The Great Groove Band of school-age musicians is a three-day participatory program at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. They join us for the seventh year in a row at the 51st!
The Great Groove Band makes fiddle and folk music accessible to young people who sing or play a (mostly) stringed instrument. The 2010 bands included fiddlers, guitarists, bass players, drummers, pianists, flutists and more.
Since 1998, the Great Groove Band has provided an opportunity for school-age players (ages 6-18) attending the festivals with their parents or friends. They use their playing skills and learn about fiddle and folk music. Founded and directed by Amherst, Massachusetts fiddler, performer and educator Donna Hébert, bands average 40 participants a year at each festival. Eager participants join the band for the weekend, rehearsing intensively for three days before a main-stage performance on Sunday. These festivals rely on our great volunteer staff who skillfully shepherd the group, tuning instruments and helping kids get organized. Past volunteers include Judy Harvey, Mary Beth Boyle, Colleen Holroyd, Hope Greitzer, Pam Gonyer and saxophonist Julie Sorcek. Sectional rehearsals address the students’ differing skill levels and are used to teach arrangements. As well as the big band, the group breaks into smaller ensembles of more skilled musicians for the Sunday performance.
“One of the most emotional moments in the 50th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival for me came when a crowd sitting in a driving rainstorm sat under their umbrellas and sang along to the only real National Anthem this country ever deserved, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” performed by a group of children whose parents were longtime festival goers. The moment repeated a theme that ran through the entire weekend. I kept seeing families who’d come to share this music together — young people with their toddlers bouncing along beside them; older folks with their teenage kids, who usually were carrying some sort of acoustic instrument; and in a couple of instances three generations of family members who’d come together for the party. This was a case of people who’d been coming to this festival, some for many, many years, bringing their children and grandchildren along to carry on the tradition.” John Swenson: Music on My Mind blog, 8/24/11.