As the Great Depression swept across the country, a northern Kentucky woman dreamt of moving to Nashville to become a country music star. She never got her wish.
But decades later, her granddaughters are spreading bluegrass music through Lexington. Lafferty Pike, an all-female band, is stopping by the city’s libraries with banjos and mandolins to bring bluegrass to families— particularly children.
“That’s how you carry on the musical story of bluegrass,” said Arendt, who plays the banjo. “If kids never get to try out new things, they’re never going to know about it.”
Despite their grandmother’s Kentucky roots, Arendt and her sisters grew up in southwest Ohio— so it took some time to discover bluegrass. They stumbled upon the genre when a neighbor from Kentucky began sharing his CDs with the family. It didn’t take long for the family— already musicians— to make the shift from classical to country tunes.
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“We couldn’t stop once we started,” Arendt said. After a performance at the Tates Creek Library on Friday, the band set up what Arendt referred to as a “musical petting zoo,” allowing children to strum the instruments themselves. Leslie Arendt, Harmony’s sister, doesn’t mind lending her guitar to dozens of children. Instruments, she thinks, aren’t meant to be off-limits.
“There’s kind of an expectation that you can’t touch it, it’s like it’s glass, you can’t touch it, it’s not for kids, you know it’s for professionals,” she said. “When you can get your hands on it and see ‘oh, I can do this, I can be careful, I can learn how to play,’ I think it’s just good to know that that’s out there.”
In Ohio, Leslie Arendt feels like a “bluegrass missionary”— there, she said, the genre isn’t so prominent. Kentucky is different, she added. “It really feels like coming home,” Leslie Arendt said. “People get bluegrass in Kentucky.”