PANORAMA - The new bluegrass kids



At right above, Emma Philbrook, 13, picks away with musicians Kavin Kuykendall, center and Emily Adams, 12, on the violin.


Choosing strings over brass, Kavin Kuykendall, 15, strums a banjo with the Rezonators.


Emily Adams Grins while playing the violin.


Chris Philbrook, 11, below, concentrates on a tune during a session with the Rezonators, a group from Waitsburg.

The beat goes on as a new "generation" of bluegrass musicians hones its skills in the footsteps of the Blue Mountain Troublemakers.

The new group named themselves the Rezonators.

On March 27, they will take the stage along with their mentors, the Troublemakers, and the Troublemakers' mentors, the Ryegrass String Band, to fiddle and pluck and strum for the benefit of the birds at the Pioneer Park Aviary.

The Rezonators came from a group of 10 youthful Waitsburg musicians who turned up at an informal bluegrass class. Band teacher Brad Green and volunteer Kate Hockersmith have been meeting weekly with the "bluegrass kids" since that beginning.

Six of the students, now age 11 to 15, continued playing together through the summer, and this fall they decided to start a new bluegrass band.

Although the four current Troublemakers are now in college, they come home often enough to tutor and encourage the younger group.

Emily Adams, 12, has taken fiddle lessons from Troublemaker John Hockersmith for two years. Emily's older sister, Beka, does guitar and vocals.

The oldest and most experienced of the Rezonators is Kavin Kuykendall, 15, who was introduced to bluegrass when he lived in Colorado. He was pleasantly surprised to find more bluegrass musicians in Waitsburg than he left behind in Colorado.

Kavin plays dobro and banjo.

"Kavin's one of those people who never put (an instrument) down all day long," Kate Hockersmith said.

Kavin's younger sister, Kassidy, 13, plays mandolin.

Emily said she was drawn to bluegrass because "it kind of has a really good spirit and a lot of good tunes."

For 13-year-old Emma Philbrook, bluegrass is "upbeat and cheery. And no one sings "Cripple Creek" in a bikini.

Emma's grandmother Mary Rickel had a hand in drawing Emma and her brother Chris to the genre. After a consultation with Hockersmith, Rickel purchased a banjo and a mandolin.

"I fell in love with the banjo," Emma said, but Chris's attraction to the instrument was stronger, so Emma took up the mandolin. She also sings. Emma takes mandolin lessons from former Troublemaker Nick Carpenter.

Chris, the youngest member of the group at age 11, is also the most talkative and inquisitive.

"Kate kept telling me ‘we're going to start a new bluegrass group,'" Chris recalled.

"I got all freaked out about it," he said. Already a fiddle player, Chris is working on mastering the banjo, and making plans to buy a dulcimer and a bass fiddle with earnings from his paper route. He also provides vocals for the group.

When asked what makes a successful musician, Emma observed "you need a good teacher. You need a strong sense of rhythm because you're either following or leading."

"It takes a lot of practice, a lot of patience and an instrument that's in tune," Emily said.

There are several opportunities for practice, Hockersmith said. Besides the weekly sessions with her, Green sets aside some time for students interested in bluegrass. And on third Fridays there is a jam session in Waitsburg for kids and beginners. It begins at 7 p.m. and is held in high school band room.

As the Rezonators grow in experience and musicianship, they'll be playing at the monthly jam at the Skye Book and Brew in Dayton or at Jacobi's in Walla Walla, Hockersmith predicted.

The Blue Mountain Troublemakers got their start early in 2003, after watching "O, Brother Where Art Thou?" By 2007 they were averaging 30 performances a year in a variety of venues, and they recorded their first CD, "Live at the Liberty Theater."

The Troublemakers earned enough to pay their airfare to Sasayama, Japan, where they represented Walla Walla in the 35th anniversary Sister City celebration.

The Troublemakers play bluegrass, folk, Irish and old time fiddle tunes.

Members are Austin Beasley, Zach Beasley, Mariah Barthlow and John Hockersmith.

The Ryegrass String Band started playing together in the 1970s at small local venues and square dances.

Band members have gone on to perform in a variety of bands, both acoustic and electric, and can be found in many local groups. Currently String Band members are Trudy Ostby, Jon St. Hilaire, Glenn Morris, Jimmye Turner, Jerry Yokel and Brue DeLeonard.

Carrie Chicken can be reached at or 522-5289.

If you go

The concert is Sunday, March 27 at the Waitsburg High School Auditorium, 420 Coppei St.

Tickets are $10 and available at Mandrakes Antiques, 212 E. Main St., Walla Walla, or at the door.

Proceeds benefit the Pioneer Park Aviary. For more information call Kate at 337-8789.


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