Mountain music and children mix
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[SEPT. 16, 2006]
In September, Jasper Blankenship
comes down from his cabin on the mountain for several reasons. He
has to gather supplies for the winter, which includes a whopping
amount of chain saw gas, of course. It gets cold up there.
There are groceries, too, and new doodads he's had time to peruse in
the mail-order catalogs over the summer months. But there's also his
time with the kids. Jasper brings his fiddle down the mountain with
him, buys some new strings for it if necessary and then heads over
to the school. Little kids are his specialty.
first-graders are really interested in music," he says. "They seem
to have more of an appreciation for the finer things. When they turn
into second-graders, life seems to be more… well, they just kinda
turn cynical on a guy."
His instrument is technically a violin, of course, but the way he
plays it and the kind of music he plays make it a fiddle. Forget the
ballads of Bartok, the concertos of Tchaikovsky, the sweet sounds of
Smetana. None of these are in Jasper's repertoire, nor are they ever
likely to be. His music is that of the barn dances, the tall hills
of our land, the sweet ramblings of Celtic music his ancestors
brought with them from England, Ireland and Scotland.
[to top of second
He learned his music strictly by ear, and learned it from sitting
late at night outside dance halls, listening to the fiddles when he
was too young to go in, and then taking his memories home and
learning each tune on his fiddle.
So he plays for the little guys at school and tells them stories.
And he always waits until one of the children notices that the last
joint on one of his fingers on the left hand is missing, the result
of a farming accident in his youth. Of course, that's not what he
tells the kids.
"When I was a boy," he says, holding up the partial digit in
question, "we didn't have enough money for real violin strings. I
had to use barbed wire."
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