Near the end of his first set March 29 at the Morris Center, Pokey LaFarge took a moment to praise the vision of the Savannah Music Festival.
"The only way tradition can survive is by cultivating it with originality," he said, and then led his band through a few more numbers capturing the spirit of early 20th century swing, ragtime, jazz and blues.
In a brilliant performance March 30 at the Lucas Theatre, husband-and-wife team BÃ©la Fleck and Abigail Washburn played nothing but their banjos as they, too, combined tradition and originality.
Fleck and Washburn performed several songs from the 1930s, as well as a couple of traditional Chinese ballads. But there was plenty of new material, too, including a sample of Fleck's orchestral work and a few recent songs by Washburn.
Just before the close of the show, the duo delivered a fresh and thrilling rendition of "New South Africa," originally recorded by BÃ©la Fleck and the Flecktones.
During the encore, Fleck and Washburn even brought their baby, Juno, onto the stage, who spent his time happily reaching for his father's strings and his mother's microphone.
The Savannah Music Festival has developed an international reputation for giving artists like Fleck, Washburn and LaFarge a place to honor traditional genres while also blazing new trails into a new century.
There might not be any better example of that mission than the SMF's Acoustic Music Seminar, which culminates April 5 with "Stringband Spectacular."
The Acoustic Music Seminar brings 16 string players, all younger than 22, to Savannah for a week to work with multi-instrumentalist Mike Marshall and a variety of other visiting musicians.
During the performance, seminar participants will perform in different combinations as they present fellow students' original compositions and new arrangements of traditional songs.
I attended "Stringband Spectacular" in 2013, and I can unequivocally say that it was one of the highlights of the festival.
You won't recognize any of the names of the performers, other than Mike Marshall.
But there's a fair chance that a few of the students will headline shows at the SMF itself one day, as they honor and extend America's great musical traditions.
Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.