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March 2024
Vol. 23, No. 6

Bluegrass Corner

Special Consensus Is Coming to San Diego

by Dwight WordenJanuary 2012

Special Consensus is coming to San Diego. Special Consensus is a top notch band out of the Chicago area, celebrating its 35th year of national touring with the release of its new album, 35. The album, the group’s 10th release, features band founder Greg Cahill, Rick Faris, David Thomas, and Ryan Roberts on a high-powered bluegrass set that includes six new tracks and six tracks compiled from out-of-print releases featuring lead vocals from some of the band’s most illustrious former members.

Over the course of their lengthy career Special Consensus has proven themselves to be one of the top selling bands in the genre. The group will be presented in concert on Friday evening, January 27, by the San Diego Bluegrass Society at the First Baptist Church of Pacific Beach located at 4747 Soledad Mountain Road in Pacific Beach. The concert starts at 7:30 pm with an opening 30 minute set by a local San Diego band (still being determined as we go to press). Admission is free and the public is welcome. Donations will be solicited, which will go to the band.
When the San Diego Bluegrass Society brought Special Consensus to San Diego a few years back, they were so well received that they have been invited back. If you want to hear some great bluegrass in a warm and friendly environment with plenty of free parking, join us on Friday, January 27.

A Fiddle Camp for San Diego. Attending a music camp is an important part of the bluegrass experience, and is one of the ways that the young and old alike come together to learn through bluegrass through participation in the camp experience. Historically, San Diego supported one of the premier national fiddle camps presented by champion fiddler Mark O’Connor every summer at the Point Loma Nazarene campus. However, Mr. O’Connor pulled up stakes and left town several years ago and since that time there has been no fiddle camp in San Diego. Until now, that is.

Avery Ellisman, an accomplished fiddle and mandolin player performing regularly with the bluegrass band Prairie Sky and a member of the San Diego Bluegrass Society board of directors, has started the Julian Family Fiddle Camp. The inaugural event last April was successful beyond all expectations, with a full complement of students and an outstanding faculty. The camp was held at beautiful Camp Cedar Glen in the Julian mountains.

This year’s camp will be held April 11-15 at Camp Cedar Glen with what looks to be a stellar program and faculty. Calvin Volrath of Canada is returning to anchor the fiddle instruction. Calvin, among other accolades, penned some of the music for the Canadian Olympics. Also returning are violin instructors Jane Frey and Katie Harvey. New this year, the camp has added a flat-pick and rhythm guitar program led by national flat-pick guitar champion Tyler Grant with assistance from Jonathon Trajwick. Also returning are red hot Evan Marshall and Scott Gates to offer instruction on mandolin. For more information or to sign up:

Steve Martin: A Heart Made of Bluegrass. There are many people and organizations who deserve our thanks and appreciation for their tireless support and promotion of bluegrass music. None, however, deserves more credit in 2011 then academy award winning actor, director, producer, and author Steve Martin. Steve Martin has been touring with the very “for real” bluegrass band the Steep Canyon Rangers for several years now. Steve and the “Rangers” released a very well received album The Crow, and Steve was even nominated in 2010 as a candidate for IBMA’s Banjo Player of the Year (Kristen Scott Benson won).

Most important, however, Steve Martin and the Rangers have made countless appearances on television, including the Jay Leno show, David Letterman, Ellen, Conan, and many others. Although Steve Martin is, unquestionably, the draw that opens the door to this kind of high-profile exposure, invariably Steve uses the opportunity’s to promote his band and bluegrass music while downplaying his own personal importance.

In 2010 Steve Martin also founded the Steve Martin banjo player award, which offers a $50,000 grant each year to a banjo player selected by an impartial panel. The first winner in 2010 was Noam Pekelny of the Punch Brothers, and this year the award went to Sammy Shelor the longtime banjo player for the Lonesome River Band. Look for Sammy and the “LRB” at Summergrass 2012.

In 2011 the International Bluegrass Music Association granted Mr. Martin one of its highest awards — Entertainer of the Year — for his outstanding banjo playing, his tireless promotion of bluegrass music, and for all that he has done for the music that he so clearly loves. Of all the acting, directing, producing, and other high profile opportunities that Steve Martin has had, when asked he says he would rather be playing his banjo in a bluegrass band. Now that’s our kind of guy!

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