Rediscovering Roots: Bluegrass in UVA’s Music Department
Have you ever found yourself near Old Cabell Hall and heard a familiar high lonesome sound? More than likely, it is coming from Richard Will’s Bluegrass Workshop, which grew out of an informal weekly jam he has hosted since 2003. The workshop, which Will launched in the fall of 2013, welcomes students from across Grounds to learn the instrumental and vocal skills needed to perform bluegrass, as well as the repertory and history of the genre. “We get a lot of students who have some experience with bluegrass or old-time music” Will said, “but then we also get students who come from rock, folk, jazz, or classical music. They are all interested in learning another genre.” Will, who trained originally as a classical violinist, counts himself among that crossover group. “I have been interested in bluegrass all my life,” he said, “and when I moved to Virginia in 2001 from the Pacific Northwest, I found myself in the middle of Bluegrass nirvana.” The timing of the workshop is fortuitous, as Bluegrass is regularly crossing genre barriers and drawing more new players and fans every year. “It has a very strong culture of live performance, including at festivals around the country,” Will said, “and an increasing number of intersections with other genres, particularly improvisational genres like jazz.” Will further noted that the Workshop fits into a departmental mission of broadening the music curriculum.