We’ve recently learned of yet another university that has added bluegrass music to its curriculum. Students at Eastern Kentucky University, located in Richmond, KY, can now take part in a Bluegrass Ensemble through the University’s School of Music.
According to the university, the ensemble was originally formed earlier this year to perform as part of the Feria de Las Flores (Festival of Flowers) in Medellin, Colombia, an annual, week-long celebration that includes popular, folk, and international music concerts among many other activities. However, the underlying mission of the group is to provide students with an interest in bluegrass, old time, Gospel, and acoustic country music with the opportunity to further their education in those genres.
The ensemble is “coached” by longtime bluegrass musician Pam Perry Combs. Combs spent time as a New Coon Creek Girl in the eighties and nineties and currently performs with a revival of the band. She also helped form the all-female country group Wild Rose, and performed for over twenty years at the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center in south central Kentucky. Combs also served as the Director of Entertainment for Renfro Valley and currently works as a Media Marketing Strategist for the EKU School of Music.
All of the students participating in the ensemble are current music majors at EKU. They include Taylor Wells (vocals), Devin Smith (fiddle), Tyler Monell (upright bass and bass vocals), Isaac Brooks (mandolin, guitar, banjo, and vocals), and Kevin Case (guitar and vocals). Combs will fill in with the group on vocals, mandolin, guitar, and banjo as needed.
Combs hopes that the new ensemble will spark further interest in traditional music at EKU. She says that while many of the university’s music appreciation instructors do touch on traditional styles of music, there is lots of room for additional courses. “There is so much to be learned about the techniques of bluegrass music in general, and a ton of history within each one of those genres,” she says, “not to mention the knowledge to be found right here in Kentucky with the rich heritage, steeped in traditions born within walking distance of the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Kentucky is considered the Bluegrass State, and what better place to learn about it than Eastern Kentucky University.”
The ensemble will showcase their talents with an end-of-the-semester recital on April 23 at 1:00 pm in the Foster Building on EKU’s campus. They plan to travel to Colombia in August for the Festival of Flowers.
For more information on the new EKU Bluegrass Ensemble, visit their Facebook page.