Among the many interesting people we met this year at the World of Bluegrass convention were Damon Postle and Danny Bermel, a pair of doctoral students at the University of Georgia. They are in the process of developing pre-service teacher training in bluegrass music for students at UGA. Damon plays the banjo and Danny fiddles.
Music education students on both the undergrad and graduate level take a variety of pedagogy courses to familiarize them with different types of music they might eventually present to their students after college. With the growth of bluegrass music programs at colleges in the US, Damon and Danny feel there is a need for academic preparation in bluegrass as a formal discipline. Similar classes are offered now in most music departments to equip future classroom teachers to lead brass or woodwind ensembles, or perhaps percussion or jazz.
Damon is planning to write his doctoral dissertation on pre-service teacher training and bluegrass/folk music.
During the course of our discussion at WOB, they also mentioned that they will be traveling later this month with a delegation from UGA to the first Almaty International School Youth Music Symposium in Kazakhstan. They will accompany the chair of their music ed department, Dr. Skip Taylor, who will direct the youth orchestra there composed of student musicians from more than 20 different countries.
The festival director was fascinated to learn of their work with bluegrass music, and invited them to come along to work with the students as well, and teach them some fiddle tunes and bluegrass songs to include in the final concert.
They plan to arrive in Kazakhstan several days before the festival to get in some sightseeing, and also do some informal performing on banjo and fiddle to represent our music to the locals. Damon promises to send us some updates from the trip, hopefully to include photos, with more information on how the bluegrass is received. Their trip is scheduled to run from November 14-23.
We’ll also be very interested to see how their teacher training progresses. Bluegrass is truly making inroads in academia.