Special Guests
Saturday, April 29, 2006

Tim Sparks

When Tim Sparks was growing up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a bout of encephalitis kept him out of school for a year. To pass the time, he started picking out gospel and country tunes on an old Stella flat top. Later, Tim studied classical guitar at the North Carolina School of the Arts, while he worked up guitar adaptations of Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin and Fats Waller compositions. After moving to Minnesota, Tim recorded three albums with the vocal jazz ensemble Rio Nido. And he keeps branching out. He adapted Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite to the guitar—a feat that ultimately earned him the 1993 fingerstyle guitar championship in Winfield, Kansas. He developed an interest in the music of the Balkans; he played Greek music and Klezmer; he studied fado and Portuguese guitar in Lisbon. Tim's most recent CD release is At the Rebbe's Table (Tzadik), a collection of Klezmer and Sephardic tunes—Tim's third album of Jewish music. Currently he's working on a CD of American roots music—which brings us back to where we began.

Becky Schlegel

Becky Schlegel took piano lessons all through her childhood. She sang in choir and, while still in junior high, she joined her mother's professional country band, The Country Benders. But when a college friend gave Becky Schlegel three Reno and Smiley albums, the die was cast: She became addicted to bluegrass music. She left South Dakota, her home state, and moved to Minnesota. That was a dozen years ago, and since then, Becky has become a big favorite in the Upper Midwest's bluegrass, country and acoustic rock scenes. Becky formed the band True Blue in March 1997. The following year, they released their debut CD, This Lonesome Song, which was nominated for 1998 Bluegrass Recording of the Year by the Minnesota Music Academy, and they did win the Bluegrass Band of the Year award for 2000. Becky's second CD, Red Leaf, came out in 2001. That year, Becky was awarded Bluegrass/Old-Time Artist of the Year at the Minnesota Music Awards. She repeated the honor in 2002, 2003 and 2004. She was selected to showcase at the International Bluegrass Music Association's World of Bluegrass in 1999 and at the 2005 IBMA Songwriters' Showcase. Becky's most recent CD is Drifter Like Me, released last year. It was included on the 2005 Top-10 lists of a number of Twin Cities reviewers. Brian Fesler is Becky's accompanist.

Nick Curry

Cellist Nick Curry is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion. He joined the faculty in 2004. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Nick earned a bachelor's degree in music from Vanderbilt University. He went on to study at Northwestern University, where he earned his master's degree and a Ph.D., writing his dissertation on the similarities between playing an instrument and playing sports—both the mental and physical aspects. In addition to teaching, Nick plays in the Rawlins Piano Trio, an ensemble specializing in American music from the Romantic period. The Trio has recorded three CDs. The most recent is titled American Romance (Albany Records). Nick's accompanist on piano is Susan Keith Gray, Associate Professor of Music and member of the Rawlins Piano Trio. A member of the faculty at the University of South Dakota since 1995, Susan holds degrees in Piano Performance from Converse College and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the Doctor of Musical Arts in Chamber Music and Accompanying from The University of Michigan. She is the 2005 recipient of the university's prestigious Belbas-Larson Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The New Custer Brass Band

In 2001, Los Angeles musician Stephen Charpié formed the New Custer Brass Band and made a CD of the music played by the brass band that accompanied General George Armstrong Custer and the famed Seventh Regiment of the U.S. Cavalry. Custer's band was led by Italian-American bandmaster Felix Villiet Vinatieri (1834-1891). Vinatieri, born in Turin, Italy, emigrated to the United States in 1859 and enlisted in the military as a musician, serving in the Civil War. He was a gifted cornetist and composer. At the time of his discharge from the military, he was living in Yankton, in the Dakota Territory. When Custer and his men came through Yankton in 1873, Vinatieri led the band at the ball given for the officers. General Custer was so impressed that he offered Vinatieri a job. For three years, Vinatieri and his musicians followed the Seventh Cavalry. Fortunately, they did not accompany Custer and his troops into the Battle of the Little Big Horn on June 26, 1876. The soldiers needed bandsmen's horses, and so the musicians stayed behind on that day. After Steve Charpié saw Vinatieri's manuscripts—the actual, authentic music that Custer himself heard—in the archive at National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota, he decided to put together a re-enactment brass band that would portray Vinatieri's group. The New Custer Brass Band's CD is titled Custer's Last Band: The Original Music of Felix Vinatieri, Custer's Legendary Bandmaster. "Most bands form and do a CD later. We did a CD first," says Charpié. Members of the New Custer Brass Band are all professional musicians in the Los Angeles area. They are: Stephen Charpié, Al Lang, Matt Anderson, Charles Hughes, Timm Boatmann, Eddie Menesses and Andy Robles.

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

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).

Available now»

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