- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

AMBRIDGE, Pa. (AP) - By the time they got to Woodstock, they were a couple dozen strong.

Twenty-five young musicians from the For Those About to Rock Academy absorbed the sights and sensed the aura last weekend when visiting the grounds of rock ‘n’ roll’s most legendary festival.

Before their Woodstock field trip had ended, the students from the Ambridge rock school performed a few songs on the site where pop-culture history was made Aug. 15-18, 1969.

“It was crazy standing the same place where Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Who had played,” For Those About to Rock student Quinn Kelley, 16, of Beaver said. “You could definitely feel that a lot of greatness had been achieved there.”

With numb fingers wrapped around acoustic guitars and tambourines, or stuffed into front pockets to fend off the 39-degree, wind-whipped chill, the students stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the turf of Max Yasgur’s old farm and sang Joe Cocker’s version of “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

“There may not have been a million people in the field this day, but the spirit was there and a new generation felt it,” For Those About to Rock Academy administrator Cathy Stewart said in a message attached to the YouTube video capturing the moment.

Back to the garden

The idea for a Woodstock field trip came from Joey Granati, co-founder of For Those About to Rock Academy with brother David Granati, both of Beaver County’s rocking Granati Brothers band who trace their rock ‘n’ roll dreams back to the night when they sneaked into the old Chippewa Township drive-in to watch the 1970 “Woodstock” documentary.

“When we saw The Who, we were just so amazed we looked at each other and said, ‘That’s what we’re going to do,’” Joey said.

Joey took a pilgrimage last year to Bethel, N.Y, where the Woodstock Music & Art Fair had delivered its promised “three days of peace and music” 45 summers ago. While there, the siblings struck up a conversation with a representative of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts and its related museum commemorating the famed concert festival.

The Bethel Woods center has launched a rock ‘n’ roll school, and upon learning the Granatis had done the same eight years earlier, invited For Those About To Rock Academy for a visit.

“It was like a musical summit between the rock schools,” Joey said, adding that the Woodstock folks told him that For Those About to Rock Academy was the first such school to take a field trip there.

Given the busyness of students’ schedules, both at their regular schools and the music school, as well as the tight schedules of chaperoning parents, the Granatis decided to squeeze the trip into 20 hours.

The cost to rent a bus and hire two drivers was $1,800, prompting the music school to sell raffle tickets and obtain private sponsorships that generated $1,807.

“People have asked what we did with the extra $7,” Joey Granati said. “We bought Twizzlers for the kids. They love Twizzlers.”

While at Woodstock, students toured the grounds and museum, where they watched film highlights of the concert festival.

“It was really moving,” Nicole Smiley, 16, of Aliquippa said. “What really got me was watching Janis Joplin. That moved me to tears.”

Students also saw Woodstock footage of a sensational solo by Santana’s then-20-year-old drummer Michael Shrieve.

Minutes later, the kids got to participate in a Q&A; with the visiting Shrieve, who shared his Woodstock memories while encouraging the students to study all sorts of musical styles.

“That was one of my favorite parts,” Josh Ackerman, 11, of New Brighton said. “He gave us a whole different perspective.

“And one of things that was probably the coolest was when we went to the concert site and saw this huge peace sign that someone had cut into the grass,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman and Kelley, like their schoolmates, were surprised such a small town once accommodated a concert witnessed by hundreds of thousands of people.

Before leaving Bethel, the Beaver Valley youths joined their New York music school peers for a performance of the biographical song “Woodstock” penned by Joni Mitchell and famously recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Soon after, the Beaver Valley kids were back on the bus for the long trip home, many snoozing in their seats until they reached a McDonald’s in Scranton.

We are stardust, we are golden

The trip was exhausting, but the response from students made everything worthwhile, Joey Granati said.

“They realized right away that place is a mecca. That’s hallowed ground,” Granati said. “If you’re a true musician, that’s certainly one of the places you have to see.”

Smiley, a vocalist and student at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland, said the field trip “inspired me to get more into the soulful, moving music from that time frame.”

Echoes of peace, love and music remain in that pastoral New York setting.

“The spirit is still there in those fields and we all were touched and enlightened in some way by it,” Stewart said. “And it continues on in this new generation of musicians.”





Information from: Beaver County Times, https://www.timesonline.com/

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