Bluegrass Corner

Bluegrass Music and Kids

Kids love music. All kinds of music. From toddlerdom to senior status, kids of all ages enjoy listening to and playing music. While other forms of music dominate the popular media, roots music, Americana, and bluegrass have strong youth followings as well. Let’s take a look at why kids can easily become involved in bluegrass.

First, bluegrass is a very participatory music. Most kids who get bitten by the bluegrass bug take up one or more of the instruments as part of stepping into bluegrass. Learning to play goes hand in glove with listening. A beginner instrument is inexpensive, portable, and great for kids. No amps or other complex electronics needed, no expensive drum set, and no back-up band required.

Second, there are lots of opportunities to play with others of all levels of ability. Beginners can get in a jam session with other beginners very soon after getting their feet wet. This appeals to kids who want to get some action going quickly.

Third, here in San Diego there are lots of opportunities for instruction for kids. There are great teachers at the music stores (New Expression in particular) and noteworthy camps for kids. These camps combine the fun of summer camp with the joy of learning and playing music.

Fourth, bluegrass is family friendly. Kids can learn and play bluegrass in safe and wholesome circumstances. Most jam sessions and concerts are held relatively early in the evening or even in the daytime. No late night mandatory bar scene for bluegrass!

Fifth, the top players and even the pros are accessible. A kid learning bluegrass can easily step up and chat or play with the top pros in the business. It’s part of the bluegrass culture. Try that with a pop or rap star and see how far you get!

Last but not least, bluegrass music is pretty darn fun to play and learn. No stuffy symphony hall, no tedium of traditional piano lessons. Instead, there are jam sessions, summer camps, and rocking good music from the get go.

One of the outstanding opportunities for kids of all ages occurs right here in San Diego every April. This year’s Julian Family Fiddle Camp will take place April 10-14 with instruction on fiddle, mandolin, guitar, old-time banjo, and upright bass taught by some of the top teachers and players in the country. Held at beautiful Camp Cedar Glen near Julian, Family Fiddle Camp includes not just instruction, but also special workshops and evening concerts by the faculty, and much more. Check it all out at The evening concerts are open to the public and this year features truly great talent, starting with national flatpick guitar champion Tyler Grant and mandolin virtuoso Evan Marshall. Visit the website for details. It’s well worth a drive to attend the evening concerts even if you are not a camp participant.

The Summergrass Kids Camp will also be coming up on August 16-18 in Vista, providing another great opportunity for young folks to immerse themselves in learning bluegrass, and then to perform with their teachers on the main Summergrass stage on Sunday. We’ll tell you more about that opportunity as Summergrass approaches, but you can check it out early at

If you get a chance, stop by the Adams Avenue unplugged event on the weekend of April 27-28. While not a strictly bluegrass event, admission is free and there will be lots of great music including performances by jug band master Jim Kweskin.

A tribute film about mandolin great Herschel Sizemore will be presented in a  special showing at the Carlsbad Theater on Saturday, May 18. There will be an opening concert by Gone Tomorrow at 8 pm with the film starting at 9 pm. This will be a great evening, so make note! We’ll provide more details in next month’s issue.

For a truly bluegrass experience, mark your calendar for the Ramona Bluegrass Festival, held over the weekend of May 4-5 in Ramona. On the bill are Hot Club of Cowtown, Head for the Hills, Chris Stuart and Backcountry, Gone Tomorrow, Prairie Sky, Lonesome Otis, the Shirthouse Band, Chris Clarke and Plow, Next Generation, the Lacemakers, and the Taildraggers. Check out the details at

Mark your calendars for the annual Bluegrass Day at the Fair to be held this year on Saturday, June 8, opening day of the San Diego County Fair. There will be a band scramble, concerts by great bands, and more. We’ll bring you the details in future issues of the Troubadour as the event gets closer.

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