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Baldassari (left) with the Weary Hearts bluegrass band.
While completing postgraduate work at the University of Nevada, Baldassari joined the bluegrass band Weary Heart. He was a member of the band from 1986 to 1990. Besides Baldassari, the band included Mike Bub (bass), Ron Block (banjo, guitar), and Chris Jones (guitar). In 1988, they won the Best Bluegrass Band Award by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA).
The Nashville Mandolin Ensemble
Baldassari moved to Nashville in 1985, and founded the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble in 1990. Their musical repertoire included bluegrass, classical, Celtic, and jazz, and they revived the 19th century mandolin orchestra concept: 11 musicians incorporating mandocello, mandola, guitar and bass.
Lonesome Standard Time
From 1992 until 1998, Baldassari was a member of the bluegrass band Lonesome Standard Time with Larry Cordle (vocals, guitar), Glen Duncan (violin), Keith Little (banjo, guitar), Robin Smith (bass), and Charlie Cushman (guitar). Their 1992 album Lonesome River Band was nominated for a Grammy, and the song "Lonesome Standard Time" was named Song of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 1993.
The Grass is Greener
In 1995, Baldassari performed with violinist Richard Greene in his band The Grass is Greener. Their 1997 album Sales Tax Toddle was nominated for a Grammy.
The Nashville Mandolin Trio
The Nashville Mandolin Trio consisted of Baldassari, Gene Ford (guitar) and John Hedgecoth (mandocello), and recorded several albums on the SoundArt label.
Baldassari's final recording project Leavin' Tennessee was a collaboration with guitarist Van Manakas. It was released August 29, 2010 on SoundArt. Other musicians involved with the project included Stuart Duncan and Bobby Hicks (fiddle), Scott Vestal (banjo), and Byron House (bass).
SoundArt Recordings label
Baldassari established the SoundArt Recordings record label in the late 1990s. SoundArt specializes in acoustic mandolin music and instruction, ranging from classical to bluegrass.
Starting in 1986, Baldassari taught at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music for several years, achieving the rank of adjunct professor of mandolin.
In addition, Baldassari released a series of mandolin instruction books, CDs, and DVDs via Homespun Music Instruction.
Pa's Fiddle Project
Baldassari and Professor of Musicology Dale Cockrell co-produced the Pa's Fiddle Project, a projected 10 CD series that will record and collect the 127 songs Pa Ingalls played in the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Baldassari was involved in the production of the first two CDs in the series: Arkansas Traveler and Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder. He also performed on The Pa's Fiddle Primer CD which accompanies the PBS TV special Pa's Fiddle: The Music of America.
Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder is part of the We the People National Endowment for the Humanities collection, which is distributed to 2,000 public, school, and military libraries in the United States and overseas.
Blue Moon Over Kentucky
On October 26, 2002, Baldassari and thevOwensboro Symphony Orchestra premiered "Blue Moon Over Kentucky", his orchestrated tribute to the instrumental music of Bill Monroe, and incorporated standards such as "Roanoke" and "Rawhide."
In May 2007, Baldassari was diagnosed as having an inoperable brain tumor, and died Saturday January 10, 2009 in Nashville at age 56. He was survived by his mother, wife, and son.