This spring I've been out and about with studio work jobs, and working part time for The Quest Program, which is a project between the SEEDS organization in northern Michigan, Earthworks music, Blackbird Arts, The American Folklife Center and the Library of Congress. The Quest Program explores songs that Alan Lomax recorded throughout Michigan in 1938 in order to engage youth in the creative process, and connect to their heritage and their place. The Quest encompasses students from SEEDS after school programs that stretch out across seven towns in northern Michigan.
Fellow Earthwork musician John Hanson produced a great Quest promo video for the project, where you'll find me being silly with the awesome students in Brethren. Check out Porche on my fiddle too! I have a feeling she's gonna keep up with the violin after the program:
Here are some articles about the project:
Alan Lomax Inspired Concert Features Northern Michigan Students
Folk Music Collector Inspires Concert With A Twist
I've been working on this project periodically with Mon-Wed blocks since late February. It’s a lot like touring but with more prep & reflection, more daytime performances, and probably just as much thinking on your feet. It’s been fun to work in tandem with other musician like project spearheader Seth Bernard, Josh Davis, Jake Allen, Joe Wilson, Chris Bathgate, Marc Alderman, Mark Lavengood, Graham Parsons, Andy Catlin, Darlene, Ben Cohen and Akili Jackson. I enjoyed strengthening the bond I made with students from the SEEDS School Of Rock Camp last summer as well.
Often, engaging in the folk process is as close as we got with kids who identify with artists like Miley Cyrus, Skrillex, metal, dubstep and hip-hop. But the process was adventurous, and the results were dynamic and refreshing. Instead of mimicking the source songs, students felt excited about using song elements as a tool to explore their personal, cultural and physical landscapes. It was neat to watch the musical palate’s of both teachers and students grow throughout this program. I know that my own writing was influenced by both the source recordings, and the modern stylings of these young interpreters.
There will be a concert showcasing the songs of the program on May 9 at 7 pm at the Traverse City Opera House. Unfortunately I’ll be in Chicago playing a dance with Bowhunter, but those in the Traverse City area should check it out! It will be epic, and there will be lots of handmade props and narration to keep you enthralled.
Here's a video we took of one of the songs we wrote with students from Brethren called "Hoedown Showdown (Sissy Walkin' In Brethren), which is inspired by the source tune "Johnny Stiles (The wild mustard river") Lomax, Alan (recordist), Stice, Archie (singer), Newberry, Michigan. It's a rather gruesome lumbering song that memorializes the young Johnny Styles, who catches his foot in a log jam and meets his end under the rushing river. So, we changed up the meter of the song and sang about life near the Tippy Dam as the kids have (or would like to) experience it:
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.