The sounds of acoustic guitars, mandolins, dobros and the lyrics of “Sweet Home Alabama” seeped out of Burghy’s Lounge in the Angell College Center and could be heard throughout the entire building. The crowd was completely immersed in the performance and followed the lead of Cardinal Pickers’ member Nicholas Schumacher as he started to clap to the verse “Sweet home Alabama, where the skies are so blue.”
Bluegrass for the Next Generation held a concert, April 29, featuring a performance by well-known bluegrass group, the Feinberg Brothers. BGNG was launched back in 2011 with a donation from an anonymous donor.
Vice president of the BGNG Nicholas Schumacher said the goal is as the name of the club would imply. Get Bluegrass music out there for future generations.
“Right now, some would say [bluegrass music] is filled with old people,” Schumacher said.
In an attempt to attract a younger audience, the club has a certain budget to be able to bring professionals acts to the campus.
“We’ve had the Gibson Brothers and Sierra Hull come to campus in the past,” Schumacher said. “This year we got the Feinberg Brothers to come.”
The Cardinal Pickers is a part of BGNG and the on-campus bluegrass ensemble group. They consist of six members and sometimes get special guests to perform with them, as well.
“It’s good to get the campus community exposed to this type of music and people involved,” Schumacher said.
The Cardinal Pickers perform around the Plattsburgh area but not so much on campus and that’s something the group wishes to change in the future.
“We go to a lot of elementary schools and play for the children,” Schumacher said. “We try to get an even younger crowd into this type of music.”
Bluegrass is a form of music that derived as a mixture of folk, country and gospel. It was invented by Bill Monroe in Kentucky. Hence the name of the bluegrass state.
He primarily played the mandolin and formed the hugely successful bluegrass group, Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys.
He said that over the years bluegrass and country split. Bluegrass stayed toward the roots and it’s played with acoustic instruments: like guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles and dobros.
“Bluegrass doesn’t use any electric instruments except maybe a bass,” he said.
Schumacher grew up learning the guitar playing mostly the blues and rock ‘n’ roll.
“When I came to Plattsburgh Faith (Gaddis) introduced me to bluegrass,” he said. “This was a new thing for me.”
After going to one of the concerts BGNG put on his freshman year, which featured the Gibson Brother Schumacher decide he wanted to pick up the mandolin.
“Bluegrass music is pretty much all I listen to now,” Schumacher said.
President of BGNG Faith Gaddis was introduced to bluegrass music at a very young age.
“I was exposed to bluegrass music as early as 14 months old when my parents would take me with to Grey Fox Music Festival,” Gaddis said. “Coming to Plattsburgh I remember going to the involvement fair freshman year and seeing that there was a bluegrass group on campus.”
She said bluegrass is not as glamorized as other genres.
“The performing is different. A lot of it is done live. A big part of it is the festivals, the people and the interactions,” Gaddis said. “When we’re on stage, we’re not only playing music.
We’re also putting on an act.”
She said when they’re switching instruments they have to make sure one of the musicians is talking to the crowd and making good commentary.
“Usually it’s something humorous,” she said.
The community and the people behind the music is what has drawn Gaddis to bluegrass.
“I’ve gone to the festivals every year and met some great people and musicians. There’s a lot of talent out there,” Gaddis said. “Bluegrass is just as big in the Northeast as it is in the South.”
If people are skeptical about giving bluegrass a chance, Gaddis said to listen to the music and the lyrics to hear what’s it about.
“There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it,” she said.
One aspect the club wants to see to improve upon is its presence on campus.
“Nicholas and I are graduating next year, so definitely next semester we’re going to out there more to the student community,” Gaddis said. “We’re open to anyone: singers, musicians and people who just want to learn how to play. We also have a locker full of instruments that we can rent out to people.”
There is an open jam Monday nights in Meyers 112 at 7p.m. where anyone can attend and play.
“We’re always looking to perform no matter where it is,” Schumacher said.
Email David Luces at firstname.lastname@example.org