Saturday, June 25, 2005
Jan GrissomThis soprano started college as a student of psychology, but switched to music when she saw the long list of science requirements. She figured she'd work toward a job as a college-level voice instructor (and in fact, she still would like to teach someday), but when she was a master's degree student at the University of Houston, a voice teacher pulled her aside after a voice jury and said, "No, Jan. You're going to sing opera." She was promised she'd be ready for the Houston Opera Studio in a year, and she scoffed at the idea, but she was ready, and she has since spent her professional life as a guest of leading opera companies and orchestras: the Metropolitan Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Washington Opera. This fall she'll play the part of Violetta in La Traviata with Dennis Hanthorn and the Atlanta Opera. She lives in Suwanee, Georgia, about 45 minutes outside of Atlanta, with her husband, Frank Hernandez, also an opera singer, and their son Kent, age six and three-quarters.
Precious BryantShe was born Precious Bussey in Talbot County, Georgia, just east of Columbus. The third child of nine, with seven sisters and a brother, she was born into a family of traditional musicians in a close-knit community, surrounded by players and singers of traditional blues and gospel. When she was nine she taught herself to play her uncle's large guitar, just "messin' around with it." Her account of her beginnings would not suggest she expected to someday play in Switzerland, or that she would come to be regarded as a keeper of the flame: "Me and my husband would go around and people'd listen to me play. I'd play about five or six songs; they'd put money in my guitar. I'd take a rest break, sit down and rest a little bit, and start back again, and when I'd get home I'd have a guitar full of money. I enjoyed that. Sho' did..." In 2002, at sixty, Precious finally recorded a full-length album of her own, the award-winning Fool Me Good, on Terminus Records; it was followed in February by another winner, The Truth. She lives in Waverly Hall, Georgia.
Sam BushA person deciding to acquire every album that mandolin virtuoso Sam Bush has recorded on would have to clear enough wall space to make room for over 285 works. The collection would include a remarkable and tasteful variety, from the Amazing Rhythm Aces and Bashful Brother Oswald to Bela Fleck and Lyle Lovett; Leon Russell, Alison Krause, Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Doc Watson, Ricky Skaggs, and a host of other heavyweights. It would also include five titles under his own name (the most recent: King of My World, 2004) and a dozen with the bluegrass revolutionaries New Grass Revival.
He was raised on a farm outside of Bowling Green, Kentucky, and took up the mandolin and fiddle at about 11 years old. By the time he graduated high school in Weiser, Idaho, he had earned three national junior fiddle championships. He and a friend went to Roanoke, Virginia in 1965 for one of the first bluegrass festivals; he didn’t know it would someday lead to three Grammys, nor that Emmylou Harris would someday say, “Sam Bush’s hero is Ozzie Smith. My hero is Sam Bush.”
Andy SteinViolinist and saxophonist Andy Stein has been a regular on A Prairie Home Companion since 1989. Stein collaborated with Garrison Keillor to create the opera Mr. and Mrs. Olson. He has appeared on Saturday Night Live and Late Night with David Letterman, and has performed with such artists as Itzhak Perlman, Eric Clapton, Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and many others.
Prudence JohnsonPrudence Johnson's 25-year career in music has taken her from honky-tonks to Carnegie Hall, from the theater stage to the Silver Screen (Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It), from the Midwest to the Middle East. Her ten album releases include Little Dreamer, a collection of international lullabies, Moon Country, which features the music of Hoagy Carmichael, and S'Gershwin, a collaboration with pianist Dan Chouinard. She recently collaborated with four Minnesota composers to create A Girl Named Vincent, a presentation of the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay set to music to be released on CD this year, and is currently writing a play about Elisabeth Hauptmann, an uncredited collaborator of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Prudence is a 2001 recipient of the McKnight Artists Fellowship for Performing Musicians and enjoys a steady schedule of concert appearances across the country.
Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).