Bearfoot Bluegrass band teaches 2-day workshop for kids

Posted: Thursday, August 08, 2002

The young members of the Bearfoot Bluegrass band have more musical experience than many musicians twice their age. As teen-agers they toured the Western United States for two summers as a professional bluegrass band and recorded a CD. The band is currently on a 100-day tour of the country, with a stop in California to make a second recording.

Band members will share their expertise in Juneau later this month when they teach a bluegrass camp for kids, a two-day workshop that will introduce youngsters to instruments, jamming, band dynamics and bluegrass music.

Bearfoot Bluegrass is based in Cordova and the band members Kate Hamre, Jason Norris, Mike Mickelson, Malani O'Toole, Angela Oudean and Annalisa Woodlee range in age from 17 to 20. O'Toole is not touring with the band this summer and has stayed in Cordova to work, play music and prepare for college.

"They all got their start playing music pretty young," said Pete Mickelson, father of guitarist Mike Mickelson. "All the parents are musicians except for me."

The kids were introduced to musical instruments between the ages of 4 and 8. A few years ago Mike's mother, Belle Mickelson, started a week-long music camp in Cordova, which further encouraged the aspiring players' musical development. Professional musicians such as Frank Solivan II served as instructors and mentors at the camp.

They began performing around age 13, and have been on stage in Cordova and at the Alaska Folk Festival since their early teens. Last year the band won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival's annual band competition.

Students ages 8 to 17 interested in the two-day Juneau camp will select an instrument or two to work on and will get focused attention from band members who play those instruments - bass, guitar, fiddle and mandolin. Beginning and intermediate level instruction will be provided. Band members also can help with harmony singing, musical interplay and stage presentation.

The Juneau Arts and Humanities Council is cosponsoring the camp, which meets Aug. 22 and 23 at Northern Light United Church. To register or find out more information, contact the arts council at 586-2787.

Bearfoot Bluegrass will perform a concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. Tickets are $12 at local bookstores and at the door.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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