The Berklee College of Music in Boston has announced bluegrass fiddler and vocalist Laura Orshaw as the recipient of the 2023 Eisenson Family Prize for American Roots Music. The annual award is decided based on criteria set by renowned fiddler and violinist Matt Glaser, who directs the American Roots Music program at Berklee.
The Eisenson Family Prize, endowed by Bill Haney in 2016, is given to allow a noted roots musician to visit the school to teach and interact with students. For some years now, Berklee has admitted students whose primary instruments and interests are in bluegrass music, and has hired instructors and created ensembles to further their studies.
Glaser said to Berklee Now about Laura that…
“Laura Orshaw sings and plays the fiddle with incredible intensity and power, a power that comes from her immersion in the deep emotional core of classic country music. As the great Ray Charles said, ‘Country songs are very earthy, like the blues. The people are very honest. Country songs and the blues is like it is!’
Berklee students who will get to work with her, thanks to the Eisenson Family Prize, will benefit from Laura’s amazing knowledge of the trailblazing work of artists such as Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Hazel Dickens.”
Bluegrass lovers know Orshaw as fiddler with The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, where she also throws down as a singer with the band. Her previous work has included stints with Alan Bibey & Grasstowne, Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass, and the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band.
She has already made one visit to the Berklee campus to meet with students, and will return periodically throughout the year to work with them in ensembles, master classes, and even private lessons.
Laura likewise spoke to Berklee Now about this award.
“As a music educator and professional musician based in the Boston area, I am so grateful for the incredible opportunities Berklee has afforded me. Through my experiences as a visiting artist, performing at symposiums, teaching private lessons, and working with student ensembles, I’ve come to know the true magic of Berklee.
Being named a recipient of the Eisenson Family Prize for American Roots Music is an absolute honor. I’m thrilled to continue my work with the American Roots Program, with a special focus on women in roots music.”
In addition to recording and performing with The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, Laura Orshaw is signed with Dark Shadow Recording in Nashville, where her second album is in pre-production. Current plans call for it to be released in the spring of 2024.