JamPak Blues ‘N’ Grass Neighborhood Band program

An Engelhardt acoustic bass with case, stand, and an extra set of strings was donated anonymously to the IBMA Foundation for the JamPak Blues ‘N’ Grass Neighborhood Band program for children in Chandler, Arizona.

“We are so grateful for this wonderful bass,” JamPak bluegrass program director Anni Beach said. “Rosy is our main older bass player. She is a junior in high school and has been in Jam Pak since she was seven years old. She also plays guitar and is a member of Fair Black Rose, one of our smaller bands.”

In the photo above, we see Paula in the middle, who plays bass and leads another small band called The Would Bees. “She is also a junior in high school and joined Jam Pak when she was eight years old,” Beach adds. “She plays fiddle, too. Little Sasha is in the 5th grade and is taking bass in school orchestra and plays the mandolin. Her big sister, Aliane, is in 7th grade and plays fiddle in Jam Pak and is also learning bass. The sisters have been in Jam Pak for five years. Haven, on the right, is learning fiddle and has been in Jam Pak for three.”

BanJam 2021

JamPak’s “BanJam 2021,” produced in collaboration with BASE Arizona (Black Alliance & Social Empowerment) will offer one-hour lessons held weekly on banjo and bass, presented for six months for 6-10 African American youth and adults.

The classes will begin on May 3 and go through November 29. Partial funding was awarded from the Arnold Shultz Fund, with additional financial support coming from JamPak. BASE will provide promo materials and videos. There will be no cost to the students, only a commitment that they take care of the instruments provided and faithfully attend classes. Beach says she hopes the project will serve as a model to other communities. “The impact of bluegrass and old-time music in creating community is life-changing,” she said.

The two instructors for BanJam are Giselle Lee (banjo) and Joelle Tambe-Ebot (bass), and they will be assisted by the young people of JamPak. Culture and history will be a part of the lessons as well as performances and public appearances, an opportunity to build confidence, fun, and community.

After six months, Beach hopes an Afro Scout leader will be willing to carry on the BanJam program. “This is only the beginning!” she said. For more info, please contact Anni Beach at jampakband@gmail.com or Gieselle Tambe-Ebot, secretary of BASEArizona, at gebot@basearizona.com.

Exploring the African American Influence on Kentucky Music

On Friday, March 26, the Louisville Folk School announced their upcoming conversation series that will be co-presented by Kentucky Performing Arts: Exploring the African American Influence on Kentucky Music. All events will be streamed to the LFS and KPA Facebook and YouTube pages as the primary outlet. Following are the three presentations that will make up the series:

Sunday, April 11 at 4pm: Henry Hart: Music Along the Riverways

Composer Rachel Grimes, educator Dr. Clark Kimberling, and historian Michael L. Jones explore the legacy of celebrated, Kentucky-born violinist, composer, and bandleader Henry Hart (1839 – 1915). Hart was the grandson of an enslaved woman who participated in the March 1775 expedition to build Fort Boonesborough, one of the earliest non-indigenous settlements in Kentucky. Hart began his musical career playing on steamboats along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers but went on to lead the most popular society bands in Indianapolis.

Sunday, April 18 at 4pm: The Caribbean and String Band Music: How Did Haiti Get Written Out of the History of the Banjo?

New Orleans based multi-instrumentalist and activist Leyla McCalla and Louisville based music historian Michael L. Jones discuss the often-overlooked role Haiti and Haitian musicians played in the journey of the banjo from Africa to North America. They will also discuss the island nation’s connection to string band music that developed in river towns like New Orleans and Louisville.

Sunday, April 25, at 4pm: Arnold Shultz: Godfather of Bluegrass

This discussion will explore the legacy of Arnold Shultz, an African American fiddler and guitarist from Morgantown, KY, whose musical innovations would inspire a generation of Kentucky string band players, including a young Bill Monroe.  Somewhat shrouded in mystery, the story of this musical pioneer will be revealed by panelists Keith Lawrence and Dr. Richard Brown, who will discuss the enduring legend that has grown around Shultz and the ways that his story still remains relevant to bluegrass music today.  The panel will be moderated by Dom Flemons of The 1st Edition

The Portable Community: Place and Displacement in Bluegrass Festival Life

Congratulations to Robert Owen Gardner on the publication of his book, The Portable Community: Place and Displacement in Bluegrass Festival Life (Routledge). The book explores the various ways in which individuals use music and culture to understand and respond to changes in their natural and built environments. Drawing on over 15 years of ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and participant observation, the author develops the thesis that the relationships, networks, and intimate forms of social interaction in the “portable” community cultivated at bluegrass festival events are significant cultural formations that shape participants’ relationships to their localities. With specific attention to the ways in which the strength of these relationships are translated into meaningful sites of community identity, place, and action following devastating local floods that destroyed homes and businesses, displacing residents for years, The Portable Community: Place and Displacement in Bluegrass Festival Life sheds light on the strength of such communities when tested and under external threat. A study of the central role of arts and music in grappling with social and environmental change, including their role in facilitating disaster relief and recovery, this volume will appeal to scholars of sociology with interests in symbolic interactionism, the sociology of music, culture, and the sociology of disaster.

Robert Owen Gardner is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Linfield College, in McMinnville, Oregon.

Industrial Strength Bluegrass: Southwestern Ohio’s Musical Legacy

Congratulations to Dr. Curtis W. Ellison and Fred Bartenstein, editors of a new book from University of Illinois Press called Industrial Strength Bluegrass: Southwestern Ohio’s Musical Legacy. In the 20th century, Appalachian migrants seeking economic opportunities relocated to southwestern Ohio, bringing their music with them. Between 1947 and 1989, they created an internationally renowned capital for the thriving bluegrass music genre, centered on the industrial region of Cincinnati, Dayton, Hamilton, Middletown, and Springfield. Fred Bartenstein and Curtis W. Ellison edit a collection of eyewitness narratives and in-depth analyses that explore southwestern Ohio’s bluegrass musicians, radio broadcasters, recording studios, record labels, and performance venues, along with the music’s contributions to religious activities, community development, and public education. As the bluegrass scene grew, southwestern Ohio’s distinctive sounds reached new fans and influenced those everywhere who continue to play, produce, and love roots music. Revelatory and multifaceted, Industrial Strength Bluegrass shares the inspiring story of a bluegrass hotbed and the people who created it.

In addition to Bartenstein and Ellison, contributors include Jon Hartley Fox, Rick Good, Lily Isaacs, Ben Krakauer, Mac McDivitt, Nathan McGee, Daniel Mullins, Joe Mullins, Larry Nager, Phillip J. Obermiller, Bobby Osborne, and Neil V. Rosenberg. A companion CD by various artists and produced by Joe Mullins has been released on the Smithsonian-Folkways label, with the same name as the book.

RETURN to the April 2021 issue of The Cornerstone.