Sunday, September 19, 2021 at 4 pm
Download a copy of the program here.
Alisa Rose, violin
with Americana String Quartet & Fog Holler
Casey Holmberg, banjo/vocals
Tommy Schulz, resonator guitar/vocals
Noa, bass fiddle
Noa (b. 1990)
Tommy Schulz (b. 1990)
The Greener Grass Shuffle
The Found Family Waltz
Casey James Holmberg (b. 1992)
Casey James Holmberg & Noa
Casey James Holmberg
Flowers in Her Hair
Alisa Rose and the Americana Quartet
Alisa Rose, solo violin
Matthew Szemela & Nigel Armstrong, violins
Alexandra Simpson, viola
Matt Park, cello
Alisa Rose (b. 1979)
Embracing Roots for Quartet and Solo Violin
Misterioso – Allegro Brusco
Andante con movimento
About the music
Embracing Roots is named in recognition of all those who search for a home within bluegrass. It celebrates the work of Bluegrass Pride around inclusion. This work started with conversations with six diverse members of Bluegrass Pride about their experiences in and hopes for the bluegrass community. The common emotional themes in their stories inspired the music and excerpts from the interviews on these themes will be played before each movement.
The first movement draws on a common theme across the interviews: the joy of discovering bluegrass and the way in which its’ traditions can both conflict and connect with one’s identity. As you listen to the second movement, listen for the composers’ take on the loneliness of exclusion and the feeling of not being enough. What does it feel like to carve out your own space within a community? The third movement seeks to express the boldness of embracing one’s individuality and the joy of expressing one’s authentic voice within a community.
Many thanks to Kara Kundert, executive director of Bluegrass Pride for conducting interviews and Justin Hiltner, Franco Martino, and four anonymous contributors for sharing their stories.
This work was created with the support of the San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Artist Grant.
About the musicians
Grammy-nominated violinist and composer Alisa Rose is a modern musician who easily navigates between many musical styles. With roots in classical music as well as the rich American musical folk traditions, her stylistic fluidity gives her the ability to create unique music which is free from the constraints of genre.
Alisa Rose has been featured in ensembles that encompassed her love of both roots music and classical chamber music, including the modern-folk ensemble Real Vocal String Quartet (U.S. Department of State Cultural Ambassadors), classical crossover stars Quartet San Francisco (Grammy-nominated), bluegrass band 49 Special (Rockygrass Band Contest Winners), and in her current contemporary roots duo, Scroggins & Rose (Freshgrass Album Fund Awardees).
Notable performances include Carnegie Hall, NPR’s Weekend Edition, California Report, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Stern Grove Festival, TEDx Alcatraz with Bob Weir, Nikkei Hall in Tokyo as well as in concert with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra, Marin and Tulsa Symphonies and international tours in the United Kingdom, China, South Korea, Japan, and Turkey.
Alisa teaches privately as well as at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she received her B.M. and M.M. in Chamber Music studying with Camilla Wicks and Bettina Mussumeli.
Fog Holler is a fast-growing sensation in the world of bluegrass and acoustic music, born from an intense love of early country and traditional American music shared by Casey Holmberg, Tommy Schulz, and Noa. Discovered playing on the streets by Grammy award-winning artist Laurie Lewis, their innovative sound and energetic punk rock spirit has enthralled audiences across the world. The group’s original music synthesizes sincere, poignant writing with the austere, spiritual vocal stylings and harmonies of brother duos like the Stanley Brothers and the Blue Sky Boys. Fog Holler has toured in the U.S, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and Switzerland and has shared stages with acts like Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands, Jerry Douglas & The Earls of Leicester, The Po’ Ramblin Boys, The Kathy Kallick Band, The Watkins Family Hour, and The Del McCoury Band.
Praised by The New York Times for his “outrageous fiddling,” Matthew Szemela is a violinist who crosses musical genres with ease. He has performed as soloist, chamber and orchestral musician in several renowned concert halls both domestically (Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully, Merkin Recital Hall, Library of Congress, Kennedy Center), and abroad (Japan, China, Korea, Belgium, Luxembourg, Australia, Italy). Matthew has collaborated, recorded, and performed with a myriad of artists including Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Savion Glover, Sting, Lana Del Rey, Josh Groban, Placido Domingo, Bob Weir, Dave Stewart, Billy Childs, Lisa Fischer, Johnny Mathis, Andrea Bocelli, and Olivia Newton John. In the fall of 2007 Matthew portrayed an Irish rock violinist in the Warner Brothers film August Rush, working with famed music producer Phil Ramone. TV appearances include Good Morning America (with Josh Groban), The View (with Rihanna), and American Idol (with Lana Del Rey).
Nigel Armstrong is emerging as a dynamic and creative artist both within and beyond the realm of classical music. From his musical beginnings as a member of The Little Fiddlers in Sonoma to collaborations with tango musicians in Argentina and solo performances with orchestras on four continents he’s enjoyed using the violin in a versatile manner throughout his life. As soloist Nigel has performed with orchestras such as the Dusseldorf Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, YOA Orchestra of the Americas, and the Boston Pops, and with conductors including Sir Neville Marriner and Carlos Miguel Prieto.
Alexandra Simpson has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in a broad range of settings, from playing with Kygo at Outside Lands to performing for the Colombian President Ivan Duque. She has studied with the world’s leading viola teachers, including Kim Kashkashian at New England Conservatory, Ettore Causa at Yale School of Music, and Dimitri Murrath at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and played at such festivals as Tanglewood, Prussia Cove International Musicians’ Seminar, and Kneisel Hall. She was recently featured as a soloist with the Camellia Symphony and has performed chamber music with renowned musicians such as Tessa Lark, Jennifer Pike, Owen Dalby, Norman Fisher, and Ian Swensen.
Cellist Matthew Park, a native of Los Angeles is currently pursuing his Artist Diploma in Chamber Music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music under Jennifer Culp. As a chamber musician he has collaborated with renown musicians such as the American String Quartet, members of the Telegraph Quartet, Owen Dalby of the St. Lawrence String Quartet among others. He is a member of Splntrd Wood, a cello ensemble that performs their own daring arrangements that bridges the gap between all genres of music. Matthew was a section cellist of the New West Symphony and has served on faculty at the Gold Coast Chamber Music Festival.
Casey James Holmberg, banjo/vocals, was born and raised in Petaluma. Although a saxophonist first, Holmberg removed the mouthpiece and started pickin’ it true after hearing Earl Scruggs play The Farewell Blues. Convinced the banjo was the best instrument for Bluegrass and Bop, he began to teach himself. After studying briefly with Tim Weed in Point Reyes, Casey saw the banjo used as a complete instrument, not restricted by genre or style. He furthered his studies in music at UCLA while pursuing a degree in theater.
Tommy Schulz, resonator guitar/ vocals, was born and raised in the lush mountain forests of Makiki in Honolulu. Constantly surrounded by Hawaiian slack key guitar and country and bluegrass from his father’s stereo, Tommy took to playing folk music on the acoustic guitar at a young age. He studied operatic singing technique and continued to hone his guitar playing and songwriting before moving to Los Angeles to study performance at UCLA. Tommy scored theater and film and studied various musical and theatrical styles including traditional West African drumming, traditional Japanese theater and music and old time/Americana during his years in Southern California. Tommy works to incorporate new rhythms, contemporary lyrics and theatrical elements to rock, metal, folk, electronic, bluegrass and any traditional musical style that catches his interest.
Bassist and composer Noa grew up in Buffalo, New York. After graduating from SUNY University at Buffalo with a bachelor’s in music performance, she furthered her studies at UCLA where she studied with Chris Hanulik and received their master’s degree, also in music performance. A self-taught composer, Noa seeks to write music that is both immediately accessible to the listener while synthesizing diverse sounds and styles in an organic way.