Youth Traditional Song Weekend

I met Nicole Singer during Traditional Song Week at the Swannanoa Gathering in 2013. There seems to be a concern that community singing, and folk music events in general, seem to attract mainly an older audience. Nicole told me about Youth Traditional Song Weekend and that proved to me that if you create something great, people of all ages will come along. I asked her to send more information about the event, and this is what she sent:

This January, 160 people will travel to western Massachusetts to attend Youth Traditional Song Weekend, a youth-focused (though not youth-exclusive) weekend of learning, connecting, community-building, and enthusiastic participatory singing.

Youth Traditional Song WeekendYouth Traditional Song Weekend’s mission is to hold an event that is geographically and financially accessible for all generations, but with real commitment to enabling as many “young” people to attend as possible. Our vision includes lots of singing, of course, but also the opportunity to discuss and reflect on cultural implications, best social singing practices, and ways to cultivate regular singing events in home communities. There will be workshops, mini-concerts, discussion sessions, and song swaps, all with plenty of time for unstructured singing.

Three staff members will lead workshops in their areas of expertise (read about the YTS 2014 staff for past examples), and we also encourage attendees to share songs and ideas as well as practice leading workshops on topics related to traditional singing. Attendee-led workshops have ranged far and wide, including song swaps and workshops on particular genres (“The Anti-Pub Sing,” “Southern Appalachian Ballads,” and “Around the World in 80 Songs,” to name a few), discussions (on topics like finding reliable online song resources and what to do when things go wrong while singing a song), and a few traditional dance workshops (Molly dancing and flatfooting). The workshops have already spawned further song sessions, discussion and even a Google+ Hangout singing session (“experiment in live online a cappella harmony singing”).

Youth Trad Song Weekend was born when, after attending Youth Dance Weekend in Vermont in 2011, I thought to myself, “What if there were a similar weekend for songs?” I and many of my friends had been attending folk festivals and singing events for years. While we knew that many young people were excited about traditional songs, young singers were underrepresented at song-focused events and scattered across different communities with few ways to connect with one another. I approached a handful of singers and organizers with a proposal for a Youth Traditional Song Weekend. People jumped on board and formed the original Youth Trad Song Committee: Julia Friend, Jonathan Leiss, Ian McGullam, Mel Novner, Anna Nowogrodzki, Rhys McGovern, Natty Smith, Becky Wright and me.

The first Youth Trad Song was met with such enthusiasm that we quickly organized a second one, and we are delighted to be in the process of planning for the third annual Youth Traditional Song Weekend. It will be held at Camp Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA in Becket, MA on the weekend of January 9-11, 2015. Registration will open in September! For more information, visit the Youth Trad Song website, check us out on Facebook, and join our mailing list. We’d love to see you there!

Youth Trad Song Weekend is supported in part by the New Leaders, Good Leaders fund of the Country Dance and Song Society, the Folk Song Society of Greater Boston, NEFFA, the Folklore Society of Greater Washington, and generous donations from the folk song community.

Nicole Singer

Thanks Nicole! And here’s to another successful weekend of community singing!

For more information about the upcoming event, check out their web site.

About Matt Watroba

Many of you will know Matt from his radio work both locally in Detroit, Michigan, and nationally through and as the founding host of The Sing Out! Radio Magazine. Some may also know him as a performer. He has performed throughout the country, both as a solo, and with his musical partner Robert Jones. But Matt considers himself, first and foremost, a community singer and song leader. He has spread the joy of singing together on concert stages, at festivals, in educational settings and in workshops for more than 25 years. For the past several years, he has taught community singing and performance at the Swanannoa Gathering in North Carolina during its Traditional Song Week. And he is also a regular contributor to Sing Out! magazine.

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