Local resident Fred Bartenstein
working in his
studio at his
home on Wright Street.
...Fred Bartenstein, right, with mandolinist Bob Applebaum at Harvard in 1970.
Most local residents know Fred Bartenstein
as a reasonable, low-key organizational consultant, the guy often called in to facilitate public meetings and local conflicts.He's
the picture of calm, the one in the middle who keeps people on track and lowers rising tensions and deepening voices.
has another life, and there's nothing reasonable or low-key about it.It's a life fueled by his
lifelong passion for something not often associated with straightlaced organizational consultants, or with CEOs, which he
used to be.More than anything, Bartenstein loves bluegrass music.
"It's a gift I have, a knowledge I have," Bartenstein
said in a recent interview."I had the good fortune to have been involved young with bluegrass at a central place where a great deal of music was happening.Now I'm trying to teach the rich story of where the music came from and where it's going."Bartenstein
has recently begun sharing his
love of bluegrass in a local venue.Since early July his
radio show, "Banks of the Ohio: Music from the Homeplace of Bluegrass," has aired each Saturday evening from 6 to 9 p.m. on 91.3 FM, WYSO public radio.
Produced in the WYSO studio or in Bartenstein's
home studio, "Banks of the Ohio" has for a year been broadcast on BluegrassCountry.org, a 24-hour Internet music stream from WAMU in Washington, D.C.The show is also an outreach program for the International Bluegrass Museum
in Owensboro, Ky.
While villagers may be unfamiliar with Bartenstein's bluegrass expertise, through his
Internet program bluegrass fans worldwide know his
hears from listeners from many countries and continents, from Australia to Ireland, from a farmer in Kansas to a woman living alone in a remote cabin in Alaska.
"It's really fun - it's addictive - to know that something I'm doing is reaching all these odd corners of the world," said Bartenstein
, who answers all e-mails.
Bluegrass music is currently experiencing a resurgence, Bartenstein
said, explaining that he
believes many people find in it a heartfulness lacking in some other music forms.
"Bluegrass evokes a sense of the genuine in an era where a lot of art is about image or pose," he
said."It talks about nature and home and family in ways that resonate with people.Bluegrass songs tell stories."
When they hear bluegrass for the first time, many people feel an immediate attraction to the sound of the music, Bartenstein
said.The "keening" quality of bluegrass seems to connect to some at a deep level, he
said, and sounds similar to bluegrass can be found throughout the world in music as diverse as Hungarian folk music and Japanese koto music.
"There's something about the rhythm and the sound of the banjo, mandolin and fiddle together," he
said."It's a driving, exciting rhythm.It appeals to people viscerally."Bartenstein
can't remember the first time he
heard bluegrass - he
just always remembers loving it.Raised in New Jersey, he
spent summers on his
grandparents' Virginia farm, where he
remembers hearing Red Smiley and the Bluegrass Cut-Ups every morning on the radio.His
father and an uncle played in a guitar-mandolin duo, and a cousin from Tennessee taught Bartenstein
at a young age the songs of the famous Carter family.
His years at a private New Jersey high school coincided with a thriving bluegrass scene in New York City, where, in Washington Square Park, Bartenstein
played bluegrass-style guitar with musicians such as Tex Logan, Bob Applebaum, Pete Wernik and David Grisman.
While still in high school, Bartenstein
hosted a bluegrass radio show out of Lexington, Va., where he
also gave the farm report.
Bartenstein's connection with bluegrass became even more personal when he
attended at age 15 the nation's first bluegrass festival, which took place in Fincastle, Va.His
love for the music deepened even after an experience that might have turned off some fainthearted music lovers, recounted in an article on Bartenstein
in Bluegrass Unlimited magazine
Sitting around jamming with other musicians, Bartenstein
was confronted by a drunk who stumbled toward him and waved a gun.The drunk insisted the musicians play "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," and threatened to "blow our heads off" if he
didn't like it, according to Bartenstein
.Thankfully, the music met with the man's approval.
Through a series of coincidences, at the next year's festival, Bartenstein
was called upon to emcee the show.For the next several years he helped run a variety of bluegrass festivals, working as program director, emcee and sometimes running the sound as well, the magazine reported.
When it came time to attend college in the late 1960s, Bartenstein
chose Harvard University
, largely due to its location in the middle of a thriving bluegrass scene in Boston, according to the magazine.
"It was a strange time to be doing bluegrass but then, as now, it was my community," Bartenstein
said."It was a college subculture and compared to the drug scene, it was a healthier, smarter and generally a much better alternative."His
love of bluegrass also shaped Bartenstein's
professional plans, when he
chose in 1975 to settle in Dayton partly due to the city's reputation as a place that drew bluegrass to an urban area.Bluegrass
proliferated in the Dayton area when Appalachian natives looking for work began settling here, bringing along their preferences for mountain music, he
said.After Bartenstein decided he didn't want the life of a professional musician and chose to work in the corporate world, he held a series of high-visibility jobs, as the director of the Victory Theater, Books & Company and the Dayton Foundation.
passion for music and hosted a series of bluegrass radio programs at stations such as Dayton's
Having one foot in the corporate world and the other rooted firmly in bluegrass often made Bartenstein feel slightly schizophrenic, he
said.Once he was walking down the street in Dayton, dressed in a suit and tie, when he was stopped by an acquaintance who was a business executive.
The man marveled that he
had just heard a man on the radio, with the same name and same voice as Bartenstein
, hosting a bluegrass show.The man never even considered that the radio host might actually be him, Bartenstein
The discomfort of leading a double life diminished after Bartenstein
family - his
wife, Joy, and two daughters - moved to Yellow Springs in 1990.Purposefully getting off the corporate fast track, he
opted to train as an organizational consultant, and has since worked with many local and regional businesses.Bartenstein
especially appreciates the variety of his
latest work and having the opportunity to spend more time with his
also appreciates being able to live almost within view of cornfields in a town he
considers lively and stimulating.
And of course, there's bluegrass.His
flexible work schedule gives Bartenstein
more free time, but his
bluegrass passion eats that time right up, he
estimates that he
spends about 20 hours a week working on his WYSO
show, including researching material, programming, writing promotional copy, editing and doing post-production work.
"I haven't figured out a way to make it pay diddly," he
said with a shrug."It soaks up a huge part of my week."
But Fred Bartenstein
doesn't really sound as if he
minds all that much.
"I feel like I have a wonderful life," he