Fest finds last note

June 08, 1997


Staff Writer

About a dozen amateur musicians of varying skills joined in an organized blues session in Hagerstown City Park while dozens of young children held a jam session of their own a few yards away.

Interactive music workshops were a big part of the final day of the Western Maryland Blues Fest, which roared to a close on Sunday.

A couple dozen wide-eyed children eagerly tried their hand at drums from all over the world and a large assortment of stringed instruments.


Austin Jackson, 8, of Sharpsburg, said he enjoyed playing the guitar - a smaller version of his father's instrument.

"I've tried to play my dad's guitar," he said.

Jessica Stein, 4, participated in the drum and the string sessions. She said she enjoyed the guitars the most. Why?

"'Cause I just do," she said. "And my mom has a guitar."

Her mother, Julie Stein of Hagerstown, said she wanted to expose her daughter to music.

"I wanted to have her play different instruments," she said. "I think that's a good idea."

Bill Jenkins, who put on the interactive children's workshops, said he wanted to show them instruments from many different countries and stress the universality of music.

"All cultures use rhythm," he said. "It's the one thing that connects us all."

Jenkins said his business grew out of his hobby. The more instruments he collected, the more calls he got from libraries, schools and festivals, he said. He said he was a bit taken aback the first time he was asked to teach kids.

"I looked at them and said, `Kids?'" he said. "I didn't know my approach would work with children."

But Jenkins said he does more or less the same program for children and adults.

"I'll teach a Japanese song to 4-year-olds and they'll learn it faster than adults," he said.

Judy Zube, who helped organize the children's workshops for the festival, said the children love the hands-on opportunity Jenkins' program offers.

"A lot of kids who are too young to play a real instrument - they can get into the drum," she said.

For adults who were not content just watching and listening, the Blues Fest offered an open jam session led by 2Blue Ensemble band member Pete Lancaster.

Lancaster said the jam session included musicians ranging from those with a great deal of experience to those who have only recently begun playing.

"It's important to make sure everybody's in tune and that everyone has the right instruments to say in tune," he said. "It's fun, most importantly."

Greencastle, Pa., resident Tom King, who performed earlier in the weekend with The Push, was one of the jammers with extensive experience. He said the structure of the session produced good music.

"For a jam, this is a 10 because it's organized," he said. "It has a leader and specific songs."

Hedgesville, W.Va., resident Andrew Hess said he has been playing the guitar for about three years. He said the range of ability did not detract from the music.

"The guys who don't know much can stick to what they know and let the guys with more experience play the advanced stuff," he said.

Many of the thousands of other people in the park simply basked in the warm, sunny weather and enjoyed the musical events on the main stage.

"It's a good chance to make music and enjoy the beauty of Hagerstown," said Frederick, Md., resident Chris de Boinville.

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