"Lion in the Grass," Columbia's bluegrass ensemble was founded at Columbia in 2004 and has achieved a strong reputation on campus and in the community. Lion in the Grass plays at many campus functions throughout the year, and at neighborhood venues as well.
The Bluegrass band introduces students to specific non-western and non-classical styles and cultures through active participation in group lessons and rehearsal, culminating each semester in at least one public performance. The Bluegrass Band meets once a week for two hours and is open to musicians of all levels. To participate, students must play a bluegrass-specific instrument such as acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle (violin), bass, or dobro. Each musician must be willing to participate as a vocalist in either a lead or harmony capacity. Some experience singing vocal harmony is a plus. The class works on 8-10 songs and instrumentals drawn from the traditional and contemporary bluegrass repertoire each semester. The songs and instrumentals are taught by ear and with chord charts, no formal training or sight reading ability is necessary. The class works together on music each on music each week by learning the vocal harmonies, solos, arrangements, and rehearsing the material. James Kerr, the instructor and coach, is a professional bluegrass dobro player and classical guitarist who has a extensive performing career. The ensemble offers a unique opportunity to learn from and perform with a bluegrass professional in a fun and casual setting.