The seventh annual Blizzard Bluegrass weekend happens Jan. 6-7 at Bismarck State College with area band Cotton Wood and The WoodPicks from northern Minnesota.
Cotton Wood opens the 7:30 p.m. concerts Friday and Saturday night in BSC's Sidney J. Lee Auditorium. Tickets are $15 and available at Eckroth Music, String Bean, Jacobsen Music and Night Life Music in Bismarck; Chase Drug and Java Rose in Washburn; Corner Express in Center, and at the door.
In addition to the BSC concerts, The WoodPicks will perform a free community concert Friday, Jan. 6, at 10 a.m. in the high school in Wilton. On Saturday, Jan. 7, members will conduct hands-on bluegrass workshops for fiddle, guitar, mandolin, bass and banjo from 2 to 4 p.m. in the BSC Leach Music Center. Fee is $5. The workshop also includes classes in harmony and songwriting.
Promoter Jill Wiese, bassist with Cotton Wood, said she hopes to purchase two guitars and donate them to the Wilton and Bismarck school systems for their new guitar instruction programs.
"We like to support education on these instruments," Wiese said. "Any way we can give back, we are there."
Proceeds also will benefit the Huff Hills Ski Patrol. Wiese has been a ski patrol volunteer for 15 years. New splints are needed plus additional supplies for bringing disabled and blind people to Huff Hills for a skiing experience, Wiese said.
Washburn-based Cotton Wood plays bluegrass festivals in a four-state area. The band's trademark style ranges from bluegrass to popular and country-flavored tunes. Members are Dan Foster, mandolin and guitar; Keith Koch, guitar; Jill Wiese, bass, mandolin and guitar; and Lee Benjamin, banjo, dobro and guitar.
The WoodPicks offer an acoustic mix of gospel, bluegrass, country and Americana music. On stage, the five-man show features strong harmonies and original arrangements, as well as old favorites. Their "Barn Again!" arrangement was included in a collection of rural Americana for the Smithsonian Institution.
All five members live in Thief River Falls, Minn., and contribute vocally to the band. Each has many years of experience playing in groups throughout the United States, Canada and Alaska. Members are Greg Dally, mandolin; Dustin Keller, bass fiddle; Gene Lunsetter, guitar; Milo Ballingrud, banjo; and J.D. Kezar, fiddle, harmonica, jaw harp and guitar.
Lunsetter supplies lead vocal and harmony and does most of the arranging. He's a former touring member of The Back Behind the Barn Boys. Front man and lead vocalist J.D. Kezar has played in bands since the 1960s and owns Kezar Music, a full-service music store. Dally brings a rich band experience to the group, and Keller's distinctive voice helps define the WoodPicks' vocal sound. Ballingrud brought the group together with his return to Minnesota and love of bluegrass. ____________________________________________________________________________________________
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