One aspect of the current pandemic on which almost all parties agree, is the fact that young people are faring very badly away from school. Deprived of in-person teaching as well as social interaction, research shows that many students have fallen behind badly in their lessons, with most school systems passing them all into the next grade, often with suspended grading or testing.
Of course the same is occurring within music education. Private lessons can not be held in person in many areas, and ensembles are forbidden even in most colleges and universities. Adults can step away from certain activities for a period of time and then resume without much effect, but children and young people generally have a limited time for learning, and interruptions can have a devastating impact.
We are seeing this within the bluegrass community as well. Though the universities who offer studies and degrees in bluegrass are continuing to operate, students are commonly off campus and taking their classes and private lessons remotely. And younger students don’t do as well with online learning unless they are highly motivated.
Most prominently, the youth academies held at many major festivals, which serve to introduce bluegrass music to hundreds of young musicians every year, are not able to be held. Being together with other young people learning to play bluegrass is a powerful tool to build and maintain interest, and it appears that these will be lost for the second year in a row.
One that is trying to find a way around this dilemma is the California Bluegrass Association’s Youth Academy. They are in the process of building a new website to offer educational content, online classes, and jams for kids in 2021. To further that goal, they are hosting a marathon online concert this weekend, with music provided by over 100 bluegrass artists, running live for 48 hours straight online.
Billed as the CBA Jam-A-Thon, it will run as a livestream from Friday, January 8 at 8:00 p.m. (EST) until 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 10. That’s right… 48 hours of non-stop live bluegrass, available free of charge on Facebook and YouTube.
A partial list of performers includes Laurie Lewis, Kathy Kallick, Abigail Washburn, Béla Fleck, Danny Paisley, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Alan Bibey, Missy Raines, Deanie Richardson, Tina Adair, Becky Buller, Sierra Hull, Front Country, Joe Walsh & Grant Gordy, and members of Sister Sadie, Della Mae, and Wood & Wire. Wes Corbett of the Sam Bush Band will host a star-studded banjo workshop, and Missy Raines will lead one for bass with Mike Bub, Marshall Wilborn, and Vickie Vaughn. Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer will lead an all-ages singalong, and Tristan Scroggins will moderate a mandolin workshop with Maddie Witler and Casey Campbell.
A complete list of performers and the weekend schedule can be found online.
CBA will solicit donations throughout the Jam-A-Thon to build a new interactive web site for the Youth Academy, which they plan to launch this spring. It will feature a wealth of musical activities for youngsters, with input and participation from professional players and educators.
All are invited to enjoy the music this weekend, and if you feel inclined and are able, CBA would be greatly appreciative if you could contribute to the fundraising for the new Youth Academy web site. See full details online.