Author: Elliott, Sharon

Kids on Stage at Plymouth
Rolling with the Punches

It was one year ago, at the Plymouth Bluegrassin' in the Foothills, 2003, that I first started working with Frank Solivan and the Kids on Bluegrass. I had no idea then, that I would get so involved or enjoy it so much ! At each festival, new kids and returning kids come to Franks camp bringing their instruments and their songs, their hopes and their dreams. I sit and watch from my camp, a short way off, as Frank greets them. So often, reaching out to shake their hand in greeting. He shakes it as he starts to talk to them, and shakes it, and shakes it harder until the childs hand, arm and entire shoulder just quivers, the smiles on the childs face growing bigger until the giggles start. The shyness and some of the fears dissipating. So begins the relationship these children will have with Frank. So often, I think of Frank as a version of the Pied Piper, drawing these kids to him with music. Only Frank doesn't steal these children away, he gives them back as Kids on Bluegrass.

This festival would be a little different than usual. Normally a very HOT festival, this year at Plymouth would bring chilly air and hard rains. Our rehersals would be indoors and when it came time for the performance, it too, would have to be moved indoors because of the rains. There would be many reasons why we would really have to just "Roll with the Punches".

As usual, our rehersals began with Frank and the Kids trying to find songs that can be used. He tries hard to find songs that many of the children can play backup on and take breaks on. Not all of the children can solo, but he wants them all to play.

5 year old Veronica Varner (Marty's sister) sings and plays Shortenin Bread. She's so little, with that white angelic hair, I really expected this little soft sweet voice to come out of her, but Oh No !! When she starts to sing, out of her mouth comes this big, stron alto voice that just about knocked me off my chair. I was stunned, and If the thunderous applause and hootin and hollering from the audience is any indication, they must have loved her too. Look out, Marty!

The next few numbers we tried just didn't seem to work. Clay and Weston tried Angeline the Baker, but their version and timing of this song was so different (not wrong, just different) from what the rest of the kids new, that after many tries Frank just had to drop that song and try to find another. A dissapointment but we had to move on. And no doubt you will see these boys again, they're wonderful.

One young child was to sing two songs. There were many who could play backup and take breaks on these. But Saturday morning rehersal was just to early for this child, and so two more songs were scrapped.

While I began to panic, Frank just calmly moves ahead, and reminded me that we just have to "roll with the punches". That in the end we will still have a show, and a good one. And that not everyone will get that special chance everytime, but there will always be a next time to try. And so we moved on.

By noon on Saturday, we had to really start putting this show together. Keiley, Daniele and Sara would sing the last song, Will the Circle be Unbroken and Bethany would give them support with her strong voice and guitar. All would play on this song. This would be Mathew Mcclains (11) first time with Kids on Stage. Later he said he really liked it. His sister, Holly (13) played with the Kids at Grass Valley 2004. She's strong on fiddle and I think we will be seeing more of these two.

During rehersal, we were blessed with the help from Gayle, grandmother to our littlest cowboy, Clay Mello. When Clay first came in, he had a guitar strapped over his shoulder. Next time I saw him he would have a brand new fiddle. He's just 5. At the 2nd rehersal, he came striding in with his cowboy strut, put his instrument down, came running to me and just THREW his arms around me and gave me the biggest hug. WOW! This would continue throughout the weekend. Priceless !!

Elana Corey would also be there throughout the day and in the afternoon, she would also help one group.

So many unpredictable things would occur this time. Julian Conn, age 12, would come to us with his banjo. However, we needed a bass so bad. Frank asked if he could play that. I think it was a disappointment to Julian that he didn't get to play his banjo. But in the end, he proved himself to be a real hero by giving up what he wanted for the good of the show.

Aimee and Paige Anderson would be part of the show, but they would not be part of Saturdays rehersal because they were performing in Sacrmento. These two delightful girls had just learned to harmonize with each other just two months earlier and at performance time, the audience would go wild. They both have real Bluegrass voices. And their brother Ethan and sister Daisy are just waiting to come along behind.

Sunday morning comes and we meet at 9:30 AM. One last run through. As we wait, Larry and Sondra bring tee shirts to the Kids. These are the first tee shirts that actually say "Kids on Bluegrass" and they also have some other special words on them. All of a sudden, the rain comes pummeling down and doesn't look like it is going to stop. Frank comes in and tells us that it is possible that the Kids show will be cancelled. It has happened before because of the danger of electrical problems and rain and we just can't have the kids on stage with that kind of danger ! So we begin to wonder, was it all for nothing?? Will the rain stop in time?? Just "roll... with the punches" . In time, we find out that Larry and Sondra are the "King and Queen" of "Rolling with the Punches", for they decide to dismantle all the sound equiptment and bring it inside to the big room. With a delay of about an hour, the Kids show, as well as the rest of the days shows, will continue. "O.K. everybody listen up," Frank says, " You all have worked very hard and we have a good show here. We all need to be very professional. When we go in, you will need to sit quietly, no whispering, no fiddling around, no scratching in the wrong places, no picking your noses, no making wierd noises. This is a special show for a special man, so lets go out and give it to him"

This show has a special meaning to it. This show comes with a sadness. For a very beloved bluegrass man, Ted Irvin, has died suddenly just a month earlier. He was a gifted muscian and kind hearted man who just loved Bluegrass Music. At performance time, Larry and Sondra would tell about when they were planning to start this festival again, Ted came to them and said "Whatever you do, always make room for the Kids on Bluegrass program to continue". And so they did. After his death, his generous wife Ida asked that in leiu of flowers, donations were to be made to the Frank Solivan Kids on Bluegrass program. A special fund was set up for this and it is Ida's hope that the CBA will keep this fund open far into the future so that many kids can benefit from it.

And so it was that this show was dedicatied to Ted Irvin and his wife Ida Gaglio. And on the Kids on Bluegrass tee shirts, there was a banjo. Inside that banjo was a loving dedication to Ted Irvin.

Larry and Sondra were not finished however, for they then spoke about Frank Solivan and what he does for the Kids On Stage/Bluegrass program and how through this program and programs like it and through these kids, this precious music will be preserved throughout time. They then presented Frank with a beautiful shirt that says "2nd Annual Bluegrassin in the Foothills, Kids on Stage, Director-Frank Solivan.

Frank then presented his Kids on Bluegrass and the music began. Because of the ealier problems of finding something for everyone, this show would showcase a few instead of many, but it would prove to be one of the most entertaining Kids shows yet !

Scott Gates-mandolin, Marty Varner-guitar and Katie Nakamura-fiddle, with Julian Conn on bass started the show. Scott
Posted:  10/22/2004

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