Top-notch fiddlers to perform in West Jeff July 5

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A handful of world-class string players—including a young man who has been described as the greatest fiddler of our time—will soon team up with local musicians for a one-of-a-kind performance.

From 7:30 to 10 p.m. July 5, participants in the Creative Strings Workshop will perform at the Mustard Seed Café, 18 W. Main St. in West Jefferson.

The featured performer will be 19-year-old fiddler Billy Contreras from Nashville, who will lead a group including national fiddle champion Alex Hargreaves and two players in demand across the United States, Ryan Cavanaugh on banjo and Bryce Milano on mandolin.

They will play bluegrass, newgrass, folk, swing and jazz with other workshop participants, including fiddle player Chase Potter, who will be a freshman at West Jefferson High School, and mandolin player Keenan Wade, a West Jefferson High School graduate.

Chase’s father, Mark Potter, who helped bring the workshop participants to West Jefferson, said the performance is an experience unique to the area.

“I’ve been involved in music out here a lot, and there has never been anyone of Contreras’ caliber perform out here, ever,” Potter said. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity to hear music like no one around here has ever heard.”

The performance is part of the Creative Strings Workshop, which will be held July 2-8 at Otterbein College and is led by jazz violinist Chris Howe. Talented music students, teachers and professional string players will participate in an intense week of experimentation with nearly every genre of improvisational-based music.

The workshop includes clinics, community outreach performances, one-on-one coaching, gigs at popular clubs, and public and private jam sessions. In addition to the performance at Mustard Seed Café in West Jefferson, workshop participants will perform throughout the week at Columbus Music Hall, Parkside Lounge, Bar of Modern Art, Bluegrass Music Shoppe, Rumba Café and Dick’s Den, all in the Columbus area, as well as Pacchia’s Jazz Room in Dayton.

“Virtually every evening, they will have the opportunity to perform with these world-class musicians,” Potter said. “It’s a fantastic idea. Most so-called music camps don’t include performance aspects like this one. Performance is where it’s at.”

After Chase’s music teacher suggested he enroll in the workshop, the workshop organizers asked for suggestions on where to hold performances. Potter was determined to get a location “close to home.”

“I kicked around several ideas in terms of venues,” he said. Recalling that the Mustard Seed Café, a no-alcohol, family-friendly venue, had just moved to a new location, Potter decided to investigate.

“I walked in there to check it out, and I was immediately enamored with it,” he said. “It just looked like a great place to have something like this.”

There is no cover charge to attend the concert at the Mustard Seed, which can hold as many as 250 people.

Potter emphasized this is an event not to be missed.

“First and foremost, when all the major players are saying that Billy Contreras is one of the best violinists you may ever see, you don’t want to miss that,” he said. “Then when you add in Alex Hargreaves, this national fiddle champion, it’s just going to be a rare opportunity.”

Although all the players will be on string instruments, there will be quite a variety of musical types performed that night.

“There’s no genre off limits,” he said. “They will play whatever they want.” He suspects they will perform quite a bit of “newgrass.”

“This will not be what you would call traditional bluegrass,” he said. “It’s a lot more free, a lot jazzier. It’s nice to hear a generation coming up with their own little angle. There’s definitely a new edge the newer players are bringing into it.”

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