Cajun Style

Rhythm and Roots’ Youth Music Camp celebrates traditional tunes with kids


As part of the 21st annual Rhythm & Roots Festival this Labor Day weekend in Charlestown, lifelong musician Pam Weeks will share the Cajun music tradition with kids of all ages during the festival’s Youth Music Camp.

“[It’s important to] introduce young people to Cajun music, and all traditional music, as something that they can do, and not just something they go to the festival and sit and listen to with their parents,” says Weeks. “We can all sit down and play some fiddle tunes together, and have fun and connect with other people.”

This is Week’s second year as the camp’s director, and Karen McGrath will serve as her assistant director. Weeks will teach fiddle, viola, and cello alongside a number of renown musicians, including Cathy Mason and Amy Larkin (fiddle); Jim Joseph and Tim Kness (accordion); Bill Olson and Elna Joseph (guitar/bass); and Michael Pattavina (mandolin/bass). Accordions can be provided, Weeks says, and cello, viola, and other acoustic instrument musicians are also welcome.

“Music, and teaching people to play music, has really been a lot of what my life has been about,” says Weeks. She learned to play the violin in fourth grade, and now performs the fiddle, guitar, mountain dulcimer, and cello. Weeks also teaches a laundry list of string and fretted instruments, as well as piano, voice, saxophone, flute, and clarinet. “Teaching is so important to carry this music on,” she adds. “Playing music is really part of who we are as human beings.”

Classes are held right outside the festival’s grounds, in the Ninigret Park picnic pavilion. The students first watch and listen to the instructors, and then practice the same phrases repeatedly. “The way of learning something from someone, having to do something over and over… I think it’s really important for kids to experience,” explains Weeks, “because nowadays [kids] can do anything by touching a tablet or watching TV, but this is a real hands-on, creative thing. And they end up creating something really beautiful.”

The camp wraps in the afternoon on Sunday, the fourth day of the festival, and the kids perform with instructors in the sprawling Dance Tent. “They don’t have a big audience staring at them, but instead when they play, everybody’s dancing,” laughs Weeks. “It’s not only the parents, but it’s become a tradition for a lot of the dancers to come because they want to support the young people too.” August 31-September 2, Charlestown