Retrocool Mellotron Variations Comes to OZ Arts Nashville

All-star quartet Pat Sansone (Wilco), John Medeski (Medeski, Martin, and Wood), Robby Grant (Big Ass Truck; Vending Machine) and Jonathan Kirkscey (Memphis Symphony Orchestra; Mouserocket) celebrate unusual polyphonic keyboard instrument in immersive musical, multidisciplinary experience in Music City.

“A one-of-a-kind performance...a gorgeous collection of sounds” — Memphis Flyer

"This was one of the best shows I've ever seen!" — Jody Stephens (Big Star, Those Pretty Wrongs)

NASHVILLE, TENN. – Nov. 4, 2019 – Mellotron Variations is a retrocool and immersive celebration of the electro-mechanical, tape-based instrument that is as fun to play as it is to listen to being played. The amazing creative quartet of Pat Sansone (Wilco), John Medeski (Medeski, Martin and Wood), Robby Grant (Big Ass Truck; Vending Machine) and Jonathan Kirkscey (Memphis Symphony Orchestra; Mouserocket, and composer for the Mr. Rogers movie: Won’t You Be My Neighbor) will take the stage at Nashville’s nonprofit contemporary arts center, OZ Arts, this coming December playing original pieces composed for the instrument.

Nashvillians will be able to experience these influential and Mellotron-obsessed musicians in a visual installation that evokes beautifully trippy light shows, as they make musical magic with four Mellotrons — polyphonic tape replay keyboards originally developed and built in 1963.

The Mellotron has held a unique role in music sampling technology. The Mellotron was the world’s first pre-digital sampling keyboard, dating back to the 1960s. Each key plays a ribbon tape of pre-recorded instrument sounds. It was the precursor to the widespread use of digital sampling used in hip-hop, rap, and other contemporary music. Many people may recognize this instrument’s one-of-a-kind sound from the Beatles’ use of the Mellotron in the famous intro of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” In addition to being used by the Beatles, the Mellotron was also featured in music performed by The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis and Led Zeppelin.

"The way the old Mellotron tapes were recorded, with the amount of degeneration that happened before they got to the machines themselves, they're just instantly evocative," Pat Sansone told the Memphis Flyer last year. "There's already a sense of passed time built into those sounds. It's like a faded photograph, where you see somebody in the corner. There's a humanity creeping around inside those sounds."

The Mellotrons project was originally conceived by Memphians Robby Grant and Winston Eggleston (son of fine art photographer William Eggleston), whose fascination with the Mellotron led him to start his own collection. Grant and Crosstown Arts received an NEA grant to expand the initial project, which culminated in the premiere of Mellotron Variations last year. The performance was enhanced by psychedelic projection design by Eggleston and John Markham, which will also be featured at the OZ Arts show.

“The mellotron is a fascinating piece of technology in the history of popular music, and one that has developed a cult following for its incredibly unique sound,” says OZ Arts Artistic Director Mark Murphy. “In the hands of exceptional, widely-respected musicians like Pat Sansone, John Medeski, Jonathan Kirkscey, and Robby Grant, this rare instrument truly sings. Mellotron Variations combines their original compositions with gorgeous visuals to create an immersive live experience that feels nostalgic and fresh at the same time.”

Mellotron Variations is performed one night only at OZ Arts Nashville on December 7, 2019. General Admission tickets are on sale now for $25 each at

For a quick look at Mellotron Variations at Memphis’ Crosstown Arts in 2018, click here.

Press Quotes About Mellotron Variations:

“A one-of-a-kind performance...a gorgeous collection of sounds” — Memphis Flyer

“mind-bending but deeply melodic music" — Pop Matters

"The whole album orchestrates this beautiful, out-of-worldly sound." — Valley Advocate

"This was one of the best shows I've ever seen!" — Jody Stephens (Big Star, Those Pretty Wrongs)

 “A musical whim in Memphis has turned into a full-blown all-star project called Mellotron Variations” — Gary Graff of Billboard 

About the Artists

  • John Medeski is an American jazz keyboard player and composer. Medeski is a veteran of New York’s 1990s avant-garde jazz scene and is a member of Medeski Martin & Wood. His most recent project, Mad Skillet, released their debut album in November 2018.
  • Pat Sansone is a producer and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, keyboard, percussion, harpsichord) from the bands Wilco and The Autumn Defense.
  • Jonathan Kirkscey is a composer, cellist, and producer who performs with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Mouserocket, and is a co-founder of Blueshift Ensemble, a contemporary classical chamber ensemble. As a film composer, Jonathan has scored several award-winning documentaries, including Best of Enemies, directed by Morgan Neville, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2018.
  • Robby Grant is a songwriter, performer, and producer who has recorded and released records for the past 20 years under both his name and the moniker Vending Machine. In the 1990s, he co-fronted and toured the country with Big Ass Truck. He’s a past member of the experimental group >mancontrol< and currently plays with the garage-pop group Mouserocket.

About OZ Arts Nashville’s 2019-2020 Season

The 2019-2020 season is the 7th season for OZ Arts and the first under its new Artistic Director Mark Murphy’s direction. This dynamic season of its signature “Brave New Art” features a unique blend of influential contemporary artists and ensembles from around the world, as well as groundbreaking Nashville-based artists, with a special emphasis on multidisciplinary performances, and work that highlights unique new uses of visual and audio technology. The season is made possible with generous support from season sponsor Advance Financial.

The number of performances at OZ Arts has increased by more than double in this new season, while the average ticket price is considerably lower to help make the work more accessible to a wide range of Nashville audiences.

Season Presentations After “Mellotron Variations” Include:

  • The Longest Night by Portara Ensemble, Jeff Coffin, and Ciona Rouse (Dec. 20-21, 2019)
  • The Day featuring Wendy Whelan and Maya Beiser (Jan. 18, 2020)
  • Notes of a Native Song by Stew & Heidi with The Negro Problem (Jan. 31 – Feb. 1, 2020)
  • The Triangle by New Dialect (Feb. 20-22, 2020)
  • Plata Quemada (Burnt Money) by TeatroCinema – Chile (March 5-7, 2020)
  • Steal Away by Dave Ragland with Inversion Vocal Ensemble (April 17-18, 2020)
  • Grace and Mercy by Ronald K. Brown / EVIDENCE (May 8-10, 2020)
  • This Holding by Jana Harper (May 29-30, 2020)
  • Grand Magnolia by Jessika Malone and Collaborators (June 10-21, 2020)

One-minute highlight reel of 2019-2020 Season: OZ Arts 2019-2020 Season Highlight Reel

About OZ Arts Nashville

Since opening in 2014, OZ Arts Nashville, a 501(c)(3) contemporary arts center, has changed the cultural landscape of the city. Housed in the former C.A.O. cigar warehouse owned by Nashville’s Ozgener family, OZ Arts, under the artistic leadership of Mark Murphy, brings world-class performances and art installations to the city, and gives ambitious local artists opportunities to work on a grand scale. The flexible 10,000 square-foot, column-free venue, nestled amidst five acres of artfully landscaped grounds, is continually reconfigured to serve artists’ imaginations, and to challenge and inspire a diverse range of curious audiences.

OZ Arts regularly engages the community for participation with visiting artists and artworks – either directly, through school visits, workshops, master classes, school performances and/or curated programs led by local teaching artists. In addition, OZ Arts founded a program called OZ School Days, a daylong, multi-arts program presented in partnership with Centennial Performing Arts Studios that aims to engage students aged 5 – 15 years old on days when Metro Nashville Public Schools are out of session (ex: Columbus Day, Presidents Day).

For more information, please visit

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Media Contact
Amy A. Atkinson 
Communications on behalf of OZ Arts Nashville
Cell – (615) 305-8118
Photos and interviews available upon request