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Mandolin Virtuoso Sierra Hull to Perform at WKCTC Friday, September 8

Sierra Hull performs at the WKCTC Clemens Fine Arts Center on Friday, September 8, at 7:30 pm.
Sierra Hull
Sierra Hull performs at the WKCTC Clemens Fine Arts Center on Friday, September 8, at 7:30 pm.

The WKCTC Clemens Fine Arts Center continues its Arts in Focus series with a performance by bluegrass singer-songwriter and mandolin virtuoso Sierra Hull on Friday, September 8, at 7:30 pm. Hull speaks to Tracy Ross about her writing process, improvisational experience, upcoming works, and more ahead of her Paducah debut on Friday night.

From the Clemens Fine Arts Center's website:

"Sierra Hull's positively stellar career started early. That is, if you consider a Grand Ole Opry debut at age 10, called back to the famed stage a year later to perform with her hero and mentor Alison Krauss to be early. She played Carnegie Hall at 12; at 13 signed with Rounder Records and issued her debut, Secrets, and garnered the first of many nominations for Mandolin Player of the Year. She played the Kennedy Center at 16 and the next year became the first bluegrass musician to receive a Presidential Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music. As a 20-year-old, Hull played the White House."

First, Ross and Hull discussed Hull's experience as the 2023 High Sierra Music Festival's "artist at large." Hull described switching between performing with her own band and sitting in on other performers' sets, including the perks of playing mandolin in improvisational jams. "The good thing about mandolin is if you're really using your ears, you can be quiet when you need to," Hull laughs. "You can kind of land in that round when you need to and jump in when the movement is there to fill the space or take a solo. Growing up in the bluegrass world teaches you how to improvise and really listen and play around what's happening in the moment."

When comparing her sparse recordings to her fuller band arrangements, Hull said she feels split down the middle. "There's something to be said about being able to really have those moments where you can explore your musicianship and just shred and have fun. But if that was all I ever did, I think I would feel really empty as a musician because I think that I have always loved good songs, singing, harmonies, and storytelling in that way. My favorite music is sparse and beautiful and isn't something you try to shred off of. I've always been driven to that kind of beautiful, vocal, lyrical melody. I think I would be lost as an artist if I didn't have the opportunity to do that, even though it's a blast to have people hop on the stage and have a fun jam, too."

Hull went on to discuss her upcoming works, including a new record she hopes to release in early 2024 that features the band lineup that she's been touring with for the last two years. The singer-songwriter said that getting to play with the same group of musicians so extensively has lent itself to flexible sets that explore all parts of her repertoire. Her band has also allowed her to explore recording the songs in a way that closely reflects the live performance's arrangement and energy.

Looking forward, Hull isn't sure exactly where her musical career will take her next — all she cares about is continuing to stay true to "music that speaks to me both in collaborations and learning what I can from those experiences as well as in a way that will feel sincere to where I'm at at a moment in time." She also said she'd like to expand her audience, not for fame's sake, but because connecting musically and emotionally with the audience is one of the driving forces behind Hull's passion for music.

Sierra Hull and her backing band will perform at WKCTC's Clemens Fine Arts Center on Friday, September 8, at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $35 for adults or $17.50 for WKCTC faculty and staff and can be purchased online or at the door. For more information about Sierra Hull or the Arts in Focus series, visit the WKCTC website.

Tracy started working for WKMS in 1994 while attending Murray State University. After receiving his Bachelors and Masters degrees from MSU he was hired as Operations/Web/Sports Director in 2000. Tracy hosted All Things Considered from 2004-2012 and has served as host/producer of several music shows including Cafe Jazz, and Jazz Horizons. In 2001, Tracy revived Beyond The Edge, a legacy alternative music program that had been on hiatus for several years. Tracy was named Program Director in 2011 and created the midday music and conversation program Sounds Good in 2012 which he hosts Monday-Thursday. Tracy lives in Murray with his wife, son and daughter.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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