This post is a contribution from Kati Penn, who recounts her recent visit to Florida with Newtown that included a Bluegrass In The Schools event in Miami.
In late February 2012 Lexington based bluegrass band, Newtown, traveled to Miami, FL to play the Everglades Bluegrass Festival. This is one of the many fine bluegrass events put on by the South Florida Bluegrass Music Association.
This year the association had written a grant so that Newtown could spend an afternoon at Miami’s Greynolds Park Elementary teaching young students about the roots and history of bluegrass music. The band performed for an auditorium full of students, weaving lessons into each song they played.
The children also learned about old time and Gospel music, and jumped from their chairs to dance to Bill Monroe’s, Uncle Pen. They also engaged the band in a question and answer session that mostly exhibited the kids curiosity about the “strange” instruments Newtown played for them.
After the show 12 students, chosen by their music teacher, got the opportunity to hang out with the band and learn a bluegrass song to perform at the festival that weekend. The day of the performance the kids showed excited and rarin’ to go, and performed Nine Pound Hammer with the band, singing each chorus on their own.
The crowd cheered as the kids sang, “Roll on buddy don’t you roll so slow. How can I roll, when the wheels won’t go?”
Newtown guitarist CJ Cain reports that…
“It was amazing to see how excited the kids were to sing with us even though most of them had no prior interest in bluegrass music. To see the joy on their faces after playing their first bluegrass show was priceless.”
Afterwards the kids and their families took pictures with Newtown and each child received our newest self-titled record to take home with them.
The South Florida Bluegrass Association’s first Bluegrass in the Schools event came off as a great success. It is the band’s hope that this initiative created by IBMA will be adopted at festivals all over the U.S., spreading the bluegrass gospel to children everywhere.