Several student musicians at Millikin University were treated to an extraordinary experience on Monday, March 14, as acclaimed bluegrass recording artist Alison Krauss made a visit to campus to offer students insight into songwriting and the music industry.
Krauss visited several classes including a music production course on the morning of March 14 to talk with students about her different kinds of experiences with producing albums. She also worked with a songwriters workshop in the afternoon.
"At first, we talked about what she looks for in a song and what means the most to her," said Kelsey Meredith, a senior commercial music major from East Peoria, Ill. "She is most passionate about lyrics. She let us perform original songs for her and to get personal feedback from her was great."
Krauss also worked with members of Millikin's Studio Pressure Night group and shared how her passion for music started when she began playing the fiddle.
"She loves singing harmonies and she is one of the most sought after duet artists," said Hannah Poorman, a junior commercial music major from Rockford, Ill. "We specifically focused on duets during our workshop."
Krauss was also the guest artist in Millikin's Music Industry Seminar where she listened to a melody of her own music performed by members of Studio Pressure Night.
"It was an amazing experience to perform for her," Poorman said. "She was very open to our questions and her answers were more personal reflections than demonstrations."
When asked about important lessons from the experience, Poorman said, "While we were working in the studio (Millitrax), she said the human element always comes first in the performance and never feel as if your ideas, thoughts or feelings are in competition."
Krauss has released 14 albums, appeared on numerous soundtracks and helped renew interest in bluegrass music in the United States. Her soundtrack performances have led to further popularity, including the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, an album also credited with raising American interest in bluegrass, and the "Cold Mountain" soundtrack, which led to her performance at the 2004 Academy Awards.
As of 2012, she has won 27 Grammy Awards from 41 nominations. She is the most awarded singer and the most awarded female artist in Grammy history.
Time Brickey, a senior music business major from Chicago, said, "We have a lot of people from the music industry visit Millikin University, and an experience like this says a lot about the legitimacy of our program. To have someone like Alison Krauss come to campus is pretty amazing."
Kelsey Meredith says the experience taught the students the importance of building connections in the industry. "To have the opportunity here on campus to make connections, especially on a personal level, and to introduce yourself, have a name, is really neat."