By Edo Steinberg
Note: audio of Rob’s band can be found at the bottom of the post.
Rob and his wife Pam first got interested in bluegrass music when he worked at the University of Alabama. They went to a concert that included a mandolin player and they liked it a lot. “When we moved back to Bloomington, Pam said offhandedly that she would like to play the mandolin,” Rob says. “So I bought her a mandolin as a gift. She was very happy and played it a little, but then she stopped because she didn’t have time. It just sat there in our house for the longest time, and finally I said, I’m going to see if I can find a way to take lessons.”
Rob found his mandolin teacher, Will Devitt of the duo Davis and Devitt, by searching the word “mandolin” on the Onestart classifieds. “I started taking lessons from Will and then he said I should join this group,” Rob telling the story of how a year ago he joined a band of Stafford Music Academy students that has been playing together for over two years. Other members, including School of Journalism faculty members Nancy Comisky and Joe Coleman, play different string instruments – guitar, violin, banjo and mandolin. They get together about every two weeks. Their unofficial title is “Under New Management” – a name they came up with after the Stafford Music Academy was sold to a new owner.
When Rob started playing the mandolin, he never expected to sing in public. “In junior and high school I did theater,” Rob recalls. “In 7th grade, I auditioned for a musical and the director paired me up with a high school senior male. I was so intimidated that when I sang I sounded awful. My voice cracked and I was way out of tune. I had a big phobia about singing for years and years, so I’m very surprised I’m doing what I’m doing now, and I can’t tell you how it came about. It’s pretty amazing that they get me to sing!”
Will they ever hold public performances? “We joke about playing at the farmers’ market,” Rob says. “It certainly isn’t in our immediate plan, but someday, maybe,” Rob says noncommittally.
– Rob sings and plays “Wagon Wheel”.
– Rob sings and plays the Folsom Prison Blues.
– The group plays “This Land Is Your Land”.