The John Bullard Quartet Performs in Monterey March 11 During Maple Festival


The Highland County Arts Council is presenting a performance by The John Bullard Quartet on the first Saturday of Maple Festival, March 11.  John Bullard will be playing classical banjo, accompanied by piano, cello and violin.

“I grew up playing bluegrass banjo, like the Earl Scruggs style, three finger style banjo and through kind of a weird series of events, I ended up transcribing some Bach for the banjo and really got hooked on the whole idea of playing Baroque, Renaissance and, kind of in general, classical music on the banjo,” says Bullard.

Music cut – Handel:  Allegro

“The first time I was in college I was at a small liberal arts college and they didn’t have a music program, but I discovered at some point that they had one music class that was offered and it was a music theory class taught by the school’s choir director,” says Bullard.  “So, I went to the choir director to sign up for the class and he asked me what instrument I played, and I told him I played the banjo, and he literally wouldn’t let me take the class because I played the banjo.  So, that was my first experience with what I call the banjo shame.”

Music cut – Kemp’s Jig

“I decided to start kind of trying to learn about music and music theory on my own, after that experience, and that eventually led me into music school at VCU in Richmond,” says Bullard.  “I was not planning to pursue classical banjo.  I didn’t know anything about it.  I was going to study composition and I had a teacher find out that I played the banjo and he asked me to bring the banjo in for like a show and tell and play some tunes at the end of class, which I did, and that teacher came up to me after class and said ‘Hey, have you ever thought about playing any Renaissance or Baroque music on the banjo, because to me your banjo sounded a lot like a harpsicord or a lute.’  That was the suggestion that started the whole thing and so that was kind of my moment of inspiration and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

The John Bullard Quartet performs Saturday, March 11, at 5pm at The Highland Center in Monterey.  Admission is $10 or $8 with your 2023 Maple Festival keychain.

“When people hear classical music played on the banjo, I think it gives them sort of a whole new perspective on the music, because it’s such an unexpected combination,” says Bullard.  “I feel like it lets people kind of have a gateway into this music, this classical art music, that they might otherwise, you know, feel a little inhibited to try to get into or maybe wouldn’t be drawn to listen to it, because it might sound complicated or formal or something like that.  I think playing it on the banjo allows people kind of a gateway to be introduced to that music and enjoy it in kind of a refreshingly new way.”

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The Highland County Arts Council is a supporter of Allegheny Mountain Radio.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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