Berklee College bluegrassers at Kennedy Center

We just got a note from our friend David Hollender, who has been keeping us abreast of the activities of the students at Berklee College of Music with an interest in bluegrass music. We have posted many times about Berklee, and their recent decision to allow the use of traditional string instruments as the principal instrument in pursuing a Berklee degree. Dave contacted me last night to let us all know that some of students in one of his bluegrass ensembles had been featured in a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on Thursday night (5/4).

Here is Dave’s report:

“A band from Berklee just played at the Kennedy Center tonight. It was part of The Conservatory Project and they have invited groups from Berklee, as well as other prestigious music schools like the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory of Music just to mention a few. We’ve been sending bands regularly to the series and usually we’ve been the sole jazz music on the program, but this year we sent a bluegrass/country group.

The 1st half of the performance was bluegrass, followed by a country set. The personnel on the bluegrass part was Charlie Worsham (leader) – banjo, guitar, voice; Joe Walsh – mandolin; Kristin Weber – fiddle & vocal; Asheigh Caughill – bass & vocal; Charlie Hutto – guitar. Charlie and Kristin came to the Five Week summer program in 2003 and then enrolled at Berklee as full time students.”

The concert was previewed in the Washington Examiner newspaper, but I was not able to find a link to the article online. In it, Charlie Worsham is quoted at some length, describing his bluegrass background as a youngster, and his decision to study music production in Boston before heading to Nashville to join some other Berklee grads when he graduates next fall.

Their May 4th performance was recorded, and the video can be viewed from the Kennedy Center web site. They start with a great version of Kenny Smith’s superb composition, Amanda’s Reel – a sure sign that these folks are getting it right at Berklee!

In all seriousness, it is an impressive performance and worth your attention. It may be something of a clich??? to make mention of the fact that the future of our music depends on the willingness of young people to undertake the serious study required to master it, but it’s a risk worth taking. Hats off to these talented young folks, and the faculty at Berklee that supports their efforts.

UPDATE 5/8: There is a press release up on the Berklee web site about this show, and the various musicians who participated. It mentions that they will be a featured guest on an upcoming edition of XM’s Studio Sessions show.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.