Playing instruments like the washboard is not the kind of thing you study at Juilliard. If you have a hankering to begin honing your spoons' chops though, all you need is a little hands-on instruction at the Bluegrass for Kids concert Sunday in Benicia.
"It's very audience driven. It's interactive," says Lynn Quinones, one half of the bluegrass duo Just Kidding, which will perform at the event. "Our main focus is to explore and introduce traditional American music through old-time fiddle tunes, stories, songs and dance."
Along with her musical partner, fiddler and banjoist Jill Cruey, Quinones, a guitarist and mandolin player, will be toting along a collection of about 50 instruments to whet the appetite of any budding performers in the audience. These include the aforementioned washboard and spoons as well as sandblocks, limberjacks (a musical toy of a man with movable legs and arms connected to a board that dances as you move it to the music) and tambourines. "Youngins" will even get a crack at the washtub bass (known in less polite circles as the gutbucket). You play the gutbucket used down on the farm also as a repository for offal -- by plucking an attached string. Not exactly a Stradivarius, but no doubt it will get you in the mood for a hoedown. "It's very unsafe to come to one of our shows because no one is immune to getting up onstage," says Quinones with a wink. When she isn't performing (mostly at libraries) Just Kidding shows, Quinones also moonlights with her other more adult-oriented bluegrass band, the Alhambra Valley Band, and teaches music to elementary school kids in the Mount Diablo Unified School District.
In addition to developing your nascent musical talents, Just Kidding will have you learning dances that were known back in the day as play party games. A combination of square and contra dancing, play party games such as the "Jim Along Josie" allow dancers to pair off with strangers. The goal is not necessarily to become the next Baryshnikov you don't have to have partner and you don't have to actually know the dance to do it -- but to meet and greet. "Long before there were MP3s, the Internet or TV, music was a very important part of the community," says Quinones. "It's the way people used to meet. It's really part of Americana -- definitely our music and dancing. Most of it has been lost and it's not done a lot."
2 p.m. Sunday, Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barn's Stone Hall, 2060 Camel Road, Benicia. $10 adults, $5 children (all children must be accompanied by an adult ). (707) 745-5435.
Paul Kilduff, 96Hours@sfchronicle.com
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