The Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble will perform their spring concert April 22, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. in Phelps Stokes Chapel. The concert will also serve as a benefit to promote and support their upcoming European summer tour to Denmark and Ireland. Donations are welcomed and CDs will be available for purchase at the benefit for $15. The Spring Concert for Mariachi Berea will be the following week on April 29th at 8:00 p.m. in Gray Auditorium of Presser Hall.
The Bluegrass Ensemble will tour and perform in Denmark from June 20-July 7, and in Ireland from July 9-July 16. Current members of the Bluegrass Ensemble are:
- Brenna Macmillan; banjo, senior from Kentucky
- Julie Nelms; fiddle, senior from North Carolina
- Casey Papendieck; bass, senior from Oregon
- Nathan Jose; guitar, freshman from Bengaluru, India
- Katie Bledsoe; guitar, freshman from Virginia
- Al White; mandolin, music faculty member and director of the Bluegrass Ensemble, from New Mexico
Reflecting on the upcoming international tour, White states, “It is a great honor to be representing bluegrass music, Berea College, the state of Kentucky, and the U.S.A. in these two great countries. We so much appreciate this incredible opportunity.”
For seventeen years, the Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble has entertained audiences with remarkable student talent and fun, lively performances. During their time at Berea College, student band members demonstrate picking and singing skills on stage in exchange for course credit, lifelong friendships, and the opportunity to share their music with audiences around the world. The band performs music from Appalachia and beyond, blending the sounds of traditional mountain and bluegrass music with contemporary influences. Band founder and director Al White teaches dozens of new students each year as the College’s Appalachian instruments instructor. White focuses on ensuring that each Bluegrass Ensemble performance is polished and professional.
The group has performed many times in collaboration with Berea College presidents, traveled throughout the eastern United States and toured internationally. This includes five tours to Ireland and three to Japan, as well as the upcoming tours of Denmark and Ireland this summer.
Mariachi Berea is a relatively new musical ensemble formed in fall 2015. The ensemble represents Hispanic culture, which is the fastest growing demographic in Appalachia. Mariachi music emerged from the Mexican state of Jalisco around 150 years ago and is now considered the national music of Mexico. The music is played at a very high level of expertise, led by powerful vocals sang in Spanish. Trumpets, violins, and a rhythm section of guitar, vihuela (small 5-string Mexican guitar) and guitarrón (traditional mariachi bass instrument) accompany the vocals.
Current members of Mariachi Berea include:
- Sean Lee; violin
- Samantha Cunningham; violin
- Noah Broomfield; guitarrón
- Sarah Palmer; trumpet
- Sean Douglass; trumpet
- J. Bodnar; accordion
- Al White; Music faculty member and director of Mariachi Berea
Like other Berea College music ensembles, Mariachi Berea awards academic credit for each semester of involvement.