A! Magazine for the Arts

Brittany Haas

Brittany Haas

Artists in residence chosen at ETSU

July 27, 2021

Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Studies and the Department of Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University announce two new artists in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year: Brittany Haas and Mike Compton.

Haas is widely regarded as one of the most influential fiddlers of her generation. She grew up in Northern California, honing her craft at string camps and developing her unique style of fiddling at the influence of her mentors, Bruce Molsky and Darol Anger.

A prodigious youth, Haas began touring with Anger’s Republic of Strings at the age of 14. At 17, she released her debut, self-titled solo album, produced by Anger. She continued to tour and record while earning a degree in evolutionary biology at Princeton University, with a minor in music performance. During her time at Princeton, she was asked to join the seminal “chamber-grass” band Crooked Still, with whom she has made four recordings and toured the world.

Over the years, she has performed with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Bela Fleck, Dierks Bentley, Abigail Washburn, Tony Trischka, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas (her cellist sister). In 2016, she joined the house band for “Live from Here” (formerly “A Prairie Home Companion”), hosted by Chris Thile. She tours with Hawktail, which includes bassist Paul Kowert of Punch Brothers, guitarist Jordan Tice and mandolinist Dominick Leslie.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the faculty of ETSU as an artist in residence with their historic program,” says Haas. “Their offerings in bluegrass, old-time and roots music studies are ever-expanding, and I can’t wait to delve into these areas with the students. To explore these traditions with college learners will be exciting as well as inspiring and challenging. I look forward to helping the students along in their musical journeys, playing music with them, and asking questions about what it means to be a musician and where we can go with our collective music-making and studies. Thanks to ETSU for this great opportunity!”

Compton is one of today’s foremost interpreters of Bill Monroe’s mandolin style. Born in Meridian, Mississippi, he picked up the instrument in his teens and absorbed the area’s native blues, old-time country and bluegrass sounds. He soon moved to Nashville, where he helped found one of the 20th century’s most admired and influential bluegrass groups, the Nashville Bluegrass Band. He has also been a part of the John Hartford Stringband, Helen Highwater Stringband and Compton & Newberry, and has more than 140 CDs to his credit, including work with Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Patty Loveless. Compton has also toured and recorded with musical luminaries in other genres, including rock stars Sting, Gregg Allman and Elvis Costello.

When A-list Americana producer T-Bone Burnett needed experts in authentic rural musical styles to anchor the landmark “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” movie, soundtrack and subsequent tour, he called upon Compton’s unique knowledge and signature mandolin style to authenticate the Soggy Bottom boys’ sound. The movie’s soundtrack won the 2002 Grammy Award for Album of the Year and went on to sell seven million copies, sparking a global revival in old-time and bluegrass music.

“I’m greatly looking forward to being a part of the ETSU Appalachian Studies program and bringing the flavor and fire of Southeastern musical styles to a new generation of players, writers and artists,” says Compton. “This is an amazing opportunity to help further the music and bring an understanding of the lifestyle of a musician and what it all entails. I know the energy will be a positive step for us to all forget about 2020 and move ahead in a positive and vibrant fashion, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”