The Savannah Music Festival’s final weekend includes some big names, including Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Tedeschi Trucks Band, North Mississippi Allstars and Rhiannon Giddens.

Those acts and others deserve all the attention they’ll be getting as the festival draws to a close, but I want to remind readers about Stringband Spectacular, the annual performance that wraps up the Acoustic Music Seminar, one of the SMF’s major educational initiatives.

If you’re thinking that a performance related to an educational program must be boring, you’re totally, completely, entirely wrong.

The 16 AMS participants for 2018 have spent a week studying under multi-instrumentalist Mike Marshall, Julian Lage and other clinicians as they collaborate on original compositions and new arrangements. The student participants and instructors will perform twice on April 14, first at 11 a.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church and then a shorter set at 2:45 p.m. during the festival’s finale at Trustees’ Garden.


In previous years, Stringband Spectacular was a standalone show at the Lucas Theatre on the SMF’s penultimate night. The somewhat low-profile event was generally a festival highlight for those of us who attended each year, but the performance frequently had to compete with major concerts at other venues.

In theory, with two performances on the final day, Stringband Spectacular will reach new audiences and inevitably win new hearts.

This year’s seminar includes three young string musicians from Canada, three from Ireland, one from Denmark and nine from across the United States. All the 2018 participants are aged 19 to 22. Recent history has taught us that some of those performers will return to the SMF on their own or with other acts as they become more established as artists.

During the culminating performance, the AMS participants will perform songs in a variety of roots genres, including bluegrass and country, in small ensembles that will occasionally be joined by Marshall, Lage and other clinicians.

You should consider coming to Stringband Spectacular for the music and the sheer talent, but you might walk away especially appreciative of the affection and energy on stage.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged ( and hissing lawns ( Email