Sunday, October 28, 2012

Free bluegrass instruction in Gastonia Saturday

Gaston School of the Arts will present the Second Annual Bluegrass Project Saturday, November 3 in Gastonia (825 Union Rd). The free all-day event features workshops with Blue Highway's Jason Burleson (pictured above), HeartTown's Greg Luck, New Plowed Ground's Al and Karen Dunkelman, Jaret Carter of the Difference, and Darin Aldrige and Dwayne Anderson of the Darin & Brooke Aldridge Band. In addition to instruction on banjo, fiddle, bass, guitar, and mandolin, those musicians will also be on hand for panel discussions.

Check-in is between 8 and 8:30 a.m. The event is open to all ages and younger students are encouraged to attend. Teachers can also receive continuing education credit. 

A performance featuring participants will take place Saturday evening. It's free and open to the public.

Bluegrass has really come a long way. When I was little my dad's friends played every weekend. But it seemed like this fringe niche. Unlike many other styles, its legends were accessible (maybe that's why my dad threw such a fit when Juice Newton wouldn't give us her autograph).

Maybe how accessible they were made bluegrass seem more fringe to me. Dad partied with banjo picker extraordinaire Don Reno's kids (I didn't have the heart to tell them he and most of their old friends had all died when I interviewed their band, Hayseed Dixie, a few years back). I got to tour Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver's bus when I was maybe eight-years-old. My bass teacher (who was also the brother-in-law of one of dad's best friends) was in Charlie McCoy's house band on "Hee-Haw."

Bluegrass blew up with "`O Brother Where Art Thou" and crossover artists like Alison Krauss and new acoustic acts like Nickel Creek blurring the stylistic lines. But at its heart the most traditionally-rooted in the game remain accessible. Hence many instructors at the kind of workshops being offered in Gastonia this weekend. Darin Aldrige, who will lead the musical jams, was recently nominated for an International Bluegrass Music Award and veteran group Blue Highway was a Grammy nominee. Yet here they are right in your backyard. 

Another unique aspect of this event is that it's free. I've been to similar week-long workshops as both a student and speaker (I was there for poetry) and they can be really expensive. If you're wondering where National Endowment for the Arts' dollars go this pre-election week, this is one of the places. The Bluegrass Project is made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Carrie E. and Lena V. Glen Foundation. Lunch is even included. 

It's also an experience that's continued to impact last year's participants, who gather at the School of the Arts on the second Thursday of each month to jam.