Saturday, April 28, 2012

Youth in Bluegrass

The Bluegrass Shack is starting a new program for youth this year.  As a teacher, I have long known that putting a musician in a smaller, band-type setting or jam session is the fastest and best way to get better.  It is also one of the best ways to learn things like harmony, etiquette, non-verbal musical cues, backup and more.  We've always had beginner's jam sessions at The Bluegrass Shack, and some youth have attended these sessions, but it is apparent that the youth would enjoy having one of their own.  So, we are going to be starting a youth jam band program this year.  We will have several teachers working simultaneously and individually with the group(s).

Here is what students can expect to learn from the sessions:
* How to play backup
* How to go from lead to backup and vise versa
* The importance of things like tuning, changing strings, instrument maintenance & safety (using stands)
* Different practice techniques
* How to sing lead & harmony
* How to pronounce words more clearly so that others can understand what you are singing
* How to play the upright bass
* The Nashville Number System
* How and when to use a capo
* Bluegrass vs. folk etiquette
* How to know when to take a break
* Non-verbal communication commonly used in jam and band settings
* Tags & turn-arounds
* How to write your own songs
* Other things as they come up

This program will be for youth ages 18 & under.  This program will be open to all current students of The Bluegrass Shack.  If you are not currently a student, you can talk with Chris or Chelsea about getting into the program.  Even though we are opening this program to all youth, there is a certain level of competency that is required for the students to be successful in this program.  Students should be capable of these things:

* An attention span that will last 1 to 1-1/2 hours
* Exhibit self-control without parental involvement
* Students playing guitar, mandolin and banjo must be able to change between these chords reasonably well:  G, C, D or D7, A.
* Willing to sing (Notice we didn't say they have to be good at this -- just willing to try.)
* Weekly practice in addition to the session.  We recommend 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week minimum.
* Willing to perform in front of small audiences
* Willing and able to memorize songs

What are we planning to do with these groups?  We are planning for them to play as both large and smaller groups for fun.  We would like for them to play for local nursing homes and churches as well.  This is not meant as a money-making opportunity, but a community betterment opportunity.  We are also hoping to get the youth in bluegrass to know one another better.  We want to promote friendship and working together for a common goal.  When contests become available for groups and/or individuals, we will let the groups know and will pair up interested students appropriately to prepare for these events.  Obviously, parental consent is required for this.

I am a staunch believer that children should not be stars.  When a child reaches 18, they can decide on their own what they want to do.  In the meantime, we will try to equip everyone with the skills and knowledge they need to become a successful musician who has fun playing music with others.

If you are interested in participating in this program, please let us know right away.  We are currently getting together a list of interested students and will be deciding on days and times within the next month or so.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Girl I Left Behind Me

This is my student, Steve.  He takes banjo and guitar lessons from me here at The Bluegrass Shack.  I am so proud of what he has accomplished.  He is one of my most diligent students.  He is flatpicking the song "The Girl I Left Behind Me" in this short video.  Great job, Steve!