Modern Roots Foundation February 2018

The 501c3 Files

‘Tis the Gift to Be…Playing Music from The Ashland Sneak Preview

By Sophia and Adam Bogle

I was walking in Lithia Park one beautiful summer day when I came across about a dozen kids all holding fiddles! They were (mostly) paying attention to a grown up with another fiddle who was obviously giving them a lesson. Then they all lifted their bows together and began to play a song! Ok, it would have made a better story maybe if they had played something amazing and perfect, but no, it wasn’t perfect. However, it was lively and joyful and the kids were obviously having a good time. I spent a long moment wishing I were ten years old again so I could be a part of that class. Apparently I had come across the Creekside Strings Summer Fiddle Camp.

Actually, I only found out what it was called after I sat down with the Director of Modern Roots Foundation (MRF), Dee Fretwell. Dee lives up in the Green Springs and we met at the GreenSprings Inn over a fantastic breakfast. I was there to find out more about MRF and Dee had all the answers for me including one I did not expect. When I first heard about this charity I thought that since there was music being taught that there must be some sort of recital fundraiser to attend, so I was actually a bit shocked when she said there are no recitals required of them. She explained that while performing is definitely a part of musicianship, that they didn’t want to put pressure on the kids to focus on that. They want the kids to just have their own relationship with the music. Wow. That just speaks to the heart of why this is such an important and honorable program. I found this great quote by Dee on the MRF Website:

“One of the most magical things I’ve ever seen is the sparkle in children’s eyes when they realize they’ve just made music. You see, music explains what words cannot, and children need to be heard.”  

So you see, MRF is serving a bigger purpose than just making sure there are enough banjo players in the world. They are gifting children with the ability to make their own magic for themselves.

The camp I ran into is just one part of the services offered by the Modern Roots Foundation (MRF). They also offer workshops and private lessons for a number of instruments including banjo, acoustic guitar (electric upon request), upright bass (electric upon request), ukulele, mandolin and of course, the violin/fiddle (These are the same instrument in case you were wondering… I know I was wondering.) They have instructors in Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford so far. Here is a list of their workshops and camps:

  • Wintergrass Youth Academy (Washington, every February)
  • West Coast Country Music Festival Youth Workshops (as offered)
  • Rogue Roots and Strings Spring Break Music Camp (every Spring Break)
  • Creekside Strings Summer Fiddle Camp  (Rogue Valley Only, every summer)

The name Modern Roots is based on the musical genre called American Roots. The music includes several genres we are all familiar with: folk, country, bluegrass, the blues and others. Basically, we are not talking classical music here. The word Modern in their title makes it clear that this is not about being stuck in the past though. Fresh music!

Every year MRF offers a limited number of scholarships for kids  ages 8 -18 who have the desire to play a musical instrument but would otherwise not have the opportunity to take music lessons. MRF is dedicated to helping kids have access to musical instruments and instruction, regardless of their family’s economic status. They started in 2013 and serve all of Southern Oregon helping kids to rent instruments, take lessons and attend music camps.  

One of the fun things about MRF is that while you can donate in all the usual ways, like one time donations or sponsoring a child’s tuition, you can also donate a used musical instrument which will help fund the music scholarships! For more information go to or e-mail:




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