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SUNY Plattsburgh Alumni Brothers Instrumental on International Bluegrass Scene

Leigh and Eric Gibson have come a long way since playing their bluegrass harmonies as teenagers at a local Plattsburgh coffeehouse.

Finding a Passion for Bluegrass

For starters, the farm boys from Ellenburg Depot, N.Y., graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh — Eric earned a degree in English in ’93 and younger brother, Leigh, earned bachelor's degrees in both communication (1994) and English (1996). But even throughout their college years, the brothers continued playing and performing, with Eric on banjo and Leigh on guitar. In 1993, they brought in Junior Barber on dobro and Junior’s son, Mike, on bass, and began playing the bluegrass festival circuit.

They took lessons on their instruments and began singing at the suggestion of their minister, finding their passion in bluegrass after being introduced to the music of Flat and Scruggs. Although Eric began teaching at AuSable Valley Central School in Clintonville, N.Y., he took a leave of absence to pursue a music career with his brother in earnest. And in 1998, they won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Emerging Artist of the Year award. In 2003, the Gibsons released “Bona Fide,” which went to No. 1 on the Bluegrass Unlimited chart and placed high on the Americana and Billboard charts..

Taking Home Multiple Honors

Ten albums later, the Gibson Brothers found themselves onstage in Nashville Sept. 30 accepting the IBMA Album of the Year and Vocal Group of the Year awards for their chart-topping album, “Help My Brother.” They were also nominated for Entertainer of the Year but lost to banjo-playing comedian Steve Martin and his Steep Canyon Rangers.

This year’s success with the IBMA follows last year’s wins for their album, “Ring the Bell,” the title cut of which took Song of the Year and Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year at the 2010 IBMA awards.

The brothers keep close contact with their North Country roots. When they’re not traveling or recording, Eric lives not far from his hometown in Brainardsville while Leigh resides in Schenectady, N.Y. They often give concerts to support local charities, including the SUNY Plattsburgh College Foundation. In 2005, they came back to their alma mater as distinguished visiting alumni where they gave a presentation, “Behind the Music of the Gibson Brothers.”

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