About the band
The New Students perform original songs in an eclectic blend of folk, roots, bluegrass and Americana traditions. Tight three-part vocal harmonies, skilled acoustic instrumentation, and thoughtful lyrics make up their signature sound that has been delighting East Coast audiences for nearly a decade. Together they have recorded three albums of original songs. In coffee houses, concert halls and Broadway stages, the members of The New Students have collaborated with the likes of Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey (Peter, Paul and Mary), George Grove (The Kingston Trio), and Elvis Costello. Combining poetry with conscience, humor with integrity, and—most of all—classic with modern, The New Students evoke the pioneering spirit of the 1960s. Truly, they are new students of an old school.
BRIANA CARLSON GOODMAN
Singer and actor Briana Carlson-Goodman has sung on a LOT of different stages, playing Éponine in the 25th Anniversary National Tour of Lés Mis to The Great White Way in Hair and Dr. Zhivago. So it is no surprise that she can sing just about anything, and her smooth-as-honey vocals can turn stunning and powerful when belting out lead vocals on songs like “Abigail” and “Pictures” or plaintive and heartbreaking when delivering the elegiac “After I Go” or the regretful “The Playground”. That’s Briana delivering the high harmonies when the band sings all together, but she is also an oft-utilized secret weapon of the live show, busting out stellar covers of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” or evoking Dolly Parton with “Silver Dagger”.
Pete Seeger’s iconic banjo had the words “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender” emblazoned on its head. Justin Flagg is a steward of that legacy who, banjo in hand, pens The New Students’ most politically provocative and socially conscious lyrics. The anthemic “We Won’t Go Away” is a call to arms for the marginalized. “The Refugee” is a powerful evocation of a never-vanished but sometimes-forgotten American ideal. “An Honest Man” is a baroque setting of tragic, real-life brutality. Justin’s lyrical acumen is also used to evoke the style of the great Woody Guthrie with fun romps like “Busman’s Holiday”, recounting the true story of a New York City folk hero. He can cut right to your core with introspective ballads and gentle, finger-style guitar reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel. When you see The New Students live, though, it’s his fast-as-lightning banjo pickin’ that’ll get you up on your feet and clapping to the beat as he croons Appalachian staples like “Little Maggie”, “Darlin’ Corey” and “John Henry”.
Playing a range of instruments including (but often not limited to) fiddle, mandolin, guitar, Irish bouzouki and ukulele, Matt Gelfer has the kind of musical Attention Deficit Disorder that gives The New Students some of that genre-hopping quirkiness that makes their live show so varied and fun. He’s apt to sing lead baritone on a bluegrass standard and pick a mandolin break to boot, or he’ll get down and dirty on some country-style fiddle. Lending a touch of jazz or swing to a solo isn’t unheard of, and he’s also the most likely to sing a bit of Bon Jovi to close out a set. Matt’s songwriting contributions to The New Students tend to be more aloof—occasionally dark, occasionally whimsical, but always hitting an emotional and musical sweet spot that will keep them echoing in your ears.
He’s the Lord of the Low-End, the Governor of the Groove. If you find your head involuntarily bobbing up and down or your feet furiously tapping when you’re listening to one of The New Students’ records, you can thank Sam Gelfer on the upright and electric basses. Switching from bluegrass to folk rock to country to the occasional cool swing, Sam hasn’t yet met a lick he couldn’t lick. He steps out into the spotlight for the occasional bass solo to cheers and delight, but his indispensable (and too often unsung) role is that of the motor—relentless and reliable, keeping The New Students chugging set after set.
Colorful is the word for Jason Rosoff’s drumming. Whether he’s splashing in some sparkly cymbals, darkening the jams with mallets on the toms, or brightening the bridge with his tight snare technique, his sticks are the glue that holds everything together. It’s his gentle train beat that glides us through the mountains and backwoods of Americana. Jason spends most of his time behind a tricked out jazz kit, but if you listen closely to The New Students’ albums you can hear his estimable hand, auxiliary, and even orchestral percussion skills on display (including some tambourine shredding and triangle virtuosity).