Kids get music lessons from masters


With precision, Alyson Parks, of Hagerstown, selected and then slid a shiny blue bead onto a purple cord. It was followed by a red bead and silver bell.

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Repeating the process a few times, the 10-year-old produced a musical bracelet to wear and remind her of the good time she had Sunday at the finale of the fourth Western Maryland Blues Fest.

The three-day event was held in downtown Hagerstown and showcased the talents of a variety of blues artists.

"It's a lot of fun," she said about the events at Hagerstown's City Park.

Parks was one of 400 children who took advantage of the various stands, featuring lessons on science, music and making crafts, according to organizers.

Musical instruction was also provided through the "Kids Jam, Too!" series of workshops.

Parks and her cousin Katherine Healey, 8, of Westminster, Md., participated in a harmonica workshop conducted by musician Pete Sheridan of Mechanicsburg, Pa.


"The kids are just wonderful," Sheridan said. "They are very attentive."

In two 30-minute sessions, more than 60 students learned harmonica basics.

Each child received a free color-coded harmonica and music sheet.

"I want to encourage kids of all ages to do something musically," Sheridan said.

As a self-taught musician, he knows firsthand the difficulties of learning to play on your own, he said.

"I didn't have any good role models or anyone to encourage me," he said.

He hopes to do just that for his students at Blues Fest, he said.

Harmonicas are good introductory instruments because they fit into small hands easily, are moderately priced and fun to play, he said.

The young musicians got a chance to hear the instrument being played during performances just for them by File and Clarence Spady.

In between concerts and workshops, children took time to decorate sun visors, make tile magnets and get their faces painted.

A magician was on hand to do tricks and make balloon animals or objects.

Another booth revealed how coffee beans can duplicate the sounds of waves and a cookie sheet can make thunder.

Washington County Free Library volunteers helped attendees make bookmarks.

Bradley Thomas, 6, of Hagerstown, decorated his bookmark with a dragon stamp dipped in red paint.

Wearing a Blues Fest visor and musical bracelet and carrying an orange and red paper flower, the boy got a chance to visit all of the children's activities.

"It's a nice way to spend the afternoon," said Thomas' mother, Jolene.

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