Salem Middle students introduced to cello guitar fusion

During an East Coast tour and an upcoming Richmond gig, Montana Skies, a cello guitar fusion group from Georgia, ventured off their schedule path and made a stop at Salem Middle School to lead a couple of master classes for the cello and bass students. The duo, Jen and Jon, concluded their visit with a rock-the-house performance in the cafeteria for the orchestra students from Salem Middle School, L. C. Bird HIgh School, as well as fourth grade students from Salem Elementary.  Combining elements of classical technique, jazz improv and the power and energy of rock n’ roll, the duo’s mini-rock concert showed the young and prospective musicians how the fusion of their instruments and music goes beyond the traditional boundaries that they are accustomed to in the classroom.

“They probably have never been to a rock concert per say,” said Kristin Allegood, music teacher at Salem Middle. As a part-time music teacher at Salem Middle, Allegood works with all the students enrolled in a music program at the school, and works with 70 students in three orchestra classes. When Allegood saw the group with a scheduled performance in Richmond, she took the chance to ask the duo to visit the school to teach a master class and give a performance for her students.

“The students were excited,” she said of last Thursday’s visit. “It was something special to have them work with my students.” Even though she added, “They mostly asked questions about taking pictures with them and asking for their autographs.” Allegood wasn’t able to share their music in the classroom for several reasons; blockage of their website, no speakers available for her iPod and not able to get on You Tube. All she could do was to give them their website address and with their parents at home, download their music from the website. “This will be all new for my students, their first exposures,” she said before their arrival. “They will be shocked and amazed.”

Allegood is from Georgia and still has family in the area. It was her uncle who introduced her to Montana Skies. She liked their music and what they were doing. She also found out that she attended the same university as they did, the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. Allegood did not know them personally, but they did have a few things in common, such as being from Georgia, same university and a musician, so she emailed them to see if they were available to work with her students. Treating it as a regular gig, the duo, Jen and Jon agreed to the visit.

“The students loved the concert and master class,” Allegood said. “They asked great questions about their instruments, touring and  training. They loved how they used the instruments percussively and moved around the stage when they performed. Jon also explained and demonstrated how looping works in a live performance.

“It [Montana Skies’ visit] is definitely inspiring some of them to try music on their own, outside of school music,” said Allegood. “My goal in life [as their teacher] is life-long music experience. I would be happy to know that through their life that they continue to make music.”

To check out the fusion of Jen and Jon, visit montanaskiesmusic.com.

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