Floyd Music School plans seventh year of Band Camp at FloydFest | Community

By Colleen Redman | For the Floyd Press

The Mike Mitchell Band opened the main stage at FloydFest last year on Sunday morning for Blue Grass Day, adding to frontman Mike Mitchell’s regular festival itinerary that includes the direction of the FloydFest Band Camp.

Every day of the festival at 11 a.m., the kids from FloydFest’s Band Camp bring their guitars, ukuleles, banjos, violins, flutes, drums, kazoos, vocals, and claps to the kids’ world to learn a set list and practice. for a performance at the end of the festival.

There’s a dress rehearsal on CU’s Forever Young stage on Saturday and a final star performance on the studio porch on Sunday. This year, the kids will start training online with Mitchell in April.

“FloydFest has always been a way for Floyd Music School students and other local students to perform,” Mitchell said, citing his longtime FMS students Eli and Aila Wildman of The Wildmans as examples. “Eli and Aila started playing in the street when they were 10 and 9 years old. They started performing on the Workshop stage 10 years ago. Now they are nationally recognized performers with charting songs and are very successful.

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Mitchell began teaching the Wildman siblings when they were four and five years old.

“Seven years ago they were getting quite old and they left my instruction and started hanging out with other teachers,” he said. Both Wildmans – Eli on guitar, mandolin and vocals, and Aila on vocals and fiddle – are award-winning musicians who later studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass.

They originally performed alongside their mother, Deb Wildman, on double bass. Today, the group includes another award-winning young musician, Victor Furtado on banjo.

Mitchell, singer/songwriter/violinist and co-founder of the Floyd Music School, also performed on the festival’s Workshop Porch stage with his band—Jake and Joel Mosley, Tray Wellington and Alex Donahue—for the FloydFest Odyssey.

The original Mike Mitchell Band was scheduled for the first-ever FloydFest in 2002, but plans changed when Mitchell hit the road with a nationally acclaimed band. Two of the band’s original members, Tom Ohmsen and FloydFest CEO John McBroom, stayed together, brought in other musicians, and formed the band Blue Mule, which has since been on FloydFest’s roster of artists.

Mitchell has performed at FloydFest for the past four years. “It’s a great festival to have on your CV. It’s internationally recognised,” he said, adding, “I have students from Floyd Music School who live in Germany who met me at FloydFest.

Mitchell thinks the credibility gained from playing festivals like FloydFest and Merlefest likely led to bookings at other festivals around the country.

“One thing that probably came from last year’s main stage performance is that I’m part of the Blue Ridge Music Center’s summer concert series as a headliner,” said he declared. The Center is a prestigious concert hall, museum and visitor center located at Mile 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Galax.

Mitchell won’t be playing FloydFest this year (July 27-31) due to a non-compete clause with Center that bars him from playing in the area for 30 days before and after the show, but The Floyd Music School will bring Band Camp to the children’s universe for the seventh year.

The Floyd Music School was established in 2007 by Mitchell and his wife Jennifer Brooke, who is also the administrator of FMS and Mitchell’s band manager. Mitchell teaches fiddle, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo, ukulele, voice, bass and Brooke teaches piano and flute.

FMS students perform in the Roanoke Youth Symphony and consistently place in the top three at numerous fiddle competitions and contests.

The school has been located in various locations around town, but several years ago it was moved to Mitchell and Brooke’s home at 3416 Christiansburg Pike.

“Our business has picked up. We have five teachers and our studios are full,” Mitchell said. There are plans to eventually expand the teaching studios to include a state-of-the-art recording facility.

The place of origin is important to Mitchell.

“I could have left here, but I chose not to. It’s my house. That’s where I raised my kids,” Mitchell said of a tough time he went through before FMS reopened at Christiansburg Pike.

He recalled that during his wrestling period he was hosted by the late famous luthier Arthur Connor in Connor’s studio. He apprenticed with Connor for 18 months, learning to make violins “the Arthur Connor way”, and one day he hopes to revive this tradition.

Last fall, Mitchell was signed to Turnberry Records to a two-disc deal. His first single with Turnberry, I Hear Banjos was released recently and a forthcoming album, titled Fathers and Sons, will follow. Mitchell’s 2018 album Small Town debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard bluegrass chart.

“We will also be on The Song of the Mountain TV show in June, which airs on 190 public TV stations across America,” Mitchell noted.

As great as Mitchell’s recent attention has been, he says there’s something even more special. Grateful for the local interest in his music, the FMS and his work with FloydFest, Mitchell said, “It means the world will be recognized by our neighbors.”


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