Many in the region remember her as the host of WDST-FM’s jazz show for the past15 years.

Ms. MacDonald was also engaged with her community. Both Crawford and Rizwani called her “the benefit queen,” saying she constantly volunteered to perform at concerts to benefit charitable causes.

“Whenever there was a benefit, she was always the first person to stop and say, ‘I’m in,’” said Jeff Moran, the Woodstock town supervisor.

Ms. MacDonald was also “involved in the beginnings” of the nonprofit Family of Woodstock, said Michael Berg, the the agency’s executive director. Ms. MacDonald’s son, Evan, said Family still operates the free store she started in 1969.

Family members said Ms. MacDonald taught music to and inspired hundreds of youths in the region, many of whom visited her while she was under Hospice care.

Betty's son Evan MacDonald quoted a friend as describing his mother as “an irreplacable jewel of the Hudson Valley.”

Tomlinson said he will remember her as “warm, inspirational, and wickedly funny.”


Welcome to the internet home of
Woodstock violinist/vocalist

If you'd like to share a story or pay tribute to Betty, please visit the guest book at CaringBridge.org


You're listening to an excerpt
from Betty's latest CD



The new duo CD with Joe Beck
A collection of jazz standards and original tunes that are right from the heart. Intimate, sensitive, classic, inventive, unpretentious, and with an easy groove.  The duo idea was conceived by Joe Beck, but his time with us was over before it could be completed. There are added tracks in remembrance by long-time friends Pete Levin, Warren Bernhardt and Mike Mainieri.

available online at


Featured Performances

"Betty has thrilled audiences from Santa Fe to India
with her intimate and energetic stage presence."

Music Festivals

Salt Lake City Jazz Festival
Newburgh Jazz Festival on the Waterfront
Bitej International Song Festival
Jazz String Summit, NYC
Kansas City Women's Jazz Festival
Red Hot Mama Jazz Cruise
Jazz Yatra India
Tulip Festival, Albany, NY
Pepsi Jazz Fest in the Park, Western NY
Jazz Up the Hudson, Catskill, NY

Betty w. Peter O'Brien, Rich Syracuse & Pete Levin
Joyous Lake, Woodstock, NY

Betty w. Dave Holland,
Warren Bernhardt &  Jimmy Cobb
Betty has performed with ...
John Abercrombie
Jay Anderson
Joe Beck
Karl Berger
Warren Bernhardt
Marc Black
Carla Bley
Dave Brubeck
Kenny Burrell
Jimmy Cobb
David Darling
Jack DeJohnette
Mark Egan
Eric Erickson
Curtis Fuller
Joe Giardullo
Winston Grennan
Dave Holland
Howard Johnson
Sheila Jordan
Charlie Kniceley
Pete Levin
Tony Levin
Mike Mainieri
Pat Metheny
David "Fathead" Newman
Benny Powell
Maxine Sullivan
Ed Summerlin
Happy Traum


Betty's Discography

Featured Recordings
as a solo artist:
"And Here's To You" CD release 2010
Duets with Joe Beck and additional performances by Mike Mainieri, Warren Bernhardt & Pete Levin
"Billie Holiday Tribute" CD release 2008
    recorded live in concert at The Unison Arts Center
    Featuring Peter Tomlinson (piano) & Jim Curtin (bass)
"Dream Come True" CD release  2005
    Co-produced with Joe Beck
    Featuring Warren Bernhardt, Mike Mainieri, Jay Anderson, Dennis Mackrel & Peter O'Brien
"Soulful" CD and Cassette release  1996
    Co-produced with Warren Bernhardt
"Standard Elegance"
"Waltzing In The Sagebrush"


  With other artists

Betty w. Marc Black.  Joyous Lake, Woodstock, NY
The Peace Church Concerts, Karl Berger
Woodstock Moods & Moments
3/4 For Piano & Orchestra, Carla Bley
Three Gypsies, Casse Culver
I Sing My Songs For You, Philip Jarrell
Debutante, Willie Tyson
American Stranger
, Happy Traum
Sweet Sorcery, Cathy Winter/Betsy Rose
Gravity, Joe Giardullo
The Marc Black Band, Marc Black
And I Love You, Abraham Wilson
Flying On The Wings Of Heaven, Judi Bachrach
Beautiful Animal Run, Marc Black
Come Home: Landscapes Of The Heart, Andy Bryner
Feel It, Ritual Motion
Alternative Woodstock & Pillowface, Abba Rage
Iabas Traditional Brasilian Band, Emilia Biancardi
The Shadow Of The Moon, Eric Erickson
Veil Of Fog, Marc Black
Stroke of Genius, Marc Black

Betty MacDonald is well known throughout the Hudson Valley as a jazz performer and for her many years as host of jazz radio programs on WDST and WAMC. In her 16 years as a  programmer she had opportunity to interview jazz legends Dave Brubeck, Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Jack DeJohnette, Pat Metheny, Joe Williams, Marian McPartland, and Nancy Wilson.

Betty’s eclectic spirit has made her part of the Marc Black Band, Iabas, (Brazilian music), Winston Grennan’s Ska Rock Band, Critical Theory, (world music group), and Peggy Stern’s samba/salsa band, Estrella.

Betty w. Dave Brubeck

Betty w. Warren Bernhardt

Betty’s music has taken her abroad to jazz festivals in Russia, India, and Turkey and she was a featured artist in festivals in New York City, Kansas City, Catskill, and Kingston. She has shared the stage with Dave Brubeck, David Darling, Ed Summerlin, Maxine Sullivan, Howard Johnson, Jimmy Cobb, Sheilah Jordan, Roswell Rudd, and Karl Berger to mention a few.

In addition to spreading the sound of jazz, Betty has a busy schedule performing in concert, teaching privately, and conducting workshops teaching improvisation. She was chosen to be a member of the Wall of Fame at her high school in Olean, NY, as Musician of the Year by the Ulster County Arts Council, and a documentary of her career is being made by Joy Hopkins Hausman and eminent film maker, Burrill Crohn.






Betty w. Davod "Fathead" Newman

Betty w. Sonny Rollins

Soul sister of neutral skin playing
strings that sing and syncopate
and stroll with blues-struck voice
and scat-cat abstract melody,
a combination that makes your fingers snap
and toes to tap
and think of better
times and moods.
Soul sister of neutral skin,
A lady of the world where music dwells.

Eddie Bell


Betty w. Joe Beck




Betty w. Charlie Kniceley & Joe Beck

Kleinert/James Gallery
Woodstock, NY  5/1/10

In time, in space we share the heartbeat of life
We listen, we engage and smile through the night
There is nothing so intimate as a playful melody
When entangled in singing, in a web of delight.

I, understand the fortunes that are made
When people get tight, tight with the music of life
How does it happen without the spoken lines
Without even a whisper it’s hard to define.

I dance in the moment and trust with no fear
The essence of creation tossed high in the air
Pitches that gliss and glide that are all in stride
It is that moment that brings us together inside.

There is no place on earth that defines the stage
Better than blowing two courses in ¾ time.
Exchanging your love of the song with a friend
We listen forever, again and again and again.

John Menegon

Betty w. Joe Beck, John Menegon & Pete Levin.  Saugerties, NY

Betty w. Joe Beck

Betty and the amazing guitarist Joe Beck collaborated many times, on recordings and in performance.  Their most recent project was the duo album "And Here's To You."  Joe will be remembered as the first guitarist to play for Miles Davis, as the pioneering guitarist who helped push jazz into the fusion age with peers such as Michael Brecker and David Sanborn, as well as the studio ace who did countless sessions for artists like James Brown and Paul Simon.



When angels dance upon the clouds
The stars above will light the way
In innocence you close your dreamy eyes
I'll sing to you, a lullaby.

Betty MacDonald & Joe Beck


Betty w. Joe Beck

Betty w. Joe Beck




Betty crashes a Cleanhead photo-op.
Betty w. Stuart Breed, Pete Levin & Ira Coleman

Betty w. Charlie Kniceley & Chris Bowman.
Jack & Luna's Cafe.  Stone Ridge, NY

I will sing a song
And tell them of a beggar’s life,
where everything goes wrong
Where everybody’s hopes and drams
are shattered by the wind
I’ll tell them of a ghostly world,
of us and they and him
I’ll tell them how the shadows fall,
when they call me home

Abbey Lincoln

Betty w. Pete Levin & Jim Curtin
At a party for congressman Maurice Hinchey
Steel House.  Kingston, NY  7/19/09


Betty w. Gretchen Langheld.  Kingston, NY





Betty w. Mike Mainieri.
Kleinert/James Gallery.  Woodstock, NY


Skylark, have you anything to say to me?
Won't you tell me where my love can be?
Is there a meadow in the mist
Where someone's waiting to be kissed?
Skylark, have you seen a valley green with spring
Where my heart can go a-jour-ney-ing
Over the shadows and the rain
To a blossom-covered lane?

Hoagy Carmichael

Betty w. Tony Levin & Pete Levin.
Halloween concert.  Golden Hill Nursing Home.  Kingston, NY



Touched by love
Betty MacDonald passes on
by Brian Hollander
editor, Woodstock Times
August 9, 2010

It is a tradition in Scotland that when someone is dying, friends gather and sing for them.

When it became clear that Betty MacDonald had come home to die, Susan Robinson noted the Scottish tradition on Facebook and the word spread.

“When I pulled up [on Friday, August 6] there were cars on 212 and Ricks Road. No one knew what to do that first time, but by the third time, Sunday, Jim Curtin brought his bass, and I had made copies of a lot of songs, so I passed out lyrics. Alix Dobkin started us off. After the big singalong, where we did I’ll Fly Away, and Swing Low Sweet Chariot, we tried to do some good jazz stuff that she would like, we did OK with All of Me, and Jim, Perry Beekman and Tim Moore did some beautiful stuff. We were all in the back of her house, outside the open window, just a few feet from where she lay. And the family said that all three times that it happened, her breathing changed because she was listening. It was very sweet.”

Elizabeth Ann Knieser MacDonald, jazz artist, violinist, vocalist, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, radio personality, teacher, and much more to the community she loved and that loved her back equally, died at dawn Monday, August 9. It was a long illness that finally caught up to her.

She was born January 8, 1938, daughter of the late John and Josephine Knieser of Olean.

She attended Fredonia State College on a scholarship.

She was married to the late Donald MacDonald and is survived by her sons Evan MacDonald of Woodstock and Lee J. MacDonald and his wife Deb, of Kansas; grandchildren Kristin, Connor, Alexis and Madison; step grandchildren Jordan and Mackenzie, and many nieces and nephews, all of whom were touched by her music and love.

She is also survived by her brother, James Knieser of Rochester; a sister, Chris Crawford and her husband Frank, of Olean. She was predeceased by a brother, Robert Knieser;

her devoted lover of 23 years, Paul Minkoff, and River Light Womoon, her long time trusted and loving confidant.

Betty arrived in town in the late 1960s, stayed after her marriage dissolved and became one of the most important, beloved heartbeats of Woodstock over the last decades of the twentieth century and on into the twenty-first.

“I don’t remember ever not knowing her,” said Robinson, expressing a sentiment that could fall from the lips of any Woodstocker, whether old-timer or new.

She had an enviable career as a musician and only this year finished a duo CD with the great jazz guitarist, the late Joe Beck. The recording was her fourth solo CD, after several earlier recordings and the list of artists with whom she performed was long, including Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Burrell, Mike Mainieri, David ‘Fathead’ Newman, Dave Holland, Warren Bernhardt, Sheila Jordan, Pete Levin and on and on.

“I started late in life,” Betty said, when interviewed earlier this year about the album with Beck. She sighed, then burst into laughter. “But at least I started…I always had music inside of me bursting to come out.”

Indeed, she did. As the leader of her own band, she could caress a jazz standard with a smooth, sweet voice or could spit fire from the bow of her violin. As a side musician, her savvy with a song would lead to long flowing lines in her solos, and a sympathetic fill to a songwriter’s lyric.

A goodly piece of her musical career was spent onstage beside Marc Black. For the better part of more than three decades, she played thousands of shows with the singer, songwriter and guitarist Black and bassist Michael Esposito. It might have been just the three of them, or it might have been a bigger band with Bernhardt on piano, Don Davis on saxophone, Eric Parker on drums. If you’ve spent any time in Woodstock, you’ve seen them, at Joyous Lake, the Whitewater Depot, at the Bearsville Theater, the Kleinert, the Expresso, at Joshua’s where they’d play in the early days.

“I watched her in the last couple of years and as she was getting weaker she managed her energy so she could play. Everything was about playing music,” said Black, on the day she passed. “She couldn’t carry her amplifier, couldn’t walk long distances…she’d stand on stage like a lost librarian…and I would say to her take it, Betty, like I had thousands of times and she would light up…that was the first stage of letting go.

“The next stage was more profound. A month ago I had to do a show and she couldn’t make it. She made every show for 35 years. It would come time for her part, time for a lead and she wasn’t there and I just played the accompanying part…

“Last Thursday morning about 4 a.m. I got a phone call and I got up to get it. It was Betty calling from her hospital bed. I think she knew at that point she was going to die. There were things she wanted to say to me and she did. It was all about gratitude and appreciation…so we talked for about 20 minutes, it was 4:30 in the morning…I got dressed and got in the car and drove to Kingston Hospital. We talked, she was in and out of lucidity, but her leg was really bothering her, she was in enormous pain. She asked me to rub her right leg. I did for about an hour and a half…then her sister and brother and Evan came in, and she made her final wiseass remark…she pulled me close to her and said, ‘don’t worry Marc Black, I won’t tell your wife how good you make me feel…’

“I went over on Saturday and we sang outside her window and when Betty didn’t complain that we played the wrong changes I knew she was out of it. When we were singing outside, Mike said to me, ‘I think that Betty can still hear us…’

“And she was such an interesting player…the ability to dig so deep. She played with masters who appreciated her heart and soul, with Joe Beck and Fathead Newman, who loved her. She was very opinionated but could let go of it in a second, and she knew all the best jokes, it was great hanging out before a show with her…and as a band leader I had to appreciate how many times she saved me.

“I would say from the bandstand, ‘and now ladies and gentlemen, Miss Betty MacDonald,’ and it was a real warm feeling. It’s a big hole, it’s hard to imagine life without her.

“In so many circumstances, it’s like family, the band from way back, with Mike, Warren…it’s like family.”

To an even wider audience, she was the host of the Sound of Jazz (she always liked Sound of Jazz instead of the misnomer, Sounds of Jazz), that aired for decades on WDST radio, from its inception in 1980. For those first two years, we shared the program after I stepped in following saxophonist Joe Giardullo’s departure from the airwaves. She found a voice (a beautiful radio voice, if I may say so), musical, deep in its knowledge and love for the idiom. She spread wide over the area the gospel of Monk, the soul of Coltrane, the depth of Lady Day (and whose music she celebrated with her own tribute show and CD), and was responsible for the airings of the hard earned recordings of local jazz artists who deserved daylight in the world. In fact, she connected more musicians with work and jobs, often performing with them so that they would get more recognition, draw bigger audiences.

Jerry and Sasha Gillman, who owned the station, loved having musicians do the programming, and we all delighted in bringing an esoteric light to the airwaves. I’ll always remember the night Sonny Rollins visited us from his home in Germantown. He was a regular listener.

Leslie Gerber, who programmed classical music at the station tells this story: “Betty told a few people about a dream she had while she was working at WDST. She dreamed she came into work one evening and couldn’t play any records because the turntables were covered with broccoli. Jerry Gillman heard this story and made sure that, one day the following week, when Betty came in the turntables were actually covered with broccoli. We all laughed over this one for years.”

She stayed at the station long after we had left, when it was down to once a week and there was not much call for jazz on those airwaves. Stayed on bringing the truth to the public. They were heady days. Later, she moved on to WAMC.

“Betty MacDonald probably did more good for more people than anyone else I’ve known personally,” said Gerber. “She was a wonderful musician, one of the best jazz violinists I’ve heard…I thought the sheer beauty of her voice was second only to Ella’s. She was one of the first people I met after moving to the Hudson Valley in 1970 (our kids went to the same small private school), and in four decades of friendship I never lost my love for her glowing presence. I could never summarize in a paragraph, or a book, how much Betty has meant to me and how much I will miss her.”

The tributes have poured in, illustrating the different facets of her life, the ways in which she shared. (You can read more at the website caringbridge.org.) There were more than 200 by Tuesday.

They show Betty, the loving teacher: “All I can say is that you were such an incredible part of my life. With any other violin teacher, I might have quit, but you kept me at it, and I am so grateful that you did because now I have a gift you have given me that will last forever.” — Marley Claire Alford

“Have I told you today how much I love you? So many of us do. You’ve always given tirelessly of yourself....to friends, students and audiences....yet taken so little from us in return. I get dizzy when I think of all of the student benefits that you’ve played for and with me. Many of the recipients of the benefits you had never even laid eyes upon! But that never stopped you from caring.” — Wini Baldwin Paetow

And an acute appreciation of her of her stature: “Here’s to you, Betty MacDonald. Good for you. Mission accomplished. You brought your love of music to so many with unswerving dedication, humor, a strong sense of community, a beautiful lilting voice, and an articulate way of championing players, singers, composers, and, especially, promising women musicians. I remember your years on the air as a jazz apostle. It was in those years that I realized how much sheer love and appreciation you had for every person and piece you played.” — Tim Moore

She had a great run and was so proud of her kids and everything she had endured,” said Black. ‘She was victorious…her husband had left her but she bought that house and took care of her kids…she had all those students, that was one of the hardest things for her to give up…”

“She had a smile on her face,” said River Light Womoon. “When she died this morning, she’d been breathing from her mouth and her face looked so relaxed and the darkness around her eyes was gone. And her mouth slowly started to close. She looked better than I had seen her in months, and I could remember her that way. It was a very peaceful look. I think maybe Joy and David and Joe came and got her. She looked beautiful.”

Michael Suib and Nancy Butler-Ross offered this Haiku:

Betty MacDonald
Zings her white violin’s strings
But from heaven now



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