No bubble gum here

Festival celebrates acoustic bluegrass

Festival celebrates acoustic bluegrass

May 09, 2002|BY KEVIN CLAPP

Bob Turbanic cocked an ear to the ground to hear what his students were listening to in 1992.

He didn't like what he heard and decided to do something about it.

"I was appalled by what the kids were listening to," the Wheeling Park (W.Va.) High School graphic arts teacher says. "It had bad morals, bad messages. It was just bad."

His solution: Bluegrass.

Awareness of the fiddle-playing, banjo-picking grassroots music among students was low. As a result, when Turbanic started a bluegrass band at the school, he got a tepid response. Initially.

But from three participants its first year, the Wheeling Park High School Bluegrass Band has bulged to 45. Next weekend in Gettysburg, Pa., 23 of Turbanic's students will perform during the 44th Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival.


"Once kids are playing it and other kids see it, they jump right in because it's not a stereotype anymore," Turbanic says. "It's not old people's music, it's not hicks' music. It's just 'our buddies are up there playing, let's learn how to do this.'"

Long before the soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" set sales records, earning multiple Grammy Awards in the process, Joe and Lil Cornett turned Gettysburg into a bluegrass playground.

From Thursday, May 16, to Sunday, May 19, the spring edition of the festival will present bluegrass names small - Wheeling Park, plus D.C.-based band The Seldom Scene - and large - Ralph Stanley.

The 10,000 to 12,000 listeners who will turn out for the four-day experience will be treated to acoustic sounds with an earthier feel than the bubblegum ruling the pop charts.

"It's really a musician's music. The people who tend to like it or love it try to play it," Joe Cornett says. "When people listen to it with an open mind and forget this old stigma that it's hillbilly music ... and they have an ear for music, they're going to like it."

Invited to return each year since 1999, Turbanic raves about the festival's ambiance, a family-friendly good time with positive vibes galore.

Cornett is just as effusive about the students. Starting out on a workshop stage, audience response prompted organizers to give the high schoolers a slot on the main stage.

"It's just an extremely wholesome activity for these kids to be involved in," he says. "It's very gratifying to see the youngsters involved in it."

Tickets for the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival are $17 to $73 in advance, $20 to $85 at the gate.

A $5 discount is available for ages 65 and older at the gate only. Ages 12 to 16, accompanied by a parent, pay half price, gate price only. Ages 11 and younger with parents are admitted free.

Advance ticket prices are valid until 8 p.m. Sunday, May 12, after which gate prices apply. Gate purchases are cash only.

For tickets, call 1-717-642-8749.

On the Web:

Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival

Thursday, May 16, through Sunday, May 19

Times vary

Granite Hill Campground

3340 Fairfield Road

Gettysburg, Pa.

Camping available. Free parking for noncamping patrons.

For information, call 1-800-642-8368.

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