Youth concert preserves traditional music

Event: 2019 BCTMA Youth Concert
When: March 7, 2019
Where: Turnage Theater, 150 West Main Street, Washington, NC

Most of the musicians at Beaufort County Traditional Music Association’s weekly jam session (me included) are getting up there.  

We’re no spring chickens.  

That’s one reason BCTMA chairperson Linda Boyer wants Washington’s youth to learn about traditional music.

“These kids are our future,” she said.  “If they don’t develop an affinity for traditional music, someday it could die out.”

The initial idea for a youth concert goes back as far as the BCTMA jam sessions themselves. One member’s seven-year-old son was a player at the original sessions. By the time he was a teenager, the association wanted to give him and other interested children their own event to showcase their talents and perform traditional music.

So, the first youth concert was born four years ago, not as a competition but as a showcase.  This is a very important distinction to Linda:  “There’s plenty of competitions around for those who want competition, but the whole philosophy of the BCTMA is to enjoy the music, learn from each other, and to just have fun.”

The concert attracts between three and five acts each year.  BCTMA sends out notices to schools and music teachers inviting their students to perform.  

Click on pictures to see larger versions and use the arrows (left and right) to scroll through the photos.

“We don’t get a big response but we do get enough to have a good show and a good time with the kids,” says Linda.  

Five acts were the most they ever had for one show but, she adds, there’s no limit on how many can participate.  

She laughs: “If we ever got 15 performers, we’d try to accommodate them all. They might just get to do one song, but we’d let them all play.”

The 2019 show was the first time that a trio performed. The Marland Sisters, consisting of Bailey 18, Alex 16, and Cydney 14, played a mandolin and two fiddles, with their former instructor Frankie Harrison on guitar as backup.  The three girls also sang beautiful harmonies.   “They travelled all the way from Edenton to get to the show,” said Linda.  

Also, two of this year’s acts were repeat performances from previous years.  

Twelve-year-old Keane Warren’s first ever concert was last year’s youth show.  He played his electric guitar and sang Beatles songs, a program he continued at this year’s show.  “I just like Beatles music,” he said. “I think it sounds way better than the modern music of today.  

He adds, “I don’t really play anything other than Beatles music, but when I get older and have my own band I might play my own songs.”

You’ll see on the video that Keane performs complicated Harrison solos with ease.  He says that if you put your mind to it and practice enough, the music can be broken down into segments that are easier to learn.

His family encouraged him to be in the youth show last year and he’s been performing ever since, including at Washington’s Backwater Jacks restaurant, some BCTMA jams, and at the July 4rth celebrations in Belhaven.  

Will Stovall has also appeared previously in the youth concert.  He performed  twice before and, this year, played a contemporary style on guitar using a three-pedal setup for looping effects that give his sound more depth.  

Will reached the age of 18 this year which means that, after three youth concert appearances, he won’t be able to repeat next year (the show is open to performers 18 years of age and younger).  The organizers call this “aging out”.  

“It’s been fun to watch him grow because he started out just playing his guitar and singing. Now he’s added the technology that produces a much different and polished sound to his music,” said Linda. 

Based in Greenville, Will performs a lot around the county including a recent show at Backwater Jacks.  He chuckled: “I do gigs wherever they’ll let me play!”  (Upcoming dates are on Will’s website.)

He’s also started guitar teaching in his spare time, although it doesn’t sound like he’ll have a lot of that over the next few years.  He’s off to college in the fall and is considering an engineering program with a music minor.

Like Keane, Will also lists the Beatles as a major influence along with Journey and Ed Sheeran.   Indeed, he mentioned Keane’s Beatles performances as a stand out moment of the show. Will thinks that BCTMA is on the right track with the youth concert and he hopes in continues to attract young performers like Keane.

It’s important for BCTMA to cultivate new interest in traditional music if they’re going to keep filling future youth concerts with new acts. One of the ways they’re doing that is with JAM CAMP, which will enjoy its third year this July.

Held at the Turnage Theatre, kids that are typically from 8 to 12 years of age, sing and play and learn the chords and words to some traditional music.  They are normally interested in playing fiddle or guitar (BCTMA brings in some instruments).  Arts of the Pamlico brings in a teacher and several BCTMA members help.  At the end of four days of camp, the kids put on a show of their own on Friday morning.

The hope is that the camp and the exposure to traditional music will encourage some of these students to perform at future youth concerts. 

Future youth concerts are planned for the Turnage Theatre as the current format seems to be working pretty well.  “But we’re always up for innovation,” says Linda.  “This has worked for us so far; we just want to be able to play and enjoy the music.”

Future youth concerts are planned for the Turnage Theatre as the current format seems to be working pretty well.  “But we’re always up for innovation,” says Linda.  “This has worked for us so far; we just want to be able to play and enjoy the music.”

In partnership with Arts of the Pamlico, BCTMA is based at the historic Turnage Theater at 150 West Main Street, Washington, NC.  This venue provides a stage for guest musicians and monthly Variety Shows. BCTMA also hosts Thursday Evening and Saturday Morning Jams where musicians of all skill levels are invited to come out for these informal events.

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