The members of the Tallgrass Trio are willing to tune up for almost any type of music.
The group has performed everything from original compositions, easy listening tunes and contemporary pop from bands like Radiohead, to traditional classical music. No matter what's on the page, the members of the group agree that they just want people to enjoy their music.
"If an audience is rewarded by our music, then it makes the performance special," said Abby Richmond, the group's clarinet player. "If at a concert people are hearing and enjoying new music from our ensemble, then it's rewarding for me."
The group consists of Richmond, who received her master's in clarinet performance from K-State; Kristin O. Mortenson, a teacher and coordinator of publicity and outreach for the department of music (on violin); and Susan Maxwell, an adjunct instructor in music (bassoon). They got together about two years ago.
"We'd all been talking about doing something like this," Mortenson said. "I was in between teaching jobs at K-State. Abby had just finished her master's degree and Susan had just finished her doctorate, and we were all looking for a creative outlet. We really like each other personally, and it's really worked well for us."
Since the group's inception, the Tallgrass Trio has performed dozens of times at weddings, parties, concerts, libraries and museums.
Word of the Tallgrass Trio's talents have spread. This summer, the group has been part of the Kansas Arts on Tour, a non-profit venture sponsored by the Kansas Arts Commission that provides state funding for over half of the group's performance fees.
The Tallgrass Trio will visit schools and other venues across the state to bring their blend of wind and stringed instrumentation to audiences across the state.
"I love to play anything that involves audience interaction," Richmond said, "and with a children's concert, the kids tend to be really engaged and willing to participate."
Group members are also looking forward to a collaboration planned for this winter with the Beach Museum of Art. The trio will work with the art of Birger Sandzen, the Swedish-born painter who taught at Bethany College in Lindsborg. Sandzen is known for his colorful, post-impressionist or expressionist landscapes.
"We'll spend some time examining the paintings," Maxwell said, "then try to match our music with the art."
The upcoming winter performance at the Beach Museum is Maxwell's favorite kind.
"This allows us to incorporate other elements of the arts into our music," she said. "In some ways, this is a throwback to chamber music, which was traditionally performed in someone's home or in a smaller venue. It allows for a more intimate and interactive feel to a performance."
It's not always easy for the Tallgrass Trio to find gigs that cater to their orchestral strengths, and it's not always easy to find arrangements.
But the group hasn't let those factors dissuade them from what appeals to them fundamentally: teaching audiences of all ages about music.
"Being able to expose people to a high level of music is an honor," Mortenson said. "It's wonderful to help people discover something new."
For more information about the trio and audio samples of their work, visit http://www.tallgrasstrio.com