Chris Thile, MacArthur Fellow, and mandolin virtuoso to host Prairie Home Companion

(Here is the feature which aired on WUFT on October 31st, 2013, the day before Chris Thile performed on the UF campus)

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Mandolinist and MacArthur Fellow Chris Thile (photo courtesy of Brantley Gutierrez)
Mandolinist and MacArthur Fellow Chris Thile (photo courtesy of Brantley Gutierrez)

Mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile, who has served as guest host several times on the popular radio variety program, “A Prairie Home Companion,” will replace Garrison Keillor as host of the show after Keillor retires this summer. Thile starts hosting a 13-episode run of the show in October.

MacArthur Fellow Thile has performed in North Central Florida at least three times. In March of 2013 his band, The Punch Brothers, headlined at the Suwannee Springfest near Live Oak.

 

On November 1st, 2013 Thile performed solo in University Auditorium on the University of Florida campus and received three standing ovations.

Thile, who is known for his influence on progressive bluegrass, performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s classical compositions as well as several of his own unique compositions taking the audience on a serious and fun musical journey.

punchAt age 8, Chris Thile began performing with the groundbreaking trio, Nickel Creek, taking traditional bluegrass to new levels. He toured with the group for 15 years, released three albums, sold two million records and won a Grammy Award.  After leaving Nickel Creek, he founded the progressive bluegrass band, The Punch Brothers, for which he is lead singer.

Thile said he loves all music, from bluegrass and rock to jazz and classical. He fell in love with Bach after two of his grandparents independently gave him Bach recordings when he was a teenager. He eventually studied music at Murray State University. On Friday night (November 1st), Thile performed “Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1″ and other non-classical selections in University Auditorium.

Thile has been on quite a musical run in the past few years. In 2012, he was named a MacArthur Fellow. His selection also provided him with $500,000 in support for five years. He said the phone call was a complete surprise.

“Completely out of the blue,” he said. “You have no idea that you’ve even been submitted for consideration. You can’t apply for it or anything.”

He said at first he didn’t even pick up the phone when the call came in.  He thought his friends were playing a prank on him.  He finally realized it was the “real deal.”

The prize was based on Thile’s creativity, originality and potential to make important musical contributions in the future as a mandolinist and composer. The fellowship comes without stipulations or reporting requirements.

Thile said he has remained inspired.

“It serves to kind of stoke the fire that I’ve lit under myself,” he said. “I live to work, and I love to work. I absolutely adore music.”

Thile said he takes the responsibility very seriously and is humbled and honored to be chosen.

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Chris thile performing with his band, The Punch Brothers, at the 2013 Suwannee Springfest (photo by Donna Green-Townsend)

Music critics have praised Thile for his ability to cross over genres, from Bill Monroe tunes on the mandolin to performing classical with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, guitarist Michael Daves and double bassist/composer Edgar Meyer. Thile said he doesn’t really think of music in terms of genres, but appreciates all music performed well.

 

 

 

 

“When you talk about genres, to me there’s like two genres of music and those are No. 1 good music and No. 2 bad music,” he said. “The best instances of music sort of rise to the top of their respective genres and enter the good music club. You know I consider JS Bach to sort of be the president of that club.”

Thile said he loves hearing that he’s inspiring other young musicians to “step out of the box” and try new things.

“It almost feels like, you know, a camera just switched on and it gives me a whole new perspective again on what it means to be alive, so if anything I ever do does that for anyone, I’m just delighted,” he said.

Click below to hear the full interview recorded by Donna Green-Townsend before his arrival in Gainesville:

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Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers in the WUFT Studios
Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers in the WUFT Studios

On March 25th, 2009 Thile and the entire Punch Brothers band were in town for a performance at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.  While in town the band stopped by the WUFT Studios and gave a short performance:

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