Shayla Davis | Scroll Photography

Students band together to play Bluegrass music

Shayla Davis | Scroll Photography

Shayla Davis | Scroll Photography

BYU-Idaho is home to a bluegrass ensemble with a variety of instruments and players.

Bluegrass music is a subgenre of country and western music that developed after World War II, according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Ben Mathews, the faculty supervisor of the group, said he has been teaching in the department of music since Fall Semester 2012.

He said this is his second semester teaching the Bluegrass Ensemble.

Mathews said he plays many different instruments, such as the mandolin, banjo and bass, but he said his main instrument of expertise is the guitar.

Bluegrass developed in the mountain regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia from immigrants who wrote songs about life in America, according to The Bluegrass Heritage Foundation.

Bluegrass is performed around the world and The International Bluegrass Music Association claims members in all 50 states and 30 countries, according to the International Bluegrass Museum.

“You’ll learn a lot more about playing music with other people and about improvising and creating music together,” said Cam Cardon, a previous memeber of Blueglass Ensemble and a senior studying mechanical engineering.

With 18 students in the class, the Bluegrass Ensemble has many different instruments, including guitars, fiddles, mandolins, banjos, basses and percussion instruments, such as Celtic drums, washboards and spoons, said Mathews.

Mathews said the Bluegrass Ensemble meets every Wednesday in the Stadium Studio on campus and then splits into three different groups to practice.

Lainey Prest, a former member of the Bluegrass Ensemble and a senior studying music education, said she joined the ensemble after receiving a banjo for Christmas.

Prest said one of the things she liked best about the Bluegrass Ensemble is that each individual sound is vital to the group as a whole.

“Everyone in the group has to be on board and be a leader of their respective part for it to really work,” Cardon said.

Mathews said the Bluegrass Ensemble will perform off campus at a local restaurant and that the performance will demonstrate how the Bluegrass Ensemble has been improving and progressing.

“Bluegrass changed my perspective,” Prest said. “I understand more now that whatever music anyone makes, if it’s from the heart, is valuable and valid, even if it can’t be categorized it or if it doesn’t suit my taste.

Mathews said the Bluegrass Ensemble will also have a joint concert with the Women’s Glee choir July 16.

Mathews said he believes the group could potentially be the best Bluegrass ensemble in the whole region, or perhaps even in the West.

“I really think we have the talent in the school to pull that off,” Mathews said.

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