North Adams, MA -- Lively workshops focusing on instruments, bluegrass techniques — and known to break into legendary jam sessions — are a signature feature of Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art’s (MASS MoCA) FreshGrass festival. This year’s workshop lineup is a who’s who of Americana music talent, led by the inimitable finger-picker, Happy Traum; Berklee College of Music’s American Roots Music Program; and Grammy Award-winner Alison Brown. FreshGrass takes place on September 18–20, 2015, and turns all of MASS MoCA into a stage with a bold lineup of top-tier musicians, luthier demonstrations, pop-up concerts, family programming, downtown camping, and the FreshGrass Award — celebrating fresh talent through competitions in band, duo, banjo, and fiddle categories with more than $25,000 in cash and prizes. The 2015 lineup of performers includes Dwight Yoakam, Punch Brothers, The Del McCoury Band, Leftover Salmon, Jerry Douglas presents Earls of Leicester, Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz & Aoife O’Donovan, Greensky Bluegrass, Houndmouth, Alison Brown, Willie Watson, Vieux Farka Touré & Julia Easterlin, Peter Rowan, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Mr. Sun, Flatt Lonesome, The Ballroom Thieves, Birds of Chicago, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, Twisted Pine, Quiles & Cloud, Cat and The Moon, and a FreshGrass tribute to Johnny Cash.
The inimitable Happy and Adam Traum of Homespun Tapes and Berklee College of Music’s American Roots Music Program lead the way in a series of stimulating workshops that feature blues and acoustic guitar techniques with Adam Traum, a fiddle summit with Darol Anger, and a hands-on mandolin workshop with Joe Walsh. FreshGrass veteran and partner Alison Brown leads the annual Banjo MegaJam, a workshop and jam session that is always a festival hit: with all the talent on the FreshGrass stages, you never know who might show up to pick and play with festival fans. Keep an ear out for more workshops to be announced closer to the festival.
Alison Brown leads Banjo MegaJam, Happy and Adam Traum teach guitar technique, and Berklee College of Music brings the bass, mandolin, and fiddle pros.
2015 FreshGrass Workshops
All workshops are free with FreshGrass admission. Space is limited and available on a first-come, first- serve basis. Registration happens the day of the workshop. Select workshops encourage attendees to bring instruments. A workshop schedule will be released in the weeks leading up to the festival.
In conjunction with all participants, Scott Hausmann of the Whetstone School of Lutherie offers instrument demonstrations adjacent to the luthier tent. Festival partners The Fretboard Journal and Steve Sauvé of Sauvé Guitars lead an unrivaled group of instrument artisans who offer a variety of luthier activities throughout the weekend. Located in the center of the festival, these professionals offer construction demonstrations and discussions about fiddle, mandolin, banjo, open-back banjo, guitar, and ukulele. Participants include Adam Buchwald of Circle Strings, Nicholas Lenski of Brier Road Guitars and Berkshire Stringed Instrument School of Lutherie, and Martin Macica of the Macica Workshop (specializing in mandolins and violins). With more contributors still to be announced, this year brings new and familiar faces to the luthier tent and a specialized demonstration area, where access to instruments and their craftspeople is unparalleled.
Eastman Handcrafted Guitars and Mandolins and D’Addario will be here, too! Eastman presents the winner of the FreshGrass Fiddle Award with a Rudoulf Doetsch violin, outfitted with Peter Infeld Pi strings, a fiberglass violin case, and a woven carbon-fiber bow. Eastman also partners with Fretted Instruments to present an array of flat-top acoustic guitars, arch-top jazz guitars, and mandolins for purchase. D'Addario is on hand with strings for guitars, mandolins, and fiddles, as well as accessories for instruments. Deering Banjo Company presents the Banjo Award winner a Sierra Banjo during the culmination of the FreshGrass Award Contest. Celebrating and rewarding innovative artists, the contest announces finalists in the band, duo, fiddle, and banjo categories in mid-August. Finalists receive a spot performing on the FreshGrass stages during the festival.
FreshGrass, to be held on September 18–20, 2015, at MASS MoCA, continues to be one of the best values on the festival circuit. Three-day festival passes are available for $99 for adults, $89 for students, and $46 for children 7 to 16. Available for $300, FreshPass is a deluxe festival experience offering preferred seating at all stages, meet-and-greet opportunities with FreshGrass artists, access to the FreshPass lounge, and locally sourced snacks and beer. Children 6 and under are admitted free. Single-day tickets may be offered closer to the event, on a space-available basis. Museum members receive a 10% discount on the regular ticket prices. The festival will be held rain or shine.
FreshGrass is sponsored by No Depression, Compass Records, the American Roots Music Program at Berklee College of Music, Deering Banjo Company, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, Eastman Guitars, Stop and Shop, Chronogram, D’Addario, the Porches Inn, Berkshire Magazine, WKZE, the Fretboard Journal, and Take Magazine. Additional support is by Berkshire Gas as part of its music series at MASS MoCA.
MASS MoCA is one of the world’s liveliest (and largest) centers for making and enjoying today’s most important art, music, dance, theater, film, and video. Hundreds of works of visual and performing art have been created on its 19th-century factory campus during fabrication and rehearsal residencies, making MASS MoCA among the most productive sites in the country for the creation and presentation of new art. More platform than box, MASS MoCA strives to bring to its audiences art experiences that are fresh, engaging, and transformative.
Through September 7, MASS MoCA’s galleries are open 10am to 6pm every day, with extended evening hours to 7pm on Thursdays through Saturdays, when performing arts events are often featured. Gallery admission is $18 for adults, $16 for veterans and seniors, $12 for students, $8 for children 6 to 16, and free for children 5 and under. Members are admitted free year-round. Beginning September 8, MASS MoCA’s galleries are open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays. The museum is closed on Tuesday, September 8. For additional information, call 413.662.2111 x1 or visit massmoca.org.