'Kids' Academy' at Podunk Festival to teach young bluegrass players

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Mon., Aug. 1, 2011
Kid's Academy at Podunk Festival teaches young players the art of bluegrass music. They will perform on the last day of the festival. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

In just a few days, the Podunk Bluegrass Festival, will roll into Martin Park. Now in its 16th year, the festival is East Hartford's biggest event and one that has earned a reputation for excellence in music.  Last year's festival was voted “2010 event of the year" by the International Blues Music Association.

The Podunk Festival begins Aug. 4 and runs through Aug. 7.  Hundreds are expected to attend, and many will be camping in the park throughout the festival.

Bluegrass is an music form that began in the American south, and has spread across the country and around the world. It's also a family affair, and the next generation of players will spend three days learning the art form at the Kid's Academy, which will be held during the festival. The kids, ages 8 to 18, will learn one traditional instrumental song, a singing tune and one bluegrass gospel song, said Tim St. Jean, who is in his fourth year of directing the Kids' Academy with his wife, Vicki Baker. The songs the young people learn will be performed before the audience on the last day of the festival.

“Bluegrass is uniquely American music,''  said St. Jean, which is typically played on mandolin or banjo.  The intent of the Academy, “is to pass on the roots of bluegrass to the next generation and to give them an appreciation for the music," he said.

Some of the youngster are beginning players, while others are more advanced. Most have become interested in the music through their parents. “Bluegrass is very family oriented, and is very much a family affair,'' St. Jean said. “During the festival, while people are camped out, you will hear people picking until the wee hours.''

Registration for the Kids' Academy is free, and there is still time to sign up.  Visit Podunk's official website,  www.podunkbluegrass.net for ticket information and registration.

Scheduled performers  for the three-day festival include Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, Dan Paisley and Southern Grass, Darin and Brook Aldridge, The Dixie Bee Liners, Donna Ulisse and the Poor Mountain Boys, Fitzmaurice, Katie Wilson & the Two Time String Band and others.

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