A-B Tech concert series spotlights talented faculty

LEAVE IT TO THE PROS: Musician and A-B Tech adjunct instructor Jason DeCristofaro created a new concert series featuring fellow faculty members. He says Cary Fridley, pictured, is “an expert on a variety of Appalachian musical genres. … It makes sense to kick the series off with the music for which WNC is best known.” Photo by Woody Fender Woody Fender

A-B Tech is renowned throughout Western North Carolina for many of its programs, including dental hygiene and culinary arts. Jason DeCristofaro would like to see the community college’s music department receive similar acclaim and is wasting no time in accomplishing that goal.

In an effort to showcase the talent of his fellow faculty, the adjunct instructor has organized a four-part concert series, which he says is the first that A-B Tech has ever held. The Sunday, March 1 opener, “An Appalachian Afternoon,” will feature the music of Cary Fridley in the campus’ Ferguson Auditorium.

“The idea just popped into my head back in the fall,” says DeCristofaro, a multi-instrumentalist known for his skills on vibraphone and marimba. Surprised to discover that no student or faculty concerts were in place at A-B Tech, the new hire successfully pitched the series to fine and performing arts division chair Sharon Trammel. DeCristofaro then reached out to his three department colleagues — Fridley, Rene Ochoa and Rita Hayes — to gauge interest in the project. It was met with matching enthusiasm.

“My concept for the series was to showcase a diverse array of musical genres and repertoires,” DeCristofaro says. “I let the faculty select what they will perform for each of the concerts so they may showcase their strengths as musical artists.”

A veteran of the local roots music scene, guitarist and vocalist Fridley will be joined by Travis Stuart on banjo. Their selections reflect the diverse cultural influences in Appalachian music, including Baptist spirituals, Appalachian fiddle tunes, Carter Family songs and traditional ballads.

DeCristofaro calls Fridley “an expert on a variety of Appalachian musical genres” and points to her most recent album Rainbow Mist — a collection of Madison County ballads and regional mountain songs — as evidence of her proficiency. “I also think that it makes sense to kick the series off with the music for which WNC is best-known,” DeCristofaro says.

The second concert takes place on Sunday, April 26, and doubles as the release show for a pair of albums featuring DeCristofaro’s original jazz compositions. He will be joined by William Bares, director of jazz studies at UNC Asheville, and his own jazz trio of bassist Daniel Iannucci and drummer Micah Thomas.

The series continues in the fall with the Asheville Composer’s Concert, a separate series that DeCristofaro started in 2010. The latest installment will feature the music of several local composers, including the organizer’s and Ochoa’s. “I am especially excited about this concert in light of Rene’s recent honor,” DeCristofaro says. “One of his compositions for orchestra and choir will be performed in Dresden, Germany [in March], a huge honor for him and indicative of the talent pool in the department.”

The series concludes later in the fall with DeCristofaro joined by Hayes, who is the vibraphonist’s former music appreciation teacher from his A-B Tech student days and one of the first people to inspire him to pursue music as a career. “She is an exceptionally talented flutist, playing with several local ensembles including the Asheville Symphony,”  DeCristofaro says of Hayes. “I have had the honor of performing with her in the Mountain Chamber Players.” This final concert will be a recital of classical chamber music featuring flute, percussion and other instruments as the colleagues perform a wide range of works by historic and contemporary composers.

DeCristofaro hopes that the concert series will become an annual event and would eventually like to add student recitals to the mix. In the process, it’s his goal that the performances will generate a greater public interest in supporting the fine and performing arts division and help inform the community about the institution’s music and visual arts courses.

WHAT: An Appalachian Afternoon with Cary Fridley and Travis Stuart
WHERE: Ferguson Auditorium at A-B Tech, abtech.edu
WHEN: Sunday, March 1, at 2 p.m. Free

About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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