Seven University of Mississippi students have the opportunity to perform alongside two professional pop musicians at a concert presented at the UM band hall by the Department of Music and the Isom Center on October 29.
Two weeks ago, the UM Music Department held Zoom auditions for any Ole Miss student interested in joining musicians Kelly Hogan and Jenny Conlee on stage as part of the annual Club Sarahfest festival.
Lillian Starrett, one of the student musicians who will play guitar for one of the bands, said she expects the performance to be an unforgettable experience.
“Getting to play with them is honestly just pretty epic,” Starrett said. “They’re both epic ladies. Playing music on its own is a fun thing but having them in the mix is really cool considering their talents and what they’ve done.”
Kelly Hogan is a vocalist who is best known for her days in the band “The Jody Grind.” She also has four critically acclaimed solo albums and has worked as a backing vocalist for many acts including Jakob Dylan, Neko Case and “The Decemberists.”
Jenny Conlee is the pianist, organist and accordionist for “The Decemberists.” She has also been a part of many other groups, including “Black Prairie,” “Casey Neill and the Norway Rats” and “The Minus 5.”
Their residency will also include a performance at Union Unplugged, a LMR LIVE interview and the two musicians will also lead two master classes.
Starrett was one of seven students selected — the others include Bryant Stubbs, Michael Wells, Miranda Shapiro, Alexis Rose, Nicholas Bottesini and Nathan Duvall. All of whom will be assigned to play with one or possibly both of the two bands. Each student will receive a $250 stipend.
Nancy Balach, the chair of the Department of Music, said the goal of this concert is to give the students a professional experience and a chance to collaborate in new ways.
“This is an opportunity for students to get a taste of what it’s like in the real world. It is going to allow them to explore their musicianship in different ways than they normally do,” Balach said. “It’s going to push them in terms of how they listen, react and collaborate.”
Balach said the students will learn advanced, new skills that the music department doesn’t always focus on.
“A lot of this, they will be doing by ear. They will be looking at charts and will be learning alternate ways that people write and share music,” Balach said. “It’s an opportunity for the students to move from the page to the stage.”
Starrett, one of the guitarists for the concert, said she is excited to get the performance experience, since she has yet to have the chance.
“Playing in a real band/show atmosphere like this for the first time is exciting. Playing shows is what I’ve always wanted to do so it’s really cool to finally do it,” she said.
Alexis Rose, who will be singing and possibly playing a little bit of guitar, said she thinks it will be a great learning experience for her as well.
”My education at the university has mostly consisted of studying classical repertoire, so learning more about the technical aspects of rock, jazz and popular vocals will be super beneficial to me post graduation,” said Rose.
“The goal of this concert is for the musicians participating to create music without necessarily reading music notation, so it will test our improvisational skills and our collaborative thinking skills,” said DuVall, who will be on the trombone during the show.
Getting to play on stage with popular musicians is an experience these students will never forget.
“I think they (Hogan and Conlee) are some of the best creators in the business,” said Duvall. “I am looking forward most to the process of creating with the bands and witnessing the genius of both Conlee and Hogan simultaneously.”
Hogan and Conlee will be on campus from October 24-30. The concert will take place at the band hall at 7:30pm on Friday, October 29.