Broaden your child’s musical horizons by introducing them to a variety of musical genres, including a truly American one—bluegrass. You may think that most of the music that kids listen to today incorporates few, if any, bluegrass influences (although this is not true), and that they will balk at what they hear. Alternatively, dragging kids to a bluegrass festival brings to mind scenes of squirming toddlers, whining nine-year-olds, and sullen teenagers. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s all about your (and their) attitude.
Music is Music, After All
Several years ago, Anastasia Tsioulcas, an associate producer for NPR Music, described her own experience introducing her children to opera. Her conclusions, “as a parent and as a music lover,” hold true for bringing children and all musical genres together.
- Avoid “talking down” to children. Give them the chance to explore it on their own terms
- Kids are surprisingly open to new music. They have not yet developed the preconceptions adults have
- Just enjoy it. Put the educational benefits of music aside.
- Let them dance. If it has a beat and they can dance to it, most younger children are fine with whatever music is playing
- Laugh along with the music. If it is funny, especially in a slapstick way, kids generally lap it up
Always remember, our kids are the ones who will carry on musical traditions or develop new ones in the future. Classical training in playing an instrument is invaluable, but a love of music comes more organically through early exposure to many genres and encouragement of interest.
Plenty of Things for Kids at Family-Friendly Festivals
However, for truly stubborn kids, there is nothing wrong with blending music with a few non-musical enticements. Attending a family-friendly festival can make bluegrass more attractive by incorporating fun, exciting activities—from fishing to camping to competitions.
The Huck Finn Jubilee, for example, features various attractions to keep them happy whilst you listen to the music:
- Water Fun: The park in which Huck Finn Jubilee is now held—Cucamonga-Guasti Regional Park—features a “Zero Depth Splash Play Area,” which has water slides and a swim lagoon.
- River Raft Building: While open only to adults, heckling parents from the banks of the lake is a lot of fun for the kids.
- Blind Bogie Fishin’ Derbies: There are two lakes open for fishing (anyone 16 or over must have a California fishing license).
- Greased Pole Climb : Whether you try scaling a greased pole or cheer on someone else, this is always fun (or funny).
- Tom Sawyer’s Fence Painting Championship: A purely kids-only activity (you must be 13 or under).
- Egg Tossin’: A bonding opportunity for kids and their parents.
- Line Dancing Classes: Dance instructors lead line dancing classes for people of all ages.
- Living History in a Mountain Village: Learn about frontier times from artisans demonstrating various crafts.
Contests and Activities
Other bluegrass festivals often include activities for children to encourage their participation and enjoyment of the event. And remember that during all these activities, kids will hear plenty of bluegrass music—and they may realize they actually like it!
For Budding Musicians
For those who spawned musicians, attending live music events broadens their appreciation for music. Many famous musicians speak of how “blown away” they were when they heard a legendary act play when they were young. Live performances yield incredible power over young musicians.
Beyond that, at an event like the Huck Finn Jubilee, young musicians have the opportunity to interact, musically and socially, with performers. A young classical violinist may at first feel challenged playing a new tune “by ear,” but find—with a little bravery—that not only can she do it, but do it well and in a style different from any she has learned.
The musicianship both on stage and in the audience is staggering, which can be enough on its own to send a little musical inspiration home with just about anyone.
A Final Note
A little subtle preparation goes a long way. Prior to attending a bluegrass festival, consider playing a little bluegrass music in the car or during dinner. It doesn’t have to be a crash course in the genre, but enough so that when they attend the festival, they will understand more of what it is all about. Once there, they will see plenty of other kids their age enjoying the entire experience. Save the lessons for the coming school year.