Playing to a sold-out crowd: OHIO students, musicians share the stage with the Indigo Girls

Not many can say they've performed with Grammy Award-winning musicians, however, several OHIO students and faculty can add that accomplishment to their resumes after their March performance with the Indigo Girls. This concert was just one of many that have allowed for students to gain experience working alongside professional artists.

Samantha Pelham | May 13, 2024


As the lights dimmed and the anticipation swelled in the sold-out Templeton Blackburn Memorial Auditorium on March 28, the atmosphere crackled with excitement. Among the sea of eager faces sat Marcis Bravo, a first-year graduate student pursuing his Masters of Music in Music Education, his fingers poised over his double bass, ready for the song to begin. What followed was an unforgettable night where some of OHIO's music students shared the stage with the Grammy Award-winning duo, the Indigo Girls.

For Bravo and his fellow students, this was more than just a performance—it was a milestone in their musical journey and education. Accompanying the iconic artists as part of the OHIO Symphony Orchestra, they lent their talents to breathe new life into the Indigo Girls' timeless hits.

“It was an incomparable opportunity to be able to learn this style of music and perform with incredibly talented musicians for such a rewarding performance,” Bravo said. “As a student from a relatively rural area, it is something I never would have dreamed of doing otherwise!”

Indigo Girls photo 1

The Indigo Girls have been releasing records and touring the world for over 20 years, but more recently the two performers have embarked on a bold new chapter, collaborating to create arrangements of their songs to perform with symphonies around the country. Not only are the Indigo Girls performing with professional symphonies, but also with symphonies within institutions of higher education, emphasizing the importance of students gaining this experience during formal studies.

“One of the greatest feelings for a musician is walking out on stage and performing for a sold-out audience,” Matthew Talbert, director of the School of Music, said. “We have exceptional students in the School of Music and for them to have the opportunity to perform with a group such as the Indigo Girls is something they will never forget. In addition to exposing our students to this world class group, it’s important for our students to perform in myriad different types of genres so they can be as prepared as possible upon graduation.”

This collaboration was the culmination of a long history of commitment to learning and engagement fostered by the OHIO School of Music and Performing Arts and Concert Series that serves both OHIO students and the community.

“We are ecstatic to offer the opportunity to our students to interact with these wonderful touring artists that we bring to Athens,” Andrew Holzaepfel, executive director of the Performing Arts and Concert Series, said. “With every artist we bring in, we aim to offer an educational component to students and the community whether that is a masterclass, lecture, networking opportunity or some other form of engagement.”

Indigo Girls photo 2

Previously, various music ensembles in the School of Music have performed with icons such as Canadian Brass (both in Athens and at Carnegie Hall), Bobby McFerrin, Grammy Award-winning Third Coast Percussion, the Columbus Symphony and more.

Earlier this year, musicians from Jazz at Lincoln Center came to speak to the entire School of Music about working as professional musicians, where opportunities are and how to develop your own brand. The musicians networked with students and answered questions, as well as performed as one of the Performing Arts and Concert Series’ main stage shows.

“The College of Fine Arts, the School of Music, and the Performing Arts Series do an incredible job of exposing our students to performers who are at the top of their respective fields,” Talbert said. “We have some plans to include more School of Music students on the main concert series in the coming months, bring in guest artists to perform, teach, and engage in community outreach, and continue to provide our students with learning opportunities with which they can benefit.”

This sentiment echoed throughout the collaboration, from the initial planning stages to the electrifying performance itself. Working closely with Ohio University Orchestra Director Dr. Jose Rocha, Talbert and his team ensured that the students were not only musically prepared but also immersed in an environment in which they could learn and grow in.

Talbert and Holzaepfel worked with Rocha to fill out the instrumentation needs which included selecting various undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty members with the goal of ensuring this was a learning opportunity and celebration of the OHIO music community. 

The orchestra members were given the music and Dr. Rocha and other studio teachers ensured they were fully prepared for this performance. Prior to the concert, the Indigo Girls had a brief 30-minute meeting with Dr. Rocha to talk through the show and set list. The orchestra then had a dress rehearsal with the Indigo Girls a few hours before the show and that was it - one rehearsal and the performance, something that’s common practice in the music industry. 

It was an incomparable opportunity to be able to learn this style of music and perform with incredibly talented musicians for such a rewarding performance. As a student from a relatively rural area, it is something I never would have dreamed of doing otherwise

Marcis Bravo, first-year graduate student in Music Education
Indigo Girls photo 3

For Bravo, playing with the Indigo Girls gave him a whole new perspective and skills to take into his career he otherwise may not have had.

“This experience has helped me in my career as a way to bolster my confidence. If I can perform with a group this iconic and talented, well, what can't I do,” Bravo said.

The impact of such collaborations extends far beyond the stage. It inspires creativity, builds community, instills confidence and fosters a spirit of innovation among students, preparing them for careers in an ever-evolving industry.

“I’m a firm believer that music that happens inside of Glidden Hall is fantastic — music that happens in the community has the power to be life-changing,” Talbert said. “We love any opportunity we have to showcase the talents of our students in the community.”