Bluegrass Duo Performs on Congress During Art Walk

During the First Friday Art Walk in July, a local bluegrass duo called the Portland Pickers played their hearts out on Congress Street. 

With Adam Kessler on Mandolin and Grant Dresnok on guitar, the duo performed some high-energy bluegrass that engaged every person who passed them by.

Grant, a local from Cumberland, experienced an immediate connection when he first met Adam, who hails from various parts of the United States including North Carolina, Florida, and California. 

“We actually connected through social media and realized after talking a bit that we only lived five minutes away from each other,” Grant laughed. “It was an instant connection for us, both musically and as friends.”

Both Adam and Grant said that it can be difficult to find like-minded musicians to play with. They both said that bluegrass is often considered more of a niche genre which adds an additional challenge in finding people to jam with. Luckily, their proximity to one another provided them a unique opportunity to work together.

Both musicians had solid foundations in their musical upbringing. Adam fondly recalled his father introducing him to a diverse range of genres and bands. Furthermore, his North Carolinian roots on his mother’s side trace back to ancestors who were skilled fiddle players and old-time duffle musicians. 

“I feel like bluegrass music just might run through my veins,” Adam laughed. “Because whenever it comes on I just can’t help but move around. I can’t not move. It’s a really irresistible force that fuels my soul.”

Grant discovered his love for the guitar when he was merely 5 years old, thanks to his dad’s guidance. Since then, Grant said that music has become an inseparable part of his identity. He is currently studying his passion at East Tennessee State University, where he majors in business and minors in bluegrass guitar.

For both Adam and Grant, music is all about spreading boundless joy. When they see people smiling and tapping their feet to the sounds of their music, they can’t help but feel overwhelmingly honored by the opportunity to share their love of bluegrass with the community.

“Just creating that energetic and joyful connection is motivation enough,” said Adam. “To be a vehicle of that experience is really special.”

Grant wholeheartedly agrees, emphasizing that bluegrass music in particular fosters a special sense of camaraderie. 

“Bluegrass music is very conversational, and because of that there is such a unique culture behind it. People come together not only to perform for a crowd, but to jam and just enjoy each others company. That kind of connection is so valuable.”