This post (and photos) is a contribution from David Hollender, Professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Dave has been a member of the ensemble department for several years, and teaching upright bass. He also teaches banjo for students following the Acoustic String Principal, where banjo, mandolin, acoustic guitar or fiddle players can pursue a degree at Berklee.
The Punch Brothers made a return visit to Berklee College of Music last week (4/7) when they were in Boston to play at The Museum of Fine Arts. About 150 students filled David Friend Recital Hall at Berklee to greet Chris Thile, Chris “Critter” Eldridge, Greg Garrison, Noam Pikelny, Gabe Witcher on their second visit to Berklee during the past twelve months. The acoustics and size of the room allowed the band to play completely acoustically once again. This put the detail and delicacy of the band’s sound in a setting that I wish everyone could experience. Hearing these guys’ 100% pure acoustic tone in a small room is something special.
The band opened things up right away for requests. Along with music from their albums, Punch and How To Grow A Woman From The Ground, they played unrehearsed bluegrass standards ‚Äì Sittin’ On Top Of The World, Ninety-nine Years, Sled Riding ‚Äì and tunes from Chris’ solo albums ‚Äì Song For A Young Queen and Jessamyn’s Reel.
The students asked great questions about the compositional and creative process that went into the recent album and heard highly articulate answers that gave them a good sense of how much careful thought and preparation went into the music the band is playing these days. Other questions focused on instrumental sound and technique. It was amazing and inspiring to hear a player like Chris, who most people would say possesses about the most fluid and musical sound of any mandolin player to have lived, speak in terms that suggest that he still considers his instrumental technique to still be a work-in-progress. Noam and Critter echoed this with their thoughts about tone, volume, speed, etc.
It all added up to a concentrated dose of education and inspiration from a group that is breaking new ground and setting new standards of musicianship for bluegrass-rooted players and composers. I’d like to personally express my appreciation to Chris, Noam, Critter, Gabe and Greg for the generosity they showed by spending their free time visiting Berklee again.