Bluegrass-Folk Music In Overdrive: A Student’s View

Admittedly, my knowledge of Bluegrass music was sorrowfully limited: images of mountain folks playing the banjo, television and the occasional catchy radio tune. Then there was this class Bluegrass-Folk Music In Overdrive. What a magnificently educational and extraordinary treat!

Each class featured and focused on an instrument typically played in the Bluegrass genre. Guest musicians not only shared some history and Jeopardy-worthy facts and trivia about their particular instrument and the Bluegrass musicians who played them, they enhanced our experience by short illustrative performances. By the last day of class, we knew a little something about the Mandolin, the Banjo, the Dobro, the Guitar, the Fiddle and the Bass. We knew a little something about the roots of this often poetic and great music.

Andy Bing, who plays the Dobro, a beautiful type of resonator guitar, captivated us with historical information before introducing us to the instrument of the day and to the guest artist who would engage us with more information and beautiful music. Sometimes they even gave us a glimpse of their own personal journeys to Bluegrass. We learned of the patriarchs and matriarchs of Bluegrass, a noted few being Bill Monroe (celebrated as the father of Bluegrass music), Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, the Carter Family (kudos to Mother Maybelle Carter, for one, with her style of strumming and picking simultaneously), the Stonemans, Howdy Forrester, Chubby Wise, Kenny Baker. These history makers, their biographies, stories and their music could fill volumes.

Each class was a feast for our musical souls and what a way to get introduced to Bluegrass! We could not only hear it, we could feel it. It was apparent that each musician felt such palpable joy and passion in playing whether solo or with the other musicians in a jam session. Each musician had such admiration, love and respect for the music and its continued journey through generations of other musicians who laid the groundwork for this musical style, its form, content and poetry.

Highly deserving of great gratitude for bringing this experience to life: Lynn Lipton, who brought it all together, beginning to end; Fred Robbins who recorded each and every class; Andy Bing, for his historical insight; The Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association; And to all the musicians who took the time to open our eyes and fire up our brains with fascinating history, knowledge, personal stories and music…thank you!!

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