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Library musical program persuades audience members to move to the beat

Library musical program persuades audience members to move to the beat
The Blackberry Bushes Stringband performs a free concert Wednesday at the Austin Pubic Library. Band members, from left, include Jakob Breitbach, Taylor Kent and Jes Raymond.

If you had entered the library last night, you may have been surprised to see people singing, clapping and dancing. Dancing in the library? That’s right.

Many who attended a performance by the Blackberry Bushes Stringband on Wednesday night were moved by the music of the alt-folk band from the Northwest. Some people clapped to the beat, some danced and some just enjoyed listening.

"I totally enjoyed the evening; this is the kind of music that makes you feel good," said Chuck Neus.

Ann Hokanson, Austin Public Library director, said the library was fortunate enough to be able to arrange for the string ensemble to stop in Austin on its national tour. As a bonus, the group was joined by singer-songwriter Eric Miller of Seattle.

Miller opened the show, and the audience of more than 50 people enjoyed his smooth, mellow voice as he sang about the joys and hardships of life and played a variety of instruments, including acoustic guitar, tambourine, harmonica and ukulele.


The Blackberry Bushes Stringband was up next. Two members are also based in Seattle; violin player Jakob Breitbach is from Dubuque, Iowa.

Breitbach said he grew up playing the fiddle in his family band, The One Hat Band, which would play on the street corners of Galena, Ill., he said.

Jes Raymond, of Seattle, plays acoustic guitar and writes many of the group’s numbers. 

"I write my songs about real life experiences, and I find that it is important to tell the story the way it really happened," Raymond said. "When you can tell a true story about your life, then you are not putting up a wall anymore, and people listening to the song will often be able to relate it to their own life."

Breitbach and Raymond have both taught a variety of music workshops to students of all ages.  They decided to leave their teaching jobs and tour full-time beginning in June 2010, after the release of their first album, "Little Bit of Grace."

Bass player Taylor Trent, of Vancouver, was on tour with the group for the first time. He also plays with other musical groups in eastern Washington.

Alverne Diekman, who attended the concert said, "These were fantastic ballads. It was a fun and entertaining evening, and I hope the library offers some more programs like this in the future."

The program was funded by memorials and gifts to the Austin Public Library.

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