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Youth String Band: Playing Together, Pandemic Style

Hello musical friends and neighbors! I’m Jonathan Vocke—banjo, ukulele, guitar, mandolin, and violin teacher for the School of Musical Traditions.

We are very excited to announce that we will be offering—for the first time EVER—an in-person/virtual hybrid youth string band class!

Before we go any further, let us assure you that we are taking COVID-19 very seriously here at the school and we will be implementing a number of safety precautions for the in-person workshop meetings.

So what is a youth string band? For starters, string band—also known as “oldtime music”—is a popular form of folk music that most commonly accompanies square dances and that sort of thing.

In the youth workshop, we will be learning a set of 3 to 5 tunes that we will be able to play together as a band by the end of our time together. Students will learn to play melody and rhythm for the tunes while also learning the social skills of musical collaboration, such as playing well with others, listening well, and filling different roles in an ensemble.

My student and I are now looking for 2 to 3 more young string players (ideally between the ages of 9 to 16, but parents are encouraged to contact us about exceptions) to participate in the 8-week class! The cost for the entire workshop is $250 and it will run from March 10th to April 21st.

Here are some of the precautions we are taking for the in-person classes at the SMT Rockville location:

-The lessons will be held in a large indoor meeting area usually sized for 40, but we will only be accepting a maximum of 5 participants.
-The school has purchased large plexiglass dividers (6′ tall by 5′ wide) so we can be further protected from each other.
-Masks will be mandatory, and hand sanitizer will be on-hand for use.
-Temperature checks will be taken prior to each meeting
-We are only offering this within the SMT community so it will be a good way for students to connect.
-We will only have 4 in-person meetings, while the other meetings will be virtual.
-Flexible absence policies are in place to ensure students and parents feel no pressure to be present if they feel ill.

As for class scheduling, we will meet for 8 sessions that will be broken down the following way:

-Weeks 1,3, and 5 will be in-person, 2-hour jam sessions/practice.
-Weeks 2,4, and 6 will be private 30-minute lessons for each student in the group as well as a 30-minute group chat, all of which will be over video chat.
-Week 7 will conclude the workshop with a livestreamed concert of us performing together in the studio for the participants’ friends and families over Zoom.

If you think that you or your student is the right person for our band, shoot us an email at lessons@schoolofmusicaltraditions.com to get started!

Jonathan Vocke has traveled the world studying folk music in many styles. His passion for music lies somewhere between the mournful old-timey ballad and the high-octane fiddle tune, after his own experiences and through the words of great American songwriters. Jonathan is an active performer and jam leader  in the DC and Baltimore area. As a teacher, Jonathan enjoys helping his students become more proficient in their instruments as soloists and group players. He ties in ear training, relevant music theory,  and techniques to avoid injury so that his students can find their groove, work out their style, and improve their overall musicality. His rich knowledge of old-time and bluegrass tunes will add to the repertoire of any aspiring bluegrass or old-time player. Jonathan teaches guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and ukulele.