Bluegrass festival goes to school

swolford@newsobserver.comSeptember 28, 2013 

— Dillard Drive Middle School band students erupted in applause as The Kickin Grass Band walked onstage.

The five band members huddled around the microphones at the school auditorium on Sept. 26 in front of 300 music students.

“Who’s missing math class for this?” asked banjo player Hank Smith.

Hands shot into the air, and the kids laughed.

Musicians invaded downtown Raleigh last week as part of the World of Bluegrass Festival. The International Bluegrass Music Association hosted the annual event.

To bring the festivities into schools, the United Arts Council and the Wake County school system arranged for 10 bluegrass bands to visit 12 elementary and middle schools.

Elementary school students were treated to 45-minute performances; Dillard Drive music students took part in an hourlong master class with The Kickin Grass Band, which is based in Raleigh.

Band members explained the history and importance of each instrument to the overall bluegrass sound.

“North Carolina is a hotbed for bluegrass music,” said Jamie Dawson, a mandolin player for Kickin Grass. “It is one of the areas that brought bluegrass up in the world.”

Dawson said it’s important to introduce bluegrass to kids to carry on musical tradition and to show how the genre influences other forms of music.

Dillard Drive students had been looking forward to the performance for weeks.

“It was cool to see how fast they could play, because our goal is to play like that one day,” said Abbey Sutter, 13.

“The great thing about this music is that it just makes you feel good,” said Liz Droessler, senior administrator for arts education in Wake. “You can’t listen to this music and not be engaged. We want our kids to be engaged like this throughout the school day.”

Wolford: 919-460-2605

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