For students interested in trying out a new instrument or learning more about the one they already know, ETSU provides music classes for students with varying levels of experience. On April 11, the ETSU Mandolin Orchestra performed at St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Johnson City.

The ETSU Mandolin Orchestra is a class and musical group that performs across Johnson City to celebrate the students’ hard work throughout the semester and to share good music. The instruments include the upright bass, mandocello, mandola, mandolin and guitars.

ETSU Assistant Professor Lee Bidgood teaches in the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program and leads the mandolin orchestra class.

He said he thought the students’ overall performance “went really well.”

“The group has been developing as an ensemble over the past few years, and I think tonight everything was really hitting on all cylinders,” Bidgood said.

The evening’s concert included plenty of inspiration from Latin American songs. Bidgood said he worked with Language and Culture Resource Center Director Felipe Fiuza to organize which pieces of music the mandolin orchestra class would learn, and also which songs would be included in the Corazon Latino Festival, where the ETSU Mandolin Orchestra performed earlier this month.

“It was just to give us a different perspective,” Bidgood said.

“I love doing Latin stuff,” ETSU junior Conor Powers-Stout said. “It’s very saucy. People like to dance to it. There’s just a vibe to it that mandolin orchestra executes very well.”

Powers-Stout has played violin for twelve years but just recently picked up the mandolin only a year ago. Though Powers-Stout is a digital media major with a concentration in game design, he loves playing music throughout his schooling. Next semester, he would like to take his violin skills to the chamber orchestra class or the string quartet.

“If you do music, I find that it makes studying a lot easier,” Powers-Stout said.

Last fall the mandolin orchestra class worked on more classical pieces like Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi. Bidgood said he would like to see more original works written by students, faculty or just newer music in general.

“It’s always something different,” Bidgood said. “I always have a project and a dream that we have for the group, and it always depends on the students and what they bring to the project as well, so it’s always collaborative.”

If students are wanting to start and learn a new instrument, Powers-Stout said, “Play covers of your favorite songs or video game tunes. I find that it makes you better at playing by ear, better at sight reading, and it makes it more fun than having to practice repertoire.”

Bidgood also encourages students to join a music class regardless of experience.

“This has been a really exciting ensemble, because no one is in their comfort zone,” Bidgood said. “It’s going to be different and awkward for everyone in some way. Some of the students in the group read music very well, but don’t play well extemporaneously or improving or playing from ear. Others are totally just ear players, and they don’t know how to read music, so it’s cross training for everyone.”

For students interested in taking a music class, check out the ETSU music program for more information on available courses.