Children get taste of bluegrass at camp

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— Few people know the differences between a mandolin and a guitar, could locate a fret or play a strumchuck.

However, the 20 participants at this week's Bearfoot Bluegrass Camp for Kids know all of the above, and much more -- and they're still learning.

"The kids here have been amazing," said Annalisa Woodlee, one of the instructors and a member of the bluegrass band Bearfoot Bluegrass. "They're really advanced."

Woodlee and the other four members of Bearfoot Bluegrass have returned to Steamboat Springs for the third year in a row to conduct an educational music camp for 20 youngsters, ages 6 to 13 years.

The camp is just one of many components of the second annual Beaux Arts Festival, which began on Friday and continues through this week.

During the three-day camp, which started Monday, participants have the opportunity to learn to play the guitar, mandolin, fiddle or banjo. Vocal instruction is also an option. No experience is necessary, because "we teach from the beginning," said Woodlee.

By the end of the camp, participants should know "three or four or five chords and a couple of basic tunes," said Jason Norris, another member of Bearfoot Bluegrass.

The instructors are young, talented and "awesome," said camp participant Catherine Fischer, 11. Fischer and best friend Katie Lettunich, also 11, signed up for the camp to learn about music.

So far, they have not been disappointed.

"I'm learning different styles of music, like bluegrass" said Lettunich. "It's not just about classical anymore."

Fischer said that her favorite part of the camp was playing different, unfamiliar instruments.

"I've already done some fiddle and guitar," she said. Fischer has played the violin since she was 4, but loves "getting to learn new instruments."

Bearfoot Bluegrass started conducting the day camps for children three years ago, and this week's camp marks the 34th. Steamboat is one of the lucky recipients of such instruction because of the support that the group receives here, said Angela Oudean, another band member.

"Here in Steamboat, people really appreciate music," she said.

By putting on the day camps, Bearfoot Bluegrass is able to both spread bluegrass to a new generation and hold performances of its own. "We're able to be a touring band and spread the music to children," said Woodlee. "But the most important thing is that (the children) learn to play music together."

Norris hopes that the children will not only learn to play together, but also will continue to do so after the camp ends.

"Hopefully, by the end, they can play music together and play in bands around town when we're gone," Norris said.

All of the band members are from Alaska and participated in bluegrass camps themselves while growing up. Kate Hamre and Megan McCormick join Norris, Oudean and Woodlee as the five Bearfoot Bluegrass members.

As part of the Beaux Art Festival, Bearfoot Bluegrass will perform in a free concert at 6 p.m. Thursday on Headwall. The public is invited to a free performance by the camp participants at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Bud Warner Memorial Library.

Other festival events this week include a painting workshop, a symphony concert, sculpting workshop, performances of "La BohÃme" and the Art Car Stampede.

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