By Maria Rocha-Buschel
At Madison Square Park, which has been the site of two concert series over the summer, including a new one, Above Ground, featuring local subway buskers, the tradition of free, outdoor music will continue through the fall with the return of the Studio Series.
The Studio Series, scheduled to start on September 12, marks the tenth year that the Madison Square Park Conservancy has provided afternoons of blues, folk and Americana for music lovers to enjoy in the park.
While the park’s summer Oval Lawn music series features a variety of music styles, the concerts in the fall focus on fewer genres for a couple of different reasons.
“These genres were chosen in part due to folk music’s historic significance in this part of Manhattan,” said Keats Myer, executive director of the conservancy. “The genres were also chosen for this series because there were not many other outdoor spaces in the city presenting this kind of music, and we wanted to provide our audience with a unique experience.”
Myer said that extensive research goes into picking each of the bands for the series, which will be held every Saturday afternoons through October 10, except September 26.
“We carefully curate each show, pairing emerging artists with more established performers,” she said. “In order to find the perfect pairs to perform in the intimate setting that The Studio Series offers, we do a lot of research and development each year, including traveling to SXSW and many local venues.”
Luther Dickinson, a guitarist and vocalist from Tennessee, will be performing with bamboo fife player Sharde Thomas, who is the granddaughter of one of the last well-known fife players in the fife and drum tradition, Mississippi musician Otha Turner.
Dickinson, 42, comes from a family of musicians and said he’s been touring with them off and on since 1997. His music has brought him to cities throughout the world but he said that New York is one of his favorites, and he’s looking forward to visiting Madison Square Park, which he has never been to before.
Although not familiar with the specific venue, Dickinson frequently plays outdoor shows during the summer and said that they are his favorite kind of concert to perform.
“They’re the best part about summer,” he said. “It’s great for families to do when they get together as opposed to just being in a theater.”
Dickinson said that he and his family try to visit New York as much as they can and his kids have developed a taste for some of the local restaurants.
“Momofuku is my five-year-old’s favorite restaurant and the last time we were here, my one-year-old just grabbed a pork bun and tried to eat it whole,” he said, laughing. “It was a sight to see.”
The Campbell Brothers, a Sacred Steel gospel group (a genre in the tradition of African-American gospel), are also playing at the inaugural show for the series next Saturday. Dickinson said that he’s looking forward to seeing the ensemble’s performance, and the musicians have all played together before.
“I heard they’re doing an acoustic show and that’s something I really want to see,” Dickinson said. “They’re an amazing and beautiful family.”
The concerts take place at the southern end of the park near Shake Shack from 3 to 5 p.m. Some seating and cafe tables will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, visit the website.