Mandolinist Jacob Jolliff and his band will perform in Boothbay Harbor. Courtesy photo

Jacob Jolliff was born into a musical family. His dad started him on the mandolin at age 7 and required him to practice 10 minutes a day. After six months of practicing this minimal amount, something clicked, and almost overnight he started putting in several hours of intense practice daily. And this hasn’t really changed in the last 20 years. This mandolin phenomenon comes to Boothbay Harbor to play the historic Opera House Friday, April 12.

In 2022, Jolliff was called on by world famous banjo player Béla Fleck to tour as part of My Bluegrass Heart. He performed throughout the country alongside Fleck and some of the best musicians in the genre: Bryan Sutton, Cody Kilby, Justin Moses, Mark Schatz, Michael Cleveland, Stuart Duncan and Billy Contreras. The Opera House brought My Bluegrass Heart to the stage in August 2023.

While just in high school, Jolliff had the opportunity to meet and play with many of his heroes, including Ronnie McCoury, David Grisman and Chris Thile. Though Jolliff was mostly self-taught to this point, lessons with great players such as these kept him inspired and moving forward. When he was 18, he was awarded a full scholarship to The Berklee College of Music in Boston. There he studied under the late mandolin great John McGann, who was a huge influence. Under McGann’s supervision, he spent many six-hour practice days working on a variety of styles from bluegrass to jazz to Celtic music. In 2008, he joined the New England-based roots music band Joy Kills Sorrow. In 2012, he won the National Mandolin Championship in Winfield, Kansas.

In 2014, after three records, hundreds of shows and thousands of miles in a 15-passenger van, Joy Kills Sorrow went on an indefinite hiatus. Fortuitously, as this chapter of Jolliff’s musical journey ended, another important one began. Within a couple weeks of the band’s last show, the young mandolinist got a call from the progressive bluegrass jam group Yonder Mountain String Band. They had parted ways with their original mandolin player and were looking to try out someone new. Jolliff went on his first tour with YMSB in June of that year. He immediately connected musically and personally with the band, and shortly after, he became a full-time member. Jacob played with Yonder until the end of 2019.

These days, his main focus is The Jacob Jolliff Band. This ensemble is a group of virtuosic pickers that play Jolliff’s original instrumentals as well as showcase his singing. The group tours internationally, including a swing into Maine this spring. Bluegrass fans, mandolin fans, music fans — no one should miss this extraordinary talent, alongside his band. Advance discounted tickets are $20 and only available directly from the box office at 86 Townsend Ave., Boothbay Harbor, or by calling 633-5159. Doors for seating open at 7 p.m., the pickin’ kicks in at 7:30 p.m. Additional information is available at

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