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Berklee's First Ever String Showcase - Bluegrass, Americana, jazz, swing, r&b, Roots and more

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Published: November 3, 2010 at 11:03 PM [UTC]

This is a guest blog written by Berklee student Jakub Trasak, the student to organize our school's first ever String Showcase - a concert highlighting the wide stylistic range of Berklee's String Department. 

My name is Jakub Trasak. I'm a seventh semester violin performance student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, and I founded the college's first ever String Showcase. If you're in the Boston area, come check it out tomorrow (11/4) at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Avenue, at 8:15 p.m. One big bonus for coming to the concert: you can win a Yamaha electric violin! (Check out details at the links I provided after this post for more details!)

After being around Berklee for a couple semesters, I realized that every single department, except for the String Department, has at least one performance per year in our biggest venue, the Berklee Performance Center. I decided that this needed to change - the String Department needed a concert to feature the variety of creative string playing from all over the world that we study here at Berklee. 

Tomorrow, about twelve ensembles will perform bluegrass, Americana, r&b, swing, Irish, jazz and more styles at the showcase. Each ensemble has its own leader who was given creative control over their program segments - I wanted the feel of the concert to reflect my experience here (lots of variety, musicians from all over the world), so the only limit I gave the ensemble leaders was a time limit. One ensemble I'm really excited to hear is the Berklee World Strings, led by faculty member Eugene Friesen. They're going to feature students' arrangements of classical pieces and students' own compositions and arrangements. The performers will not only be "in" the concert, but they're also featured as composers or arrangers of their acts. 

Growing up as a bluegrass violinist in Prague, a city steeped in classical tradition, I have a special appreciation for studying a broad vocabulary of musical styles. I started playing the violin at three. From three to five, I listened and played primarily bluegrass, mostly because my dad was a bluegrass violinist. He grew up in Northern Bohemia and heard bluegrass and roots music through friends. I took classical lessons as a kid to hone my technique, intonation and posture, but I've always connected the most with bluegrass and roots music. 

After hearing legendary fiddler Mark O'Connor's CD, New Nashville Cats, in 1991, I knew I wanted to be a bluegrass musician. The album is amazing; it features so many different styles, but Mark is capable of playing them all on an extraordinary level. I fell in love with the CD, and I transcribed it and learned every tune. When I got ahold of Mark O'Connor's book, Championship Years, I saw Mark's open invitation to the first ever session at at Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camp that was to be held that summer (1993).

I ended up attending Mark's fiddle camp for 4 years. Each summer at camp gave me the chance to experience something different, to broaden my musicianship and to bring what I learned back to Europe. It's kind of funny that what I experienced at Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camp is happening again at Berklee - talented musicians playing many different styles of music at a high level. 

I'm so excited share all the different styles of music we study on strings here at Berklee with the public tomorrow night.

Fore more information about the String Showcase, you can check out Berklee's site HERE, and you can also check out a site I made for the concert HERE

Oh, and here's a trailer for tomorrow's concert on YouTube:

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