Brian Oberlin - www.mandoberlin.com
Early Music Career
Growing up in Rockford, Michigan (just North of Grand Rapids), Brian Oberlin started playing music in grade school. His first instrument was the alto saxophone, which ignited his quest for more . . . drums, guitar, tenor banjo, fiddle, piano, concertina, and, of course, mandolin - his central instrument. One day, while listening to Diamond Rio, he
heard an instrument that reminded him of trickling water and, upon reading the liner notes, wondered if the word "mandolin" was a misprint, having never heard of one. At the age of nineteen he bought his first mandolin and immediately absolved himself by attending every bluegrass festival that he could and procured all the recordings and books financially available to him. Hungry to be part of a band, he started Slack String, a fivepiece bluegrass band. This band later transformed into Northern Accent which would eventually travel all over the Midwest playing bluegrass festivals and exclusive concerts with the likes of Rhonda Vincent and Larry Sparks. In 2001, Brian teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Glenn House, and they started the band Grasshoppah, with Brian on electric mandolin, saxophone, tenor banjo, and vocals; Glenn on guitar, vocals, harmonica, kick drum, and high hat (all of which he plays simultaneously); Shane Bullis on bass and vocals; and, Dan Giacobassi on flute and tenor saxophone. Together, these musicians created a unique blend of styles of music. The band has played more than eight hundred concerts covering the United States from Alaska to Pennsylvania. Some of their accolades include 2002 Jammie Award for "Local Artist of the Year" in Grand Rapids, Michigan; several weeks in the top-ten position of listener-sponsored radio stations across the country; a band with Vassar Clements; and, two albums, one of which was award-winning. Brian was also the leading member of Portland's bluegrass and swing trio, Ida Viper, and a member of the band, Caravan Gogh, Portland's original mysterioso band which was featured in "Sing Out" magazine.
Current Music Career
One of Brian's current projects is playing with upright bassist, Josh Feinberg. The two collaborated in 2010 and decided to write music and arrange classical music for bass and mandolin. Since then, the duo, bass+mandolin, has played all over the Pacific Northwest, filling small concert halls and house concerts. In 2011, they traveled to Europe to play as soloists with the Dutch Mandolin Orchestra, ONI, and played concerts in Germany as well. Their repertoire consists of Bach Inventions, Calace, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Miles Davis, Bob Wills, Merle Haggard, swing and several dozen originals. Brian is a member of the world renowned Ger Mandolin Orchestra, headed by mandolin luminary, Mike Marshall, which has played concerts in the United States and Poland.
Brian's other musical ventures include tours with the Michigan-based trio, The Journeymen, and the California-based country trio with Brian, Pat Campbell, and song writing king, Joe New.
Since 2006, Brian has been taking the stage as a solo act to satisfy his passion for the challenge of music that only a solo gig can offer. On stage, Brian delves into the music that has inspired him over the last 15 years of performing. While crooning an old Irvin Berlin or George Gershwin song and swinging out the melody and solos on his acoustic mandolin, he will switch gears and blast out a plethora of fast-paced lyrics to western swing tune or play the electric (slide and 5-string) mandolin with a Stevie Wonder or Allman Brothers tune and then onto a piano rag or an Italian classical mandolin prelude. Finally, Brian adds his originals that swing, stomp, waltz, and ease into his personal style. In a string orchestra setting, Brian is often hired to play a Baroque mandolin solo. In
2011, Brian rounded out his solo career by releasing a double album; Solo Swing and Solo Swing Christmas. Both albums feature Brian singing and playing live in studio. Don Stiernberg wrote in the liner notes of the album Solo Swing..... "I was going to thank Brian for making a record that shows what can be done with just a mandolin, for being a champion of the instrument's capabilities. I realize now that what we're tapping our feet to here is a document of HIS capabilities. It's a swinging good time, all done with by one musician with a big sound and a great voice".
In addition to performing, Brian has a passion for teaching and has been sharing his knowledge since the year 2000. Along with instructing hundreds of students on a oneto- one basis, he has contrived dozens of unique mandolin workshops, time-tested at many national festivals and camps, and is designed for teaching any student, despite age or skill level, a means of navigating the mandolin. Brian teaches participants to broaden their musical abilities by applying simple theory to their melodies, chords, and solos. He fosters independent learning, giving his students tools they can expand upon and apply universally. Brian brings a special and unique perspective to all of his students because he is, remarkably, a self-taught musician, spending hours playing, listening, and pouring over hundreds of books and scores of sheet music. In 2009, Brian started the River of the West Mandolin Camp which is held in the Columbia River Gorge just east of Portland, Oregon. The annual Camp, held each June and lasting four days, has hosted world renowned teachers and players such as, Don Stiernberg, Carlo Aonzo, Radim Zenkl, and Peter Ostroushko. In 2011, Brian released his mandolin instructional website which contains over 150 free, downloadable documents of song charts, chord progressions,
techniques, and tutorials.
Oregon Mandolin Orchestra
In January of 2010, with his wife, Elizabeth, Brian started the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra. Since then, the Orchestra has remained 25 members strong. The Orchestra plays up to 6 concerts per year in the Portland area. The repertoire consists of early baroque music, contemporary music from classical composers and arrangers, Italian music, American folk music, and folk music from around the world.
Brian placed in the finals at the 2003 National Mandolin Championship in Winfield, Kansas, and, in 2009, his song, "Carbondale" won the songwriting contest at the Festival. Brian's songwriting has earned him an honorable mention at the Woody Guthrie song contest, and, in 2002, his band, Grasshoppah, won the Artist of the Year, "Jammie", in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
100 word biography
Brian Oberlin is a crooning mandolinist originally from Michigan. He resides in Portland, Oregon, and has been playing music professionally for 12 years. When he is not touring, he spends his time teaching kids and adults, both privately and in group classes, and playing concerts, in many different settings, regionally. Brian is the founder and director of the River of the West Mandolin Camp and the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra. He travels the world playing with his duo, bass+mandolin, as a soloist playing swing music, and with several bands and orchestras, including the world renowned Ger Mandolin Orchestra.