Traditions exist because one person teaches another person to value them and keep them going. As old-time musicians, there are many traditions we hold dear and legacies we are continuing. GPDA is committed to educating new players, sharing traditional music with others through performances, and sustaining music gatherings in our community. We believe in tradition and we are passionate about making sure our traditions continue.
One of my life missions is to teach young people in my community, as well as to equip adults to teach the young people in their lives. As part of this mission, I partner with many local organizations including GPDA, Kansas Bluegrass Association (KBA), Arts Partners Wichita, and Northfield School of the Arts. Each organization has a different focus, but they all have one thing in common – a desire to teach young people to appreciate the arts, and particularly traditional American music. You'll see a flier for KBA's festival in this month's newsletter – they are extending a welcome to our community to get involved and be a part of their event. We may even have an opportunity to help them put on an instrument petting zoo, including dulcimers! I'll have more information about it all at our February meeting. For more information about the festival, visit www.KansasBluegrass.org
I also recently partnered with my friend Bill Wake to develop a dulcimer-sharing network of sorts called Advance the Music. Our mission is to provide resources to advance the music to the next generation. We are collecting dusty instruments – the ones currently living under beds and in the attic – to give to children who otherwise could not afford an instrument. We plan to provide educational resources to help kids learn music and train adults to become teachers. We are developing curriculum to help dulcimer clubs reach out to young people in their communities. We will be partnering with existing dulcimer school programs, scholarship programs like Dulcimers for David, and online music instruction sites. Advance the Music is in the development stage, but you can learn more about it at www.AdvanceTheMusic.org
As members of GPDA, all of you are part of making this happen. You inspire me, give me opportunities to try out new ideas, and provide valuable feedback to help these ideas move forward. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve south-central Kansas alongside each of you.
I am also on the look-out for other opportunities to encourage young people. I'd love to brainstorm with you about ways to bring more youth to traditional music. Perhaps we could host a few more instrument petting zoos at libraries across Kansas. Maybe we can set up a scholarship fund to help kids get lessons or instruments. Maybe we create a kid-friendly playlist in addition to our Traditional, Gospel, and Christmas playlists. Send me your ideas and let's work together to pass this music on to another generation!
-Erin Mae Lewis, President