But whats a young player of oldtime music to do?
The answer: Go to the Oly Kids Jam, a monthly afternoon of doit-yourself music launched in the summer by fiddle teachers Deb Collins, Anthea Lawrence, Pam Margon and Jesse Partridge and cello teacher Steve Cifka.
Its great for kids to play with other kids, said Emily Teachout, whose daughters, Maggie and Ruby Neatherlin, attend the jam. Its a completely different thing than playing by yourself. Theres jam etiquette. You want to pick tunes that people know, and you want to not go ripping into them at such a speed that nobody can keep up.
Kids who are classically trained get used to the idea of playing in an ensemble with others pretty early, Lawrence said, but kids who are fiddlers maybe dont have a chance to make music together in larger groups.
While Maggie, 12 and in seventh grade at NOVA School, and Ruby, 8 and in third grade at Lincoln Elementary, are also involved in multiple bands including the family band Fiddle-I-Ay the jam serves a larger purpose for the kids who attend and for the local traditional music scene.
The young musicians learn a core repertoire that they can share whenever the opportunity to play together arises, and they can teach and inspire one another. They pick up tunes from one another, and thats a great thing, Teachout said.
To make things fun for a broad range of ages and abilities, the jam is divided into two parts separated by a break for snacks and running around.
The first hour involves playing simple songs at fairly slow speeds so that less-experienced players can participate fully and be inspired by their more-experienced peers, while the second part involves faster and more complex songs to challenge seasoned players.
The jam, which typically includes 10-25 musicians ages 6-14, began in June with Lawrences inspiration and Partridges help in securing space at the South Bay Grange, which allows the jammers to use the space free. For the past three years, Lawrence has led a jam session for children and teens at the annual Oly Old-Time Festival. She decided that one opportunity a year was not enough. Its fun to get everybody playing together and used to jamming, she said.
While the jammers have thus far been mostly fiddlers (along with Cifkas cello students), Lawrence said that any instrument is welcome as is any musician who knows a handful of tunes, no matter how simple.
So far we havent had banjos or mandolins or pennywhistles or anything like that, but they are totally welcome, she said, adding that cellos, not typically a traditional-music instrument, fit in beautifully.
The benefits to jamming arent all musical, Teachout said.
We feel so lucky to be in Olympia right now where there is a community of kid musicians and great teachers, she said. A lot of really great friendships between the kids have grown out of this, too. Its a really big part of our life.