Linda Good hands children an instrument when they’re young.
As the owner of Island Strings, she can regularly be seen in the living room of her woodsy cabin home with a group of children wielding stringed instruments, either bowing their strings or singing along to a kids’ jingle. “Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques…” they sing in unison. This is the Suzuki method of music education, and it’s one of the many facets that will be on display at the South Whidbey Acoustic Music Festival.
Musicians and music fans across South Whidbey will have the chance to see Island Strings and others perform at the festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 26 at the Tilth Farmer’s Market grounds on Highway 525 and Thompson Road.
This year marks the seventh since the music festival came into existence, and features a wide array of artists that cover multiple genres. There will be master finger pluckers and performers that dabble in Celtic folklore. Some are in their 60s and 70s, while some Island Strings students, ages 6 and 7, will also take the stage.
Festival organizer Russell Clepper is a community man. Clepper has kept things as small and local as possible to make the music festival Whidbey-centric. While there may be the off-chance that one or two of the performers are from off the island, Clepper makes sure that most of the sounds emanating from the acoustic music is Whidbey born. It’s something that he’s wanted as a central part of the event since he got the idea of creating an acoustic music festival on the South End when talking to one of the main vendors at Tilth Farmer’s Market eight years ago.
“He was saying he wanted the land to be used by the community, for the community,” Clepper said. “When we started it, we approached it with the spirit of what Tilth is all about: local, organic and community centered activities. We’ve made sure our approach to music is in that spirit.”
Clepper says the festival gives South Whidbey residents the platform to connect with local artists in the same ilk as Tilth does with shoppers and farmers. He attempts to keep the event small scale, just like everything Whidbey.
Clepper has also made sure the festival is family friendly and offers kids a number of activities while the music is ongoing. In addition to the music, a South Whidbey man regularly brings a massive parachute to the festival for people to play with, adding to the colorful and festive atmosphere. Also in attendance will be South Whidbey’s best known stilt man, Larry Dobson, and Clepper.
This year’s edition will feature an art booth with hands-on crafts on the festival and farmer’s market grounds as well. There will be “a ton” of room for kids to run around and play, Clepper says.
Island Strings is bringing a completely different aspect to the festival with the teacher — student dynamic and children’s tunes. Many of the songs played by the classes are in the line of fiddle tunes and sing-alongs, typically in the Scotch-Irish folklore. Good hasn’t quite nailed down the exact number of kids performing with her and fellow Island Strings teacher and past festival performer Toni Talia Marcus, but expects up to 12 students.
“We want to include the most children that we can,” Good said. “We will get to feature individuals a little bit, with small solos here and there.”
Other acts performing in the festival cover a range of acoustic genres. The Rouse Showell Zick trio bounce from genre to genre with their three mandolins, from Americana to country to Brazilian styles. Beverly Graham will bring her folk-rock style to the stage, while young singer-songwriter Audrianne Cooke will perform in conjunction with Island Strings. Langley’s Quinn Fitzpatrick is expected to demonstrate his finger-picking guitar style with instrumental music that interprets multiple styles of American music.
Kate Bopp, who performs under the name Kindness, will bring something unlike any previous South Whidbey Acoustic Music Festival act, Clepper said. Bopp, based out of Seattle and this year’s only off-Island act, uses electronic beats as a base for her music and layers guitar and percussion over the beats.
“I think Russ has got the right idea for the festival by keeping it almost entirely local,” said Steve Showell of the Rouse Showell Zick trio. “It will be a good opportunity to see what the island has to offer and to get a taste of local community at its best.”
Since the festival is during Tilth Farmer’s Market, Clepper confirmed that vendors will bring ice chests for those frequenting the market so they will be able to keep their groceries cool if they want to stay to enjoy the music. Food vendors are also expected to extend their hours beyond normal market hours.