The first year of bluegrass at the University of North Carolina is in the books, with auditions to join the program in the upcoming fall semester set for next month.
The school introduced a bluegrass ensemble into the curriculum of the music department as part of their Bluegrass Initiative during the summer of 2016. Russell Johnson, who leads Research Triangle-based The Grass Cats, was named the director of the new group, billed simply as the Carolina Bluegrass Band. He will host auditions on campus August 21-22 for any students who would like to be considered for band, which earns academic credit like any other elective class.
Professor Jocelyn R. Neal, Associate Chair of the Department of Music, told us in an interview last month that they want to expose students, who come to Chapel Hill from all over the state, the country, and the world, to music and arts native to North Carolina.
“The inclusion of bluegrass in the Department of Music matches our broader goals of including more vernacular and popular musics in our offerings, areas that are increasingly relevant to our students in a global community. Our faculty have been researching and writing about music and culture in these contexts for years; bringing these classes into the department allows our undergraduates more access to these growing areas of study.
Finally, North Carolina is home to a number of significant strands of bluegrass music. This inclusion of bluegrass in our curriculum extends our University’s responsibilities and attention to this region, its history, and its interface with the rest of the world.”
Ted Lehmann attended the program’s recent spring semester concert and recorded these videos of the Carolina Bluegrass Band on stage.
First up is Chris Burris doing a grassy version of Chris Stapleton’s If It Hadn’t Been For Love.
And a take on the bluegrass classsic, Big Spike Hammer, by William Hall.
Other students in the videos include Maddie Fisher on mandolin, Liz Short on fiddle, Jake Cochran on guitar, Sydney Wheeless and Lee Landess on banjo, and Reese Krome on bass.
Any UNC Chapel Hill students who would like to audition in August are asked to contact Russell Johnson in advance by email.