Kids on Bluegrass

Guestblogger Marina Gorbis is executive director at Institute for the Future.

The title of this post is actually the name of the program started by the California Bluegrass Association, an organization that brings together young pickers, ages 3 to 18, to play at various bluegrass festivals. Before I, or more precisely, my son and his friends, found bluegrass, I could never imagine that this traditional American music genre could be the epicenter of young musical talent. And when I mean young, I mean very young. I've seen some amazingly hot pickers who are under 10! What I love about bluegrass festivals is that there is as much great music offstage as on, in the campground where small and large groups, many including very young musicians, jam together. Bluegrass is the ideal medium for these musicians. The basic chords are easy to learn, bluegrass jams are cross-generational affairs with pros often happy to share their skills with novices, and the music is highly social and ad hoc, i.e. you can play acoustic instruments virtually anywhere without any major set up. Although the chords are easy, the possibilities for virtuosity in this genre are immense (think Chris Thile , Bela Fleck , or Bryan Sutton). I also love the fact that at most any bluegrass festivals you can see the "stars," mixing with the audience or standing in line for coffee just like anyone else. Imagine such a thing at a huge rock festival.

Above are videos of a few amazing young bluegrass musicians I've come across: Annie Staniec, Molly Tuttle, and AJ Lee with the Tuttles. There are many more out there, young and old, so feel free to link to your favorites in the comments.