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Tuesday May 23, 2017
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Abigail Washburn

 

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Michigan apple in October.

Washburn, for example, a stellar singer and banjo player, often sings old bluegrass songs in Chinese. "During my freshman year at Colorado College," she says on her website, "I joined a summer program trip to China. It had a profound effect on me. I discovered a Chinese culture that was so deep and ancient, it changed my perspective on America." She came home, learned to play the banjo, and steeped herself in American roots music, starting with "Shady Grove."

As her renown as a musician grew, so did her love of Chinese culture. With her own band, the Sparrow Quartet (Casey Driessen on fiddle, the world-renowned Bela Fleck on banjo, and Ben Sollee on cello), Washburn toured China in 2004 and again the following year. Later this month, the quartet embarks on the first-ever United States-sponsored cultural mission to Tibet and several cities along China's eastern seaboard, where it will bring American roots music to one of the world's most ancient civilizations — all courtesy of a grant from the U.S. State Department.

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