Vermont continues to be home for a wide range of traditional music and dance, a tapestry of people from other places, many who brought their traditions with them. Some arrived hundreds of years ago, mostly from Europe, and others more recently, from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The state has consistently inspired singers, instrumentalists and dancers, and is deservedly identified for the creativity and contributions of its artists. We also have a wealth of talented children, youth and young adults, and a variety of accessible, high quality enrichment options related to sports, theater, visual arts, and classical and jazz music. However, Young Tradition Vermont is the only organization with its primary focus on young people, traditional music and dance, and a commitment to ensure what is offered is available at low or no cost.
Our programs are deliberately designed as a continuum. Exposure and inspiration leads to the commitment and discipline needed for learning. Opportunities to learn at a high level lead to being a performer. Performing inspires others at the beginning of the cycle, and being able to perform gets you to a place where you have the chance to serve, to use what you know to bring enjoyment and resources to others.
We operate over 2 dozen programs that impact young people and their families from infancy through early adulthood. Activities are designed to address at least one and ideally several of the following parts of our mission:
- inspire young people with traditional music and dance
- ensure opportunities for young people to learn about traditional music and dance
- ensure that young people have performing opportunities using traditional music and dance
- ensure that young people have opportunities to use what has inspired them, what they have learned and their performing experience to serve others, including families with children in life-altering situations.
We have worked hard and had success in making mission components part of everything we do. A percentage of revenue from public events goes to the Tom Sustic Fund, which supports families with children with life-altering conditions. Service opportunities have included programs at the Vermont Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Memorial Service at Ira Allen Chapel at UVM.
In 2001 Tom Sustic died, at age 16, after a two-year battle (‘massacre’) with leukemia. Over the course of his family’s life, including his father Mark Sustic’s involvement as a musician, teacher and event producer, there were many connections with a wide variety of performers. In 2002 several musicians offered to do a performance as part of a series of concerts in Burlington designed to create and sustain a fund established in Tom’s memory. The Tom Sustic Fund was established from those contributions, and has continued with its support families who have children at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Vermont, the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire and occasionally at other hospitals throughout North America when families from the region travel for specialized care.
We believe that inspiration leads to the commitment and discipline needed for learning. Opportunities to learn lead to being able to perform. Performing inspires others at the beginning of the cycle, and being a performer gets you to a place where you have the chance to use what you can do to bring enjoyment to and resources to others who need support.
It is an organization that strives to link initial interest, exposure and engagement with later leadership and mastery. An example….. A child gets introduced with the instrument petting zoo or at a performance. They identify an instrument they’re interested in and borrow one from the loan program. They get referred to a private teacher with some free lessons. They attend Trad Camp. They participate in Fiddleheads monthly sessions or a school-based fiddle tunes club. They perform at low-key family friendly situations with other young musicians. They then perform on their own or form a performing group with friends. They join the Touring Group as an apprentice or associate member. They return another year and become an anchor member. They start teaching private lessons, are hired as faculty at Trad Camp, record a CD, and use music and dance with Young Tradition Vermont as a component of college application, acceptance, and area of study. They return for the annual Young Tradition Weekend and reunion concerts. They become members of the Board of Directors. They start or lead another organization and collaborate with YTV as a presenter. They have their own children and bring them to the instrument petting zoo and performances……
There are some things we have come to believe based on our experience…..
- Children, youth and young adults are not one-dimensional when it comes to music and dance….. someone who attends the monthly Fiddleheads session is a youth orchestra member who plays in the jazz band at school and learns the latest pop song from YouTube…… when exposed to traditional music and dance as an option, some (not all) will choose to learn and play at concerts, festivals and dances with equal enthusiasm and interest
- Creating the stars of tomorrow isn’t the point….. the point is participation….. performing serves to increase participation and interest, not to create performers
- unless you’re Abenaki (Native American), the only major difference between New Americans today and those of 200 years ago is time of arrival….. Tibetans, Nepalese, Burmese, Somalians, Burundians, Iraqis and others have arrived in Vermont recently….. Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Italians and others arrived many more years ago
Lots of organizations offer youth-oriented programs….. what makes Young Tradition Vermont different?
- infancy to young adulthood continuum….and beyond (participants who age-out as YTV consumers become leaders e.g. board members, teachers, contractors, founders and directors of collaborating organizations)
- no staff other than a part time Executive Director
- very little in fixed assets…. no office, no facilities, no capital campaigns….. all we really own is a large collection of loaner and petting zoo instruments…. that collection is stored is with a collaborating organization
- priority on FREE or as-low-as possible access to instruments, instruction and events (performances, festivals, showcases, etc.)
- emphasis on collaboration vs. doing things on our own….. in fact, the surest way for us to not initiate a project is when we can’t find at least one collaborator….. we feel we can best serve our collaborators by being nimble enough to stand in front when we need to take the lead, to stand beside them when we can contribute and take risks equally, or to stand behind them (or stay out of their way!) while they take the lead