Folk's new generationThe Fiddle Scouts start sixth season
K.Y. Quock had seen the booth the day before but hadn’t stopped to buy anything until Sunday — the last day of the Great Lakes Folk Festival. After only a few minutes of browsing, he already had close to a dozen CDs in hand. When asked if he was at the Ten Pound Fiddle’s annual CD fundraiser to support the organization or just interested in folk, “all of the above” was Quock’s answer.
“I’ve got Sarah McLachlan and Robert Palmer and all of the ‘80s classics. That was my favorite decade,” Quock said.
“I’ve been at the festival all three days. I looked yesterday and just bought CDs today.”
The Ten Pound Fiddle is a volunteer-run organization that brings folk music to the Lansing area. Over the weekend, its tent was visited by hundreds of folk fans like Quock.
Perhaps Quock was wise to wait until the last day to buy because, by design, the price had been steadily falling from $3 on Friday, $2 on Saturday and to $1 on Sunday.
“It’s a gambler’s fundraiser,” Sally Potter said. “The suggested donation goes down as the days go on. Who knows if what you wanted to buy on Friday will still be there Sunday?” Potter is the head of booking at the Ten Pound Fiddle and one of the weekend’s CD sellers. She said that the annual fundraiser serves a dual purpose.
“We hand out a couple thousand schedules at the tent,” Potter said. “People know we’re going to have the schedule and they can see about Fiddle Scouts, the dances, concerts and the singing schedule.”
The Fiddle Scouts is the second purpose. All the proceeds from the fundraiser — $2,106 this year — will go to benefit the group. The Fiddle Scouts are the Ten Pound Fiddle’s children’s program. It offers a way for children to get exposed to music monthly with a variety of acts from Canadian roots musician Ken Whiteley to award-winning Irish duo Siusan and Zig.
“Since it’s part of the Ten Pound Fiddle, we’re really looking at exposing children to folk music,” said Tamiko Rothhorn. “And not just exposing them, but letting them have a chance to participate and make music.”
Rothhorn is a Ten Pound Fiddle volunteer responsible for booking nearly each of these classes. This year will be the sixth season of Fiddle Scouts. Participating scouts can expect nine musical guest teachers to lead them through classes this year from September to May.
“We’ll have instruments for them to try, with ukuleles, harmonicas, dulcimers, drums. Actually, our first show is in September — this amazing drummer, Laurie Fithian,” Rothhorn said. “Everyone will have a chance to drum and be participatory.”
Rothhorn said that the Fiddle Scouts program came out of a need not only to share music, but to supplement a lack of music education in the community.
“It is only $3 to 5 per kid. It’s purposefully low-cost so that it’s accessible to people. I know when the Lansing School District cut their music program for kids, we were like, “Come to Fiddle Scouts!” Rothhorn said. “We take a donation at the door; it’s pretty informal after that. Families can just sit down with their kids, they can sit on the floor, we can have music circles. If kids want to dance or listen, they have the opportunity to do that too.”
Statistics show that music education provides lasting benefits for children, even if they don’t continue with an instrument later in life. A study by Kent State University showed that U.S. schools that perform well academically usually require students to spend 20 to 30 percent of their day involved in the arts, with a “special emphasis on music.”
“We just really want it to be accessible to the community,” Rothhorn said.
And with the program’s informality comes flexibility. Families don’t have to worry about signing up in advance or going beyond their means by paying for multiple classes. However, the classes do provide a familiar structure.
“We have Fiddle Scouts opening and closing songs which are the same every month, they have some time with the musician either in family concert style or in break-out sessions if they’re learning instruments, and then we come together at the end and we have our closing songs,” Rothhorn said. “So, the kids get used to it.”
Although there isn’t an especially strict limit, the Fiddle Scouts’ age cutoff is usually 12 years old. Rothhorn took her own children to the program until they outgrew it. She said that there has been talk of bringing back a former program that allowed older kids to play music together.
“We ran that for one year, but we’re not currently doing it. We want these kids who love music to come to the Fiddle Scouts and if they’re taking music lessons already to have a chance to jam with other kids,” Rothhorn said. “That’s something for the future, if we find the right person to lead that group and we can get funding for it.”
But for now, Rothhorn and an entirely new group of Fiddle Scouts have to get ready for an equally new season of music.
“And that’s why we have fiddle scouts for the Ten Pound Fiddle,” Rothhorn said. “It’s kind of like raising the next generation of folk musicians.”
“Drummunity Drumming with Lori Fithian” Saturday, Sept. 9 10 a.m.
$3 to $5 Ten Pound Fiddle MSU Community Music School 4930 S. Hagadorn, East Lansing. www.tenpoundfiddle.org