The students in the Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music Studies program at East Tennessee State University got quite a lesson today when they all attended a seminar and performance with The Earls of Leicester this afternoon in Johnson City.
The band is in town for a show tonight at the Culp University Center on campus, and swung by to visit with the students this afternoon. It’s not uncommon for touring artists to spend time with students when they pass through east Tennessee, but this was a big day with everyone in the department on hand to see the Earls.
Program Director Dan Bone said that it was a special day for all involved.
“It was really great to have the whole band in a seminar setting, because each band member got to talk about their experiences and how they came to where they are in music. I’m pretty sure they had a good time as well, since they went over by 15 minutes.
For me, having grown up on Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe, The Osborne Brothers, to hear these guys today on stage on one mic just a few feet away from me, it felt like I was going to church. I couldn’t help but grin, and everybody in the audience was doing the same thing.
That group of guys really nail it – they are something special.”
Tonight’s concert will also feature a set by the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band, the elite performing unit chosen from among the students in the Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program. With the Earls Of Leicester always featuring a set of Flatt & Scruggs material, Boner and The Pride Band have prepared a program of all Bill Monroe songs, and will appear in period clothing just as the Earls do.
The Earls are Jerry Douglas on reso-guitar, Johnny Warren on fiddle, Charlie Cushman on banjo, Shawn Camp on guitar, Jeff White on mandolin, and Barry Bales on bass. The Bluegrass Pride Band is Calder Baker on banjo, Aynsley Porchak on fiddle, Jaime Carter on bass, Karl Smakula on mandolin, Ben Watlington on guitar, and Dan Boner (instructor) on fiddle.
ETSU offers a four year degree program in bluegrass performance within their Appalachian Studies department. It has grown so large that they now have 30 bands made up of students that practice and perform bluegrass, old time, country, and Celtic music. Each band is coached by a faculty member in addition to their other classes.
Boner said that the seminar today was captured on video, as will be tonight’s performances, so perhaps we can get ahold of some that to share next week.