Coletrain Music Academy’s ‘72 Volkswagen bus will be parked on the festival grounds at the Meadows for Renewal next weekend, bringing a mini music camp for children 12 and under to get hands-on experience learning to do, well, the kinds of things the folks on stage are going to be doing.
The Strings and Song Kids Music Workshop will take place on the Saturday of Renewal, on the 23rd, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The workshop will be led by professional musicians, including Coletrain director and Rapidgrass fiddler Coleman Smith, and will include an instrument show-and-tell, a family jam, and group lessons on the basics of playing the ukulele, guitar, mandolin and fiddle.
“We launched this pop-up kids music camp last summer when we got our VW Bus, our little Coletrain tour bus … primarily at the festivals that Coleman was playing at,” said Coletrain director of marketing Robin Vega. “It’s just a really cool, well-rounded experience for kids to see an artist performing on stage playing a guitar or violin and then come over to the music camp to check out the string instruments and just relate the two.”
They’ll hold sign-ups for the Saturday workshop on Friday at Coletrain’s “creative station” on the festival grounds.
Families can also register online at coletrainmusicacademy.com/renewalfestival
The music workshop has traveled to Seven Peaks, the Rapidgrass Festival in Idaho Springs, and last year’s inaugural Renewal Festival.
“The Renewal festival is quite large this year in terms of the number of kids registered,” Vega said. Renewal producers had told her that around 600 children were registered for the two-day festival. Last year, the number was 400, and Vega estimates that over 300 visited the Coletrain station.
In response to that volume, Coletrain will be offering lessons in groups rather than one-on-one and is working with sponsors the Bluegrass Journeyman and Elderly Instruments to provide an expanded “fleet” of instruments to show and tell.
“It was really unique last year in that for most of the festivals we’ve done so far, the most popular instrument that the children gravitate towards is the guitar, or maybe a ukulele,” Vega said. “At Billy Strings last year, for whatever reason, every child wanted to try the fiddle. I can’t help but relate it to Alex Hargreaves, Billy Strings’ fiddle player. He was a new addition to the band and he was spectacular.
“We only had two fiddles and one fiddle teacher – Coleman was the only one there. So he just had a line of children for two days straight from the time we opened to the time we closed,” Vega said. “It’s really cool to see what sparks their curiosity. They’re highly immersed in it at these festivals.”
Another lesson learned from last year’s Revival: the guided lessons will be held just outside the main festival area in the family camping area to allow the sessions to take place in a quieter environment.
“It’s very family-friendly. That’s part of the culture with (Renewal producer) Bonfire Entertainment,” Vega said. “We’re so excited that Scotty (Stoughton, Bonfire’s founder) continues to call on Coletrain to collaborate on this type of programming. We go to amazing music festivals; They’re great, they have awesome lineups, but it’s rare that you have someone who really makes it a priority to have cool programming like this.”
Coletrain may also take its workshops to other Bonfire Entertainment projects like Winter Wondergrass.
The workshop is also bringing a larger group of instructors, including Casey Houlihan of Trout Steak Revival, Bonnie Culpepper, Gordon Lewis and Grace Easley Roma Ransom and Miles and Teo Quayle of Crying Uncle.
“We’re just over the moon that we’re going to have A, help this year, and B, that we have a heavy-hitting list of musicians to guide these kids through some lessons,” Vega said. “We’re just very lucky to have such a great group of collaborators who all place such a high importance on music education.”
These events, Vega said, have inspired some families to enroll their children in further music education, such as three families the team met at last year’s Renewal who returned to Buena Vista for Coletrain’s summer music camp.
“We still get emails from families who attended a Seven Peaks music camp, and they give us updates of how their child is progressing with their instruments. It’s very rewarding,” she said.