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Kids’ Mountain Music Camp

McCall Folklore Society

In 2021, Kid’s Mountain Music Camp taught 44 young musicians, ages 8-17, from beginner to more advanced to hone their musical skills by working with professional Bluegrass and Americana Folk instructors over the course of 3 days. In 2021, instrumental instruction included drums, guitar, banjo, and fiddle plus vocals and songwriting. KMMC culminated in a 1.5 hour performance at the Summer Music Festival.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

When is a performance judged ready to present? How do context and presentation influence audience response?

Kids Mountain Music Camp 2021 gave students the experience of working with professional musicians to learn to perform music with expression, convey meaning through performance, and be technically accurate. KMMC emphasizes learning the cultural history behind the music that is played so that participants are better able to engage with and interpret the works they play.

In 2021, students spent time learning heritage instruments such as banjo and fiddle in alignment with the core purpose of the Summer Music Festival – to engage the greater community and audience members in Folk, Americana, and Bluegrass music.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

Anchor Standard 6: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.

Question: How does music help you express yourself?

Student – Age 8: ?It lets me feel strong!?

Student – Age 16: ?When I listen to music I feel emotions and it helps me release things inside of me. When I relate to the lyrics I feel like I am understood. In camp, when I work with other kids to write lyrics I realized how what we are expressing helps others relate. It can be funny, or serious or sad or happy, but what I feel when I write may connect with someone else in a different way.?

Student – Age 10: ?It lets me perform without being me, I am the song.?

Anchor Standard 5: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.

Question: What did you learn and apply during the presentation?

Student – Age 9: ?I learned how the beat of drums is what keeps everyone in time.?

Student – Age 8: ?I learned how to play a whole song on the fiddle and did it for everyone, I had never played the fiddle before. I also learned the fiddle and violin are the same instrument.?

Student – Age 14: ?I learned how to collaborate with others to make a band and pick a song.?


Student reflections at the end of the performance:

Student – Age 8: “I can’t believe how fast that went, I wanted it to go all night!”

Student – Age 13: “My favorite part was the shout outs and clapping after I sang.”

Student – Age 15: “It was fun performing with other teenagers I hadn?t met before. There was no school drama, just music.”

Student – Age 11: Before the performance during sound check: “Wow, the stage is huge! Look at those speakers. We are going to be on the same stage as big bands!”

Parent reflection: “After the first year my son attended Kids Mountain Music Camp, this has become the highlight of his summer! The ability to work with other musicians and collaborate on music with peers that share his passion has been such an amazing experience for the entire family. Every night, after camp, his excitement about what he learned and what he is working on for the next day or their upcoming performance is always radiating. Over the past couple of years, this camp has more than taken him out of his comfort zone, so much so, he has been trying to perform for other people! It?s truly been a blessing!”


What worked best: Having two songwriting groups and separating beginner and intermediate guitars worked really well. In addition, having senior teacher?s assistants helped with keeping kids on task. Finally, having a full stage and professional sound person for the Summer Music Festival performance was key in the performance?s overall success.

What would I do differently: Next time, I would not have all of the students on stage for the whole performance, and I would not have so many drums on stage. We have found we need more room for the kids to move around for band performances.

Recommendations: I would recommend the group decides on which instruments to offer ahead of time, and stick to it with no exceptions, as introducing a bunch of new instruments makes it hard on instructors. I would also ask the Board to decide on what kind of camp they want ahead of time – bluegrass only, folk only, etc? It also tends to help engagement if you have more local musicians as the instructors.