NEW ULM - It is perhaps not unusual for teens to experiment with music - and form, let's say, a rock band.
It is less typical, however, for teens to delve deeply into bluegrass - and perform it with enough confidence and flare to garner professional accolades.
But then, these are not your typical teens.
Pictured, left to right, with instruments listed, are Barton’s Hollow members Hugh Stier (banjo, vocals), Daniel Halvorson (fiddle, vocals), Ian Kimmel (mandolin, guitar, vocals), John Halvorson (bass), Kiley Ellingson (guitar, vocals) and Carl Sones (guitar, vocals).
Take one of them, Ian Kimmel.
Just 16, Ian has been performing acoustic music for his entire life.
He plays mandolin, guitar and several other instruments. His father, Dick Kimmel, gave him instruments to play while still in the crib. Ian has even built his own ukulele and guitar!
Ian has performed with several bluegrass bands (and, yeah, in his "younger" years, with a rock band). He first went onstage, with his father, when he was seven, and first joined his own band at age 11.
In addition, Ian is a guitar, mandolin and ukulele teacher. He started teaching, at first in his basement, at age 11; he later joined the Dreaming Elk Studio in New Ulm. Teaching helps him learn, says Ian, who remains, despite his lengthy music resume, a modest man.
Ian and his current band, Barton's Hollow, an up-and-coming group composed of similarly accomplished young musicians, will perform at The Grand in New Ulm this Saturday, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. The performance is free (food and drinks are for sale).
Barton's Hollow describes itself as a six-piece traditional bluegrass, contemporary bluegrass, gospel and acoustic band. The members range in age from 14 to 20.
Beside Ian (vocals, mandolin, guitar), the musicians include the band's founder and lone girl, Kiley Ellingson (vocals, guitar), Hugh Stier (vocals, banjo), Daniel Halvorson (fiddle, vocals), John Halvorson (bass, vocals) and Carl Sones (vocals, guitar).
The band met through Grass Seeds Kids Academy, a jam camp organized by the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association.
The band's story officially began last June when Kiley put together a group to play at an open stage at the association's Minnesota Home Grown Kickoff.
(Kiley herself, now a freshman at Bethel University, has been playing music for ten years, including playing fiddle for eight years, and guitar for seven.)
She initially contacted Ian and Hugh. At the festival, they added Carl. The four performed for the first time under the name The Manly Kitties.
(You could say that name was "drawn out of a hat" - more precisely, it was made up by drawing adjectives and nouns out of two respective bowls.)
Last August, at the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music festival, the group added John and Dan, then went on to win the talent show and perform on the festival's main stage.
Deciding to stay together, the band changed their name to Barton's Hollow.
The new name was less arbitrary - it was derived from a song by a favorite duo, The Civil Wars.
For Barton's Hollow, bluegrass "runs in the blood." Most of the members have a parent who, like Ian's dad Dick, are bluegrass heavyweights in their own right.
Another strong influence on the band is the group Nickel Creek.
While Ian's personal tastes lean toward the traditional, a couple of his fellow players prefer contemporary bluegrass, he says. Their varied preferences account for to Barton's Hollow's own unique blend.
Because the band members hail from various parts of the state, it is not easy to get together to play. With hometowns like New Ulm, Cambridge, Mankato, Chatfield and Waverly, some of the young musicians live as many as three hours away from one another. But they jam together once a month, alternating venues to share the gas burden, Ian explains. They also play two or three gigs a month, which helps perfect their act.
Barton's Hollow has already performed with well-known artists, including closing for Sierra Hull & Highway 111 (multiple-time nominee for IBMA awards) and opening for Monroe Crossing and Dale Ann Bradley (three-time winner of IBMA female vocalist of the year).
The band was featured in the February issue of Inside Bluegrass, the bluegrass association's official publication.
Contact information: e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 507-766-3529; mailing address: Ian Kimmel, 619 Center St., New Ulm, MN 56073.