“That’s music to my ears,” said Rolland, of the Arizona-based Americana band Run Boy Run, which will spend the week of Feb. 27 through March 4 in area schools, libraries and then present a Riverside Live! concert at the Rochester Art Center. “We’ve been preparing for the worst.”
It’s not like Run Boy Run is completely unfamiliar with a Midwestern winter. After appearing twice a couple of years ago on “A Prairie Home Companion,” said Rolland, “We’ve been back in the Upper Midwest at least once every year.”
Besides Rolland, who plays fiddle, the band that also includes his wife, Bekah Sandoval Rolland on fiddle and vocals, her sister Jen Sandoval on mandolin and vocals, Matt’s sister Grace Rolland on cello and vocals, and Ryan Alfred on upright bass. Rolland talked by phone from a tour stop in Kansas City.
How did a band from Arizona start playing music from the Appalachians and the South?
It sounds pretty funny but Arizona has a pretty good bluegrass and old-time music scene. A lot of people move to Arizona later in life and they bring their music with them. And our families were pretty well connected to the bluegrass community.
Did it surprise you to go from Arizona to national recognition?
The band had very humble ambitions at the beginning. It wasn’t something we ever thought about. We were doing it for the love of the music. When we won the Telluride festival (in 2012), it really opened up national doors for us. When we were on “A Prairie Home Companion,” it opened up a whole new audience.
How big was that “Prairie Home Companion” connection for you?
It was huge. It was a big affirmation of what we were doing. By then, we were writing our own songs. We weren’t a traditional bluegrass band at that point.
You’re going to be in the schools for your week here. Is this something you’ve done before?
We’ve done residencies a good number of times, but never for this much of an extended period. We’re prepared for the format. We have an educational packet we send out to the classrooms highlighting the history of the music. We like working with kids, especially elementary age, because they’re so uninhibited. I remember when those outside groups came in and performed in my school. It sticks with you. It’s cool to hear later that someone wanted to take violin lessons after seeing us. It means a lot to know you were able to make that connection.
What message do you want to get to the kids?
At the heart, what we want to communicate is the joy of music-making. We want them to see music and art as a way of expressing themselves.
Next week Run Boy Run will give free concert previews and music demonstrations in area communities:
7 p.m. Feb. 27, Lanesboro Public Library; 7 p.m. Feb. 28, JEM Theatre, Harmony; 7 p.m. March 1, Plainview Public Library; 6 p.m. March 2, Buckham Memorial Library, Faribault; 7 p.m. March 3, Cannon Falls Public Library.