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KVCC Foundation News KVCC Foundation Sponsors 5th Annual Fretboard Festival

10 acts to play for ‘Fret Fest’ gig

      Touching about every genre of music, 10 acts have earned the right to take part in a play-in contest to win a gig at the fifth annual Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival.

Judges have chosen them to play sets of up to 10 minutes at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday (March 5), which will be part of the monthly Art Hop in downtown Kalamazoo.

The same judges will select one of them to play a 60-minute concert on Saturday, March 20, during the three-day festival.

            The March 5 “play-in,” as well as all festival events, is free and open to the public.

The contestants are:

ü  The bluegrass music of Deadwood, featuring founding members Cork Babcock and Steve Carroll, both of Mendon, Gary Meadors of Grand Rapids, and Ron Sanford, also of Mendon

ü  Michigan Country Music Hall of Fame members HighWay 94, featuring Matt and Sheila Schwartz (Kalamazoo), Ron and Ellen Gallegos (Battle Creek) and drummer Douglas Willet.

ü  Blues and folk performers Jonas Ridge whose members are Steve Boling, Christee McNeil, Rick Triplett, and Bill Van Liere.

ü  Papa’s Front Porch Blues • father/daughter duo David and Gretchen Ross placed second in the 2009 play-in contest.

ü  Ninth Street Bridge • a 12-instrument bluegrass bunch featuring Brett Riggins, Marty Fine, Allen Bates, Scott Lehmer and Matt Sypian.

ü  Scott Gardner, the One-Man Cover Band • he’s a retired science teacher in the Comstock School District who specializes in the oldies from the 1950s and ‘60s.

ü  The country-rockers Small Town Son with Kris Hitchcock, Dan Anspaugh and Ian Szarafinski.

ü  The seven-member Wasepi Bluegrass Gospel Singers who have been singing in their home church since 1974.

ü  Pop guitarist Betsy Lucas

ü  Twenty-Three, a quartet featuring Dan Simon from Allegan, Larry Allen and Scott Smith, both from Niles, Dean Worthington from Dowagiac, and Indianan Chere McKinley with a repertoire of both secular and gospel music.

The only restriction for applying to compete in the play-in was that an instrument with a fretboard must be among the person’s or group’s arsenal.  Performers who have been booked for concerts at the museum or KVCC were not eligible.

            The Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival is sponsored by the Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC) Foundation.


In addition to “frettin’ their stuff” at the 2010 festival later in the month, the play-in winner will be booked to perform as part of the museum’s concert billings during the 2010-11 season.   That’s what happened to the 2009 selectee, Carmea, a trio featuring guitarist Catherine Ellis of Kalamazoo, cellist Rachel Alexander of Lansing, and mandolinist Alma Muxlow of Kalamazoo.

From Friday, March 19, through late Sunday afternoon on March 21, the 2010 Fretboard Festival will feature performances by stringed-instrument virtuosos, instructional workshops for people who want to learn to play, and family-friendly activities.

            This yearly salute to all stringed instruments -- and especially those that are crafted in this part of Michigan -- will be staged in the museum and the college’s Anna Whitten Hall next door.

The festival, which takes its name from the portion of a stringed musical instrument that allows a variety of notes to be played, will spotlight guitars, banjos, hammered dulcimers, and mandolins, as well as the artists who make music on them and the craftsmen who manufacture these instruments.

Concerts and workshops will again take center stage.  Specific sessions are designed for those with exceptional, moderate and beginning skills.

The festival was conceived as a celebration of Kalamazoo’s long history of stringed-instrument design, manufacture, and performance.  While guitars have been a vital component of this history -- primarily through the legacy of Gibson guitars -- adopting the moniker of “fretboard” allowed planners to consider all forms of crafted instruments that create harmonious sounds in all genres of music.

For more information, contact Jen Austin, special-events coordinator at the museum, at (269) 373-7990 or jaustin@kvcc.edu.

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