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Concrete and Grass Lowertown Music Festival Featured McNally Smith Students, Staff and Faculty

It’s what you would call an EVENT (and probably one key reason McNally Smith is located in the Twin Cities with its thriving multi-tiered cultural scene): The Minnesota Opera, The Ordway, Schubert Club and The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and others mixing it up the same stage with a host of popular Twin Cities’ music acts that includes Hip-Hop, Gospel, Folk, Jazz, Broadway, and rock ‘n roll. Best of all, many of the featured players will be McNally Smith College of Music students, staff and faculty — and it’s free!

The “Concrete and Grass Lowertown Music Festival September 11-13 at Mears Park (strolling distance from the college) promises to be an ideal venue for showcasing what the college is all about: Playing to large, appreciative audiences that like hearing world-famous and classically-niched music as much as the contemporary work of groups like Heiruspecs, featuring the college’s own Sean McPherson. Sean was instrumental in helping launch the school’s new Hip-Hop diploma program this year, but you can see another musical side of him when he and his crew follow the Chamber Orchestra September 13 on the main stage (6:30 p.m.).

Other noteworthy sets by McNally Smith artists/musicians include:

  • The internationally renowned underground dance music artist, Freddy Fresh, with deejay Marc Wheat from one of the hippest public radio stations ever, The Current (89.3 FM) closing out opening night, September 11 (right after the opera). The St. Paul homie Fresh will be visible this year teaching in the school’s Hip-Hop program, but live onstage he’s a monster in action, mixing up genres with a flurry of master beats, groove effects, dirty production techniques and sheer know-how (8:30 pm.).
  • Story City, comprised of McNally Smith Faculty, including vocalist Steve Faison, bassist Terry Burns and percussionist Steve Jennings, the music school’s new Director of Ensembles, and others in the group play earlier in the afternoon, with a mixture of jazz styles, from classical to fusion to their own complex and captivating originals (3:30 p.m.).
  • The Warblers, with the college’s VP of Organizational Development  — and the legendary front man for the punk rock band, The Suicide Commandos, Chris Osgood, and the Commando’s drummer Dave Ahl — along with Brian Roessler, follow Story City with their acoustic best (5:00 p.m.)
  • The McNally Smith Student Ensemble kicks it on September 12, showcasing what some of the college’s current students can do and demonstrating that it’s not very far from the music school’s classroom to the applause of a live audience (noon).

“McNally Smith and our faculty, staff and students have a large presence during the festival,” notes Osgood. “The college is one of the leading sponsors of this very cool event and we are also providing backline support for the main stage, and lots of our people are playing (me included!). “It’s really remarkable that Freddy Fresh, Heiruspecs, Story City, The Warblers, and our student ensemble get sprinkled in among the Minnesota Opera, The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, The Ordway and the Schubert Club, not to mention the other great acts on the bill all three days! It’s a testament to where we live and how great the entire music scene really is here.”
File under “Can’t Miss” in your calendar.

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