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As you know, an essential part of the HVBA’s mission is outreach—bringing heightened awareness of bluegrass music to the community. We have worked toward this in a variety of ways, from participation in the annual Arlington Street Fair to holding biweekly jam sessions, open to all. One such effort has had dramatic and measurable results: participation in Marist College’s Center for Lifetime Study, or CLS.
Twice over the past few years, the HVBA has presented a six-session course on the Evolution of Bluegrass (2012) (2014), and each time the program has met with resounding success. Each session included a presentation with slides and music on a particular stage in the growth of the genre, followed by a demonstration and performance of a specific instrument by a seasoned player (including a memorable presentation by the late, great Bill Keith). In the final class, all of the participating musicians came together for a spirited jam.
While most CLS classes typically experience at least a slight falling-off in attendance over the length of the semester, the audience for the bluegrass program actually grew with every passing week, far beyond those who had officially signed up; the later classes had standees, many of whom were dancing in the back. The initial offering of the course was so successful that the HVBA conducted a follow-up two years later.
One of the most gratifying results of the course has been the continued interest in the music evinced by many who were exposed to bluegrass for the first time through the program. Every HVBA concert in the past three years has seen several familiar faces in the audience—“alumni/alumnae” of the Evolution of Bluegrass.
This is one of those rare instances when we can actually see concrete evidence that our mission is having an impact.
This spring, the HVBA will present yet another iteration of the program at Locust Grove, the Samuel Morse estate. The course will be led by HVBA member David Gandin, and will feature demonstrations by a range of talented performers including Nick Novia, guitar and vocals; Chris Brashear, fiddle; Dick Bowden, banjo; Ben Fraker, mandolin; and David himself, on bass. One departure from previous formats is that, instead of having all the players getting together for the final session, this time the course will begin with a group performance. The ensuing meetings will feature the individual musicians, in effect deconstructing the material.
The course, unfortunately, is open only to people enrolled in CLS. However, those of you who would like to get a taste of the experience will have a chance on Sunday, June 12th, when the participating musicians will get together one more time for a performance open to the public. Think of it as bluegrass’s version of supergroups such as Cream, Blind Faith, or The Three Tenors! The concert will take place 4:30pm at the Unitarian Fellowship, 67 South Randolph Avenue, Poughkeepsie. Admission will be $15, all net proceeds to go to the musicians.
AND NOW FOR AN APPEAL: As you can imagine, assembling several musicians over a six-week period involves expense. Unfortunately, neither Marist College nor the CLS program is able to underwrite any presentations; the majority of courses are offered by CLS members who volunteer their time and effort. The HVBA provides modest stipends to the players—basically, gas money—but, taken together, they add up to an appreciable amount. Nevertheless, the Board views it as money well spent, given the significant exposure given to bluegrass. Not incidentally, the project helps realize another key element in the HVBA’s mission, which is to help provide opportunities for musicians.
If you agree that this is a worthwhile endeavor, we hope you will consider offering your support, first, by attending the concert on June 12th; and secondly, by helping to offset the HVBA’s expenses by your contribution. If you would like to help, please click on the link above.