Two acclaimed musicians who explored North Carolina together from the mountains to the sea will visit and perform at Davidson College as part of their report to the institutions and municipalities that sponsored their venture.
Haitian-American violinist, composer and band leader Daniel Bernard Roumain (a.k.a. DBR) and Greensboro-based song writer Laurelyn Dossett approached their collaboration from entirely different musical backgrounds.
DBR was formally trained as a classical violinist, but has become notable for blending funk, rock, hip-hop and classical music into an energetic and experiential form. Dossett followed a more self-taught, traditional path to a career in vocal performance.
Before they met in 2010, DBR had conducted about a half-dozen residencies at North Carolina State University over the years. In discussing another residency with arts programmers there, he expressed the desire to find someone of a different musical background for a joint enterprise in reflecting, recording and presenting musical stories of North Carolina.
NCSU's arts programmers enlisted the support of six other educational institutions and towns across the state, including Davidson College's Friends of the Arts, and gave DBR the go-ahead. About a year ago he met Dossett, founder of the band "Polecat Creek." The two hit it off immediately, and agreed to join forces for the project.
As the first step, they spent 10 days last January visiting the towns and institutions funding the project to explore their musical heritages. They wrote a dozen songs based on that experience that they compiled into a recently released album titled "The Collide."
To wrap up the project, the duo is currently conducting extended performance residencies at each of the seven places, and will be at Davidson College September 24 through September 29.
That residency will conclude with a performance on Saturday, Sept. 29, as part of the college's annual C. Shaw and Nancy K. Smith Artist Series. During their performance, which is titled "Connecting Crossroads in North Carolina," DBR and Dossett will share the stage with college ensembles. General admission tickets for the concert are $20, and may be purchased by calling 704-894-2135 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, or at www.davidson.edu/tickets. Copies of their album, "The Collide," will be available for a minimal fee at the concert. For more information call 704-894-2651.
Davidson is the second stop in their current tour, following a residency at UNC Wilmington and preceding residencies and concerts at Appalachian State University, in West Jefferson, at East Carolina University, in Goldsboro and at NC State University.
During the Davidson residency, DBR and Dossett will conduct rehearsals with student jazz and orchestral ensembles, conduct master classes in song writing, perform informally with student jazz musicians at The Brickhouse tavern, and perform at area public schools and community centers. WDAV Classical 89.9 radio is the media sponsor for the Davidson visit.
The Saturday night concert will include several songs off of "The Collide," some of which include direct references gained in their cross-state tour. The first song, "High and Blue," refers to a household in Aberdeen, N.C., at the corner of High Street and Blue Street visited regularly by musicians. "Rebels" salutes those North Carolinians who have fought over the years for civil rights - women of the Underground Railroad, the Greensboro Four and the LGBT community that opposed Amendment One. "The Keeper" is suggestive of lighthouse keepers, and promotes the message that we all must be our brothers' keepers. "Karolina" pays homage to a hard-working I-Hop waitress, and laborers everywhere whose work is overlooked and unappreciated.
Roumain received his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music and earned a doctorate in musical composition from the University of Michigan. He's "about as omnivorous as a contemporary artist gets," according to The New York Times, and has collaborated and performed with Philip Glass, Cassandra Wilson, Bill T. Jones and Lady Gaga. He's been commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Library of Congress and ESPN.
Bill Lawing, professor of music at Davidson, said DBR's formal training and skill would enable him to be a traditional classical professional violinist. "But he also has a strong interest in contemporary popular music that's informed by his traditional pedagogy," Lawing continued. "A lot of folk musicians are self-taught, and don't necessarily have strong technical skills, especially with the violin. You don't hear his combination of assets in performance very often."
Dossett followed a less formal path to a career in song writing and guitar performance. She went to college, got married, went to grad school, and raised three daughters. It was not until her late 30s, having settled in Greensboro, that she began inviting friends to her house to make music drawn from Appalachia and the Piedmont.
She formed the band "Polecat Creek" in 1997 and began singing in public, building a base of fans and earning critical acclaim. She is now a frequent performer at regional music festivals such as Merlefest, and has been a guest on the radio show Prairie Home Companion. She was commissioned to produce a song cycle with the North Carolina Symphony, and has taught songwriting and singing at many universities, workshops and festivals. She is the 2012 recipient of the Betty Cone Medal of Arts.
The compositions created for "Connecting Crossroads in North Carolina" are commissioned by NCSU Center Stage, Davidson College Friends of the Arts and Smith Artist Series, UNCW Presents, East Carolina University's S. Rudolph Alexander Performing Arts Series, and The Performing Arts Series at Appalachian State University. Additional support is provided by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts; and by South Arts, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the NC Arts Council.