The Poke Salad Orchestra is a string trio that is firmly rooted in American traditions of old-time, country and early popular music. An orchestra in the humblest sense, their spontaneous approach to music ranges from down-home to downright harrowing, as they navigate musical twists and turns at sometimes breakneck speed. The group’s three-way rapport, combined with individual command of their instruments, draws listeners in and envelopes them in the sound of strings being coaxed to their limits.
Guitarist and vocalist Kelly Werts has appeared several times at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, and has performed regionally with ground-breaking acts like The Sons of Rayon, The Plaid Family and Connie Dover. He brings arranging and composing talents to the group, and is known for his pioneering in new acoustic music throughout the Midwest for over 25 years.
Cellist Susan Mayo has appeared with Wichita Symphony, Jerry Hahn, Nikki Moddelmog, Bodo Ensemble, Plaid Family and World on a String. She has taught at Emporia State University, Friends University and Bethel College, and is also music director of WoodFest, a music-based weekend gathering sponsored by Symphony in the Flint Hills, Inc. and Camp Wood YMCA.
Rob Loren has worked as a fiddler/violinist with Ray Price, The Cherokee Maidens, Jerry Hahn, World On a String, Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and other nationally known artists. In addition to teaching strings in the Wichita public schools, he has taught fiddle and improvisation at Wichita State University. He works regularly throughout the Midwest playing chamber and symphonic music, as well as folk, country, jazz and popular styles.
All three members of the Poke Salad Orchestra have in common a desire to reach beyond the boundaries of musical styles to craft a personal interpretation of the tunes they love. Their performances have been met with smiles of recognition at their choice of songs, along with hearty approval of their spirited delivery.
The Poke Salad Orchestra offers concert performances that range from chamber music settings to outdoor folk music festivals. Lecture-demonstrations are available that include improvisation, folk music styles, and string instrument techniques.
The trio is available for special activities tailored to the community, such as lecture-demonstrations, jam sessions, continuing education, etc.
In addition to lecture-demonstrations conducted by the trio that cover instrumental techniques and music styles, the individual musicians have extensive experience in musical instruction, history of traditional music styles, as well as composition and arranging. Presentations can be tailored to different settings, from college to late-elementary school, as well as public presentations.