Bluegrass Adds Americana and More to Repertoire
Denison Department of Music Presents a Bluegrass Ensemble Concert
The event is free and open to the public.
“Behind the Curtain” had an opportunity to ask Director Adam Schlenker a few questions about the upcoming concert. Schlenker is the newly appointed director of the ensemble at Denison.
What can audience members look forward to for this concert?
This concert is designed to feature the strengths of the students both instrumentally and vocally. We have several strong female singers in the group this time so a portion of our set will showcase music from the “Women in Bluegrass.” We also have a strong strings presence that we are utilizing in both traditional and non-traditional Bluegrass ways. And of course, there will be some blistering guitar and mandolin solos!
As the new director, are there any changes you would like to make? Could you talk a little bit about your idea of adding Americana Music to the group?
The modern acoustic musician needs to be well versed and familiar with a variety of genres and styles. Bluegrass is and will continue to be at the center of this program but we will be taking a deeper look at other styles of acoustic American Roots Music. Studying the “formulas” that develop a genre or a “sound” and looking to see how these pieces fit together to create a well-rounded acoustic musician.
We’ve started off by asking the question “What is Bluegrass music? What does it take to make it? What is not Bluegrass?” Ultimately trying to understand the components of the music.
We have found influences from early String Band Music, Blues, Swing Jazz, Old world fiddle music, early country music, etc..so I feel we should explore the formulas that are at the foundation of these styles as well. These explorations will certainly lead to being a more diverse musician.
At this concert, you’ll hear music from the original, first-generation Bluegrass icons like Jimmy Martin and Bill Monroe but you’ll also hear songs from Randy Newman, Dolly Parton and Bobby Darin. The idea being that if we understand the elements of arranging that makes bluegrass bluegrass, then we should be able to take any song we want, and make it a bluegrass song. And vice versa, we should be able to make traditional songs sound less Bluegrass.
What has the group been involved in this fall? Were they featured on the radio?
The ensemble has had a number of performances this semester. Various breakout groups have played music for multiple on-campus events as well as several off-campus including a fundraising event for Hospice. The fiddlers in our group went to Columbus with me to play live on WOSU for their Bluegrass Ramble 40th anniversary concert and broadcast. We played to a packed house and countless radio listeners. The entire ensemble made a trip down the Athens to perform live on WOUB’s Bluegrass radio show. All in all, it’s been a great semester and we have a lot planned for next semester as well. Several high profile performances are being firmed up as we speak!