A new addition to the University of Louisiana traditional music program — a bluegrass ensemble — will make its debut Thursday, April 17, at Burke-Hawthorne Theater.
The free performance, which begins at 7:30 p.m., includes a student ensemble of Cajun musicians, the Angelle Aces; songwriting students; and the bluegrass group, Vermilion Express.
The performance, "Songs Old and New," will showcase what students have learned during the Spring 2014 semester, explained Dr. Mark DeWitt, the program's director. Students are enrolled in courses taught by professional musicians who are adjunct faculty.
DeWitt holds the Dr. Tommy Comeaux Endowed Chair in Traditional Music at UL, which supports academic coursework and public programming. The University of Louisiana is one of a handful in the United States that offers a bachelor's degree in traditional music.
Vermilion Express will kick off the show with a mix of traditional, contemporary and progressive bluegrass, featuring some tight, three-part harmonies and a new composition from the band. Len Springer, fiddler for the Louisiana Purchase Bluegrass Band, directs the group with assistance from banjo master Bryan Sims.
Johanna Divine's songwriting students will follow Vermilion Express. Divine, a singer-songwriter, held classes in the studios of public radio station KRVS, on campus. Her students will perform both full-band and solo works for the show.
The Angelle Aces, UL’s Cajun music band, will anchor the show with some new arrangements of Cajun standards. The group was established in 2011 by DeWitt and the Grammy Award-winning Cajun musician Wilson Savoy. Its current director, fiddler and bassist Mitch Reed, organizes rehearsals in between road trips with the band BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet.
The mission of the Dr. Tommy Comeaux Endowed Chair in Traditional Music at UL is to stimulate interdisciplinary research on the foundations and diversity of traditional music worldwide and to advance the preservation, instruction, and performance of traditional music with an emphasis on traditions that have developed in Acadiana. New classes and programs continue to be developed with involvement from musicians in the community.
The Angelle Aces have three fiddlers. Shown, from left, are instructor Mitch Reed, traditional music major Kevin Hebert; and University College student Carroll Breaux.