Author: Brandli, Darby

President Brandli’s Monthly Message

I have been working on my pet project, that of expanding our Youth Program. I have been helping create a larger and more exciting recreational Activities Program at Father’s Day which is more accessible and serves a larger age group. For years we have had a wonderful program for small children and are now slowly building Teen Activities. This year we are building something bigger and more visible and with more activities for all ages. Stay tuned for more on this. Kathleen Rushing (who runs the FunGrass programs held during our Music Camps) is the new Children’s Activities Coordinator and is busy partnering with the Children’s Instrument Lending Librarian, Bruce Long, and others to expand our festival-based program for activities for families.

I have long been concerned about the many months between festival season and how the relationships our young people develop April-October are put on hold. The CBA membership is scattered throughout this large state and many of our young people do not see each other at all during the win- ter months. I am especially concerned with the young pickers who live in areas not well served by the bluegrass community. Our musical children inspire each other and that peer support is essential to the hard work of learning an instrument. Supporting young musicians is worth it to the music and the CBA because it is their friends and admirers who will form the next fan base for bluegrass. Children watching other children play music is a huge motivator. Kids listen to kids.

So (in the words of Ron Thomason) I told you that to tell you this. I decided to hold an invitational Youth Jam and (optional) Sleepover at my house. I started consulting with Kathy Kallick about this last November and asked for her support. Kathy has been producing children’s concerts and writing children’s songs for years (our own family has Kathy’s Children’s CDs in their music library) and Kathy also lives up the hill from me in Oakland. Kathy immediately offered her support, as I knew she would. I gave Kathy the task of putting together a group of professional musicians to come in and support the kids in some way and she readily took this on. It was Kathy’s idea to enlist support from some of the founding members and Lifetime Members of the CBA to begin to build a program. Next step was to choose a date and to invite a group of CBA kids. Nate Schwartz, our new Teen Ambassador, agreed to chair a meeting during the event. He asked the al- ready committed CBA Youth what they would like to see the CBA offer them during our festival events and throughout the year. He also asked how we could recruit more young families to the organization. Nate developed quite an impressive agenda. The attention, participation and feedback provided by the group will be presented at the next CBA board meeting.

Inviting the kids was pretty easy. I invited kids who regularly jam at our camp and whose parents I know. My intent was to only invite kids I knew I could handle. (I haven’t had a teen sleepover in years but my memory of some of those events from my own children’s experience gave me reason for some caution.) We ended up with a couple other friends of friends and a total of 16 kids, age 3 to 18 years, came to our house this weekend (Super Bowl weekend). We added our 3 year old grandson and a 7 year old son of an instructor and the total shot up to 18 kids with 14 staying over and sleeping on the floor. The youngest was 9 years old.

We had a ball! Michael Sharps, dad of Alex Sharps, came and took some photographs before we threw him out (no parents were invited to this event). The amazing Yoseff Tucker was one of the official chaperones and jam host/coach and he stayed for the full event. He slept on the floor while chaperon- ing the boys. Molly Tuttle (yes, she is now an adult) chaperoned the girls. Kathy Kallick put together an amazing workshop schedule and Tom Bekeny (mandolin), Larry Cohea (banjo), Steve Pottier (guitar) and Jeremy Kittel (fiddle) volunteered for 90 minutes of individual instrument instruction, then a vocal workshop, followed by yet another jam. The “grownups” had so much fun they stayed for the full evening to jam with some the young folks. Kathy, Tom, Larry and Steve have been CBA leaders and stalwarts since the be- ginning of the CBA over three de- cades ago and have all contributed so much to California Bluegrass. It just seemed so “right” somehow to watch them give back to this new generation. Jeremy Kittel is an amazing fiddler from another branch of string musicians I am privileged to know (google him). He was grinning from ear to ear as he taught fiddle variations of “Cluck Old Hen.”

Will we repeat this experiment in the future? Probably. Will we try to expand it to include more kids? Probably. Will it take a form different from a sleepover at Darby and Bruno’s? Maybe, or in addition to. Is it important to plan a Youth Program that supports the next generation? You bet. Will Kathy Kallick continue to be involved? You bet and we hope this is just the beginning.

Posted:  3/7/2011

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