By Dena Wood
The Times 

Switchgrass to Sasayama

Sunday concert will raise funds for Japan trip


Times File Photo

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers got in on the fun and clapped along with Switchgrass Delta members when they performed at the Walla Walla Veterans Home Grand Opening in Feburary. (l to r) Kaleb Kuykendall, Robert Walsh, Rodgers, Emma Philbrook, Chris Philbrook.

WAITSBURG – Local youth bluegrass band Switchgrass Delta will join with other local talent in a fundraising concert at the Plaza Theater in Waitsburg on Sun., April 23 at 4 p.m. Funds from the concert will help pay for the band's upcoming trip to Sasayama Japan in October.

Switchgrass Delta is part of the Touchet Valley Acoustic Music Project (TVAMP). Band members include: Emma Philbrook on mandolin, Chris Philbrook on banjo, Robert Walsh on standup bass, and Kaleb Kuykendall on fiddle.

The band has performed at gigs and fundraisers all over the Touchet Valley, including the Seneca Food Bank Benefit, the Dayton and Walla Walla Relay for Life events, the Frenchtown Rendezvous, the Columbia County Fair, Waitsburg Celebration Days, and many more.

The musicians will represent Walla Walla as the cultural exchange group for the 45th anniversary of the Sasayama-Walla Walla Sister City Exchange Program. Band members recently played host to several Japanese students who visited Waitsburg and Walla Walla.

While in Japan, the band members will stay with host families as they tour the country and learn Japanese culture. The band will play music at local schools and events in Sasayama during their two-week visit, from Oct. 12-24.

The trip is becoming a tradition as, 10 years ago, another Waitsburg youth bluegrass band, The Blue Mountain Troublemakers, traveled to Sasayama for the 35th anniversary celebration. The Troublemakers started Waitsburg's youth bluegrass movement in 2003, and today over 20 youngsters participate in TVAMP, directed by Kate Hockersmith.

Hockersmith joined the 2007 trip as a parent/chaperone and is looking forward to sharing the experience with a new crop of musicians.

"It's an amazing learning experience. I can't think of any other travel that would be as eye-opening as some of the stuff that went on there," Hockersmith said.

The Kuykendall Kids and the Jasper Mountain Band will also perform at Sunday's concert. The Jasper Mountain Band is made up of Jimmye Turner and Glenn Morrison from the Ryegrass Stringband, John Hockersmith from The Blue Mountain Troublemakers, and Kate Hockersmith.

"We've been playing together forever as friends, and about a month as a band!" Kate Hockersmith said.

Tickets for Sunday's concert are $10, and may be purchased at the door or reserved by calling (509) 337-8789.


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