On Sunday, Sept. 30, many Novocollegians and their visiting parents were given a glimpse into the musical style of the local band Passerine. Full of New College family members and friends, Passerine’s quintet of strings with vocals performs with great success in the Sarasota-Bradenton area.
Passerine takes its name from the common term for the order of birds whose members range from sweet songbirds to the tricky raven. Tanya Radtke plays the guitar and sings vocals, as does her co-songwriter and long time friend Carmela Pedicini. Professor of Sociology David Brain plays the resonating guitar, more accurately known as the dobro. Sara Stovall (’06), a former Catalyst editor, plays the fiddle while also assisting on vocals. Thesis student David Baker, who recently took over for former member Miles Tweed, plays the upright bass. With their NCF connection now tri-fold, it seems likely that the school will see much more of them in the coming months.
The band came together when Pedicini and Brain formed an acoustic group following a shared stage at a folk festival in 2009. Radtke, having known and worked with Pedicini in the past, joined soon after. Both Radtke and Pedicini both have other local bands with good followings, which carried over to Passerine. In April of 2011, after touring in Europe with the River City Rebels, Stovall met and joined the band, with Baker following soon after in September 2011. The group’s harmonies have been hailed as “magical,” “inventive” and “haunting,” but they make it a point to keep their arrangements simple with an acoustic sound that is clean and compelling.
In separate e-mail interviews, Stovall and Baker both described life in Passerine as incoming members.
“I [was] volunteering for the Noise Ordinance 2 Music Festival, in which Passerine was playing,” Stovall said. “The volunteer coordinator, who’s a good friend of the band, figured out that I’m a violinist and put me in touch with Carmela. They had been tossing around the idea of adding fiddle, but hadn’t found anyone who vibed well with them. Well, I went out and jammed on one open mic with Carmela and David, and that very weekend they had me playing a radio show and then I cut my teeth on a three-hour gig at the Old Packinghouse Cafe!”
Stovall was also integral in bringing Baker into the band after former member Tweed went off to medical school. Having played together in a bluegrass band during 2009-2010, she knew of Baker’s capabilities and put him on the shortlist.
“[When I heard] Baker came back to town and I managed to cajole him into playing bass with us,” Stovall reported.
“We’ve settled on Americana as an encompassing term, partly because Americana itself is a broad category,” Baker explained of the band’s musical style.
“Other names people might attribute to our music include singer/songwriter, folk, alt-country and newgrass. We do a fairly unique blend of original songs written by Carmela and Tanya, plus 60s and 70s covers, plus bluegrass/folk traditionals. No matter what we do we put our own spin on it – it’s more of an interpretive or translation process than just trying to replicate the original.”
When asked about their feelings regarding their inclusion into Passerine, both cited being very grateful for the experiences that the band has brought them.
“It’s such a fun exploration of music,” Baker stated. “Having an adult peer group interested in the same things I am is a humbling and edifying experience.”
Passerine has many events and concerts lined up between now and the end of November, including performing at NCF’s Woodstock Wall.
10/19 – Manatee County Courthouse – Bradenton
10/28 – Evie’s Tavern on the Range – Sarasota
11/4 – Growler’s Pub – Sarasota
11/5 – DeLand Original Music Festival – DeLand
11/12 – Rocky Bottom Bluegrass Festival – Bradenton
11/19 – Cortez Folk Festival – Cortez
11/19 – Newstock – New College