Author: Tatar, Yvonne

Reaching Out Works

There are several bluegrass organizations within California and a multitude of them around the world. All of them are working hard to further bluegrass and to introduce new fans to this American musical artform. Festivals, like Grass Valley and Summergrass, and local concerts are probably the most popular ways associations are spreading the bluegrass out there, but there are some less familiar ways that getting great results. Living in San Diego, the San Diego Bluegrass Society has a couple of unique outreach programs we think are fun as well as being very successful.

Earlier this month, SDBS and North County Bluegrass & Folk Club co-sponsored our annual Bluegrass Day at the Fair at the San Diego County Fair held at the historic Del Mar Fairgrounds in Del Mar, CA. Del Mar Fairgrounds is historic because for many years it has been a popular racetrack for horseracing. Many world renown horses have and will race there bringing throngs of race lovers each year. Anyway, the county fair is also a huge draw in this site. Many thousands attend the county fair each year. The opportunity to have a full day to display local and regional bluegrass talent is not to be missed!

Each year the Bluegrass Day at the Fair activities are a little different. In the past, there have been touring bands performing there and other years we have had instrument contests vying for prizes. This year the fair board gave the bluegrass organizations the Plaza Stage for July 5th. This is a great location as huge crowds walk past this area when attending the fair. (We are happily getting better placement at the fair these days. Early on, the fair gave us a remote stage and we were in competition all day with the Pig Races next to us. This was not a good match!) The activities for this year included a Band Scramble with prizes, a kids’ performance of local young string players, an Old Time Fiddler’s demonstration/concert, and the day concluded with concerts by five local bands. And folks attending get into the spirit of the day for sure. For example, this year the fair’s theme was The Beatles so we even had one Band Scramble band name themselves “I Want to Hold Your Band.”

In exchange for our Bluegrass Day at the Fair activities, the fair board gives us sound support, a modest budget to cover expenses, and free tickets to those participating in Bluegrass Day at the Fair. We also have club booths at the stage area where lots of local bluegrass information can be picked up. It’s a win-win for local bluegrass fans to see/play music and also be able to walk around and see the San Diego County Fair the same day.

Another SDBS outreach that we’re proud of is our Library Concert series. We have worked out a system with the county library branches to provide a bluegrass concert at many of the libraries. SDBS bands in good standing are chosen for these concerts and the attendance has been good. Again, lots of club information is made available and picked up at these concerts. Some library patrons will hear the concert going on in another part of the library, make their way to the concert and wind up staying for the whole event. The classic statement from them is usually, “We don’t know what kind of music it is, but we like it!” That’s our opening to initiate the conversation, e.g., to invite them to one of our Tuesday night jams around the county and hand them a flyer with club information. This person-to-person outreach works.

There are other outreaches we do here in Southern California, and I wanted to mention one last one that is hosted by SDBS and Janet Beazley. Every third Tuesday this Slow Jam happens in downtown San Diego at Morse Academy. Many closet pickers dust off their instruments to attend this jam. Janet offers a fun and friendly way to learn and practice jamming skills—playing chordal backup and simple leads, using a capo, singing lead and harmony parts, practicing good jamming etiquette—as well as learning bluegrass standards at slower tempos. This is another great example outreach happening here in the southland.

So these are just a couple of outreaches we offer. Basically, we all do outreach everyday with whomever we come in contact with. Sometimes the smallest meeting and conversation can lead to introducing another person to bluegrass music. And finally, whatever bluegrass associations you belong to, thank the board members when you see them. They are diligently working hard for you and furthering bluegrass music in so many ways!

Posted:  7/28/2014

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