I’m thrilled to be invited back to teach hammered dulcimer at MuziekMozaiek’s music camp in Gooik this August. It’ll be my fourth time in Belgium, and every time I go back, I do a little bit more, connect with more musicians, see more of the country, (try a few more beers) etc. Last summer, there were several young musicians walking around in Gooik with this funny glow all around them, and these were people who had recently participated in “Flanders Ethno”– a music week for people ages 16-30 where musicians from all over the world bring one traditional tune to teach to the whole group, and they all form this international folk orchestra, performing the music from the countries represented by all the participants. Apparently last year’s Flanders Ethno was a transcendent experience for these musicians, and so this year I’m heading over to Belgium early in August to check it out. And I’m bringing two of the best musicians I know, John Boulware and Lon Eldridge. These two fellas are also instructors at the Folk School of Chattanooga, so I’m pleased to consider this trip something of a “Folk School Teacher Training” excursion. There’s no telling how our musical worlds are going to be opened up by this experience, and what tremendous value this will have as we continue to teach our students here in Tennessee. We’ve set up this Kickstarter page to try to raise some funds that will help us as we travel. We already have our plane tickets sorted out, so now we’re just looking to raise some cash so we can afford to see and do a few cool things while we’re in Belgium, such as the Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels.
If this is something you think you could get behind, please let me assure you that no amount of support is too small.
Well here’s me skipping a month of blogging, all for starting a folk music school…building local connections stronger, deeper, and more intricately woven than before. It’s been an amazing month since returning from Belgium. For one thing, I hit the ground running with the promotion of the Mountain Music Folk School fall schedule. I’ve been the mad music messenger of Chattanooga, riding around everywhere with my posters and schedules to hand out. Matt’s been right there with me, and so has our business consultant, Mike Harrell. We’re a few more meetings away from having a completed business plan, but we couldn’t wait for that– we decided to jump on this wave of momentum and kick off our first “semester” of group classes. We’re throwing ourselves into this with all our energy, all just to find out the answer to this question: Will the people of Chattanooga support a folk music school, student by student, class by class? It would be too soon to speak now, but let’s just say, so far so good.
I’ve decided that my current job title should be “Community Gatherer”, as I’ve been pulling together first all the teachers to teach our classes and workshops, and now the really fun part of pulling in all the people who might be willing to sign up for a class–or at least sign up on our mailing list. All the lists are growing and growing. Since Casey’s article hit the Times Free Press last Monday, the phone’s been ringing steadily, and all our “gathering” efforts are starting to materialize with real human beings actually stepping up to say, “why yes, I would like to learn to play the banjo!”… and so forth. But also in all our gathering this month, we’ve managed to pull some amazing musicians into our folk school orbit. If our mission is to help these people live musically fulfilling lives, share their knowledge and talent, and help them help others get on board with playing an instrument, heck yeah! We’ll take it! It’s been SO worthwhile so far. I love knowing that a few dozen Chattanoogans (and Chickamaugans, and Ringgolddiggers, and Hixsonians, and RedBankistanis, etc.) are going to spend one hour a week for the next 8 weeks in the presence of patient and passionate musicians like these….
Lon Eldridge. Biologically, he’s 23 years old. Spiritually, he’s 108. When this guy plays and sings, it makes you wonder what kind of soul-swapping took place to stuff the weathered old bluesman into Lon’s body. Lon’s teaching some classes with us this fall, and he’s been such a good sport, coming out with us to all of our wild promotional stunts, like the gig we did at Riverbend last June. Here’s a video clip from that:
Obuobi Ashong. I call him the African gypsy, because he’s been wandering the planet following his musical whims. It is so nice to spend time with someone who cares about nothing more than to play music… and you gotta love the permanent smile look. I think it’s quite the fashion statement. Obuobi will teach a guitar class with us this fall, specifically on this style he plays called “palmwine” music or “highlife.”
Thank you, Chattanooga, for bringing my musical path to a point of intersection with these and other musicians. I’m not taking this for granted!