The ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band performed as the opening act for the Krüger Brothers and the Symphony of the Mountains concert at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Toy F. Reid Eastman Employee Center in Kingsport, Tennessee.
There is a total of more than 40 bands in the department of Appalachian Studies program comprised of several Bluegrass, Old Time, Celtic and Country Pride bands.
“Whenever any of the other groups go out to perform, they’ll be called the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band,” said Daniel Boner, director of the ETSU Pride Band.
ETSU bluegrass musicians for the evening featured Joe Cicero on guitar, Jameson Dunham on bass, Troy Boone on mandolin, George Wagman on banjo and the director of the group, Nate Olson, playing the fiddle. The band is also known by their internal name Little Chicago.
“The group that’s performing, we selected them because they’ve been doing some experimental bluegrass, some things that are on the contemporary edge of bluegrass,” Boner said. “I don’t know what the audience can expect but I expect whatever it is, it’ll be a little bit more contemporary and not your typical bluegrass standards.”
Boner said he thinks the students will learn a lot from the Krüger Brothers and the Symphony of the Mountains performance.
“Well I think it’s always great anytime our students get to hear a group like the Krüger Brothers, who are innovators and very creative,” Boner said. “They are also very critical musicians. They are always on the cutting edge of what their instruments do.”
One of the unique qualities of the performance is that the Krüger Brothers joined together with the Symphony of the Mountains to present ‘Music from the spring.’
With this partnership, the Krüger Brothers will offer their distinct sound along with the Symphony of the Mountains’ style of performing.
“When you hear the Krüger Brothers, you don’t mistake them for anyone else,” Boner said.
The concept of a symphony working together with a bluegrass band is an idea that began over 30 years ago.
“Symphony orchestra working with bluegrass instruments really began back in the 1970s with the McLain family band,” Boner said. “Composer Phillip Rhodes composed for the McLain family band, the symphony orchestra played by standard musical notation, the bluegrass band played by ear.”
By combining the two musical styles, it offers a different type of experience for audience members.
“Hopefully it will be an educational experience,” Boner said. “I would like to think that some of our students may get some ideas, who knows maybe 10 years from now one of them might be so influenced by that night that they decide to work with a composer and do the same type of thing.”
For this performance, ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band members have an opportunity to learn techniques from the musicians and it may even influence their own work, said Boner.
“Perhaps some of our students may follow that pathway at some point,” Boner said.