Pastense is a five piece bluegrass and old time music group from Topeka, Kansas. Members include Jolleen Thorpe playing guitar and singing lead and harmony vocals; Diane Gillenwater playing fiddle; Dave Dryer playing mandolin & guitar and singing harmony vocals, Susan Willits on banjo, mandolin and singing and Don Anderson on the upright bass.
Jolleen started singing in a duet with Penny Uhl in the early 80's. They joined the Old Time Fiddlers, Pickers & Singers in Rossville, Ks., and placed well in regional competition. Jolleen and Penny were the vocal strength in the early years of Pastense before Penny's retirement from the band in 2005.
Don began playing acoustic music in the early 70's. He and another member of that group joined Penny and Jolleen early in 1994, after meeting them at a local bluegrass club jam. By March of ‘94 the group played its first job.
Diane joined the band in July of ‘95. She has been playing the violin/fiddle since she was ten years old. She performed with the Topeka Civic Symphony, many musicals, and has a degree in violin performance from Washburn University, Topeka, Ks. Diane has a background in classical music but a heart in bluegrass and country music. In 2002 she won first place in the Kansas State Fiddle Championships in Lawrence.
Early in March of 2001 the group had a personal change and added Dave Dryer. Dave plays mandolin and guitar and provides harmony vocals. He has been playing bluegrass music since 1974 and is very well established as a musician in the area. His musicianship adds another dimension to the group.
Susan Willits joined the group in 2005 with the retirement of Penny Uhl. She has been in acoustic bands for many years and is no stranger to the local music scene. She is currently a member of the New Edition band and plans to continue with them. She is a vocalist and plays banjo and mandolin.
In the time the group has been together, they have played festivals at Turney and Smithville in Missouri and at the Clinton Lake Festival and Milford State Park Festival in Kansas. They have also made numerous appearances at local coffee shops in Topeka and were named the “official” band of the Oregon Trail tours at Serenata Farms in Big Springs, Ks. Other performances include a pre-warm-up act for Alison Krauss’s performance at the Performing Arts Center in Topeka; St. Mary’s, “Arts In the Park”; The Muscular Dystrophy, Labor Day Telethon; Glenn’s Opry in Tonganoxie, Ks.; WIBW’s TV show, “Take Five”; Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. and numerous other events and private parties. They also provided the musical accompaniment for Washburn University’s presentation of Woody Guthrie’s American Song. In April of 1996 the group recorded its first album entitled Simple Ways and is available at all Pastense performances.
Pastense plays a variety of new and old bluegrass and gospel music plus some old time country favorites. Many of their songs were adapted from albums by Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent, Lonesome River Band and many more. The group also performs some original material written by Penny and Jolleen.
In addition to the harmony of Jolleen, Dave, Diane and Susan provides some “old favorite” fiddle tunes, Don tells some really tall tales, and Dave adds some lively mandolin and guitar breaks.