NewsPolk County


Union Academy keeping the magic of bluegrass music alive

Posted at 11:39 AM, Oct 21, 2021

BARTOW, Fla — When you think about bluegrass music you might imagine some old folks in the Appalachian Mountains singing and playing the fiddle. However, that's not the case in Bartow, in fact, the exact opposite. The Union Academy Bluegrass Band consists of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

“I try not to tell the kids how awesome they are too much I just expect it and they keep rising to that level,” said Union Academy music teacher Kent Kesler.

Kesler remembers the first time he heard the sweet sounds of bluegrass when he was just a kid.

“I think it’s important to keep the music alive and we have students who are going to take those songs and remember them and maybe teach their kids,” said Kesler.

In the past decade, the band has grown from an after-school program to a regular music class.

Madeline, 8th grade, was asked what she knew about bluegrass before she started singing it, “nothing, honestly nothing,” said Madeline.

Isabelle, 8th grade, was asked what’s her favorite part about being in the band, “making friends,” said Isabelle.

What’s especially unique about the songs is most of them are based on true-life stories.

“It's very charming, charming music, charming old music,” said Madeline.

“A lot of times I have to adjust some lyrics to make it suitable for middle schoolers,” said Kesler.

They aren’t just learning music, but life skills.

“Teamwork and how to focus and work together listening to other people,” said Isabelle.

The band has even been asked to perform at public events including the state fair.

“They just keep asking us to come back so I think it's very helpful in the community and they just love us,” said Madeline.

While around the school they are always ready to pluck the strings for a teacher's birthday. So what’s next for this talented group of young musicians?

“I would like to get this group to lay down some tracks in a recording studio one at a time,” said Kesler. “I’d love to do that to show the world what special thing we have here in Bartow.”