By MATT MASTERS
A group of about 100 high school students from Franklin High and Battle Ground Academy visited the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival grounds at the Park at Harlinsdale for the festival’s first community day on Friday.
Students were shown all over the festival grounds from the Gold Record Road stage to the Beer Hall to Maker’s Village and the Pilgrimage merch tent,
which was being stocked with a variety of shirts and apparel for the upcoming busy weekend.
Festival organizer Brandt Wood told the students about his first festival experience growing up in New Orleans, an experience that set him on a path in the music industry and to organizing what is today the 5th annual Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival.
“When I was your age I took a field trip from my high school on a bus into the Jazz and Heritage Festival,” Wood said. “That experience and growing up in New Orleans in general is one of the reasons that I’m standing right here. I was so inspired by the festival, all the moving parts, all the joy that people were having, the energy of the bands. It’s different from a show at a venue — it’s the giant amalgam of sensory overloads really.”
Wood was joined by festival co-organizer and musician of Better Than Ezra fame, Kevin Griffin, who encouraged the students who are all involved in some way in arts to work hard and not give up on their talents, recounting his own career path that he said has been successful because he never gave up.
“If you’ve got the talent, if you’ve got the drive, if you’ve got the perseverance, if you don’t quit, you’ll get your chance to have success over and over again,” Griffin said. “It’s so great that you get the chance to be a part of schools that have vital arts programs.”
Students from each school even had the opportunity to perform for the organizers and others on the Americana Music Triangle Experience stage.
Eight Franklin High School students performed as the eight-piece ska band Ocotobooth while 12 students from BGA performed as the Contemporary Music Ensemble.
BGA Fine Arts Department Chair and a Visual Arts Instructor Jennifer Helm said that most of her students haven’t attended the festival before and were curious and excited for the opportunity at a sneak peek.
“We felt that this was a unique opportunity to see behind the scenes at something that happens literally in the kid’s backyard and for fine arts students to see creativity in action and to see where creative careers exist,” Helm said.
Kendall Grimes, 15, a sophomore at BGA said she’s been playing guitar and singing since she was 10 years old and hopes to pursue music or education in the future, hoping to inspire future musicians as she said her teachers have done for her.
“I think it’s so cool that we’re here because I’ve heard about Pilgrimage and it’s been a cool thing to go to and to be here and to see how it runs and who all puts it on and the inner-workings of it is just so cool to see,” Grimes said. “It’s inspiring to know that people in Franklin are doing something this big and this amazing.”
Franklin High School Band Director Jacob Campos said he came to see the festival up close and support his eight students, all donning Hawaiian shirts, who were set to preform.
“This is pretty incredible. For our program we’re based in the fundamentals of concert band and we have a marching band program, but we want kids to be able to find their voice in whatever they do,” Compos said. “So if they want to be in a jazz band or a pop or ska ensemble, whatever they want to do, we want to give them those skills as really good musicians so that they can do these things.”
The students also met and heard from a variety of professionals working in different areas of the music, entertainment and tourism industries including Clarksdale, Miss., Director of Tourism “Bubba” O’Keefe, Leiper’s Fork businessman Aubrey Preston, who helped save Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A, Visit Franklin President and CEO Ellie Westman Chin and Country Music Halll of Fame Marketing Services Manager Meghan Lamb.
Students were served a variety of sandwiches from Jimmy John’s and learned about the festival’s Americana Music Triangle Experience which ties together the vast history and impact of music from the Mississippi Delta on the greater worldwide music experience.
The trip was closed out with an intimate performance by rising star Bre Kennedy, who performed three songs and is performing at the festival on Saturday at 10:15 a.m. on the ASCAP Shady Grove stage.
The 5th annual Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival kicks off Saturday morning and will continue through Sunday in Franklin.