Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association




A Festival of Bluegrass & Old-Time Music & Dance
Fri-Sun, March 6-8, 2015, Crowne Plaza Minneapolis West, Plymouth MN


GRASS SEEDS MUSIC ACADEMY & GS2: Now in our 12th year!

To register call 800-635-3037 or email to info@minnesotabluegrass.org. Registration fee is $85

Grass Seeds/GS2 is a MBOTMA sponsored, three day workshop for young pickers held each year in conjunction with the Winter Bluegrass Weekend. We meet for one session Friday night, two on Saturday and one Sunday morning. The kids then have the opportunity to show us all what they have learned with a concert on the Auditorium stage Sunday at 12:30. Some of the things we work on are jamming etiquette, ensemble playing, how to play back-up and take a lead break on your instrument, plus singing lead and harmony vocals. The kids have a lot of fun, but they work hard too. Grass Seeds/GS2 is not just for beginners or “little kids”, nor are we only looking for those really talented kids. If you can play a few common chords or fiddle a few tunes, or if you are a really “hot picker” there is a place for you. Grass Seeds is open to everyone between the ages of 8 and 20. One of the requirements for GS2 is to be at least 14; however teenagers are not limited to that group. Less experienced older players often benefit more from Grass Seeds. More on that below.

We spend most of the time in small groups and each one becomes a “band” for the weekend. We typically offer four songs ranging from beginner to advanced and include at least one instrumental. All instruction is by ear. Grass Seeds kids are allowed to choose the group they want to be in according to their own ability and comfort level. Siblings can choose to be together or not together, it is up to them. A band may have as few as 3 or as many as 7 or 8 kids in any combination of instruments. The instructors rotate through the groups so the kids have access to all of them. We work on a few common jam tunes in hopes that everyone will go out and jam in the evenings. So if you see a young person out there jamming, please invite them to join in or stop and play a song or two with them.

The main goal of Grass Seeds is to get young people playing their instruments and loving traditional music. Equally important, is our desire to provide a non-competitive, friendly atmosphere where they can get to know other people their age who enjoy playing the same music. Typically, by the end of the weekend, many phone numbers and email addresses have been exchanged and new Facebook friendships made. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of young musicians at our festivals the last few years and I’ve seen several new, kid driven, really good bands bursting onto the MBOTMA scene. Most of these kids have attended Grass Seeds, many more than once.


This year the Grass Seeds faculty will be local favorites, The High 48‘s plus young fiddler, Catie Jo Pidel. Everyone loved them so much last year, we asked them back. Catie Jo will return as an additional fiddle teacher. Multi instrumentalist Chuck Millar from No Grass Limit will be teaching GS2. The energy and enthusiasm of these two is incredible and infectious, they are perfect for this group. Instruction is offered on fiddle, guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass and dobro in both groups.



The High 48s, www.thehigh48s.com
Anthony Ihrig (banjo & Dobro), www.anthonyihrig.com
Rich Casey (bass)
Marty Maronne (guitar), www.tangledrootsbluegrass.com
Eric Christopher (fiddle & mandolin), www.ericchristopher.net
Chad Johnson (mandolin)
Catie Jo Pidel (fiddle), www.rubymagpieband.com
Chuck Millar (GS2), www.tangledrootsbluegrass.com


It has always been a struggle in Grass Seeds to accommodate such a wide variety of ages and ability levels. The past couple of years, we couldn’t help but notice how many young, advanced players are showing up at the festivals. There has also been an increase in the number of Grass Seeds registrations in the 14 to 18 year old age group, many who have attended Grass Seeds several times. It was obvious these older kids needed a very different, more age appropriate experience than we were offering in Grass Seeds. We needed to provide them with their own social experience and move away from teaching just the traditional bluegrass tunes; they want to learn to play what they listen to. The last couple of years we experimented with a few different things, but didn’t really hit on anything that worked.

Now in its fourth year, GS2 has been quite a success! These kids have had a great experience and are really an inspiration to the younger ones. Our goals for GS2 are the same as Grass Seeds and the structure of the weekend is pretty much the same, we are just raising the bar by including advanced instrumental technique, three and four part vocal harmonies and improvisation. GS2 decides as a group what songs to work on. We encourage them to choose more progressive songs from the contemporary artists they enjoy listening to. Then they get to work creating their own arrangement, not just reproducing it as recorded. They will really focus in on what it takes to be a member of a performing group. The discussion topics are also determined by the group so we can best meet the specific needs of the kids that year.

The minimum age to participate in GS2 is 14. We recommend 4 to 5 years of playing with a good working knowledge of common chords or scales. Basic instrumental technique should be solid and familiarity with ensemble playing is expected. Students must be able to learn quickly by ear. Previous participation in Grass Seeds is not required. Selection is determined by faculty on Friday night. Everyone who is interested will participate in a jam session, the instructors will make their decision at that time. The registration fee is the same as for Grass Seeds. While we do our absolute best to accommodate everyone, we can not guarantee your child will participate in GS2. Registrations only for GS2 can not be accepted and no refunds will be given if your child is not selected. Grass Seeds is a unique opportunity for the young people in our area; there are very few programs like this one.


With seven faculty members, the quality of instruction is very high and each child receives lots of individual attention. The registration fee for the 3-day workshop is $85 per student, this includes a three day ticket to the festival and one ticket to the Saturday night Headliner Concert. Be sure to register early, as space is limited. Fiddle always fills the quickest. If you have any further questions, please call Sandi Pidel, the Grass Seeds Coordinator at 763-784-5286 or email info@minnesotabluegrass.org. To register, please call MBOTMA at 1-800-635-3037.


Session 1: Friday 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Expect a certain amount of chaos! This is the night we get registered, say hello to everyone and get organized for the weekend. The Grass Seeds faculty will perform the songs they will be teaching, then the kids get to choose their group for the weekend. Auditions for GS2 are held in a separate room after the Grass Seeds songs are presented. Because of limited time and space, only registered Grass Seeds participants are allowed in the instruction rooms.

Session 2: Saturday 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Most of Saturday is spent in small groups.

Lunch Break: Saturday 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM. Lunch is not provided or supervised.

Session 3: Saturday 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM. Most of Saturday is spent in small groups.

Note: Saturday session times may vary slightly to accomodate faculty performance schedules.

Session 4: Sunday 10:00 AM to 12:15 PM. Sunday morning is spent in final preparation for the concert. Parents, family and friends are encouraged to attend the concert. Festival admission on Sunday is only $5.00 and the ticket table opens at 9:30 AM. Admission to the festival will not be charged after 12:45 PM. The Grass Seeds concert begins at 1:00 PM.


MBOTMA is committed to passing this music on to the next generation. Our goal is to keep Grass Seeds as affordable as possible especially for families who want to register more than one child. “I wish there would have been something like this when I was a kid” is without a doubt the most often heard comment about Grass Seeds. The registration fees alone do not cover the cost of putting on a workshop of this quality. If you would like to support our young musicians and help MBOTMA continue to grow this program, please consider making a donation. You may do so by sending a check to MBOTMA at PO Box 16408 Mpls, MN 55416. Please specify that your donation is for Grass Seeds. All donations are tax deductible, you will receive a tax receipt by mail.

# # #

To make the entire WBW weekend a reality we will need to fill 140 volunteer shifts with many volunteers like you - people willing to do their part to make it happen. Would you be able to help us out for just a couple hours? Volunteers get preferential seating at the Saturday Night Headline Concerts. Pick your time and task on our volunteer page and email us your name for the schedule.

# # #