Mando news from Berklee

Joe WalshWe caught up recently with Joe Walsh, mandolin instructor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and he shared some news from the growing 8 string community on campus.

Joe says that they now have about ten mandolinists studying at Berklee, enough for him to put together an ensemble specifically geared towards the music of David Grisman.

Being that today is Grisman’s birthday, Walsh sent along a video of his Dawg Music ensemble performing last month at the annual Berklee Mandolin Mashup Concert. Jake Howard and JD Williams are on mandolin, David Adams on guitar, Sumaia Jackson on fiddle, and Mike Gaisbacher on bass playing Dawg Patch.


Joe also sent along this video of another ensemble, assembled specifically to study and learn the music from Béla Fleck’s Tales From The Acoustic Planet album, and from Uncommon Ritual by Fleck with Edgar Meyer and Mike Marshall. Here they are doing Child’s Play from Uncommon Ritual, with JD Williams again on mandolin, Jordan Alleman on banjo, Mike Gaisbacher on bass, David Tangney on cello, and Jake Howard on guitar.


Ensembles are a big part of the educational program at Berklee, and now that banjo and mandolin are accepted as primary instruments, the faculty must find appropriate ensembles for them to work in. Every student, whether pursuing a performance major, or many others like music education, recording arts, composition, or music therapy, must declare a primary instrument, and pass proficiency exams and participate in ensembles, based on graded skill level.

Joe also mentioned that Berklee will again host the Berklee Roots Weekend: Bluegrass, Blues, and Beyond this year, running June 26-28. The workshop welcomes students at any level, 15 years or older, on violin, viola, cello, bass, mandolin, banjo, guitar, and harp. It mixes lectures, master classes, and ensembles over the three days, with faculty concerts each evening.

The staff for 2015 includes Tony Trischka, Darol Anger, Matt Glaser, Bruce Molsky, Viktor Krauss, Paul Rishell, Annie Raines, Matt Munisteri, and Joe Walsh.

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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.