July 23rd, 2013 | University

With bluegrass band, Salovey drops new album

The Professors of Bluegrass perform at the ROMP Festival on June 29.
The Professors of Bluegrass perform at the ROMP Festival on June 29. Photo by YouTube.

Peter Salovey is probably having a more productive summer than you. In addition to finalizing a major job promotion earlier this month, the new University president officially became a recording artist.

Salovey co-founded and plays upright bass for the band The Professors of Bluegrass, which released its first album “Pick or Perish” on June 15. In an email to the News, Salovey said the group self-produced the 19-track album under the leadership of banjo player and psychiatry professor Oscar Hills. Salovey also reflected on how his bluegrass fervor relates to his work as president and to the greater Yale community.

“I love bluegrass music and have especially enjoyed playing it with Yale faculty and students,” Salovey said. “They have taught me so much about how one can do something with both great passion and virtuosity.”

The Professors of Bluegrass had a modest beginning in 1990, when Salovey and former psychology professor Kelly Brownell began convening the handful of bluegrass enthusiasts on campus. The group gained momentum and started playing gigs, such as University President Richard Levin’s inaugural festival in the fall of 1993.

After a few bouts of relative inactivity, the band has been strumming strong since 2005. Most recently, they performed at the ROMP: Bluegrass Roots and Branches Festival in Kentucky this June, just two days before Salovey took office.

Hills said he realized this spring that Salovey and the other band members were only getting busier, so the time was ripe to record an album. He worked with each band member individually and used his own equipment to record and edit the tracks.

The finished product took just six weeks of late nights and hard work, with Salovey squeezing his recording session in one Sunday morning in his basement.

“He just marched through [his parts] like a studio musician,” Hills said in an email to the News. The Professors of Bluegrass finished just in time to tote their new CDs with them to the June festival in Owensboro, where they sold about 50 albums.

Interested students and fans can download a copy of their new President’s cultural pursuits on iTunes, and serious enthusiasts can order hardcopies through the band’s website.

Watch the Professors of Bluegrass play at the ROMP festival below: