Homeschool Bluegrass

Home School Bluegrass Festival

by Maribeth Samenus-Chambers

“It’s not about winnings. It’s about connections made.””

So spoke D.A. Callaway in his measured tone to the crowd at the Silver Dollar City Youth in Bluegrass competition back in May. Fast-forward to dripping heat of August 22-24 and a heaping measure of truth in those words shone through at the Homeschool Music Fest in El Dorado Springs, MO.

The festival was hatched at Silver Dollar City about eight years ago after Krista Nissley heard a family plaing bluegrass — just mom, dad and two little girls. As she stopped to listen, she thought, “What if?”

What began as a “bee in a bonnet,” according to Nissley who with her husband Nathan began the Homeschool Music Fest in 2006, has blossomed from one family playing for about 120 folks at a church camp into many bands and individuals playing for more than 450 folks this year. Camp Galilee isn’t the original campground but it provides the facilities and room the Nissleys needed for this homeschool family festival.

Heat soaring over the century mark did not singe anyone’s love for bluegrass and gospel. Families stayed in cabins (some air-conditioned but most not), in tents, in buses and at a local motel.

Friday, homeschool families shows up for the camp potluck with music and fellowship. Musicians, old and young alike, pro and newbie both, signed up for a band scramble to perform Saturday evening.

Saturday began with a session by the Lindsey Family titled “Cultivating Music in the Home.” The newly formed, thusly scrambled bands began practicing and the talent show started early afternoon. Saturday evening featured a catered meal followed by performances from the RussellClan (Guthrie, OK) and The Lindsey Family (Greensburg, KY). Band scrambles then performed to the delight of the audience — with square dancing into the night. Sunday morning was a spiritually strengthening worship time.

Krista and Nathan kept folks feeling right at home, as did their older children. The Nissley family has seven children, ages three to 23. They played at the festival and for the Sunday worship service. “Our five oldest kids all play or are learning,” said Krista. A beginning point for the family was with Suzuki violin. The three oldest kids play regularly in church and selectively as a group. “As most mothers probably do, I love hearing my kids play together!”

And crowds sat on slatted benches for hours listening to the variety of family bands — from the Texan sound of the Sawyer family to the beautiful harmonies of the Meyerband (which has been attending since the festival’s 2006 beginning) to the riveting harmonies of the Silver Dollar City number one Youth in Bluegrass winners: The Lindsey Family.

Fellowship with homeschool families from all over the country blessed many. “It’s just amazing to watch so many young people get such enjoyment out of playing music, isn’t it?” one mom asked.

Right on, mama!

September 5, 2014

plate 1. Sign onstage to remind all of the beauty of expressing through music for God's glory.

Homeschool Bluegrass

plate 2. Band scramble with Hazelnut Express' Nathaniel Hutson, Rebekah Lindsey, Hannah Farnum, Sarah Hutson and Evangeline Grace. Hidden from view is Tyler Nissley on bass.

Homeschool Bluegrass

plate 3. Next to the new Christian Family Band magazine, pioneered by the Durocher Family band, are the cans musicians would enter their instrument preference for the band scramble.

Homeschool Bluegrass

plate 4. Sophie, Dominic and John Chambers of ChamberMusic, one of the performing bands, during a sound check.

Homeschool Bluegrass

plate 5. First practicing for the band scramble are Daniel Farnum, Sophie Chambers of the band, “You Wish you Had a Cello.”

Homeschool Bluegrass

plate 6. The main performing group for the weekend, the Lindsey Family, featured newest musicians Michael and Olivia, a true delight to the crowd. Rebekah and Timothy render musical finesse!

Homeschool Bluegrass

plate 7. Dancing the night away! Once the performances were done, families learned the basics of square dancing.

Photo credits: Maribeth Samenus-Chambers.

dogwood petal Homeschool Bluegrass

plate A. Alan and Tammy Lindsey, mom and pop of the clan!

Cultivating Music in the Home

by Maribeth Samenus-Chambers

(El Dorado, MO) — Alan Lindsey — backed up on mandolin, guitar, bass and violin by a few of his 11 children — offered words of reflection about cultivating a family-centered life via music that serves God and others.

Three keys to helping your children learn: buy quality instruments, learn by ear and early on, let them learn via video. And these quality instruments in the home should be accessible, pater of the musically talented Lindsey Family said. The Lindseys were just 2 hours south of Kansas City in late August as the highlighted performers of the HomeSchool Music Fest. “Make instruments freely available,” he said. “You teach them to take care of valuable things and you will see amazing improvements.”

He also says start them early, say three, but not necessarily with a 1/10 size violin as most Suzuki-oriented parents might do. “Start them on a ukulele and keep it tuned.” He also suggested the parent learn with the child as it can become a form of reverse psychology: parent vs child. Both will learn and probably the child — with the more pliable brain — will learn quicker. He cited a few such incidents in the Lindsey household.

Also let them learn multiple instruments, “like cross-fertilization,” he said. They get better on both, he said. He asked seven-year-old Michael to bring his mandolin up to play for the crowd.

Michael had been using the video series the family sells to learn the instrument. Determined and dogged, the sweet little guy played Boil that Cabbage Down.

“But our primary responsibility is to train kids in the Lord,” he said. His family has directed their efforts to that thorough the many performances and travels every year. One way to spread the message of music, both bluegrass and gospel, is by attending local jams, playing at nursing homes and developing a music ministry at churches. “These all create challenging situations that encourage growth,” he said.

When you say yes to providing music in this way to honor God, He will take your natural ability and add ’super’ to it, Alan said. He and his wife, Tammy agreed that encouraging kids to spend time with Godly older people and less time with peers helps them grow. That can be manifested in music. Playing with mom and dad and siblings is now a “family event,” he said, standing in front of a stained-glass window at Camp Galilee, El Dorado Springs, Mo. “To the extent beyond that, ‘Amen.’”

On the window were the words: “Fishers of men.”


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