Coombs music project hopes you walk right in

Jug bands to be promoted in new musical initiative

Gerry Barnum (right) and Dean Williams of the Phil Harmonics Jug Band Orchestra. The band is part of a old time music revival in Coombs and beyond.

Valerie Dare wants to give people a chance to not only hear that old fashioned music that grandma and grandpa used to play, she also wants to help them play it themselves.

Dare is the project manager for a team that’s working to bring jug band music to the Coombs area and beyond.

“Back a few years ago, a few of the co–ordinators for Area F were talking about possible music programs to bring to the community and  the conversation came to how jug band music could be well received by seniors,” Dare said. “It might give them the ability to share songs from their past to other generations.”

The idea became more than idle pickin’ when singer and songwriter Gerry Barnum noted he used to have a jug band of his own, called the Bum Steers, and he knew people who would be interested in playing in one.

“We wanted to create a performance-level band,” Dare said. “We wanted them to develop a repertoire they could teach to others and also show the music to the community. They put the band together last fall, called the Phil Harmonics Jug Band Orchestra.”

The plan behind the Walk Right In Community Music project, she said, is to provide six, weekly, one-hour classes in May and June at the Arrowsmith Hall to people who are interested in learning to play a couple of songs on an instrument of their choice — whether it be jug, washboard, string bass, banjo, mandolin or guitar.

Although she said only a good sense of rhythm is required to play the more basic instruments like jug or washboard, with the more complicated instruments, people need at least a passing familiarity.

“It’s not a beginner course,” Dare said.

Once the six classes are completed, those who found they had a taste for jug band music will be able to take in an intensive class in July, for two hours a day, from July 9 to 13.

“At the end of that, we will see how many people would like to continue and play in an ensemble as a jug band,” Dare said. “Then, in September, there will be two members of the jug band who will go to the PASS/Woodwinds school and have instrument building workshops there, where they will make kits.”

Those kits, she said, will be taken to Stanford Place, where music therapist Laurie Munroe, along with a member or two of the jug band, will work with Alzheimers patients.

“Who knows how this will work, but it will be fun to find out,” she said.

Dare said she hopes to eventually assemble enough instruments to form three community jug bands.

“It gives a chance for people to participate in music and ring the generations together,” she said.

The date for class signup is May 23 and 24. Any donation of instruments, Dare said, would be most appreciated.

For more information, contact Dare at 250-586-6583 or email her at


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