Kids Learn to Play Banjo and Mandolin at American Folk Music Classes

By Nikhita Venugopal on January 18, 2014 10:41am 

 The Jalopy Theater has introduced folk music classes for children, where kids can learn how to play the banjo, guitar, violin and soon, the mandolin.
The Jalopy Theater has introduced folk music classes for children, where kids can learn how to play the banjo, guitar, violin and soon, the mandolin.
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Karen Duffy

COLUMBIA STREET WATERFRONT DISTRICT — Put away Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and hang up Elvis’ "Blue Suede Shoes."

The Jalopy Theater is bringing American folk music to kids with a new series of classes for the guitar, violin, banjo and, soon, the mandolin.

The classes, geared to 6-to-12-year-olds, aim to be different from typical rock ‘n’ roll and classical music sessions that have had kids tinkering with scales and metronomes for decades, said Karen Duffy, the theater’s managing director.

Although folk music originated well before the theater's young students were born, Duffy calls today a “post-millennial folk revolution” with movies like “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and, more recently, “Inside Llewyn Davis” bringing the genre back to the spotlight.

Grammy-winning artists like Mumford and Sons and Taylor Swift have also introduced folk sounds and instruments in their songs.

Even if they’re doing it on a pop music stage, they’re playing these instruments,” Duffy said.

The classes, which are split into two age groups, are song-based, so kids learn instruments in folk songs through chords instead of spending time on scales.

“It’s so very, very boring just to run scales with a metronome,” Duffy said.

Group classes cost $215 for eight weekly sessions for 6-to-8-year-olds and $395 for eight weekly sessions for 8-to-14-year-olds.

Jalopy also hosts free sessions where kids can tinker around with folk music instruments to figure out what suits them best.

Each class is spent learning four or five songs and playing as an ensemble, an important aspect of the folk genre. In the final week, students play at a recital on Jalopy’s stage.

“When you actually play with other people, it’s not to a metronome,” Duffy said. “It’s almost to a human beat.”

For more information on the workshops, email karen@jalopy.biz.

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