Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show visited Metro Nashville Public School students at their four-day orchestra and band summer clinic Wednesday, giving an interactive talk and performance combo that left students buzzing as they prepared to take on the day’s work.
Secor visited students in two groups: students who play string instruments and those who play wind and percussion instruments. String players were gathered at John Overton High School, and wind and percussionists were at Nashville School of the Arts, MNPS Performing Arts Coordinator Sarah Robinson said.
Secor started off by playing a song before he chatted with students about music, his musical career, and the importance of collaboration and listening for a young musician.
“Don’t just listen to the stuff you tell yourself you like. Listen to the stuff you tell yourself you might not like,” Secor urged students gathered at Overton High School. He said it’s a great way to expand who you are as a musician and something young musicians should learn to do early.
As he spoke, Secor used musical performances as examples, pulling out a harmonica, guitar, violin and banjo.
Students, a mix of middle and high school students participating in the clinic, had the opportunity to ask Secor several questions about his career, the gear he uses to perform and the kinds of music that inspired him.
He talked about different styles of music, the origins of several instruments and the disruption of musical communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secor said it was great seeing music students get the opportunity to gather again after the pandemic interrupted so much.
He noted that he had to cancel about 75 performances because of the pandemic as he called on students to talk about what parts of their musical lives were interrupted.
One student said she had to learn the violin virtually, and another noted her own lost wedding gig.
Secor said what was important, despite those losses and obstacles, was that the students there for the clinic did not stop trying just because the world threw them a curve ball.
He then asked them to talk about the things they learned because they were stuck home during the pandemic. One student was called up at Overton High to show Secor a harmonic technique he’d learned on guitar.
Secor listened and celebrated the students’ successes. He said the important things for students now will be collaborating with one another and bringing those new techniques forward as they work to catch up and improve musically.
Robinson said that’s exactly what this year’s clinic is designed to do. Typically, MNPS hosts a two-week summer camp for music students that culminates in a performance at the end, primarily focused on keeping students engaged and giving them a collaborative opportunity for the summer.
This year, however, they decided to provide an intense four-day clinic so students could catch up on missed learning and enter the new year with all the musical skills and knowledge they need.
It was a good opportunity to bring in a speaker like Secor.
“Coming out of virtual learning this past year, I think it’s critical for students to be able to come back together as much as possible,” Robinson said. “To have someone like Ketch come in and really give them a musical pep talk, that is going to get them excited for the rest of the clinic this week.”
Robinson said MNPS Performing Arts was also looking to use this time coming back from the pandemic to dive deeper into supporting and growing strings education in Metro schools.
Getting students excited about music in schools again is step one in that plan, she said.
Secor said he was happy to help motivate students at the start of the clinic, lamenting 14 months lost for many musicians due to COVID-19.
“One of the things that’s been such a challenge for the past 14 months is getting together,” Secor said. “Kids this age, in their hearts they have to get together.”
He also said it was a good way to prepare for future performances, saying he was more nervous putting on a good performance and talk for the students than he would typically be on stage.
“By doing this it makes me sharper to go do what I really do,” Secor said.
“Most of all, I’m just happy to be a beacon for Metro Nashville Public Schools children through this complex and difficult time, and represent a kind of, like, light at the end of the tunnel.”