Conway acoustic weekend 

A Sunday night concert featuring bassist Edgar Meyer and Nickel Creek’s mandolin virtuoso, Chris Thile, will highlight the third annual Arkansas Acoustic Festival, a weekend of acoustic sounds at the University of Central Arkansas’s Reynolds Performance Hall. A free open-mic night, a songwriters- in-the-round show and a concert by previous Arkansas Acoustic Showdown winners Lost and Found and Garry Bryant will kick off the weekend on Friday, Jan. 28, at Reynolds. This year’s showdown, featuring contests between solo artists and groups, will be Saturday, Jan. 29 The Thile-Meyer show is 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30. Tickets are $20 for the general public, $17 for seniors and $10 for non-UCA students ($5 for UCA students) and can be purchased online at www.uca.edu/reynolds or by calling 866-810-0012. Signup for Friday’s open mic is at 6:30 p.m., and the first six acoustic acts signing up will get stage time. Each act gets up to 10 minutes to perform. The songwriters-in-the-round show will feature notables Tom Prasada-Rao, Danny Santos, Cary Cooper and Tom Kimmel, all of whom are conducting acoustic workshops Saturday at the Brewer-Hegeman Conference Center next door to Reynolds. The workshops begin at 1 p.m. Bryant and Lost and Found, featuring Hannah Blaylock, were the winners of the 2003 showdown and will close out the night. Friday’s event is free, as are Saturday’s workshops, which cover playing the mandolin, songwriting, guitar styles, independent CD sales (by Prasado-Rao), a fiddle workshop, performance, and selling music to TV, movies and record labels (by Kimmel). Saturday’s showdown begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students, available by calling 866-810-0012. Door prizes, including a Kentucky 250S A style mandolin and a Gretsch synchromatic guitar, will be given away to audience members. The showdown’s solo finalists are Jovan Arellano, Jeff Clanton, Michael Cooper, Steve Davison, Brian Driscoll, Oscar Gomez, Blake Goodwin, Adam Hambrick, G.D. Melton, John Murphy, Bill Nesbitt, Beau Nixon and Jim Ranger. Group finalists are Wes Blaylock and Laura Hudson, the Boomers, Cousin Karlin, Mark Ham and Bill Nesbitt, Sara Thomas and Chris Michaels, and Wildwood. Prominently established as a unique and masterful instrumentalist, bassist Meyer was deemed by the New Yorker as, “[T]he most remarkable virtuoso in the relatively unchronicled history of his instrument.” Among Meyer’s collaborations is a recent one with violinist Joshua Bell and legendary bluegrass musicians Sam Bush and Mike Marshall. He’s also played with a laundry list of top country acts, and he and colleagues Yo-Yo Ma and Mark O’Conner released the acclaimed CD “Appalachia Waltz.” The 23-year-old Thile, a prodigy on the mandolin before he was 10, has elevated the instrument from its relatively simple role in folk and bluegrass music to the sophistication and brilliance of the finest jazz improvisers and classical performers. His technical virtuosity and ability to improvise and have sparked a new interest in mandolin, especially among younger fans.

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