The Rhapsody Songsters program equips musicians with the tools to thrive and organize in the modern worlds of American roots music. We thrive by tapping into our heritage, and using its lessons to inform our approach to the future. We organize our community to bring people together with music and culture that develops empathy and equality.
Our Songsters program grew out of an after-school program developed at Washington Middle School in partnership with Grammy-nominated educator Beth Fortune.
Originally designed as a feeder class for Ms. Fortune’s Senior Fiddlers program (the only fiddle class offered in a public middle school nationwide), the Jr. Fiddlers class evolved into a roots music education program that offered students the opportunity to perform outside of school at community events around Seattle. Performances at the nearby Hillman City Collaboratory (headquarters of the Rhapsody Project) lead to opportunities to perform in annual festivals, such as the Northwest Folklife Festival, where Rhapsody Songsters have performed as the opening act in the Rhapsody Showcase each year since 2015.
The program developed further in 2016, when our instructors were offered the opportunity to design a program for teenagers at the Wintergrass Festival, which already offered one of the greatest education programs of any major acoustic music festival in the nation. At Wintergrass, these students were trained Songsters, and given the opportunity to go behind the scenes, interview everyone from sound technicians to photographers to promotion team members. This allowed the students to recognize the wide variety of ways that people contribute to the music community beyond the roles of musicians onstage.
The final piece of the program developed in 2017, when our instructors introduced our heritage songwriting program to connect the living traditions of roots music with the vital work of connecting with one's individual heritage.
Today, the Rhapsody Songsters program continues to grow as more students join us in exploring their family's heritage and connecting it with roots music through songwriting, community organizing, and cultural events.