Pinecone keeps Bluegrass in the Schools going virtually this month

Usually in October, PineCone, the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, and the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County use the renewed interest in bluegrass that emerges following the annual hosting of World of Bluegrass and Wide Open Bluegrass in Raleigh, to take their Bluegrass In The Schools programs out into the local community. Bands, duos, and solo entertainers would visit area middle and high schools to teach students a bit more about the music that regional media had been covering so intently in previous weeks.

But now, with most schools closed to in-person classes, there was no chance of bringing artists into school assemblies for these presentations. Typically, these programs involved a combination of performance and education, along with giving the student a chance to ask questions and maybe inspect the instruments up close.

So Pinecone and the Arts Council have taken their Bluegrass in The Schools programs into the virtual space, with assistance from the IBMA Foundation.

Ragen Carlile, Vice President for Education and Community Programs at United Arts, tells us that they have taken to Zoom, or whichever virtual education application a school is using, to offer the same sort of thing online as they had in person this past seven years.

“Our eighth Bluegrass in the Schools program may look a little different this year, but it seems more important than ever. Without field trips and in-school performances, these virtual concerts give students the chance to have fun dancing and singing in their living room while learning about the rich history of bluegrass music. Half of the schools this year are Title One schools, which is significant because they may not have the opportunity to participate in other Artists in Schools programs this year – virtually or otherwise.”

Organizers were uncertain whether these online efforts would bear the same fruit as in years past, but Shannon Neu, music teacher at Richland Creek Elementary School, says that it went quite well.

“The kids loved it and were very engaged. It was an awesome opportunity for the students, and one they would not have been able to experience otherwise this year.”

An unexpected advantage of going virtual is that artists far from the Triangle of western North Carolina were also able to participate. Pinecone had moved their jam camps online this year with similar success.

There are two such BITS programs left next week:

  • October 20 – Hank, Pattie, & The Current will do an online visit with 3 classes at Laurel Park Elementary in Apex, NC
  • October 21 – Twisted Pine, a young and very talented band from the northeast, will do a virtual visit with students from Parkside Elementary in Morrisville, NC

I recall during my own high school days – in another century – our school regularly brought in folk and bluegrass performers who would play in the library, and it had a large impact on my decision to learn to play this music and chase it as a career.

So hats off to Pinecone and the United Arts Council for keeping their Bluegrass in the Schools presentations going under difficult circumstances.

The IBMA Foundation offers resources to schools, bands, or bluegrass associations who are interested in seeing a program such as this in their own community. Full details can be found online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.