U of I Grad Katie Blomarz Returning for Prairie Sky Music Festival

The Prairie Sky Music Festival will take place September 7-8 at the Allerton Park and Retreat Center and feature a variety of talents from all over the country. On the opening night of the festival The Barefoot Movement, a Nashville based bluegrass-pop collective, will perform, which has one member of the band incredibly excited.

“I can’t wait to come back, it’s very much going to be a highlight for me this year,” Katie Blomarz said enthusiastically. Blomarz is returning to the greater Champaign County area for the first time in four years since she graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in music education. She spoke on the phone with Visit Champaign County’s Communications Manager Taylor Bauer via phone as the Barefoot Movement was in the middle of a 10-day leg of their seemingly nonstop tour schedule.

“We usually play weekends, and a lot of times long weekends, and after a stretch of shows we’ll go home for a day or two, then it’s back on the road. We’re leaving no part of the country untouched,” Katie said. The band was in Montana when we spoke, with a schedule to head back eastward, playing shows in between breaks to sleep and eat. The intense travel schedule can be rough, but Katie loves every minute of it. She’s seen some of the most famous sights in the country while touring with the band, but something always stays on her mind. “It’s great to see the Rockies, or spend some time on ocean beaches, but the Prairie State is beautiful, and it’s always going to have a special place in my heart.”

While traveling, Katie says that she always talks about Illinois, and more specifically Champaign-Urbana. “I still tell everyone I meet about the arts scene in Champaign-Urbana, and about some of my favorite spots. I used to play the Iron Post every month when I was at U of I.” If you didn’t see Katie at a show at one of the local live music venues when she was in school, chances are she was in Smith Hall. “I studied a lot of jazz…learning the craft takes hard work, so a lot of times I was studying in the basement or on the 3rd floor. The Quad was one of my favorite places in town. I honestly think it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the country.” Katie also frequented the Canopy Club “a ton” and performed at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Upon graduating in 2014, she moved to Nashville, which was a little intimidating. “I didn’t really know anybody in Nashville,” Katie said. Luckily for musicians nowadays, social media serves as a wonderful way to meet and connect for projects, shows, and even permanent gigs. “I was on the Facebook group Nashville Gigfinder, and Tommy, our mandolin player, had posted saying he was looking for an upright bass player who can sing harmonies, so I reached out.” Katie sent reels of her recordings to Tommy, and was asked to practice with the band, which led to a few shows, which led to a permanent spot as a member.

When asked about the transition from jazz to bluegrass, Katie noted that the transition came naturally. “Both jazz and bluegrass deal a lot with the bond between bandmates. The solos, the give-and-take, the way that you play off of everyone else. It was a natural move.” Katie didn’t necessarily listen to a lot of bluegrass before joining the group, but she enjoyed it quite a bit, and now she says has a lot of great music added to her playlists. “It’s like having a new arsenal at my disposal as a musician and as a fan.”

On September 7th, the Barefoot Movement will play the Allerton Park and Recreation Center as the night one main act of the second annual Prairie Sky Music Festival. Katie is ecstatic to return to the greater Champaign County area, just as many are for the return of this Outside of Ordinary music festival at one of the area’s most scenic attractions. There are thousands of people all over the world with ties to our area that are doing amazing things, and we couldn’t be happier when they return to share their craft and passion!

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