Unit 1: Bluegrass with David and Tabitha
Bluegrass is a style of American roots music that dates back to the 1700s, when English, Scottish, and Welsh immigrants settled in Appalachia, and brought with them ballads (unaccompanied narrative songs) and reels (dance tunes accompanied by a fiddle). These came together with African American traditions—first the banjo, which came from west Africa, then elements of blues, and later jazz and gospel. Bluegrass is an acoustic country style rather than an urban one.
Bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe described it as: “Scottish bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin’. It’s Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It’s blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound.” The classic bluegrass band includes banjo, fiddle (violin), guitar, mandolin, and bass. As in jazz, the instrumentalists take turns playing the melody and improvising around it as the rest of the band accompanies them. Bluegrass can be heard at festivals all over the world where bluegrass musicians and fans gather to jam, socialize and share in the community that bluegrass music lends itself.
Meet David and Tabitha
The Foreign Landers is a duo hailing from opposite sides of the Atlantic united by their love of bluegrass, traditional folk music, and each other. David Benedict grew up in South Carolina playing with the only Celtic folk band in town, while Tabitha Agnew started playing the 5-string banjo in Northern Ireland at 12 years old. Both soon discovered the traditional music of their own countries and excelled at their instruments. Now married and based in the States, the Benedicts are making music on their own. Their debut EP Put All Your Troubles Away marks the first chapter in their journey together, and this adventurous recording will take you along with them to uncharted musical territories.
Lesson 1: Exploring “Uncle Pen”
Students learn to sing “Uncle Pen” and use movement to identify the different parts of a bluegrass song form.
Go to Lesson 1: Exploring “Uncle Pen” →
Lesson 2: Learning “Put All Your Troubles Away”
Students learn “Put All Your Troubles Away,” and explore the different parts of a bluegrass jam.
Go to Lesson 2: Learning “Put All Your Troubles Away” →
Visit www.savannahmusicfestival.org to hear live performances from contemporary bluegrass musicians such as Mike Marshall, Béla Fleck, Ricky Skaggs, Balsam Range, IIIrd Tyme Out, and many others.
Additional Teaching Resources:
- “Bluegrass in the Schools” is a comprehensive, year-round program from The Foundation for Bluegrass Music including an educational DVD, teacher guide, and mini-grants for funding live bluegrass performances in schools.
- “Put All Your Troubles Away” – The Foreign Landers
- “Shake and Howdy” – The Foreign Landers