I apologize, it's taken a long time to get this second instalment up. This is entirely because ever since arriving in Elkins, WV about a week ago, I have been running from one amazing lesson, dinner, and/or jam to the next. Also, in the middle of all this, I drove out to Kerhonkson, NY (approx 8 hours away!!) to attend the NERFA conference- which was somehow even MORE non-stop than my time in Elkins- and then drove back again.
So here I am, with a couple of moments to spare.
Elkins, West Virginia.
I came to this little town because, although it doesn't like to brag, it is a mecca of oldtime masters. I mean it. I could probably throw a stick out the window and hit 2 fiddlers, and a clogger.
The folks I know here are both insanely busy performing and sharing folk music and dance, as well as welcoming and generous with their time and skills. I came here thinking I'd hunker down with 1 or 2 teachers, but because of limited schedules and availabilities, instead I've been feasting at a buffet of talent. At a moment's notice I've been throwing on my coat and rushing up the hill for a clogging lesson here or a fiddle lesson there. My cell has been like a pager for a drug dealer, it beeps, and I rush off!
So far I've been a lucky learner. I have had 2 clogging lessons- with Matthew Olwell and Becky Hill, 1 singing lesson with Emily Miller, and 1 fiddle lesson with Gerry Milnes. I'd say who's up next, but I just can never tell who might ring me up with an hour to spare!
Elkins is the home of Davis & Elkins College, and D&E is the home of not only the infamous Augusta Heritage Centre, but also the home of a budding (maybe even exploding) Appalachian Ensemble- a dance and music ensemble made up of students at the college, showcasing killer choreography, songs and tunes, and led by my friends Becky Hill and Emily Miller.
The very existence of the ensemble is so incredibly inspiring to me. As a former professional dancer and choreographer, this project makes me froth at the mouth- and it's very difficult to express why to those who don't know, or to those who may have forgotten that I devoted half a decade to building a roots-centric modern dance group before crossing over into the musician's world. So I've been just biting my tongue (which is hard because my jaw is gaping open) and marvelling at the motivation behind and the momentum of this program.
Last week I had the privilege of subbing in for Becky's clogging class. Instead of clogging, we had a play party day, and ploughed through a dozen games and dances. This week I get to go as a student, and bust out my taps.
And the fun continues.
But also, as I mentioned, last Thursday I drove out to the Catskills to attend the North East Regional Folk Alliance Conference (NERFA), and met up with my fabulous band who all drove down from Toronto. The conference is an opportunity for musicians, bookers, Radio DJs and other industry professionals to meet, and in particular this one is devoted to the North Eastern US region. Well, that may have been so- but I have to say after all is said and done, I came away from NERFA with a renewed pride for Canadian folk music. Obviously I have a love for American folk music, and so this is not coming from a place of disdain for American musicians. I simply mean that while at NERFA I became aware of the hilarious, brilliant, talented songwriters that make up the Canadian folk music community, and I was so honoured to have been welcomed into it.
Home is a nebulous thing when music leads you to it. It's nice to know I can find it wherever I go.
Meal of the week:
Spontaneous potluck in Elkins with bean/chicken soup, roasted vegetables, ginger chicken stirfry with homemade kimchi, home made beer and apple cranberry crisp- all from a farm nearby.