This fall, Saratoga’s Caffe Lena is expanding its music school. First announced back in January, the Caffe Lena School of Music has proven so popular it’s offering even more classes for children and adults alike.
“With people cooped up and needing a positive outlet, especially school kids, the timing turned out to be unexpectedly good,” said Caffè Lena School of Music Coordinator, Vivian Nesbitt.
Saratoga musicians Oona Grady and James Gascoyne will continue overseeing the children’s program, with fall classes beginning on September 15. Courses include beginner and intermediate fiddle, ukulele, and guitar, as well as Irish tin whistle and fiddle tunes. If students qualify for free or reduced school lunch, the school offers full scholarships for their lessons and instruments.
Each class consists of 10 weekly 40 lessons over Zoom in groups of four. Despite the distance, Caffè Lena seeks to uphold the tradition of teaching and learning folk music as a group. Parents have praised the program, calling it “a stellar service” that inspires “motivation to keep the creative spark alight.”
“This is how people entertained themselves before radio and television turned us into music listeners instead of music makers,” said Nesbitt. “It fills our hearts to make music together, even if it has to be online for now.”
Adult classes are 4 weekly lessons of 90 minutes each, also via Zoom. Two-time Grammy winners Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer have joined the faculty, teaching beginner clawhammer and guitar. Other adult classes include songwriting and accompaniment with Dan Navarro, blues guitar with Guy Davis, and clawhammer banjo and old-time fiddle with Bruce Molsky. Caffè Lena’s website has suggested experience levels for some courses.
“We believe in the power of music to get us through the hard times,” continued Nesbitt. “Zoom is not what we had in mind when we launched the School of Music, but it won’t be long before these students are on stage in front of a live audience. Our dream is that the next generation of folk musicians will be born out of this crisis.”
Thanks to its increased online presence, the legendary folk venue is still going strong despite restricted operations. In addition to its burgeoning music school, the cafe has been offering a near-nightly “Stay Home Sessions” streaming series on YouTube. The full calendar of Caffè Lena events is available on their website.