The Zinc Kings

a progressive folk and string-band based in the North Carolina Piedmont

Founding members Dan Clouse, Mark Dillon and Christen Blanton Mack met at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as founding members of UNCG Old-Time Ensemble. Bassist Ryan Mack joined soon after. Recognizing a mutual love for traditional music, they started The Zinc Kings to explore the old-time, early bluegrass, blues, and folk music of the North Carolina Piedmont. The Zinc Kings continue to be inspired by traditional music as they take on projects writing original music. Their original music for Shakespeare’s "As You Like It" (with the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, Raleigh Little Theatre and Bare Theater) was nominated for Best Original Music by IndyWeek. The Zinc Kings' upcoming album is their most ambitious yet, featuring original music recorded live in the historic Sunset Theater in Asheboro, North Carolina. All four of the members of The Zinc Kings are full time musicians, professors, teachers, and studio musicians. Individually, they are sought-after musicians but are perhaps at their best, and most entertaining, when working as a cohesive unit. 

Christen Blanton Mack

Fiddle, Vocals

Christen is constantly in search of new fiddle tunes, folk songs, and ballads from diverse folk traditions. Christen has developed a love of songwriting over her years with The Zinc Kings, drawing on traditional song and dance forms to inspire a modern folk sensibility. In addition to prizes won with The Zinc Kings at festivals and conventions, Christen has won top prizes for fiddle and vocals at The Happy Valley Fiddlers Convention and the Charlie Poole Music Festival. Christen is a proud and seasoned music educator, holding degrees from The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has combined her love of teaching, traditional music, and research by presenting clinics and workshops to students and teachers, most notably at the American String Teachers Association National Conference, the North Carolina Music Educators Association State Conference, the Southeast Honors Strings Festival, the International Bluegrass Music Association Conference, the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention, and the International Society for Music Education. Christen currently serves as the Director of the UNCG Old-Time Ensemble, teaching fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, and other folk instruments in addition to coaching student bands in the old-time style and tradition. 

Dan Clouse

Banjo, Tuba, Washboards


Dan Clouse started his musical life in rural Michigan, singing Bach chorales and hymns in the Lutheran church.  By high school was playing trombone, euphonium, tuba, and electric bass in any group he could find. While studying for a masters degree in music theory at the University of Tennessee he discovered the banjo and the music of the Carter family.  He went on to teach tuba and euphonium at Grand Valley State University, Cornerstone University, and North Carolina Central University, and music technology at the University of North Carolina Greensboro but banjo was never far from his mind. While at UNCG he met Mark Dillon and Christen Blanton in the old-time ensemble and put his banjo to use in the Zinc Kings.  He finished his DMA in tuba performance at UNCG in 2011 and currently works as a software developer and active freelance musician.

Mark Dillon

Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo, Vocals

Mark Dillon is musician / music educator born into a musical family. His first memories are of sitting on Dolly Parton's lap while watching his great uncle Lloyd's country radio show. After finishing a degree in music theory and then a master's degree in guitar building, Mark started a business building and repairing guitars while playing music most nights. Later he became a high school teacher specializing in teaching popular music and recording. Mark went on to earn a master's degree and PhD in music education. Currently he teaches and writes about commercial music at Guilford Technical Community College (GTTC) as well as teaching songwriting at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG). Mark works actively in the folk music community on several arts commissions; he is one of the founders of the Piedmont One Mic Acoustic Convention (POMAC), a festival dedicated to the art of playing around one microphone. 

Ryan Mack

Double Bass

Hailing from Watertown, South Dakota, Ryan joined The Zinc Kings in 2011. As a middle-school orchestra director, Ryan is in a unique position to bring traditional music into public school music classes. His orchestras have been showcased at the North Carolina Music Educators Association Conference, playing their own arrangements of old-time music and discussing the benefits and enjoyment of learning traditional music. In 2018, Ryan placed 5th in the bass contest at the Mount Airy Blue Grass and Old-Time Fiddlers Convention. He holds degrees in music education and bass performance from Concordia College and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In addition to playing old-time music, Ryan enjoys playing jazz, swing, and with symphony orchestras in North Carolina.