Why learn bluegrass?
I think bluegrass is one of the best forms of
music for kids, whether banjo, guitar, fiddle or mandolin
is the instrument of choice. It stands along with blues and
jazz as one of America's truly indigenous music forms. Bluegrass
is, at its root level, a very simple music. Most songs are
three chords and the basic melodies are quite simple. There
are instrumental pieces and singing pieces and it's easy to
learn to play along with others. But what makes bluegrass
so good for kids is that the complexity level can grow right
along with the learning. Perfectly fine bluegrass can be played
in a very simple style at the beginning, but as a player advances
many more layers of complexity will come into play. Speeds
get faster and faster, improvising begins to take shape and
elements of blues and jazz take on more importance. The most
advanced bluegrass musicians are some of the most technically
proficient musicians in the world.
Bluegrass is a very social form of music. I
like to get my kid students together, when they're ready and
have them jam with each other, or even occasionally perform.
Fortuantely I have a pretty successful program so we're able
to get a good number of young students playing together on
fiddle, guitar, banjo, mandolin and even bass. All the social
interactions of sports minus the competitive edge.
I have never undertood the focus of the public
school system on having kids learn marching band or classical
string music. Very few students continue on with this music
and many of them end up wanting to learn more practical music
later in life. There is a movement by the International
Bluegrass Music Association to get public schools to offer
bluegrass programs, but it's is very early in their efforts
and there is certainly a long way to go.
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