By Lindsay Taylor
The Queen Bee Music Association’s Kids Bluegrass Camp for musicians age 7-15 is held annually in July in Crested Butte, Colorado, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The mission of the Queen Bee Music Association is to support musicians in every stage of their careers, no matter what age, aspiration, or ability. We were awarded a $1,500 grant from the IBMA Foundation in 2023.
What a year of jamming! Queen Bee Music Association’s Kids Bluegrass Camps, held one week in Crested Butte, Colorado, and another in Santa Fe, New Mexico, were filled with learning, singing, and playing.
In Crested Butte, Colorado, Queen Bee served 18 bluegrass campers, four who were recipients of tuition assistance. Our campers, ages 7-15, had a great week learning “Squirrel Hunters,” “Steel Rails,” “Lonesome Pine,” and other bluegrass songs. We had a wide range of instruments represented: seven fiddle students, one banjo player, one on upright bass, two mandolin players, and eight guitarists. We were able to host specialty workshops with more advanced concepts like jam etiquette, harmony singing, and learning how to solo.
A favorite moment of the week for many students was the opportunity to perform in downtown Crested Butte. On Thursday afternoon we walked four blocks to the Main Street area of town and busked in large and small groups for the afternoon. The students sang and played with pride, as friends and tourists alike passed by and cheered them on.
The following week in Santa Fe, New Mexico, our Bluegrass Camp served 24 campers. This was the fourth year we held camp in Santa Fe, and the second year it has sold out. In comparison to the campers in Crested Butte, these campers were newer to their instruments and to the bluegrass genre. We spent a lot of time getting students familiar with their instruments in skill-based breakout sessions and learning to sing loudly and proudly. We had one mandolin student, eleven guitar students, eleven fiddlers, and one banjo picker. Six students received tuition assistance, attending camp for free.
They learned the new skills of playing in a bluegrass band with others: non-verbal communication, listening, keeping time, etc. They worked together in small groups to write songs. At the end of the week, students performed with their bands and their songwriting groups in front of family and friends.
Key Learnings: The community of Crested Butte is changing. We have experienced low enrollment for the last three years, 50% of our pre-COVID numbers. In speaking with families and community members, it appears that families are leaving the Gunnison Valley, getting priced out of their homes. We have come to the hard decision to end our Bluegrass Camp in Crested Butte after 10 summers and turn our attention back to Santa Fe, supporting our families with more traditional music classes, events, and camps.
Since 2019, we have been nurturing Santa Fe’s appetite and interest in bluegrass and other traditional music through weekly group classes, summer camps, and free jams. The efforts that we have put in are paying off, and students are excited to dive into the bluegrass genre. Additionally, our tuition assistance program continues to grow, and we are proud to serve more families each year by lowering the financial burden of tuition for music education.