Bluegrass/American Roots Ensemble's Tribute to Hank Williams
In the Spring of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19, Denison Bluegrass students produced an extraordinary piece of music, a tribute to Hank Williams.
Adam Schlenker coordinates the Bluegrass and American Roots Music program at Denison. “I chose the Hank Williams theme before the semester started. As part of my goal to grow our program from a bluegrass focus to a more encompassing American Roots Music program, I have been choosing some artists to showcase that are related to bluegrass but are outside that formula. At its core, Bluegrass music is “acoustic country music” so the Hank Williams showcase was not a stretch. The hard part was narrowing the song list down! He was such an amazing songwriter.”
When we learned that we needed to leave campus and return to our homes it seemed as though the ensemble was finished for the semester. We suspected that our performances were going to be canceled and that all the work we had done so far was not going to be presented to the public.
Through some research and calling on my past life as an audio engineer/producer, I found a cloud-based recording platform called BandLab. BandLab is designed for musicians to collaborate, and share ideas from anywhere in the world. The recording session lives in the cloud and each band member contributes their parts, building on each other’s work. We found an opportunity in this technology that allowed us to stay connected and continue to make music together, remotely.
The next challenge was to get the system working for everyone based on the tools they had to work with. The tracks you hear were recorded on everything from laptops to iPhones and with microphones ranging from very nice, built in phone mics and even the little microphones built into headphones.
Less than ideal? yes. Consistent sound? not at all. Did we make music? YES!!!
Once all the parts were recorded, I exported the tracks to my home studio for editing, mixing and mastering. When it was all said and done, we had made ourselves an “old school country music record” that includes 10 classic Hank Williams songs and 5 original songs written and performed by Bluegrass Seminar students.
There’s no doubt that we would have preferred to have been together to make this music. We would have liked to have been in the wonderful new Eisner Center recording studio with its state of the art equipment, but we did it. We pushed through and we made ourselves an album. Sure it has some blemishes but that’s ok because at first it didn’t even seem possible. So as you listen, hear it from that perspective, that we overcame major obstacles, keeping the band together and keeping the music alive!
Spring 2020 Student List:
*represents the students also in Seminar who wrote the original songs
- *Beatrice “Bebe” Blumenthal: Fiddle, vocal, mandolin
- *Billy Hoffman: vocal, guitar
- Grant Kelly: Vocal, guitar
- Alex Meurer: guitar
- Clem Pearson: mandolin, vocal, hammer dulcimer
- Mitch Rotondo: guitar, vocal
- Kevin Corrigan: guitar
- Fred Brou: guitar, vocal
- *Angela Sommerer: bass, vocal
- Daydeon Baron-Galbavi: bass, vocal
- Blythe Dahlem: guitar, vocal
- Ansley Maynard: guitar, vocal
- Gene Otto: guitar
- Daniel Seely: mandolin, vocal
- Adam Tanner: vocal, autoharp, dulcimer, mandolin
- Reya Weibel: vocal, mandolin
- Rick Coplin: bass
- Sunny Stier-Wood: vocal, guitar
- Seth Rogers: drums
- Adam Schlenker: guitar, dobro