CC Bluegrass Ensemble to Play at Exclusive Urban Festival

By Miriam Brown ’21

The International Bluegrass Music Association claims its Wide Open Bluegrass Festival is the largest free urban bluegrass festival in the world. This year, the lineup includes artists such as I’m With Her, Balsam Range, Doyle Lawson, and Quicksilver — and the Colorado College Bluegrass Ensemble.

The CC Bluegrass Ensemble is one of three groups designed to give CC students the opportunity “to develop material with the feel and structure of bluegrass music,” according to its website. Led by bluegrass program director Keith Reed, the group is audition-only and performs regularly at shows around Colorado.

The ensemble’s invitation to perform at the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival puts them on a line-up among a range of “all-star musicians,” says Camille Newsom ’20, who has been playing with the ensemble since last spring. The festival, which will take place from Sept. 27–28, in Raleigh, North Carolina, is part of IBMA’s “World of Bluegrass” week. Last year, the week’s events drew nearly a quarter million attendees.

The ensemble performing at the festival includes Newsom, Hub Hejna ’21, Ethan Hall ’21,Helen Lenski ’22, and Ada Bowles ’21. They all take lessons from Reed and practice on their own to learn songs; for performances like this, the group practices together many times a week.

“I am excited to play with this new group and develop our sound as a band,” Newsom says. “We all have a lot of fun playing together and over the course of the year have the opportunity to play lots of shows around the state. It is really exciting to be able to play at the IBMA festival because there will be many incredible musicians at the festival who are role models for us.”

The ensemble has played a few gigs locally in an effort to refine its set list for the festival. Hejna says the IBMA event “is a great chance for us to take what we’ve been working on and see how it’s received in one of the biggest bluegrass hotbeds in the U.S. Not only do we get to play a set at the same festival as some of bluegrass’s finest, but we will also be able to study the way professional musicians operate both on-stage and off and immerse ourselves in the deep-rooted culture of bluegrass music.”