Bluegrass In The Schools
Inaugurated in the fall of 2003, this museum’s Bluegrass in the Schools (BITS) program is fostering the growth of an entire new generation of bluegrass musicians. With every banjo, mandolin, guitar and fiddle put in a young person’s hands, a direct, tangible link is forged between the student and his/her cultural heritage.
Each year, we introduce over 8,500 elementary students to bluegrass music through various programs. In 24 area schools, we provide up to eight days of hands-on instrument instruction per school. In each of these 24 schools and in requesting schools throughout Kentucky, we provide All-School Bluegrass Music Assembly Programs showcasing superb bands in performance or original musicals written and produced by this museum.
We have presented Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike, Special Consensus, The Peasall Sisters, The Doerfel Family; “The Story of Bluegrass,” a musical on the history of Bill Monroe; “Music in Motion” which chronicles the progression of folk dance and music from various world cultures that coalesced in what we know today as bluegrass and clogging; “Lincoln in the Land of Bluegrass” (scroll up for photo) showcasing two great native Kentuckians, Abraham Lincoln & Bill Monroe — Abe’s life story set to Bill’s music; and many others.
At any given time, several hundred residents of all ages take part in our Saturday Lessons Program, which outfits every student with an instrument on free loan and provides modestly priced group lessons given by professional bluegrass instructors at the museum every other Saturday from early October through ROMP, the museum’s annual bluegrass festival at the end of June.
The band formed by participants in this program is called The Kentucky BlueGrass AllStars. This mega-group performs each year at ROMP and other community events. Last year they surprised the 65 Pioneers of Bluegrass who were onstage for their Recognition Ceremony: the AllStars had been hiding, sitting in the dark on the floor all across the back and down the aisles of Cannon Hall. When all the Pioneers were onstage at once, they rose in a sea of blue t-shirts to play and sing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” The audience sang along, and at the end of the songs, the legends gave the AllStars a standing ovation. The AllStars were so excited they ran from the hall, instruments held high, shouting, “Oh my gosh, can you believe it?? We just got a standing ovation from the Legends!!”
If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by on a Saturday and see all this energy and excitement for yourself. And if you’d like to learn how to play bluegrass music, sign up in September for the next semester.
If you have questions, or would like to sign up your school for a bluegrass music performance or are interested in start-up grants, visit the IBMA website or call or call (615) 256-3222.