Soundbites: The Young Tradition Fest connects generations and cultures; Sunday Evening Mass Lives | Music News + Views | Seven days
I never took music lessons in school or played in a jazz band. I considered myself too cool for such things when in reality I was just too socially awkward. I was lucky, however, to have a guitar teacher named Sherrod. Although he hated having to show me metal riffs, he made sure I practiced my scales, cut my nails, and cleaned my strings after playing.
I’m not going to lie: Sherrod might be shocked at how lazy I got to train. But I hope he would be proud to know that everything he taught me inspired me to have a lifelong relationship with my guitar and music in general.
As a kid in the 90s, I had music lessons available to me even in the desert that was North Carolina’s public school system. When I think about the current state of music education, however, I lose some sleep. According to the National Education Progress Assessment, arts education in schools has steadily declined since 1997. While budget cuts tend to be the immediate reason, the trend suggests that music is not seen as a an educational priority. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made matters worse – Zoom is not an ideal location for an orchestra rehearsal.
Firmly opposing this trend is Young Tradition Vermont, whose annual festival returns to Burlington this week. Founded in 2010 by Marc Sustic, the association encourages the participation of young people in traditional forms of music and dance. His touring group of students travel to places like Japan, Scotland and Cape Breton for cultural and musical exchange.
On hold since 2020, the Young Tradition Festival is back and bigger than ever May 2-8 at the Burlington City Hall Auditorium and various outdoor spaces downtown. It celebrates multi-generational relationships, especially those between mentors and their students – and this year it also celebrates the collaboration between Young Tradition Vermont and the Vermont Folklife Center.
“Traditional music and dance has been around for thousands and thousands of years,” Sustic said by phone. “Behind every student is a mentor, and that chain continues for generations. [Young Tradition Vermont] is part of this continuum. We feel responsible for ensuring that there is an environment in which these traditions can continue and even thrive.”
Growing up, Sustic recalls, he rejected much of the traditional music his family listened to, being obsessed with the Beatles and the dawn of rock and roll. He began to see the importance of connecting to musical traditions as a student at the University of Michigan, where exposure to more forms of music broadened his horizons.
Sustic eventually moved to eastern Vermont, where he founded the Champlain Valley Folk Festival in 1983; it lasted 29 years.
“I’m an educator and have been my whole life, so that’s a big part of that for me,” he said. “We are not here to replace music education at school, but rather [to] be a complement. We always try to work with school programs and colleges because we want those connections to be rooted in our community.”
To this end, the Festival Jeune Tradition offers many events aimed at attracting budding musicians. On Saturday, May 7, a showcase concert will feature a variety of young musicians and dancers who will speak and perform with their mentors, all demonstrating how important this relationship is to maintaining a healthy music education.
“Each pair will have about 10 minutes,” Sustic explained. “This is not so much a forum for [the students] to show what they’ve learned…because it’s a way of telling us how they and their mentor connected to music.”
For several days during the festival, Church Street will host a ‘Children’s Instrument Zoo’ – a collection of musical instruments for children to look at, touch and even play. For those intrigued and wanting to try lessons, Young Tradition offers an instrument loaner program: people 25 and under can take an instrument home for free for one year.
Young Tradition will also spotlight the Vermont Folklife Center‘s traditional arts learning program, in which new Americans reconnect with their musical roots. Beginning July 1, Sustic revealed, Young Tradition Vermont will be part of the Vermont Folklife Center.
“It’s not easy to merge nonprofits,” admitted Sustic. “But we really believe we can achieve what both organizations want best by teaming up.”
In addition to its educational aspect, the festival will offer performances by high-level traditional Quebec musicians. Quebec Irish Trio Grosse Isle will play at the Burlington City Hall Auditorium on Monday night, followed by Montreal SUMMER. Tuesdays, family orchestra of Quebec Zigue Wednesday evening and folk duo Babineau/Chartrand Thursday.
Sustic specifically wanted to feature Quebec artists at this year’s festival because Vermont has such a rich Canadian heritage.
“We’ve been trying to go to Quebec for three years and we failed,” he said. “So this is our first chance in a long time to get closer to Quebec music.”
Finally, on Sunday afternoon, the festival will pay tribute to the musicians involved in the organization and recently deceased. Marshfield composer Larry Gordonfolk singer Tony Barrand and English singer-songwriter Norma Waterson will be celebrated in a show hosted by the New England folk group carried by the wind.
Sustic hopes the festival will continue to inspire young people to choose instruments, whether or not they pursue a career in music.
“We are not a talent search,” he said. “We’re not so much trying to put people on stage as we’re trying to give people the ability to play music and keep it in their back pocket for life, whether they become performers or, say, carpenters. We think music is important to help kids socialize and be happy.”
Tickets for the Young Tradition festival are on sale at youngtraditionvermont.org.
Last week I inadvertently freaked out parts of the Burlington club scene. In conversation with Nexus Artist Management Justin Remillard about his new Synergy sessions on Saturday nights at Club Metronome, I mentioned that the series would replace the beloved Sunday Night Mass series.
Well, the reports of Sunday night mass disappearing (by, uh, me) were very exaggerated. Sunday Night Mass is alive and well and will return to Metronome on May 29 with a banger featuring EDM heavy hitters H-Foundation. Rémillard says Synergy Sessions will also continue to perform, so there’s a summer full of high-quality dance music to look forward to, despite what some silly music writers may have inferred.
Stowe-based rapper, songwriter and producer Kyle Milleralso known as Darryl Dunnit, has a new single called “Knock Me Down”. The track is the latest in a busy year for Miller, who has collaborated with other independent artists such as JetsonMade and O.G. Parker. “Knock Me Down,” which features the Kansas singer-rapper and Imperial Music artist T Rell, is a relaxing groove full of nervous beats, with an anthemic chorus ready to stick in your head. Find the track streaming on most services and watch out for Darryl Dunnit – he just might blow up this year.
Writer and artist from Vermont Michael Caduto has released a new song called “Children of Ukraine”. bestselling author Guardians of the Earth series wrote and recorded the track as a statement against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and as a fundraiser. All proceeds from the song will go to the Voices of Children Foundation and the Sunflower of Peace Foundation, both of which help Ukrainians affected by the invasion.
A sweet folk ballad arranged by Kent Allyn“Children of Ukraine” finds Caduto singing upbeat verses such as “So we go on with our lives; / We hope and pray that the people of Ukraine will one day find peace / And the world won’t take their eyes off their call full of hope. ”
“Children of Ukraine” is broadcast on YouTube.