Bluegrass Festival delights with alumni and guest performers

LAURA LAPHAM, Arts & Life Editor Emeritus—Throughout the years, Denison has been graced by many musical guests at its annual Bluegrass Festival. Last weekend on Friday and Saturday night, many different artists came to Denison University as part of the sixteenth Bluegrass Festival.

Friday night was the Generations of Bluegrass concert, a yearly favorite that brings musicians from Denison’s past back to campus to perform together. There was Kenzie Miracle ‘15 who plays the fiddle and has played across Europe with many different bluegrass groups.

Aiden VanSuetendael ‘18 is another returning Denison alumna who has been playing in Nashville since graduation. Hayes Griffin is a masterful guitarist from Grand Rapids. Jim Sltz, hailing from central Ohio, performed on the double bass. Even though he’s not a Denison grad, Jim fit right in with the rest of the musicians. Rich Baker was on the mandolin and guitar, and is a resident of the central Ohio bluegrass scene. Tom Ewing was on guitar and a vocalist who played with Bill Monroe with the Blue Grass Boys, and Adam Schlenker is a coordinator of Bluegrass Studies here at Denison and studies American Root Music.

There were current students who took part in the bluegrass weekend as well, such as fiddler Bebe Blumenthal ‘20 who is double majoring in music performance and bluegrass. There was also Sunny Stier-Wood ‘22, who is a guitarist and vocalist in Denison’s bluegrass ensemble. When asked to comment on the Bluegrass Festival, Stier-Wood said, “performing was really fun! The bluegrass ensemble is one of my favorite things to be involved with on campus, and I loved sharing the stage with some really talented Denison alums. Everyone really respected the talents and effort of everyone else up on the stage, which made our group dynamic really cohesive.”

The second night of the Bluegrass Festival, Saturday, Feb. 8, had Sister Sadie, winner of the 2019 International Bluegrass Music Awards (IBMA), perform at Swasey Chapel. The performers were Dale Ann Bradly, a five time IBMA vocalist of the year, alongside Tina Adair on the mandolin and vocals. Deanie Richardson was on the fiddle, and has performed with a multitude of artists such as Bob Segar and Bince Gill. Finally, Gena Britt was on banjo, and also performed with notable musicians across the bluegrass scene.

The two performers Dale Ann Bradly and Tina Adair both spoke about their experience here at Denison. Tina Adair described the performance as “An amazing venue and people. This is as good as it gets.” Dale Ann Bradly said that “This building is amazing for acoustic music with the good wooden flooring.” When discussing the feeling of performing live, Dale Ann Bradly said that “When you get into the spirit things happen.” and Tina Adaid said that “I like recording, but playing live you draw your energy. I personally draw my energy off of the audience. If we are having a great time, the audience is hopefully having a great time.” The enthusiasm of the musicians was matched by their audience, who will surely return next year for more of Denison’s signature bluegrass music.

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