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Performance Schedule:

December 3, 2017:
Cal Poly Symphony in San Luis Obispo, CA
David Arrivée, Music Director and Conductor

 

Listen to a radio interview

Kermit Poling of Red River Radio talks with mandolinist Jeff Midkiff who was the guest soloist for the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra Concert November 17 in Shreveport, Louisiana.

 

 

 

Jeff Midkiff 's Virtual Press Kit

Articles         Reviews         Video Clips         Photos        

One Sheets: Mandolin Concerto One-Sheet (232K pdf)
Partners in Time One-Sheet (93K pdf)

 

Recent articles

Roanoke Times: article about the premiere Roanoke Symphony Orchestra perfomance of Mandolin Concerto “From the Blue Ridge”

Audio samples and Program notes for Mandolin Concerto “From the Blue Ridge”

 

Reviews of Mandolin Concerto “From the Blue Ridge”

Download the One-Sheet (232K pdf)

Wow, really terrific—damned impressive!! My wife said, “Reminds me of Copland.” And she loves Copland. Gorgeous middle movement. I'm allergic to anything resembling a drum set in a symphony orchestra, but I dealt with that in the third movement and still enjoyed it. Bravo Jeff, a real accomplishment both pragmatically and artistically.
David Royko, Chicago Tribune

 

Virginia Gazette review of the Concerto with the Williamsburg Symphonia

Download the complete review (800K pdf)

The evening's featured soloist, Jeff Midkiff, was also the composer of the featured piece, “From the Blue Ridge,” a concerto for mandolin. The title of the work quickly dispelled any thoughts of hearing the mandolin in music reflective of its 18th century Italian roots. Quite the opposite.

The piece directly reflects Midkiff’s roots in the Blue Ridge Mountains and his fondness for the bluegrass music tradition, with a touch of swing and jazz in the mix. Although he’s a trained clarinetist with a degree in music education and performance and is the orchestra director for the Roanoke City Schools, Midkiff’s involvement in bluegrass music is evident in the work’s overall structure.

Not that this suggests “Blue Ridge” is all fast mandolin pickin’ because it isn’t. In fact, it’s a work that cleverly blends a sophisticated orchestral foundation with mandolin playing suitable for classically-oriented lines as well as those more down-home.

It opens with swirling sounds from the orchestra and mandolin that appropriately does suggest the beauty of the Blue Ridge area and its peaceful life. It’s a fascinating combination of bluegrass inspired emotions with those of a somewhat big city orchestral sound that works well on many levels.

The second movement is thoughtful and reflective and brought to mind the emotions so superbly expressed by Copland and his Americana music. According to program notes, Midkiff’s stimulus for this movement came from “Wildwood Flower” and the Carter Family and Bill Monroe's “Roanoke.”

The finale, “Crooked Road” refers to the extensive trail of bluegrass and country music that winds through Appalachia and southwestern Virginia and embraces such luminaries as Ernie Ford, the Stoneman Family, and Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, the latter which were featured in the Virginia Arts Festival back in 2007. The movement is full of foot-stomping, toe-tapping rhythms and was just great fun to hear.

As for Midkiff, his virtuoso fast-paced mandolin playing was impressive, as was his ability to weave the most delicate of lines, all of which added to the delightful diversity of the Symphonia’s fare in this Masterworks Concert.
John Shulson, Virginia Gazette, January 19, 2013

 

Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra performs Midkiff Mandolin Concerto

Midkiff’s “From the Blue Ridge” is a highly original and thoroughly welcome addition to the catalog great American works for orchestra. I have rarely encountered a new work that inspired such rapturous praise from musicians and audiences from a single hearing. By turns toe-tapping, wistful, spiritual and downright fun, the concerto is colorfully scored and features the virtuosic talents of the composer as soloist. I look forward to introducing the work to audiences around the country.
Michael Butterman, conductor, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra

 

Roanoke Symphony Orchestra's season debut rooted in Appalachia

...The highlight of the evening, however, was surely the world premiere of a concerto for mandolin and orchestra written by Roanoke’s own Jeff Midkiff. Midkiff, a local educator and clarinetist, is also a virtuoso mandolin player. His concerto, “From the Blue Ridge,” was commissioned by the RSO...
Kevin Kittredge, The Roanoke Times

 

“Orchestras are looking for new music that expands the classical repertoire, and a new and wonderful mandolin concerto by Jeff Midkiff fits this need perfectly.  It fuses naturally the bluegrass and classical orchestra styles, allows for the soloist to communicate both profound lyricism and technical virtuosity, and is both fun and challenging for the orchestra to play…the audience immediately responded with a sustained standing ovation, and I immediately programmed it for my summer music festival this year.

This work represents, to me, a perfect example of what great new music can be:  rooted in tradition while crossing musical genres, contemporary and appealing, fun to play and conduct, and a way of building and sustaining audiences now and into the future.  It is no accident that other conductors and orchestras are programming it – it is a winner.”
David Stewart Wiley, Music Director and Conductor, Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, Virginia and Long Island Philharmonic, New York

 

Jeff’s music evoked memories of the Appalachian Mountains. The second movement was exquisite, reminding me of waking in the early mornings surrounded by the mountains and taking the first breath of the clean air. The audience responded with that same breath. Beth Pline, Executive Director, Roanoke Symphony Orchestra

 

Reviews of Jeff’s Partners in Time solo CD…

Download the One-Sheet (93K pdf)

See the Dirty Linen Review

Midkiff has been a serious musician and educator for years. He’s distinguished himself as a regular in various bluegrass groups, but until now hasn't had a solo podium to fully exhibit his technical virtuosity. His debut CD is a beauty, showcasing his clean, dynamic mandolin playing as well as his rich and tasteful approach as a fiddler. Midkiff authored six of the 10 selections, displaying an eclectic sensibility that takes the listener from good-time folkie rave-ups (“Grey Hawk”) and traditional lyricism (“Goodbye Liza Jane”) to more exotic realms (“Alhambra”). Midkiff also serves up Reinhardt-esque treatments of Tin Pan Alley standbys like “Summertime” and “Oh, Lady Be Good,” then closes with a rousing cover of “Monroe’s Hornpipe.” 2003 is the year he stepped out into the limelight, and judging by this effort, it’s about time.
Martin Brady, Nashville Scene

 

Midkiff is a superior instrumentalist who pushes the envelope. He plays with dynamics and intensity that make for a powerful listen. While impressively virtuosic as a soloist and songwriter, Midkiff has also managed to find three sidemen who perfectly complement his style. They include Curtis Jones on guitars, Robbie Link on bass, and Bill Ray on percussion. This all-star acoustic quartet lay their engaging music down right, and seven of the album’s ten tracks span five minutes or more to allow each musician to showcase their own impressive talent.

Any person who appreciates exceptional acoustic instrumental music will take to this album like a bear does to a honey tree.
Joe Ross, staff writer for Bluegrass Now Magazine

 

Wow!  That’s about it.  There’s a term these days that started out being quite descriptive because it was loose enough to cover those it needed to cover but has become tighter and tighter — “new acoustic music.”  Jeff has restored the looseness to the term, making even the adjective “new” ineffective, considering that composers George and Ira Gershwin and Bill Monroe are drawn on here in addition to Jeff’s impressive originals.  So what we have here is flat-out, straight ahead acoustic music, period, with Jeff on mandolin and fiddle, Curtis Jones on guitar, Robbie Link on bass, and Bill Ray on percussion.  An important note:  you can follow these melodies, even the tunes you’re not already familiar with, although, if you play like me, you may follow from way behind.

the bridgeworks

 

Rooted in bluegrass, but genre stretching, this debut project represents the signature style of this Virginia veteran. ... This project, represents a wide, tasteful and entertaining selection of mandolin possibilities, while not jumping out of the box to get there. Even the tunes that stretch the borders, keep one foot firmly on bluegrass soil. Well recommended for mandolin pickers especially.

Acoustica Magazine

 

I’ve known Jeff for quite a few years. While playing with him in the earlier years of the Lonesome River Band, I knew then Jeff was a great talent. After almost 2 decades later, I had a great experience recording with Jeff again and seeing how much he has grown as a musician and now a songwriter. This is an eclectic compilation of material, not just bluegrass, not just swing, be bop, jazz, classical, but all these things as I knew only Jeff could accomplish.

Tim Austin, Doobie Shea Records

 

[Jeff] pushes the bounds of the instrument ... weaves his mando and fiddle lines into the actual fabric of the composition in a manner which captures both the wide ranging nature of the mandolin alongside the diversity of the material. And Midkiff exposes a plethora of global influence in his work through a series of ambitious original compositions. This is a music that lives and breathes. Partners In Time is an ambitious effort captures the intensity and joy that has always been a part of the progressive wing of bluegrass.

Steve Romanoski, Bluegrass Music News

 

I was highly impressed by the variety of musical character, the sheer virtuosity, and the generally high quality of musicianship on Jeff Midkiff’s new CD project. This effort transcends genre and is just plain old great playing by any standard.

Larry Combs, Principal Clarinet, Chicago Symphony

 

From radio hosts…

Thank you for the CD. I felt at times you sounded a little like Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. As my programme specialises in bluegrass music, I have logged the CD into the station library so that it has the opportunity to be played by a wider range of presenters. My wife said she would list the CD for playing on her show which is called Country Rhythm and she goes to air every Friday afternoon from 2pm to 4pm. We all value receipt of new music and I think it will receive quite some exposure. Thank you again and all the best with this project.

Bruce Livingstone, Bluegrass Country, Australia

 

Received your CD in the mail this week. Sounds absolutely wonderful! I've been playing that puppy in my car over and over. ”Summertime” is a family favorite, best version ever. There isn't a track on here that I won't work into the playlist in the weeks ahead.

I’ll make sure fellow DJ gets the second copy. I know he will want to work a song or three into his show, as well.

Cary Allen Fields WICR University of Indianapolis www.fieldsofbluegrass.com/

 

Many thanks for sending your new CD our way -- and what a ground-breaking, totally captivating, instrumentally excellent CD it is! I thoroughly enjoyed every track. I liked your originals, your sense of experimentation, creativity, the arrangements and, of course, the mind-boggling instrumental fireworks. Besides your searing mandolin and fiddle work, Curtis Jones was just absolutely phenomenal on the guitar — I can’t believe some of his work.

You’ve done a remarkable job creating a number of widely different moods, tapping into a wide variety of genres in the process. Outstanding work. I’ll be doing my best to spread the word here in Nashville and in our other syndicated locations. Thanks again.

Dave Higgs, Bluegrass Breakdown

 

Thanks for sending me “Partners In Time” ... Very tasteful CD and I’ll have it on the air this Friday. Your and Curtis’ picking are a delight to hear.

Davis Tracy, WDCV advisor, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA
www.the-freq.com

 

What a great CD. Will start playing on radio tomorrow. We need more of your type music here in Texas.

Carroll Parham, KCLW Radio 900 AM

 

My top compliments towards your “Partners In Time” CD. Your unique and distinctive way with music is what I live for and the album on a whole really sticks to the ear bone. Will add to my traveling stash … and of course will be airing on my shows. I’m a huge fan of interesting instrumentals … and you write your own book. Very excellent.

Eddie Russell, Country Eastern West, Columbus, Texas

 

Thanks for the CD. … Let me tell you, I was quite surprised by the diversity of the overall project. I have had nothing but great comments from folks around here, especially those who enjoy something different. My son put it the best after we had listened to the CD, “It sounds kind of like David Grisman with more traditional influence and cleaner than most that try to.” What I liked best is your “own” mandolin sound. … I have played mandolin for 22 years. … I truly enjoy someone with their own sound versus the imitator that most today really are, regardless of what they think.

Rod Lunger, WMMG-FM, Brandenburg, Ky.

 

I have listened to “Partners In Time” and found it be both interesting and entertaining. My favorites leaned towards the more traditional cuts, “Grey Hawk” and “Monroe’s Hornpipe,” but I truly enjoyed “Oh, Lady Be Good” and “Summertime.” I will get the project into rotation very soon.

Norris Long, Bluegrass Reflections