Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Tag: bluegrass (Page 1 of 2)


Remembering Earl Scruggs

The following post is from Ensemble Department professor David Hollender.

I was at Berklee at about 8:00 last night with banjo phenom Noam Pikelny and some students. Noam had finished two days of teaching just minutes before and everyone was upbeat when the phone rang. It was Matt Glaser calling to ask if I had heard the news that Earl Scruggs had died. The room got silent and Noam plopped down into a chair and put his head in his hands. When he looked up he said, “The world became a different place today.”

To this day Earl Scruggs’ playing remains the gold standard. His tone, touch, and timing were impeccable. His playing defined playing with drive and he breathed fire into the instrument. At times he played with a wildness that has never been outdone. (Listen to his last solo on “Farewell Blues”!) If young or casual listeners today hear him and think to themselves that what they are hearing is just typical sounding banjo they are failing to realize that Earl Scruggs pretty much singlehandedly created the vernacular of what we now recognize as bluegrass banjo. If something sounds typical is because everyone has been so heavily influenced by him. It simply did not exist before he played it! And every innovation in banjo playing for the past 65 years, including each and every one of the most contemporary players, rests squarely on the foundation of techniques and concepts that Earl perfected.


Berklee President Roger H. Brown and Earl Scruggs in Nashville

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Rhythm Road 4: Tap-dancing into Timor-Leste

Where are we? In the country formerly known as East Timor. This new democracy is so young that Berklee’s Earth Stringband is the very first U.S. band to tour there—breaking new ground on the Rhythm Road.

Earth Stringband in Timor-Leste

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Rhythm Road 3: The Earth Stringband comes to Cambodia

This installment of the Earth Stringband’s Southeast Asian tour with the U.S. State Dept./Jazz at Lincoln Center is all about the videos. These guys (all Berklee alumni) did some amazing things in Cambodia.

They composed an old-time tune from Lao folk melodies:

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Rhythm Road 2: The Earth Stringband says hi to Thai(land)

In this installment of the Earth Stringband’s epic musical trip with the U.S. State Dept./Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rhythm Road project, the band. . .

The Earth Stringband goes to Thailand

Just a couple good ol' bluegrass boys in Thailand.

Teaches Thai schoolchildren how to play an American classic.

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Rhythm Road 1: The Earth Stringband lao-ves Laos

The Earth Stringband is blogging from the Rhythm Road.

Cultural Hall in Laos

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