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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 1, 2012

Fairview Avenue will play benefit to keep Altamont’s preschool afloat

ALTAMONT — Local bluegrass band Fairview Avenue will perform on the Hill this weekend to raise funds so that the Altamont Cooperative Preschool can continue to serve the village.

“People have referred to it as Altamont’s best kept secret,” said Theresa Lasselle, longtime director and teacher at the preschool. “It’s our own community preschool, operated by parents, which keeps the cost down. It’s a great gem right here in town.”

The school, housed in the Altamont Reformed Church, gives 3- and 4-year-olds the opportunity to learn in small classes. Because of the downturn in the economy, fund-raisers have become especially important for the preschool, though the goal varies from year to year, depending on enrollment.

The fund-raiser will take place this Saturday, March 3, at 6:30 p.m. at the Township Tavern in Knox. The cost is $15, and pizza and wings will be available to all who attend.

This is the second week in a row that Fairview Avenue will play locally, though last week’s performance was for the opposite end of the age spectrum as the band entertained the Altamont Seniors.

“We have an incredible group of parents this year,” said Lasselle. “It’s just a caring group of people that love the community, and they’re really creative in their fund-raising ventures. I thought it was amazing that the band wanted to do this.”

Fairview Avenue is a five-piece contemporary bluegrass band that was founded in the village about four years ago, at a home on the street after which the band is named.

The two band members that live there, Scott and Elizabeth Hopkins, have a 4-year-old daughter, Allison, who goes to the preschool.

Scott Hopkins is a banjo virtuoso who picks through lightning-fast licks in all the right places. While his wife, Elizabeth, only started singing and playing upright bass when the band formed, her dedication to both crafts pours out of her with the music.

Tony Califano, who composes most of the music, also plays mandolin, which he also picked up in recent years.

“I was playing guitar with Scott and Liz, and we were trying to find a mandolin player, but we couldn’t,” Califano told The Enterprise earlier this winter. “So, I figured I would learn it.”

There were some differences that took getting used to.

“The whole thing is a lot smaller,” he said, “and it’s tuned in fifths like a violin; a guitar is tuned in fourths. Functionally, what that means is that everything is very symmetrical, so, when you play scales, you can start on any string and the pattern will be exactly the same. For the type of music we play, the mandolin has a lead role; historically, the mandolin tends to be a melodic instrument.”

Brig McCutcheon is the band’s stoic rhythm guitarist, who lives around the corner from the Hopkinses. Joe Gumpper, is a classically trained violinist and jazz fiddler, whose facial expressions are as colorful as his playing.

All members sing, besides Gumpper — “But we’re trying to change that,” Scott Hopkins said.

“Our sound has sort of evolved,” Califano told The Enterprise earlier this winter. “But, bluegrass is bluegrass to some extent, and that’s where we work out of.”

Lasselle concluded, “We want to raise as much money as we can, because we don’t know what will happen with our registration next year. We can’t raise too much for the kids.”

— By Zach Simeone

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