Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Winter Dreaming

What am I thinking about as I practice today?  What am I showing the kids to get them excited about their practice?  Why bother anyway?
The answer to all of these questions:  Summer music events 
That's how we got started doing this in the first place.  We attended our first bluegrass festival on a whim with two very small children.  It was a blast!  At the time, none of us played instruments.
This is a picture from our second year at Smoked Country Jam.  We brought friends!
When we got home, Gus ran a garden hose to his backyard playground.  It was his cord.  He proceeded to MC and perform his own bluegrass festival on his ukulele.    
The next year we brought friends, and added another festival, Remington Ride.  There is so much inspiration at festivals!  Not just music on the stage, but music everywhere:  around every campfire, at instrument workshops, backstage, onstage.


We set a goal of being able to play a couple songs around the campfire the next year.  I don't think we accomplished the goal, but the kids did.
The next year we finally picked up some instruments and by the end of the summer were able to play a couple songs around the campfire.
We've kept on going to festivals.   At the festivals last year we all went to jams and instrument specific clinics, and played around the campfire a whole lot. 

If you're lucky you run into the Hillbilly Gypsies Backstage

In addition to festivals, we attend some great music camps, but I'll save those for another post.  For today, I'm just remembering the festivals we've been too, and checking out web pages for some that we've never been too....and dreaming summer music dreams.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Inspiring kids..with other kids

Kids LOVE to see other kids playing music.  We get trapped into a mode of equating kid's music with practice and lessons and work.  Given the chance, kids will make music into play.  For the little kids it looks like so much fun.  They just can't wait to join in.

My boys are used to being the youngest at any music event, and they are pleased to get to be the "big kids" for a change.  They're proud to show a younger cousin how to strum a washboard or hold a ukulele.

And there's nothing like an adoring audience to keep a young fiddler playing, and playing,

and playing.  A stranger approached me as Gus played for these adorable little boys.  She said that Gus was making such an impression on them that he could change their lives.  I had never thought about it that way, but it makes sense.  Gus plays fiddle because when he was four he saw a five year old friend playing a tiny violin.  He knew at that moment that he would be a fiddle player.  And he is.


Friday, February 10, 2012

The After Dinner Magnet

We got home late from the kids' music lessons, 3 hours of back-to-back Suzuki lessons.  Everyone's hungry.  Huck wants to set up his new Hot Wheels Track; Gus wants to play a Lego game.  Daddy was listening to Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions on the way home and is fooling around with Oklahoma Home.  He asks if anyone else wants to play.  I'm doing the dishes; the kids say no.  

He plays it again.  I'm done with the dishes and grab my mandolin.  Gus gets his fiddle.  Huck picks up his washboard and thimbles.  They can't resist.  They're drawn together like magnets.  We meet up in the living room and attempt Oklahoma Home from the book.  Bruce Springsteen plays it in E, we think.  Gus grumbles about crazy keys and capos, so we try it in D.  It works pretty well.  We've got a new song and its a lot of fun.  The kids are singing the backup harmonies.  It may be a new favorite.  We play a couple more and its time to put the kids to bed.  That's it.  Three songs after dinner.   

Was it like this last year?  No.  Gus could hold down the melody, but generally played it too fast.  Eric and I could only play a couple of chords, couldn't get the changes in the right place, and didn't sing.  No way.  Huck was 5.  I insisted that we try it to play music together, and inevitably someone stomped away mad, or everyone did.  But it was something that we believed in, so we kept trying, and we kept practicing.  We practiced individually and together.  We started singing together and playing two chord songs.  Our first was Reuben's Train.  It's a great tune.  Its got a train.  What more do you need?  Our second was Crawdad Song.  Its also a great tune.  Its about fishing and its easy to write your own silly verses about Moses the cat (see below).   We kept at it.  It became easier, it became fun, and it became irresistible.

Crawdad Song

You get a line and I'll get a pole honey
You get a line and I'll get a pole, babe
You get a line and I'll get a pole
And we'll go down to the crawdad hole
Honey, baby mine
Moses in the basket watching us play honey
Moses in the basket watching us play, babe
Moses in the basket watching us play
Bluegrass tunes all through the day
Honey, baby mine.