Ned Luberecki and Stephen Mougin are a pair of busy bluegrass boys. Both serve as sidemen and band members with different outfits (Chris Jones and Sam Bush respectively), and have “regular jobs” in the biz as well. Ned is an on-air host on Sirius-XM’s Bluegrass Junction, and Stephen operates a studio, Dark Shadow Recording. When they have some free time, they tour as a duo, Nedski & Mojo.
They have agreed to chronicle their current N&M tour for the readers of Bluegrass Today. Day 2 finds them in East Tennessee.
Day 2 begins early with help from the Dunkin’ Donuts iPhone app. Today professors Nedski and Mojo are off to teach some readin’, writin’, and right-hand technique! Ned’s parking karma paid off after a couple of spins through campus, scoring a spot within sight of the Appalachian Studies building. Armed with coffee #2, thanks to our host Dan Boner, we split for our respective classes. Mojo taught a series of private voice lessons, working on breath control, tone production, lyric interpretation and general vocal technique. Nedski’s focus in the banjo lessons was “never be afraid to play the melody.” Kudo’s Ned!
A brief, but tasty lunch, then it was off to the group workshops. Mojo met with the Bluegrass Harmony class and discussed the importance of learning the melody when one is trying to sing harmony! We covered the finer points of blend – matching diction, watching for phrasing, listening for dynamics – and ways to approach different vocal situations. The class also ventured into the uncharted territory of artistic vocal interpretation, knowing what the song means to YOU and finding a way to present that to the listener.
The banjo workshop turned into a lesson on how to play in keys other than G, but keeping it “bluegrassy”. Anyone who picks the five knows what a challenge it is when someone calls Blueridge Cabin Home in E. It’s all about playing a forward roll without using your fifth string!
We stayed a bit longer than planned because the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band (Josh Argo – fiddle, Cara Oliphant – fiddle, Zach Carter – banjo, Kyle Murphy – mandolin, John Goad – guitar, Josh Riffe – bass) came in and began rehearsing. WOW!! They rock! We offered some musical and performance critiques at the behest of their instructor. Typical things: listen to the singer, know the focus of the song, listen to how the band works together, find a groove for the song that everyone agrees on, be CONFIDENT, determine your role in “this” song and be aware of everyone else’s. These kids had most of that, but it’s all in the fine tuning of the details! We heard a very cool original instrumental and an inventive original arrangement of an obscure old tune (with a surprising vocal ending). Bravo for adding something new to the bluegrass lexicon!
All silliness aside, it is truly an honor to be invited to teach at the first place in the country to offer a degree in bluegrass. It is TRULY an academic study program with students and faculty who take it very seriously, and they are doing a tremendous job.
This entry is being typed in the passenger seat of our rental car (we only took the back seat out…) and will be sent once wifi is located!
Tomorrow we are up early again, but this time we’ll be in Washington DC with Katy Daley on WAMU. Tune in to www.bluegrasscountry.org from 9-10 EST to catch us live (hopefully) on air! We will be performing at the Bryson House in Mt. Rainier, MD tomorrow evening. Between events, Mojo is on the hunt for some killer crabcakes!
Update: Stopped for a VERY unhealthy dinner at an undisclosed location and scored wifi from across the parkinglot from guess who…. Dunkin’ Donuts! Dang we love those guys!