Great Groove Band of young musicians
participants | faculty | band music | register | Old Songs slideshow with music | 6/28/09 Albany Times Union article | 2009 Old Songs band on YouTube
The Great Groove Band of school-age musicians is a three day participatory program at Old Songs Festival of Music and Dance and the Philadelphia Folk Festival. 2011 Philly Great Groove Band performance DVDs are available! Contact donna (at) fiddlingdemystified (dot) com to order your copy – $10 plus shipping. The Great Groove Bands at the Old Songs Festival and the Philadelphia Folk Festival were a huge success in 2011. The Old Songs band rolled into its 13th year and the Philly Folk Fest band had a great sixth year.
“One of the most emotional moments in the 50th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival for me came when a crowd sitting in a driving rainstorm sat under their umbrellas and sang along to the only real National Anthem this country ever deserved, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” performed by a group of children whose parents were longtime festival goers. The moment repeated a theme that ran through the entire weekend. I kept seeing families who’d come to share this music together — young people with their toddlers bouncing along beside them; older folks with their teenage kids, who usually were carrying some sort of acoustic instrument; and in a couple of instances three generations of family members who’d come together for the party. This was a case of people who’d been coming to this festival, some for many, many years, bringing their children and grandchildren along to carry on the tradition.” John Swenson: Music on My Mind blog, 8/24/11.
“Donna, Thank you so much for the posting of our Margaret. Your appreciation makes Liz and I really proud of our daughter. We also are extremly grateful to you and your wonderful staff who are the inspiration for our daughters to attempt these challanges. The Groove Band experience leaves our children with the confidence that they can accomplish difficult tasks on their own. Can’t thank you and your staff enough for their commitment to a wonderful children’s program.” Mark Garrity Here’s an original song from Margaret Garrity, one of our 2011 Groove Band members, illustrating why this program is so important in encouraging the next generation of folk musicians.
What is the Great Groove Band?
The Great Groove Band makes fiddle and folk music accessible to young people who sing or play a (mostly) stringed instrument. The 2010 bands included fiddlers, guitarists, bass players, drummers, pianists, flutists and more.
Since 1998, the Great Groove Band has provided an opportunity for school-age players (ages 6-18) attending the festivals with their parents or friends. They use their playing skills and learn about fiddle and folk music. Founded and directed by Amherst, Massachusetts fiddler, performer and educator Donna Hébert, bands average 40 participants a year at each festival. Eager participants join the band for the weekend, rehearsing intensively for three days before a main-stage performance on Sunday. These festivals rely on our great volunteer staff who skillfully shepherd the group, tuning instruments and helping kids get organized. 2010 volunteers include Judy Harvey, Mary Beth Boyle, Colleen Holroyd, Hope Greitzer, Pam Gonyer and saxophonist Julie Sorcek. Sectional rehearsals address the students’ differing skill levels and are used to teach arrangements. As well as the big band, the group breaks into smaller ensembles of more skilled musicians for the Sunday performance.
Some Groove Band members are in their 12th year with the group, and it’s the high point of their summer. Albany area fiddler and Groove Band graduate Colleen Holroyd says,
“The Great Groove Band has shown me how to play, perform, and pass it on, opening windows and doors of opportunity.” Says her mother, Nancy Holroyd, “Not only is Colleen learning to make the kind of music that she loves, she’s learning to pass it on at her after-school traditional strings program. Particularly valuable is the Groove Band experience of turning a tune into a performance.”
In 2011, Laura Norwitz sent the following comment:
Thank you so much for organizing the GGB. My girls loved participating. It’s such a special opportunity, to feel part of something bigger than yourself, in a way that playing in your school band doesn’t do – to get together with people you don’t know and have the same vocabulary allowing you to make music that is so much more than the line you yourself play. Especially for Eleanor, who has only just started messing around on the accordion and has never played piano in any kind of ensemble, to be able to play in the band in a meaningful way, the opportunity was priceless.
Old Songs Festival director Andy Spence is an enthusiastic supporter of the Great Groove Band, observing that,
“Fiddle tunes provide an opportunity for the players to share the thrill of making music with friends, playing for dancing and just for fun! In the relaxed atmosphere of the Festival, Groove Band members keep the traditions alive, meet new friends from distant places, and begin the process of passing the music on.”
The Great Groove Band depends on the efforts of Groovemama members Max Cohen, teaching guitar, rhythm, vocal and instrumental arranging; Stuart Kenney (Rodney Miller Band, Tidal Wave, Dance Flurry Big Band) teaching bass and banjo; fiddlers George Wilson (Whippersnappers, Fennig’s All-Stars, Beaudoin Legacy) and Donna Hébert (Chanterelle, Mist Covered Mountains, Fiddling Demystified) teaching teens and improvisation while fiddler Jane Rothfield (Jane’s Gang, Red Hen, Atlantic Bridge) takes on the youngest and newest players, aided by our skilled interns. Jane and crew transform the youngest from shy newbies to band members in three days! Parents and music teachers also volunteer their assistance in getting the large group in tune, moving throughout the group to help wherever necessary.
The repertoire ranges from Amazing Grace to Norwegian waltzes to Irish jigs and Scottish marches and French-Canadian, New England and Appalachian reels and songs. Each group is assessed by the coaches, who teach tunes, chords, rhythms and lyrics on the spot, by ear. One year at Philly, we heard one girl tootling “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” on a recorder and turned that into one of our songs, with vocalists, lead, harmony and rhythm parts. It’s never the same program and it’s always fun!
2012 is our 14th year at Old Songs Festival and our 7th year at Philly Folk Fest. We hope you can join us! Tickets are available at the Old Songs Festival website. For more information about our program, or to register any musician for the Great Groove Dance Band at the next Old Songs Festival and the
Philadelphia Folk Festival, please contact Donna Hébert. Be sure to let us know:
- Your instrument
- Skill level/how long played
- Have you been in the band before?
- Parent e-mail address
See you at the 2012 Old Songs and Philadelphia Folk Festivals – Groove on!
Contact Donna Hebert to register (info AT fiddlingdemystified DOT com) once you’ve got your festival tickets, ordered from: OLD SONGS FESTIVAL June 22-24, 2012 www.oldsongs.org PHILADELPHIA FOLK FESTIVAL August 17-19, 2012 www.folkfest.org