Homer Alaska - Arts

Story last updated at 9:11 PM on Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bluegrass Camp for Kids returns

It's three days of toe-tapping fun — no musical ability or instruments needed

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photo provided

A good time appears to be had by all at the 2010 Bluegrass Camp for Kids.

It's back, the Homer Bluegrass Camp for Kids. If the past years are any indication, youngsters from 6 to 16 years old are in for three days of fun, June 8-10.

Musical ability is not needed, with classes offered for a variety of skill levels.

"We welcome all ages and all abilities," said Kate Hamre, camp director.

Knowledge of musical instruments isn't necessary, either.

"We've had kids come that don't even know what a mandolin is and that's cool," said Hamre.

Ownership of instruments isn't required, either. Hamre and her staff of teachers arrive with instruments to share.

"It's nice if you know someone with a student instrument you can borrow, but don't worry about it if you don't," said Hamre.

Classes offered at the Homer camp include beginning, intermediate and advanced banjo, bass, fiddle, guitar and mandolin; twin fiddle; dance; music exploration; vocals; jamming; and songwriting.

"We usually offer songwriting to the 11-year-olds and older or those that are a little more advanced and have some musical background," said Hamre. "Last year was the first year we offered it and Mary Schallert taught it and they came up with some amazing songs, chords and lyrics. I hope we get some signed up for it again this year."

There also is a class called, simply, "band."

"It's for six or seven kids to work up a song and some singing and make a performance," said Hamre. "They have to smile and introduce the band and the number, maybe throw in a few jokes."

At 3:30 p.m. on the last day of the camp, the public is invited to come in and watch the bands perform.

"We have people not even involved in the camps that know about it," said Hamre of past year's audiences for the bands' performances. "Everybody is welcome to come and show support for the kids."

It isn't only the kids having a musical good time. There are plenty of opportunities for adults to volunteer, according to Mo Wilkinson of Homer, who is helping organize the camp.

"You can help check kids in, help participate in a sing-a-along first thing in the morning. We have snacks during the day, so you could be getting snacks ready. On the last day you could be setting chairs up for the concert," said Wilkinson. "In the afternoons, at the very last of the day we go outside and do an outdoor activity, soccer or something. So you could be in charge of that."

If adults want to get involved musically, there also is the possibility of classes being offered.

"Call Mo and tell her if you're interested. If there's enough interest, we'll put it together," said Hamre.

Hamre grew up in Anchorage, immersed in the sounds of bluegrass thanks to her musician parents and their friends. Beginning at the age of 14, she performed with Bearfoot Bluegrass at festivals around the country. The group's fourth album, "Doors and Windows," hit number one on the Billboard Bluegrass Charts. She left Bearfoot a year ago and took over continuation of the bluegrass camps.

"I love to teach and have a degree in elementary education ... so I said I'd do this," said Hamre of picking up the activity that was formerly organized by Bearfoot.

Her faculty for the Homer camp includes four-time returning Mary Graham, who plays piano and mandolin; Amanda Kerr, who has been fiddling since she was four years old, is the four-time Alaska State Fair Fiddle Contest winner and the 2004 National Junior Fiddle Champion; Emily McLaughlin, a singer, guitar player and founding member of Anchorage teen band, Seekbob; Mary Schallert, who has recorded four CDs and is director of Alaska City Folk Arts Camp, director of Stellar school choir and teaches fiddle and violin; and Garren Volper, a bassist/guitarist currently playing in a bluegrass band called High Lonesome Sound.

The Bluegrass Camp For Kids will be held at Glacierview Baptist Church. Registration can be done online, www.bluegrasscampsforkids.com.

Anyone registering through Friday gets the early-bird discount rate of $155; after that it's $180. For more information, call Mo Wilkinson at 235-9355 or e-mail mokibay@yahoo.com.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.