A Few Minutes with Rich DelGrosso

Tell us about your teaching style and why you like to teach.

I taught middle school science and music in private lessons and workshops for over thirty years. My joy comes from when I see the “lights turn on,” the joy of accomplishment! It feeds my soul.

I like to present the lesson first by ear. I have written music available (in standard and TAB) which carries the music home for further practice and study.

In my classes we’ll cover repertoire pieces from the music of the African American mandolinist (over a hundred years in the blues!); some “new-blues,” where I have adapted other instruments to the mandolin (how about music from Robert Johnson and Thelonius Monk?); arranging and playing techniques; duets; and lots of stories.

How did you learn to play the mandolin when you first started?

I learned by ear. I had no idea at the time how to play it in standard, so I tuned the mandolin to an open G tuning. (It worked on guitar for my hero Keith Richard). I soon realized how limiting that was and I learned to read music, specifically fiddle tunes, playing mostly old-time and Celtic music. I played rock and blues on guitar, and when I heard Johnny Young I knew that the mandolin had a voice in the blues. At that time I never imagined how deep the history would be! The available recorded sources have grown exponentially over the years.

Who were your biggest influences?

Johnny Young, Yank Rachell and Howard Armstrong. I knew Young by his music. I got to meet and work with Yank for some time. But my guru was Howard Armstrong. We spent a lot of time together, both at home in Detroit and on the road. He taught me lessons in music, humor, art and life. There is rarely a day when I don’t think of him.

What will your ensemble be like?

I am going to resurrect “Honey Babe Don’t Let The Deal Go Down” by the Mississippi Sheiks. There will be parts for all skill levels, solos and duet parts. It’s a song so we need vocalists! Three part harmony would be very cool!

What other things do you expect to experience at the Symposium this year?

I love the orchestra, the impromptu jams, and the mystery protein at every meal. Yum!

Rich DelGrosso's Web Site