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American Heritage Music

MAC-Touring Artists

Available for Schools, Libraries, Fairs & Festivals

"Missouri Arts Council Touring Roster" funding is available at www.missouriartscouncil.org

“The 'back-to-basics' curriculum, while it has merit, ignores the most urgent void in our present system - absence of self-discipline. The arts, inspiring - indeed requiring - self-discipline, may be more basic to our national survival than the traditional credit courses.”

Paul Harvey, Nationally Syndicated Radio Commentator

Attn: School Administrator, Principle, Superintendent, et al...

Greetings from the Farnum Family:

We’d like to introduce you to a program of American Heritage Music by the Farnum Family, and would like to offer our family Bluegrass/Folk/Irish/Old-Time/Western Music for your school or community in the form of an approximately 45 minute educational musical presentation. As a nation, our people share a rich & diverse musical heritage. In and around the Ozarks and the Midwest, a particular variety of stringed instruments has become bedrock. Our presentation includes flavors of Bluegrass, Folk and Western music… of which Bluegrass is a relatively new musical style, and one of the very few genres to originate in the United States – and with a cultural value of particular interest to many American students.

Our school assembly program includes a lively (and sometimes humorous) presentation of American folk tunes and melodies performed instrumentally & vocally by a genuine, all American, Midwestern family band! Wherever our music is shared it is a family goal to set a wholesome example, while encouraging children to be aware of their musical heritage.

Program Overview:

Instruments featured & discussed in our presentation, and available for study sheets, include:

banjo | fiddle | mandolin | upright bass | piano | harmonica | penny whistle

Tunes may include: Turkey in the Straw, Jinrikisha Hornpipe, Soldier’s Joy, O Susanna, Shamus O’Brien, The Entertainer, Ghost Riders, Touch of God’s Hand, Rocky Top, Dooley, Standing on the Solid Rock or others.

Our program is knit together & presented by the various members of our family band in an entertaining program which includes historical data & commentary about each instrument, the tunes played, musical styles featured, along with a heavy dose of lively demonstration.

Our family travels thru many parts of Midwestern rural America sharing & performing music through venues including churches, fairs, festivals, historic theaters, et cetera. We’ve also been privileged to perform at Silver Dollar City for several seasonal festivals. We are now booking for the 2011-2012 school years and beyond.

For your convenience our resume, an informational sheet and, for a glimpse of our family, some pictures, are all available for your inspection online. To hear what we sound like, please go to our website & direct your attention to our Products page & click on one of the song titles listed under our Tomato Pickin’ album. For examples of some of our gospel music, simply continue on down the page to our Come and Rejoice album. For availability, please check our Calendar page. We would also be pleased to share our bluegrass & western style gospel music at area churches. Thank you for directing us (or forwarding our website & contact information) to any appropriate persons.

As a side note, we have been encouraged by Nancy Cardwell of IBMA to introduce Bluegrass in the Schools (BITS). And a bit of personal lore… as a newly married couple (over twenty years ago) we traveled extensively performing a History of Ragtime Music for school assemblies throughout the Midwest via the Kansas Bureau of Lectures & Concert Artists.

Please contact us soon to schedule our American Heritage Music program in your school. We will look forward to hear from you. Thank you.

In His Service and yours...

Norm Farnum Family

American Heritage Music


P.S. If you need some assistance or encounter problems with this website,

please contact us so we can remedy the matter.

"The students have talked and talked about your performance."
Beck Stafford

Music Teacher, Angier Elementary

American Heritage Music

Angier Elementary & North Harnett Elementary
Harnett County Schools

September 18, 2009

...some of these pictures are great. Thanks for coming to our school. The students have talked and talked about your performance. Everyone liked the way you emphasized each instrument and each player. You shared just the right amount of info with our audience. What a great concert!

Beck Stafford
Music Teacher
Angier Elementary School

Angier, North Carolina

I thoroughly enjoyed your performance at our school today. I wish you the best during your travels and can only imagine what great memories your children will have from all your adventures. Good luck and come back again.

Leigh Grainger
Media Coordinator
Angier Elementary School

Angier, North Carolina

"I loved your songs. I liked Ghost Riders and Turkey in the Straw. I loved it!

I was at Angier Elementary School. I am 11 years old."

Dakota Williford

Dear Farnum Family,

Thank y'all for making time for our schools in North Carolina. In a world where prayer & God are being pushed out of the school systems, it was so uplifting to have even a little of God's word in song! I am enjoying my CD - Folk Psalms - and look forward to your family's next visit. My daughter Britney would love to be pen-pals with Hannah, if she has time...

Wishing your family many blessings as you continue to serve God through your music!

In Him,

Hope Gutierrez

Angier, North Carolina

P.S. I'm the bluegrass lover who watched both performances in Angier.

Cunningham Grade School

"We really enjoyed the program."
Bob Stackhouse

Principal, Athletic Director

Story image 1_0American Heritage Music Program

by Kathy Hartley

February 02, 2009

Your child might be asking for more music lessons! On Friday (January 23rd) we were awed by the performance of the Farnum Family. Story image 2_0The family consists of six children, four of which performed for us. The youngest are only three and four, so they are not performing yet. Piano, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and upright bass combined to present bluegrass, gospel, and western music. We learned some things about American music and the instruments, while enjoying the music. The family has performed in the Branson, MO area for years. We were their first school visit and a very appreciative audience. You can check their web site out and enjoy some of their music at www.FarnumFamily.org.

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 Bluegrass in the Schools

Implementation Manual

This manual is a resource for teachers seeking specific information about bluegrass music to present to a class and for bands/musicians interested in developing school programs. Included in this publication you will find specific program information about bluegrass music and a suggested presentation outline, along with funding development ideas and a list of written, DVD and internet program resources.

Program Development

A comprehensive in-school presentation of bluegrass music includes both music and discussion about the origins of the music, the instruments and the singing. This program will most likely be an introduction to bluegrass music for most of the students (and teachers), and a well-organized presentation with supplemental written materials can be considered a musical history lesson. A sample program outline follows:

  • Play a traditional bluegrass song after being introduced.

  • Talk about the roots of the music and influences by music from other countries (include discussion of the ballads and dance music from the British Isles that influenced string band music of Appalachia, the banjo from Africa, the singing family bands of this country, gospel music, etc.). Play another traditional tune or sing a song.

  • Introduce Bill Monroe, who included string band, country, gospel and blues styling in the development of bluegrass music. Mention that he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – in addition to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Bluegrass Hall of Honor, and perform a Bill Monroe song.

  • Introduce each instrument by discussing how it is made, tuned and played in the bluegrass band context. Discuss rhythm and lead playing and play a tune.

  • Discuss and demonstrate harmony singing and sing a song.

  • Involve the students in performance of a song – hand clapping, singing on chorus, call/response, etc.

  • Answer questions. Provide teachers with written information about bluegrass bands, clubs and organizations based in the local area; festivals in close proximity; bluegrass publications; bluegrass radio programming; the IBMA; etc.

Written Overview for Educators

A sample overview of the history of bluegrass music follows. It should be brief but comprehensive, as it may also be the introduction of the music to the teachers. The overview may be used by teachers as a study guide before or after an in-school presentation, or they may include this information in a history or social studies discussion if a program presentation is not possible.

Bluegrass Music: The Roots

The various types of music brought with the people who began migrating to America in the early 1600s are considered to be the roots of bluegrass music – including dance music and ballads from Ireland, Scotland and England, as well as African American gospel music and blues. In fact, slaves from Africa brought the design idea for the banjo – an instrument now integral to the bluegrass sound.

As the early Jamestown settlers began to spread out into the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky and the Virginias, they composed new songs about day-to-day life experiences in the new land. Since most of these people lived in rural areas, the songs reflected life on the farm or in the hills and this type of music was called "mountain music" or "country music." The invention of the phonograph and the onset of the radio in the early 1900s brought this old-time music out of the rural Southern mountains to people all over the United States.

Good singing became a more important part of country music. Singing stars like Jimmie Rodgers, family bands like the Carter family from Virginia and duet teams like the Monroe Brothers from Kentucky contributed greatly to the advancement of traditional country music.

The Monroe Brothers were one of the most popular duet teams of the 1920s and into the 1930s. Charlie played the guitar, Bill played the mandolin and they sang duets in harmony. When the brothers split up as a team in 1938, both went on to form their own bands. Since Bill was a native of Kentucky, the Bluegrass State, he decided to call his band "Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys," and this band sound birthed a new form of country music.

"Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys" first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry in 1939 and soon became one of the most popular touring bands out of Nashville's WSM studios. Bill's new band was different from other traditional country music bands of the time because of its hard driving and powerful sound, utilizing traditional acoustic instruments and featuring highly distinctive vocal harmonies. This music incorporated songs and rhythms from string band, gospel (black and white), work songs and "shouts" of black laborers, country and blues music repertoires. Vocal selections included duet, trio and quartet harmony singing in addition to Bill's powerful "high lonesome" solo lead singing. After experimenting with various instrumental combinations, Bill settled on mandolin, banjo, fiddle, guitar and bass as the format for his band. The guitar originally came from Spain. The mandolin, as well as the fiddle and acoustic bass (both from the violin family), originally came from Italy.

While many fans of bluegrass music date the genre back to 1939, when Monroe formed his first Blue Grass Boys band, most believe that the classic bluegrass sound jelled in 1945, shortly after Earl Scruggs, a 21 year old banjo player from North Carolina, joined the band. Scruggs played an innovative three-finger picking style on the banjo that energized enthusiastic audiences, and has since come to be called simply, "Scruggs style" banjo. Equally influential in the classic 1945 line-up of the Blue Grass Boys were Lester Flatt, from Sparta, Tenn. on guitar and lead vocals against Monroe's tenor; Chubby Wise, from Florida, on fiddle; and Howard Watts, also known by his comedian name, "Cedric Rainwater," on acoustic bass.

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When first Earl Scruggs, and then Lester Flatt left Monroe's band and eventually formed their own group, The Foggy Mountain Boys, they decided to include the resophonic guitar, or Dobro into their band format. The Dobro is often included in bluegrass band formats today as a result. Burkett H. "Uncle Josh" Graves, from Tellico Plains, Tenn., heard Scruggs' three-finger style of picking in 1949 and adapted it to the then, almost obscure slide bar instrument. With Flatt & Scruggs from 1955-1969, Graves introduced his widely emulated, driving, bluesy style on the Dobro. The Dobro was invented in the United States by the Dopyera Brothers, immigrant musicians/inventors originally from the Slovak Republic. The brand name, "Dobro," comes from Dopyera Brothers. See the Dobro Story here.

From 1948-1969, Flatt & Scruggs were a major force in introducing bluegrass music to America through national television, at major universities and coliseums, and at schoolhouse appearances in numerous towns. Scruggs wrote and recorded one of bluegrass music's most famous instrumentals, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," which was used in the soundtrack for the film, Bonnie & Clyde. In 1969 he established an innovative solo career with his three sons as "The Earl Scruggs Revue." Scruggs still records and performs selected dates in groups that usually include his sons, Randy on guitar and Gary on bass.

After parting with Scruggs in 1969, Lester Flatt continued successfully with his own group, "The Nashville Grass," performing steadily until shortly before his death in 1979.

By the 1950s, people began referring to this style of music as "bluegrass music." Bluegrass bands began forming all over the country and Bill Monroe became the acknowledged "Father of Bluegrass Music.

In the 1960s, the concept of the "bluegrass festival" was first introduced, featuring bands that had seemed to be in competition with each other for a relatively limited audience on the same bill at weekend festivals across the country. Carlton Haney, from Reidsville, N.C., is credited with envisioning and producing the first weekend-long bluegrass music festival, held at Fincastle, Va. in 1965.

The increased availability of traditional music recordings, nationwide indoor and outdoor bluegrass festivals and movie, television and commercial soundtracks featuring bluegrass music have aided in bringing this music out of modern day obscurity. Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys achieved national prominence with tour sponsorship by Martha White Flour and for playing the soundtrack for the previously mentioned film, Bonnie and Clyde, as well as on a television show called The Beverly Hillbillies. The Deliverance movie soundtrack also featured bluegrass music... in particular, "Dueling Banjos," performed by Eric Weissberg on banjo and Steve Mandel on guitar. In 2001, the triple platinum selling soundtrack for the Coen Brothers movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou? attracted wider audiences for bluegrass and traditional country music.

Bill Monroe passed away on September 9, 1996, four days before his 85th birthday. In May 1997, Bill Monroe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because of the profound influence of his music on the popular music of this country. He is also a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.

Bluegrass music is now performed and enjoyed around the world. The IBMA alone claims members in all 50 states and 30 countries. In addition to the to the classic style born in 1945 that is still performed widely, bluegrass bands today reflect influences from a variety of sources including traditional and fusion jazz, contemporary country music, Celtic music, rock & roll ("newgrass" or progressive bluegrass), old-time music and Southern gospel music – in addition to lyrics translated to various languages.

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For your school assembly or other special event, please contact the Farnum Family.

We hope our musical presentation will be an uplifting & educational experience for all!

Norm & Trish

Daniel, Benjamin, Hannah, Nathaniel, Maggie & Matthew

Banjo, Piano, Pennywhistle, Bass, Mandolin, Harmonica, Fiddle, Ukulele & Vocals

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