Current members of the Unicoi County High School Bluegrass Band and alumni gather at a recent event. (Contributed photo)

By Keeli Parkey

Waiting for a live show to enjoy the music of the Unicoi County High School Bluegrass Band?

Now you don’t have to thanks to the release of the group’s first CD, entitled “Keep Travelin’ On,” which became available in December 2017.

“We appreciate all the folks that helped make this project a reality, especially our alumni members that played on the CD with us,” band sponsor Lori Ann Wright said. “The CD really represents how far the band has progressed since the first year. It was a true learning process to create the CD and a joy to get to work with previous band members.”

Current members of the Unicoi County High School Bluegrass Band (UCHS BGB) are Adam Miller, Bailey Robinson, Hannah Edwards, Sarah Grace Larkey, Matthew Hatcher and Benjamin Edwards. Lucas Swinehart and Kaitlyn Rogers provide tech and public relations for the group.

Joining forces with the current UCHS BGB members to make the CD a reality were UCHS BGB alumni – Courtney Harris, Jacob Shelton, Adam Larkey, Alison Miller, Cheyenne Godsey, Craig T. Nelson, Lincoln Hensley and Troy Boone – and Ben Bateson at the East Tennessee State University recording lab.

The CD is the result of two years of hard work by Wright and the band members. In addition to practicing and planning for the recording, members also did a lot of fundraising to cover expenses. Wright said each member of the 2017 band picked two bluegrass or gospel songs available in the public domain for the set list. The band then went to work as a group to arrange each selected song. The members also chose an original song written by the 2013-14 members of the UCHS BGB on a bus ride back from student performances in Nashville and used the song’s name as the title of the album.

“The goal was to go into the studio as prepared as possible so we could make the most of our limited recording time and stay on budget,” Wright said. “The students were so invested in making the album; they treated the project as music professionals would in a studio setting. I was proud, not only of the talent they displayed, but of the mature attitude and ownership they displayed while recording.”

Wright also said the design and photography for the CD case were done by senior Kaitlyn Rogers who used regional photographs as inspiration for her design.

CDs are currently on sale in the main office at UCHS and are $15 for one and $10 for additional copies.

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The UCHS BGB has several live performances on its calendar, including:

• April 13 from 5-7 p.m. – Temple Hill PTO annual Soup Bean Supper Fundraiser.

• April 14 at 6 p.m. – Annual UCHS Drama & Bluegrass Down Home Dinner Show at Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens. Tickets are available at the UCHS main office.

• April 28 at 10 a.m. – Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Festival in Unicoi.

• May 4 at 7 p.m. – Opening for Sideline at the UCHS auditorium. Tickets are now available at the UCHS main office.

• May 5 – The Great Outdoor Festival in Erwin.

• May 12 – Feed and Seed in Fletcher, North Carolina.

• May 26-27 – Dollywood in Pigeon Forge.

According to Wright, the UCHS BGB has been lucky enough to have some unique performance experiences in recent months, including local and regional gigs, as well as travel performances.

“We have enjoyed several special moments over the past year, but performing on Danny Stewart’s Bluegrass Cruise to Cozumel and performing at Bluegrass First Class in Asheville had to be our top favorite events,” said Adam Miller and Benjamin Edwards.

Five seniors – Benjamin Edwards, Adam Miller, Bailey Robinson, Matthew Hatcher and Kaitlyn Rogers – are currently part of the UCHS BGB.

“This year the band graduates five seniors and they all plan to go on to college,” Wright said. “Ben and Adam want to study at ETSU and be a part of the bluegrass program there. Bailey also plans to attend ETSU and wants to become a drama teacher. Matthew wants to study agriculture in college and hopes to use that knowledge on his farm one day. Kaitlyn, our PR person and graphic designer, plans to study graphic design and digital media at ETSU.”

Students interested in the joining the UCHS BGB are invited to audition on May 2 from 3:30-5 p.m. at UCHS. Unicoi County Middle School eighth graders or UCHS student interested in auditioning should contact Wright at wrightl@unicoischools.com.