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18 January 2016

Passing It On: A Winter Look Under the Young Tradition Vermont Hood

by Mark Sustic

It occurred to me recently that part of every one of my days is filled with Young Tradition Vermont.  On Sunday I traveled to Randolph to pick up violins for the instrument petting zoo and the instrument loan program, then to Georgia to work on setting them up for distribution.  Today is a visit to Music for Sprouts in Shelburne and tonight the monthly Baird 5 music session with Collin Cope and Chris Page.  Saturday was Fiddleheads with Dominique Dodge at the Burlington Violin Shop in Burlington.  All last week was Wonder Week Fiddle Club at Integrated Arts Academy. Pick any day and I’m confident I could give you a handful of significant activities related to Young Tradition Vermont. To say I live and breathe the organization would be an understatement!

If you have seen the website recently you’ll notice a total redesign. We are still sorting out the finer points but are excited about this new way of representing the width and depth of what we’re doing. The redesigned calendar is a revelation.  The list under the programs drop-down menu will continue to be expanded.  Thanks to Dana Whittle and Mary Wesley for the re-creation and the continuing adjustments.

Existing programs continue to expand and improve. New opportunities continue to emerge. Board members Julia Wayne and Nijaza Semic and Brian Perkins are working on a lullaby project with mothers from the New American community.  Board member Bill Ellis has signed up for playing a Baird 5 session.  Board member Rachel Schattman and daughter Amelia attended the Music for Sprouts session today.  We’ve talked to the Vermont Folklife Center about an exhibit featuring Instruments and traditional artists who play them linked with the loan program and the petting zoo.  Interest in the concept of site-based fiddle clubs has continued to grow.

We had a successful end-of-year financial appeal, with a variety of individuals and organizations renewing or contributing for the first time. Best of all, several thousand children and youth had opportunities to be inspired, to learn and to perform traditional music and dance.

Here are some comments about what’s happening with some of our 20+ programs……

  • Instrument petting zoo.  Coordination and management of the zoo was transitioned from Sophia Donforth effective January 1. Between the Vermont International Festival in early December and First Night! Burlington on New Year’s Eve the instruments were handled by over 2,000 children in the last 2 months, with a number of those returning for another go, again and again. We are convinced we discovered some musical hearts and minds by putting these instruments in the hands of these children. Future installations include the Milton Recreation Department, the Burlington Irish heritage Festival and the Swanton Public Library.
  • Concerts: Our next concert presentation is on January 24 at New City Gallerie in Burlington with the group Alash from Tuva in Central Asia. They won the contest about 10 years ago and it’s always astounding when they can come back.  The annual teacher-student showcase concert is scheduled for February 6th at City Hall in Burlington.  Over 20 different performance segments involving dozens and dozens of singers dancers and instrumentalists with their teachers and mentors are signed up. Dana Lyn and Kyle Sanna will be performing at the Burlington Violin Shop on February 17. Dana was last here with Mick Moloney and Robbie O’Connell for a concert at UVM, maybe 20  years ago. They are composing and performing music that is simply astounding. We had a great night with Dirk Powell and Riley Baugus on December 8th at the Burlington Violin Shop. Lots of other fun stuff coming up including Bruce Molsky trio in October and the return of Heartbeat around the election season, deepening the musical and peace partnerships with Israeli and Palestinian youth.
  • Fiddleheads:  We have just started a residency with Dominique Dodge who will be teaching the group O’Carolan repertoire in preparation for a performance in June at the 2016 Carolan Festival. Pascal Gemme completed his second annual fall residency and returns next fall for the third. We’ve begun a after school fiddle club component to Fiddleheads, with new sessions being planned in the North End of Burlington and in Shelburne.
  • Reunion concerts: We have repositioned the annual January reunion concert to Young Tradition Weekend on May 14th at the Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center. After the contest and the awards presentation, we will feature some recent contest winners during an early evening showcase.  2014 contest winner Eric George will host and perform with a variety of others. The Farewell Reunion concert in Sheldon has been scheduled for Friday, May 27. We’re planning to keep the same format as last year: a variety of guests and friends for the first set and then a full set by others after an intermission.
  • Showcase performances: We continue to collaborate with other presenters to feature young performers. Ella Staats did a performance at First Night Burlington associated with the Instrument Petting Zoo installation.  2015 contest winners Tommy and Jordan Belanger will be doing an opening set for De Temps Antan on March 11th as part of the UVM Lane Series. There will continue to be a Young Tradition Day at the Big E in the Vermont Building in West Springfield in late September/early October.
  • Young Tradition Weekend: Sophia Donforth is signed on as Young Tradition Weekend manager. In addition to the school assembly, the Friday night contradance, the contest on Saturday, the performance on Baird 5 at the hospital and the awards reception, this year’s weekend includes our first ever educators conference on Friday at Bishop Booth Center and a reunion concert on Saturday night after the awards. The contest video link for competitors is up and running on our Facebook page. Please encourage young singers dancers and instrumentalists to enter.  Over $2000 in prizes!
  • Trad Camp:  Sophia Donforth manages again this year and we’re back at Lake Champlain Waldorf High School for the last full week in July. Instructors and the schedule are pretty well set. A nice balance of new folks and some long time favorites. Registration will be open soon on the website.
  • Instrument Loan Program:  Almost all of our full-sized and fractional sized-violins are out on loan. A collection of violins previously owned and played by legendary Vermont Fiddler Harold Loose will soon become part of the loan program. Thanks to the generosity of a sponsor we are now able to offer an initial fiddle lesson or 2 to fiddle loan recipients. We are deeply impressed to notice that not a single instrument in the loan rotation has been damaged or lost, ever!
  • Music for Sprouts: Chris Dorman continues to run a highly successful program for infants and toddlers and their parents at Bread and Butter Farm.  We’ve been happy to support the conceptualization of a public television program associated with Music for Sprouts. A fundraising project for this part of the program will be launched soon.
  • Public School Partnerships: Our partnership with the Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington continues to thrive. Brian Perkins completed the first phase of the One Sings project and will kick off the second phase in March. We continue to schedule visiting artists for Friday all school meetings.  Nepali dance was featured in January and Jeh Kulu doing West African music and dance will be visiting in February. Our partnership with Edmunds Middle School begins this Thursday with visiting artists including Mediha Jusufagic, Ismael Bangoura, Anwar Agha, Migmar Tsering and Dominique Dodge, a project that is also a collaboration with Kathleen Haughey at the Vermont Folklife Center. There is a lullaby project under way at Burlington High School and we will be meeting soon with the Flynn Elementary School about supplementing their after school program.
  • Young Tradition Touring Troup: The Touring Group has completed more than half of it’s rehearsals for the year and debuted it’s concert program at the end of December in Shelburne. Before leaving for Ireland April 16 the group will be performing on February 20 in Montpelier, March 12 in Burlington, April 2 in Shelburne and April 15 in Boston. Our fundraising projects are in full swing. Andrea Beaton was a guest instructor in January and we’re looking forward to a guest session with Andre Brunet in early March.
  • Baird 5 Sessions: The monthly music sessions on Baird 5 at the University of Vermont Medical Center continues most 3rd Mondays.  Young Tradition Vermont alum Anna Roberts-Gevalt did crankies, tunes and songs in December.  Collin Cope and Chris Page are doing a session tonight.  Linda Bassick returns in February.
  • Classes: Collaborating with FlynnArts and coordinated by Eric George, we will be supporting a busking class this summer. Participants will develop repertoire and have lots of field experience on the Church Street marketplace. Details will be announced when FlynnArts releases it’s summer program schedule.
  • Tom Sustic Fund: Occasionally a family’s needs and challenges with a hospitalized child extends over many months and sometimes years.  The Fund has recently been able to support a family who’s child has had many complications and continued crises.  In our small way we been able to make a big difference when it matters the most.
  • Young Folks Doing Old Stuff Conference:  Conference manager Mary Wesley has been working hard on what has developed into a fantastic program for our first ever educator’s conference on May 13 at Bishop Booth Center in Burlington, a new part of our annual Young Tradition Weekend. There’s more information available on the website including recently opened registration. The Quebec Government Office in Boston has been instrumental in initiating this project and will be an important part in its presentation. Other key partners include the Country Dance and Song Society and the Vermont Folklife Center.

Contact me if you’d like to talk about any of these programs and activities.  Now….. back to work!