Fox and Branch offer "Jug Band Jamboree" day camp
Dave Fox and Will Branch have been a musical duo and "jug band" called Fox & Branch for two decades, bringing joyful sounds to grown ups and children.
"We are drawing on a great American musical tradition," says Fox. "Jug bands represent the idea that anyone can draw on their creativity to produce wonderful music. You might say that jug bands represent democracy in music. What you can do with homemade or inexpensive instruments is amazing."
According to Branch, jug bands resulted from people not being able to afford "real" instruments – so they blew on empty jugs or made stand-up basses from a washtub and a piece of clothesline.
"The kazoo figured strongly in the music, and of course the washboard is the iconic percussion instrument that really represents how a common household item can be turned into an amazing musical instrument," says Branch.
This style of music resonates with people of all ages, but particularly children. With this in mind, the two are offering, for the first time, a summer camp at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 1584 N. Prospect Ave., called "Jug Band Jamboree."
The camp takes place July 27-31 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $329. Kids ages 8 to 12 are welcome. During the week, kids will learn about folk music and the jug band tradition, make their own instrument, and create and perform in a stage show on the last day.
"Children will come away from the experience excited about what they have been able to accomplish," says Fox.
Branch adds, "We operate from the philosophy that music is a shared experience that everyone has a right to be a part of. The summer camp is going to be fun and inspiring. We will be learning a lot about essential musical elements, like rhythm and melody, through the process of learning a lot of fun music."
Fox & Branch have recorded seven CDs – five for kids. Their most recent CD, called "Let Us Get Together," won a Parents Choice Recommended Award and features Milwaukee musicians Lil' Rev, Frogwater, Ken Haferman and the late Larry Penn.
"I think it might be the last thing Larry recorded before he died. He was a great friend and we were really happy to have him be a part of this project. His version of 'I've Been Working on the Railroad' is classic," says Branch.
Branch offers vocals, guitar and banjo and Fox plays fiddle, guitar and washboard. The two recently played at the Winnipeg Folk Festival which is one of the biggest folk festivals in North America. More than 70,000 people attended over the four-day event.
Most of the performers on the children's stage are Canadian.
"They only pick a couple of U.S. performers per year," says Branch. "It was Fox & Branch and Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, a husband and wife team. We got a chance to talk to Sarah Lee – she's Arlo Guthrie's daughter. It was fun to trade stories about memorable concerts for kids."
Fox, who was a Milwaukee Public Schools teacher for 15 years, has two children and two grandchildren. Branch has a 6-year-old daughter.
"All of my work with kids actually affects how I am as a father – I feel like I have been lucky to spend so much time with so many kids over the years. It has made me a little more experienced when confronted with whatever new behavior my daughter is growing into," says Branch.
Fox & Branch will play this summer at Bastille Days, the Milwaukee Public Libraries, the South Shore Farmer's Market and more. They also have a monthly gig – the last Sunday of every month – at Anodyne Coffee in Walker's Point. The band's full calendar is available here.
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