Young and Younger

Learning keeps on happening at all ages if we keep our youth and curiosity.  And I have some of the most fun when those young and curious folks cross my path, asking about old-time mPrintusic and dance.

A bunch of that has been happening lately.  We’re just finishing up a flatfooting class and a class in West Virginia old-time music traditions through the Berkeley County Adult and Community Education Program.  And, this week, the 1st graders at Bunker Hill Elementary School have been celebrating West Virginia Days, learning all about their native culture.  It’s hard to tell who’s got more youth and enthusiasm: the 1st graders or the BCACE students who left 1st grade behind loooong ago.

There are new standards in the West Virginia public school curriculum this year that require students to know about their cultural heritage and the traditions that built their state.  Teachers like Jennifer Smith have brilliant ideas to meet these new standards.  She and her fellow teachers covered a lot of ground in their 2 day celebration.  My fiddles, banjo, lap dulcimer and flatfooting shoes were just a small part of what the Bunker Hill 1st graders were exposed to.  They met their West Virginia music with lots of demonstrative enthusiasm.  Bobbing and smiling to the music, they asked lots of good questions and gave me fun answers to mine.  And West Virginia now has a wealth of Berkeley County flatfooters, with teachers who have superhuman calming powers to get them back to class afterward.

And the 1st graders have nothing on the broad range of adults who rapidly moved into fearless territory while exploring flatfooting and the variety of old-time styles in West Virginia.  I just know there were some ringers in the crowd who aren’t owning up to their experience.  We got to develop individual style and steal steps from each other in the flatfooting class.  We were lucky enough to have musical instruments from one local family to examine and play, including a banjo from the 1800s and a lovingly crafted single-string instrument with a garter clip for a tailpiece(!), in the old-time traditions class.  And, perhaps most important, the circle of friends in the West Virginia old-time world has expanded again.

To the BCACE flatfooters, I’ll look forward to seeing you and your feet answer the call of the music round and about, wherever the music’s playing.  To the newly exposed old-time musicians, now that you’ve felt those instruments under your fingers, I hope you’ll let the bug just take you over.   To Shelley, with the wealth of family music in your past, I’ll be glad to hear those old family instruments ring again.  To the gifted teacher who plays autoharp and harmonica, I hope I’ll hear about how you’re handing down your beautiful family traditions to your active 1st graders, maybe even with your banjo-playing grandfather.  And to little Ellie, whose Grandma I see regularly for yoga, I wanna hear bunches about all the dancing you and your classmates are doing!



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