It’s not every day that a group of musicians take on Irish, Bluegrass, Cajun, Klezmer and Western Swing all in the same show but that doesn’t stop Folkal Point. Formally known as Eastern Oregon University’s Fiddle Ensemble, the group has expanded to include 11 people and boasts a variety of acoustic instruments from ukuleles to cellos and penny whistles to banjos.
“The class was created to provide an opportunity for students to perform traditional acoustic music, and was initially oriented towards traditional fiddling in numerous styles,” Duane Boyer, EOU faculty and Folkal Point instructor said. “As interest grew, other instruments and vocalists were added to the mix, and the scope broadened to include acoustic music from many genres.”
Boyer also said that the group gives students the opportunity to expand beyond the music that is typically performed in a college class. This seems to have its benefits because some students from Folkal Point have gone on to be accomplished musicians. “Most, if not all, of the students who have been in the group in the past continue to perform or stay musically involved; a former member won the Grand Masters Invitational Fiddling Championship in Nashville in 2012, and several members were musical guest performers on a Prairie Home Companion broadcast several years ago,” Boyer said.
Sarah Railey has been a member of Folkal Point for nearly two years. Railey is an English and Biology major at EOU and plays guitar and 5-string banjo. “I got involved with Folkal Point because
of Duane Boyer, my guitar and banjo instructor,” Railey said. “He suggested I join, and then I did. I’d only taken banjo for a year, so I feel he made a leap of faith there, but I’m glad he did.”
The overall performance mood sets Folkal Point apart from a typical classroom setting. “The thing I like about Folkal Point is that everyone is really relaxed. We’re there to have fun most of all, not get every song perfect. Many of us aren’t music majors-we just like to play, and appreciate having a group to play with,” Railey said.
Business major Jacob Snodgrass concurs. “I got involved with the group because it offered a relaxed environment to learn and grow my instrumental skills,” Snodgrass said. “I feel like this group has given me unique opportunities that the majority of students are unable to experience throughout the course of a regular curriculum.”
Folkal Point will perform at the Stage Door Theater on Friday, Feb. 22 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the Mountaineer Market, Direct Music or the EOU Bookstore. The entrance to the theater is located at 1010 Adams Ave. in the alley behind City Hall and Natures Pantry.