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August Watters with Audie Blaylock and Redline

Bluegrass: Celebrating an American Musical Art

Bluegrass music is close to America’s musical heart. Its recurring themes of love, loss, and longing for home resonate deeply with the American psyche. The sounds of bluegrass – beginning with the fiddle and banjo - draw on the contributions of America’s diverse immigrant communities, from Europe to Africa.

Created just 70 years ago by professional musicians, bluegrass first raged across the country in the 1940s. It was a driving, supercharged view of American folk roots, named for the style’s creator and his band: Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys.

Bluegrass today is at a crossroads: sustained for decades by fans and parking lot pickers, bluegrass music has been reabsorbed into the folk music stylings of America. As bluegrass moves into community music programs, public schools, and even the conservatory, an existential crisis has appeared: in the face of fundamental changes in the way the music is shared, what will sustain bluegrass into the future? Can the classical core of bluegrass music remain intact and capable of inspiring the musical innovations of the next generation? Or will bluegrass simply dissolve, as musical boundaries break down, into new combinations with other popular styles?

As co-Director of Education for the Boston Bluegrass Union, August Watters designs innovative educational programming for children, teens and adults. As an international clinician, he has presented topics from bluegrass and jazz to the history of the American mandolin. Watters holds degrees in music education from Boston University, and in jazz composition from Berklee College. He joined the Berklee faculty in 1998, and earned his present rank of Associate Professor by designing and teaching specialized curricula attuned to the needs of improvising string musicians.

One of today’s top touring bands – Audie Blalock and Redline – will perform live, alternating music with the lecture. Please join us afterward, as our featured guests present a full set of music.