Acclaimed cello player and roots innovator Rushad Eggleston has performed on “Prairie Home Companion,” at Carnegie Hall and in a Mazda TV commercial. But his Saturday, Oct. 5, show at the Camden Opera House is personal, taking him back to his roots as a passionate advocate of creativity in childhood. The 7:30 p.m. show is a benefit concert for Watershed School, the independent high school that fosters innovation and creative skills in students from around the Midcoast.

Eggleston, 34, picked up the violin at age 3 and switched to cello at 8 … but he dropped out of his public high school in Carmel, Calif., because the homework assignments were boring and rote. Music was more than an extracurricular activity — it was his life.

With the encouragement of his parents, he played his cello and electric guitar for eight to 14 hours a day while listening to everything from Baroque fugues to heavy metal. At some point, he started playing Bach on guitar and Metallica on cello. The rest is history.

“Rushad is one of the best cellists I’ve ever worked with,” said Darol Anger, the renowned West Coast fiddler who recently moved to Portland, Maine. “He transcends all musical limitations.”

Eggleston eventually went back to school, having been offered a full scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. While a junior there, he was nominated for a Grammy award with his band Fiddlers 4. After college, he was one of the founders of the popular alternative bluegrass band Crooked Still. Now Eggleston performs with his own electric rock band Tornado Rider or, as on his current tour, as a soloist.

Eggleston has a big following in Maine, thanks to several years when he taught at the Maine Fiddle Camp in Montville. The Camden benefit is his only Maine appearance on this East Coast tour.

Onstage, Eggleston wears wild costumes and often plays with his cello strapped over his shoulder, like a guitar. He deconstructs Bach’s cello suites, riffs on Django Reinhardt and sings his own songs, many in a language he invented language of Snee. He is someone who is always doing something outrageous, said Anger.

“Usually you don’t want someone like that in your band, but everything that comes out of his cello is always right. I could always count on him musically, whether he was throwing his shoes off or doing something else crazy,” Anger said.

At Maine Fiddle Camp, Eggleston was a favorite teacher who encouraged students to follow their instincts and let their imagination loose. Watershed Director Will Galloway said the impressive thing about Rushad is that he learned the rules before he started breaking them, adding “He’s an inspiration to our students, who learn essential skills and are then encouraged to innovate.”

Advance tickets are $20, $15 for students, and can be purchased online at All proceeds benefit the nonprofit Watershed School, which attracts students seeking a demanding intellectual environment in the context of a small and supportive learning community. The 10-year-old school is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and is a Maine State Approved School. For more information, call 230-7341 or visit

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or