Of all the landmarks associated with bluegrass music, most are in the South, including Rocky Top, Tennessee (made famous by a hit song) and Rosine, Kentucky (birthplace of Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass). After hitting the 30-year mark of sponsoring a bluegrass music series at the Emelin Theatre, Mamaroneck is also on the map.
“This is a nationally known stop for bands touring the northeast,” said Arnie Fleischer, who books the five concert per season series without compensation. “It’s a lot of fun. You have to give credit to the board at the Emelin and the people who come out to support this music.”
The theatre held a Bluegrass Brunch benefit celebrating the milestone at the on Sunday, April 1, an event attended by around 100 fans.
“The bluegrass series is our most consistent and most predictable audience” in terms of attendance figures, said Mark Ettenger, president of the theatre’s Board of Trustees. “This has become a brand unto itself; people trust Arnie and the Emelin to provide high-quality bluegrass shows.”
In years past, Emelin concerts opened with a bluegrass jam in a back room where anyone could pick and sing. At the brunch, a group of musicians featuring a banjo and a mandolin jammed on songs like “Salt Creek” and “Little Maggie” near the bar before Fleischer’s band, the Westchester Bluegrass Boys, took the stage.
During their first set, guests boogied up to the buffet and Larchmont resident Carolyn Salafia began kitting in time to the bouncing beat. Country music had been a staple in her house during childhood. She plays the accordion and, in the midst of raising twins and maintaining her career as a doctor, she discovered the bluegrass series 10 years ago and hasn’t missed a show since.
“This music enriches the soul,” she said. “I found something I really love.”
Bluegrass impresario Doug Tuchman and J. Jay Mautner founded the series and it has grown ever since. “The fans are very knowledgeable and they really travel,” said Lisa Reilly, executive director of the Emelin. “We have one subscriber who comes all the way from Staten Island. They are impressively loyal to the music.”
The Emelin bestowed Carol Beaugard, host of a bluegrass show on WFDU and MC at the shows, with a Certificate of Honor for helping to promote the series.
“Bluegrass is a live performance musical entity,” said Beaugard. “It’s family music, it’s alive with presence and a driving rhythm. It covers heartbreak, hopes and loss and there’s a sense of feeling and fellowship that I’m proud to be a part of.”