When she was eighteen years old, Laura Boosinger moved to Swannanoa to attend Warren Wilson College, and she soon enrolled in a banjo class. That class proved to be the beginning of an acclaimed career as a traditional musician. In 1984, Boosinger heard a rumor that the Luke Smathers Band of Canton, mountain swing virtuosos, needed a new banjo player. Shyly, she approached Smathers and asked to be considered. Within a month she was rehearsing in “Bea’s Kitchen” (the kitchen of the Luke and Bea Smathers’ house), and performing with the band on stage. Boosinger was a member of the band for the next thirteen years, until Luke Smathers’s death in 1997.
She was particularly taken with the Smathers Band’s mountain swing style, a blend of traditional mountain, western swing, and early-twentieth-century popular music. “I wanted to know why these guys played ‘Meet Me at the Ice House Lizzie’ instead of just square dance tunes like everyone else,” Boosinger has said. “People talk about mountain boys being closed in or insular; anybody was welcome in their kitchen, they were so open-minded.” Bandmate Charles Gidney remembers that Boosinger was unusually adept at the stylistically fluid repertoire of the group. “Laura is a very talented musician with an unusual ability to adapt,” he has said. “In the Luke Smathers Band, we had a very wide repertoire. We played everything from old-time to classic country, waltzes to breakdowns, boogie to gypsy, western swing to Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby to Gene Autry. Very few clawhammer banjo players could handle this and sing it all too.” (Asheville Citizen-Times, 11/25/05)
As a solo performer, Boosinger is much in demand. She does many concerts regionally and abroad and her recordings are popular and highly praised. Recent work includes a recording with David Holt and the Lightning Bolts and a tribute to Luke Smathers (for which she was joined by other regional performers who grew up at the feet of Luke Smathers, including Josh Goforth, Amanda Luther, and Bryan Sutton). She has also done a duet album with legendary guitarist George Shuffler of Valdese, North Carolina, who is most famous for his years of work with the Stanley Brothers. Her latest recording is Most of All, a duet recording with Josh Goforth. Laura is currently the Executive Director of the Madison County Arts Council.
In addition to concert and festival performances, Laura Boosinger gives school performances and workshops geared for a variety of age-levels, and offers a week-long dance residency. She can also teach and lead an old-time shaped-note singing school.