Author: Elliott, Sharon

Kids on Bluegrass at Woodland
Steven and I don't often go to the Veterans Day Bluegrass Festival at Woodland, for various reasons. Being in a tent trailer, the cold and often times damp and rainy weather can be hard on my arthritic hands and joints, often times we've already used up the vacation days available, and as with this year, we just had so many things that we had to get done right around the time of this festival that we just didn't think we could swing it. But, I really wanted to go this year. It must be the "Kids". Ever since I started working with these kids, it seems as if a "magnet" has formed in my body that just keeps pulling me towards these kids. When I am away from them, between festivals, I continue to think about them, about their lives, about how they got interested in Bluegrass music, about the kind of families that create these talented kids and just where this music will take them. I think about what Frank Solivan has started and how he wants us all to ask the questio n at all the festivals that any of us go to, "Do you have a Kids on Bluegrass program? "If not, why not"?

So it was that I wanted to see what someone else, who is following in Franks footsteps, was doing with the Kids. Pat Calhoun is another of those wonderful people that finds our talented kids so special and gives her time to offer another opportunity for them to perform and become 'stars' for just a little while. She has surrounded herself with the talented help of Regina Bartlett, who will acompany the kids with her guitar. Regina directs the "Kids on Bluegrass" at the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival and this last year at the Wolf Mountain festival. Chuck Thornton will acompany the Kids on Bass. Chuck helped Frank at the Grass Valley festival this year and is one of the funniest people I know. He is absolutely hysterical, and it's no wonder he works so well with the kids. At times I think he is one !! Jan Seifert gave two workshops for the Kids and gave each of the kids a chord progression chart wheel. ( I really wanted one of those, but I didn't get one . Guess you just gotta be a kid!) Jerry Pujol helped organize the lineup and also played guitar during rehersal. Ann Gilleran helped at home before the festival. Eleana Corey helped with whatever Pat needed and did the speediest tuning on one of the childrens instrument that I have ever seen. Christy Anderson also helped with whatever Pat needed and Stan and Anne Dye took the video. As for me, I wasn't there to work, but I did want to watch how this "other" kids program would come together.

There's not much time at the Woodland show to prepare and reherse, so months before the festival, Pat advertises in the Breakdown. Kids contact Pat via e-mail, or phone and lets her know what instrument they play or songs they can sing or play. There are many e-mails and phone conversations and amazingly, a show begins to form in cyber-space. There are 8 kids and each will do 2 songs. All of these kids will do most of their practice at home. Since most of them will be attending school on Friday, the first rehersal will be at 6:30 PM on Friday. Their performance would be at 10:00 AM Saturday which left only a short time to reherse just before show time. This show is a bit different than Franks. In this show, each child will perform their music as a solo act, except for the Anderson kids who perform as a group. It's quite a daunting thing to get up on stage all by yourself and perform, but each one of these kids did an incredible job.

Bethany McHenry (12) plays the guitar and sings. I first met Bethany at Plymouth, this year where she sang and played for the Kids on Bluegrass show. Bethany told me she takes singing lessons and her teacher is teaching her in a more classical manor, and it shows. When she sang "Sweet Sunny South", her pure high pitched voice showed the training she's had. She told me that she really didn't care to much for the classical training and that she wanted to do more bluegrass. I told her she could sing any kind of music she wanted but not to stop her classical lessons because she will be taught proper breathing and singing techniques that will carry her through ANY kind of singing, hopefully saving her from damaging her vocal chords like I did years ago. When she sang her second song, "Will the Circle be Unbroken" , it was lower and low and behold out of her mouth came this more bluegrassy sound with just a bit of twang to it. I was thrilled to hear this and clearly , Bethany is going to be able to sing several different styles of music.

Josh Stanley (14) plays guitar. He will play "Cripple Creek" and "Blue Ridge Mountain Home". This apparently is Josh's first time performing and is probably a little nervous. During rehersal, he plays his songs and several times stumbles over parts. Over and over he tried, each time getting better. At one point, Jerry Pujol tells Josh a little story/joke that had to do with not stopping when you stumble. I couldn't really hear exactly, but somehow it seemed to help because when Josh got out on stage and stumbled on his song again, he managed to just keep rolling along and finished without stopping. This is a really hard thing to learn and Josh did a great job! Keep coming back, Josh, it only gets better!!

Isabella Koher (10) plays the mandolin. Once again, I first met Isabella at the Plymouth festival this year. On Saturday at the beginning of the lunch break, she came and auditioned for Frank Solivan. As I watched, she and her father walked up to Frank and introduced themselves. Isabella, seemingly so shy as she stood behind her father, peeked out from behind her father to say hello to Frank. She then auditioned for him with Ashokan Farewell and Frank told her to come back after lunch to join the group. Unfortunately, she did not return. After the kids performance that day, I saw Isabella in the audience and I went to her. I told her that I was really sorry that she didn't come back to practice but that it was ok. I told her that neither Frank nor I were upset with her and that nobody involved with these programs wants any of the children to do anything they are uncomfortable with or just not ready for. I told her that she was always welcome to just sit i n practice to see what goes on and that in time she will be ready to take that first step to the stage. So just imagine my delight when I saw her join the circle at Pat Calhouns practice at Woodland. She had taken the step. Isabella would play "Ashokan Farewell" and "Red Haired Boy". And OH ! , how she played. She has a very intriging style when she plays. It was really fun to watch her. I asked her later why she hadn't come back to play at Plymouth and she said, "I just didn't feel that I was ready". Well, she was ready this time. And keep an eye out for her sister, Adelina, (14) who has deceided to try either the guitar or bass. This may become a sister act real soon

Paige (10), Aimee (8), & Ethan (5) Anderson, are just incredible. Ethan has just been playing the mandolin for about 2 months and not only is he choping those chords right, his timing is amazing!! He never seemed to miss a beat. These three would play and sing "Pig in a Pen" and "A voice from on High". To watch Paige play her guitar is something special!! And Aimee on her fiddle too!! These two girls seem to have voices straight out of the Appalachian Mountains. And their harmony just gets better and better. Don't be surprised if you see these kids end up at the IBMA's some day!

Luke (9) and Cooper (12) Davisson are brothers who usually play as a threesome (as far as I've seen) with their cousin Zach. Unfortunately Zach couldn't be here. These boys are all grandsons of Pat Calhoun so you KNOW they play a lot of music. Every time I have worked with these boys, I just fall in love with them again. This was the first time that I have seen them work solo. Luke, plays the guitar and each time before, he has only played chords as they sang. This time Luke
Posted:  11/29/2004

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