Our Summer Semester of ArtSchool is here and with it our Summer 2018 ArtSchool Catalog! Peruse it online from your computer or phone – our interactive digital catalog allows you to flip the pages, learn about our class offerings, and register by clicking on the name of a course! Try it out below:
Counselor program deadline approaching! Application deadline has been extended to Sunday, May 6.
Middle and High School students can gain Service Learning hours volunteering with our Counselor Program at ArtsCamp this summer. If you love the arts – painting, dancing, sewing, take an opportunity to work with children and develop leadership skills at the ArtsCenter. Please see details below and email Natalie Rambaldi email@example.com with any questions.
Volunteer Counselor Program – For Rising 9th-12th Graders
Applications are due by 5pm on May 6th, 2018.
The ArtsCenter Counselor Program is open to students in rising grades 9-12 who have an interest in developing their leadership skills, working with children, and gaining experience in an arts education setting. There are two locations for volunteering, ‘ArtsCamp’ at The ArtsCenter and ‘Ready for K’ at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School.
ArtsCamp Counselors volunteer under the supervision of ArtsCamp Instructors (Teaching Artists), the Youth Education Department Staff, and the ArtsCamp Assistants. They assist with day camps for children in rising grades K-6. Older counselors, those in rising grades 11 and 12, may be asked to assist with programs for campers in rising grades 7-12.
The ArtsCenter partners with the Family Success Alliance to provide arts enrichment to rising kindergartners with a program called Ready For K. This program takes place offsite, at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School, from July 9 – August 2. Counselors for this program will work from 12:15-4:30pm pm Mondays-Thursdays to support Teaching Artists in preparing 4 and 5 year olds for the rigorous demands of Kindergarten! Many of these campers do not speak English at home, so this is an excellent opportunity for you to practice your Spanish or Karen.
Duties at both sites include welcoming campers each morning, engaging the group during camp activities, aiding with camp set-up and clean-up, supervising children during aftercare (ArtsCenter only), helping instructors prepare projects, and leading clean up at the end of each day in preparation for the following day.
Service-learning hours are granted for hours worked (approximately 40 hours per week at The ArtsCenter or 17 hours per week at FPG Elementary School). You are welcome to apply at both The ArtsCenter and at FPG Elementary School. All applicants must commit to a minimum of two weeks in the Counselor program.
This application is for the student to complete. All communication should be through the candidate and not the parent/guardian. The ArtsCamp Counselor program is designed to prepare students for applying for jobs in the future, and we want to encourage candidates who show initiative and maturity by being responsible for all stages of this process.
Applications are due by 5pm on April 30th, 2018. All candidates will be notified by May 9th of the status of their application. Final schedules will be released the week of May 14th, 2018.
Applicants are assessed on a rolling basis and spaces are limited, so we encourage you to apply early! Please feel free to email any questions to the Education Assistant – Natalie Rambaldi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Junior Counselor Program – For Rising 7th and 8th Graders
The Junior Counselor Program is open to rising 7th and 8th grade students who have attended ArtsCamp in past years and are interested in becoming an ArtsCamp counselor when they enter high school. Junior Counselors work with our Little Campers program (rising grades K & 1), shadowing experienced high school counselors to assist professional teaching artists in leading visual and performing arts camps.
Duties include welcoming campers each morning, engaging children during camp activities, aiding with camp set-up and clean-up, supervising children during aftercare, helping Teaching Instructors prepare projects, and leading clean up at the end of each day.
Service-learning hours are granted for hours worked (approximately 28 hours per week). Junior Counselors must commit to a minimum of two weeks and up to three weeks during the summer. The role is supervised by ArtsCamp Staff, Youth Education Staff and the Teaching Instructor.
If you are interested in becoming a Junior Counselor, please fill out and submit this form by 5pm, April 30th
In 2015, banjoist and composer Jayme Stone released Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project, a record featuring a selection of songs from Alan Lomax’s vast catalog of field recordings, re-imagined and recorded for a modern audience by Stone and a hand-picked ensemble of roots musicians. The success of the Lomax Project, which Folk Roots called “an essential album,” inspired Stone to continue his investigation of archival folk music traditions from around the world. The updated project, dubbed “Jayme Stone’s Folklife,” explores Sea Island spirituals, Creole calypsos, and Appalachian dance tunes. We spoke with Stone in anticipation of the Jayme Stone’s Folklife performance at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro on Friday, April 27th. Tickets for the performance are available here.
photo courtesy Jayme Stone
Jayme Stone’s Folklife is a touring ensemble show that grew out of your 2015 album, Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project. The updated name suggests that you’ve expanded the project’s repertoire beyond the scope of the heralded Alan Lomax collection to include songs from the larger folk tradition. Is that a fair characterization?
Yes, certainly that is a fair characterization. The project began focusing specifically on songs that Alan Lomax and his father, John, had collected. Over the years of doing the project, it evolved and expanded, and we started to include the work of other folklorists and open the aperture a little bit wider. More than anything, we focused more on the songs and the singers and traditions themselves, rather than the collectors so much.
Will Folklife be an ongoing project, or is your work under that name specific to this tour?
Folklife has been an ongoing project. The Lomax Project started almost five years ago. Historically I’ve made a new record every two years – that’s a vastly different concept in lineup and repertoire – I’ve done that, then I’ve done a one-eighty and made something completely new. But this project has lasted because it’s so deep – these archives are so vast, and I will never get to listen to all the songs as long as I live! It’s a very deep well.
And we are continuing, still. I’m beginning to work on a new project that is a big departure from anything that I’ve done, but the Folklife project will continue. The band is like a family now and we love to play together, unearth old songs and dust them off.
The lineup for your April 27th show at The ArtsCenter includes Moira Smiley, Sumaia Jackson & Joe Phillips, each an accomplished musician in their own rite. Your Lomax and Folklife projects feature collaborators from a diverse array of musical backgrounds. How did you choose the lineup for each of these projects?
I have met all the musicians that I’ve worked with in an organic way. There’s a loose-knit community of musicians who are interested in this old music. I keep my ear to the ground, and I’m always checking out new people and seeing who’s on the scene. These were all musicians that I was really moved by – both their musicianship, and they’re all wonderful human beings, which is a major criteria. Even though folks have to be interested in these old folk songs, the music draws influence form jazz improvisation and a certain connectivity that happens in chamber music playing as well as all kinds of other references coming in. I like to work with people that have a foot in the tradition and are willing to step outside and have varied interests.
Do you perform the same selections at each show? What can your ArtsCenter audience expect from your performance?
We tend to have a setlist for a tour or a season. It will slowly evolve and morph: certain songs might fall away for a spell and new ones are always being folded in. At this point we are playing most of the songs from the new Folklife record, a few that we are forever in love with from the Lomax Project record, and then there are a couple of new things that have never been recorded. And we’re still a month away so who knows what might evolve before then! But the last two records definitely will give people a clear idea of what to expect.
You’ve said that you hope your work with folk archives turns people on to the world of field recordings. What is it about field recordings that appeals to you, as a folklorist, musician, and/or a listener?
Although I’m someone with a modern sensibility in how I make music, I’m always interested in going back and learning from our elders and exploring the more arcane corners of the roots music tradition. So I try and find songs that are more undiscovered. And we like the concert to also feel educational, where people get introduced to traditions – you know, maybe they haven’t heard music from the South Carolina Sea Islands, or maybe they didn’t realize the banjo came from West Africa and you can hear all those influences in both Appalachian repertoire and things in the Carribean which have strong relations to the African American tradition here. So we definitely try and turn people on to the wide scope of this music.
Ever since I was a kid I always loved avidly reading liner notes, and if somebody would mention an influence or where they learned a song, I would look that artist up and in turn find out who they learned from. That’s how I found field recordings in the first place. They’re a great touchstone, as well as just being beautiful, raw, often very emotional, and unpolished in the most beautifully organic way.
You made your own field recordings when you traveled to Mali in 2008 to study the banjo’s African roots. I’ve read that you wanted to capture the sound of instruments like the n’goni for your own learning process. How does a folklorist determine how to use field recordings, and whether or not to release them commercially?
I did spend three months in Mali, West Africa in 2008. I didn’t make field recordings for any kind of public use – they were very much personal. I wasn’t super concerned with the quality, I just did the best that I could. Mostly I was making recordings because there weren’t very many that were available of people playing n’goni and other ancestors of the banjo. Much like the banjo in bluegrass music, the n’goni in West African music is part of the fabric of a band. It can easily get buried, so there wasn’t much solo n’goni music where you can hear what was going on. I was looking for recordings that I could bring back and study – whether it was a balafone player or a kora player or a singer, I wanted to be able to stop and just listen to what one person was doing and get some of the nuance and detail and polyrhythm. I never even thought to release them commercially, nor do I think I ever will! But I still go back from time to time and learn songs that I never got to learn in the last ten years.
Are there guidelines for how a musician featured in a commercially released field recording would be credited and compensated? Does that factor into the decision a folklorist makes about how he or she might use a recording?
You know, I’ve never gone about doing that. I have friends that have worked on, edited, or curated collections for Smithsonian Folkways who have a lot more experience. I typically think these things are negotiated one-on-one with individual artists. In some cases, artists are not paid and in other cases they make special arrangements. And of course, what was done in 1933 will be vastly different than what’s done now.
There are all kinds of complex legal issues with these old songs – it is a very, very complicated and philosophically complex issue. How the law works is based on precedent. So, somebody with enough gumption who’s lawyered up can go ahead and say, “Well, I wrote such and such traditional song,” and until they get challenged in court, they have the ability to say that whether it’s true or not. Oftentimes the origins of these songs are obscure, or there are many cases of songs where an artist has claimed publishing on them and yet in the recording itself they talk about where they learned them from! Or people just change the title or rewrite the lyrics to a melody or rewrite the melody to lyrics.
The Lomax Project benefited from the relatively recent digitization of Alan Lomax’s field recordings. (All seventeen-thousand-odd original field recordings are now available online at the Cultural Equity organization.) Can you talk about the impact that digitization and internet distribution have had on your work as a folklorist?
The work that I’ve done has been enormously helped by the fact that so much of the Lomax archive and the work of many other folklorists has been digitized. Even with Smithsonian Folkways, you’re able to stream or purchase most of their catalog now, digitally. And for free, they provide full liner notes on their website, which is a little-known fact that is an incredible benefit for people like me. It’s really an amazing resource. It’s not without its issues – it’s very different to scroll through a list of songs and click on them, listening through your computer speakers. It can have such a different experience to it than sitting at the foot of an elder musician or learning a song from somebody with whom you can spend time in their community or their home. And yet it’s such a good resource: the ability to access this vast, vast trove of songs. Yeah, I have relied on it heavily.
Also, wanting to have more of a first-hand experience, I have spent a bunch of time at the Library of Congress and the American Folklife Center, looking through card catalogs and wandering through the archives themselves down in the basement, pulling things off shelves and having a more tactile, curious relationship with the material. Also, I’ve had things digitized, or I’ve listened to things in their original format, and learned songs that have not been digitized. So all kinds of different processes are at work here, but yes, the internet is greatly beneficial to this process.
Jayme Stone’s Folklife performs at The ArtsCenter on Friday, April 27th
Venue: Earl & Rhoda Wynn Theater
Tickets are available here
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is an American cultural institution, widely credited as the group that both revived the traditional New Orleans jazz style and expanded its sound palette with influences from bebop, funk, and Miles Davis’ pioneering fusion era. Founded in 1977, the Dirty Dozen extended their reach throughout the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000′s, collaborating with artists as diverse as Dizzy Gillespie, Norah Jones, and Modest Mouse.
This year, as they celebrate their 40th year of barnstorming live performances, the Dirty Dozen will dish out a helping of their famous “big old musical gumbo” at a special New Year’s Eve show here at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. To prepare, we talked with founding member Roger Lewis about the history of the band, their connection to New Orleans’ Social and Pleasure Clubs, and the enduring politics of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.
The ArtsCenter: The band’s name references the Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club, a Tremé neighborhood benevolent society which, like other New Orleans social aid and pleasure clubs at the time, helped its members with health care and funeral expenses. I like the idea of a band growing out of that sort of community organization. Does the band still have a connection to today’s social aid and pleasure clubs? If so, what are those organizations like now?
Roger Lewis: The band isn’t really associated with the club anymore, that was just where it all started with Benny Jones and myself. The Social and Pleasure Clubs were originally called Benevolent Society groups, like you said provided aid for health care and funeral expenses. They merged into Social and Pleasure Clubs over the years. They now mostly work in community service and putting on parades for different causes. Some of the big ones are the Black Men of Labor and the Money Wasters who put on lots of second lines and parades for the community.
TAC: Gregory Davis has said that a lack of gigs in the early days of the band is what gave the Dirty Dozen the freedom to experiment with different styles. In those days, did the band have an end goal in mind for its experimentation – that is, were you consciously trying to develop a new sound, to move the music in a new direction? And did it become harder to experiment after the band hit and you had regular gigs, along with expectations from labels and audiences?
RL: No, we just played what we liked. We liked to mix in stuff like Charlie Parker, Jimmy Forrest, Dizzy and even Michael Jackson and bring it to the streets. Add that second line groove to it. I remember I brought in Caravan to play, just because I liked it. Some traditional jazz players looked down on us, but liked to bring in avant garde, funk and bebop. We weren’t thinking about changing history, we just wanted to satisfy the need to play more styles. We really still do the same thing and its brought other artists to us, that want to play with us from a wide range of genres over the years.
TAC: The band hit in Europe first. What was your experience of the European jazz scene at the time? Was there more support for jazz in Europe than in America in the early- to mid-1980’s?
RL: Our experience was playing a lot over there, but we were playing a lot in the U.S. And over there. We played with Buddy Rich, the Texas Tenors, Cab Calloway, Count Basie Band, Miles Davis. They love jazz in Europe, in fact one time opening up for Buddy Rich we had to play 6 encores! But we still kept a lot of gigs going on in the U.S., we’d play for a month at a time in NYC then head to Europe, all while playing all the parades, conventions and riverboat gigs in New Orleans. So the support was really there from both places.
TAC: In the late 1990’s, the Dirty Dozen signed to Mammoth Records, a label that was located right here in Carrboro. How did that connection come about?
RL: Our earlier manager hooked us up with them for a couple of albums, Buck Jump and Ears To The Wall but I don’t remember much else about how that came about.
TAC: In 2006, the Dirty Dozen released an interpretation of Marvin Gaye’s classic, What’s Going On, partly as a reaction to the devastation caused by – and the federal government’s response to – Hurricane Katrina. But you [Roger Lewis] said that the record was “geared toward what’s going on in the world today, not necessarily New Orleans. It’s bigger than New Orleans. Much bigger.” The sense of unrest captured on that record feels like it’s still a part of our social fabric. If you were to interpret What’s Going On in 2017, what would you be talking about?
RL: It’s the exact same thing that’s going on now that was going on then. Exactly what Marvin was talking about on that record is happening now, it’s the same political stuff, they just put a different coat and tie on it.
TAC: Your show here at The ArtsCenter is on New Year’s Eve! Do you have any special plans for that show? What can audiences expect from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on New Year’s Eve?
RL: We’ve got something for your mind, your body and your soul! We’re going to make it do what it do. I always say you better bring your tennis shoes because you’ll get a workout at one of our shows. We always play a special NYE show and each year brings a little something different to the table. We’re looking forward to celebrating the night in Carrboro!
Our Winter/Spring 2018 ArtSchool Catalog is here and you can peruse it online from your computer or phone! Our interactive digital catalog allows you to flip the pages, learn about our class offerings, and register by clicking on the name of a course! Try it out below:
We spoke with John McEuen about his time with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – and about his plans for his first tour after leaving the seminal folk-rock group – in advance of his show at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro on November 10th. Get tickets for John McEuen & Friends present Will the Circle Be Unbrokenhere.
Interview continues below. Audio from this interview is streaming at the bottom of this post.
The ArtsCenter: Your tour this fall is a celebration of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s classic record, Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Each show features stories and songs from the record. Storytelling has always been an important aspect of the folk tradition, and at this point Circle has its own mythology. What kind of stories should audiences anticipate at these shows? Are they stories about the recording sessions? Stories about the songs themselves?
John McEuen: For years, with the Dirt Band, I’ve been very frustrated by not having enough music reflecting the Will the Circle Be Unbroken album. In fact, the band only did one song from the album. And that is such an important record for my life and for many people’s lives that it just needs to be covered more. When I started doing that at my own shows, I found out there’s a real hunger for knowing about how it all came about. And I have all these photographs from the session, and stories behind it.
It’s always different every night, but what usually happens is I have the video running behind me and I might be talking about part of the album recording and I say to the audience, “Instead of trying to tell you what Maybelle Carter was like, let’s just go to the session.” And that’s when her voice will come up on the screen and say, “Well in the old days I used to play it like this.” Then Doc Watson says, “Do you remember the ending you put on that old song?” And she says, “Well I started it like this…” That’s when we start “Keep on the Sunny Side,” live on stage with the pictures going behind us.
And we go through the whole process of recording the album, with some sound bytes from the studio, from Roy Acuff and Doc and Merle [Travis] and Maybelle. But preceding that is also the story of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, a group of young hippies in Southern California that had a dream of getting on the radio, and did against all odds. Our first review in Billboard Magazine, before we had a record company, was: “Very entertaining, but doubtful if they’ll ever be captured on record.”
TAC: Well, you proved them wrong.
JM: That review is in a frame with the first platinum album. [In this show] I try to take people through this strange path I’ve been on, the dream of an Orange County teenager. The first part of the dream was just to get out of Orange County — that’s Orange County, California. I’d spent several years working in Disneyland, then music came along and took over the pursuit, my passion.
TAC: So the music was kind of a ticket out of where you grew up.
JM: It became one, for sure. The pathway out. After I saw a group called The Dillards, I was driven to play the banjo. I went home and took the fifth string off my guitar and put a HO [scale] railroad spike at the fifth fret so I could tune it like a banjo. From that point on, I wanted to be on stage and travel the world as a troubadour, mainly in the folk tradition.
The first guy that I had a band with was Les Thompson. We had a group called the Wilmore City Moonshiners in 1965. That lasted about nine months. We probably did twelve jobs, then went our separate ways. Then he called me up the next year and said, “We’re putting together a new band — it’s called the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.” And in about the second month of the band coming together, I jumped in. I taught ‘em a song I’d written with my brother, ‘cause I’d wanted to play a banjo contest with more behind me than just me. And they did a good job! So I said, “OK, I’ll go with this group, ‘cause that might get me on the radio.” Nine months later we had our first single out, “Buy for Me the Rain,” with banjo on it.
TAC: Now, was that an actual banjo or were you still playing a modified guitar?
JM: No, that was an actual banjo. I put a mute on it so it would sound like a harpsichord!
We made four albums, then Jeff [Hanna] broke the group up after we did Paint Your Wagon, the movie. We spent four months on the set and when we got back a couple months later, we were tired. We split for six months. I went and worked on other things, including an album with [Eagles founding member] Bernie Leadon, mainly bluegrass. We worked for about four months on music, but he got a call to be part of Dillard and Clark. Then I ran into Jeff at a club and said, “We ought to get the band back together,” which we did.
All this story comes out on stage, with the photos behind us from the era. It kind of takes people on the path, as if they were there like a fly on the wall. And Les Thompson is part of the group that I have. He’s on stage with me fifty years later.
One of the guys in the group is John Cable. He was in the band in the 1970’s and went to Russia with us. We became the first American band to go to Russia.
TAC: I’ve read about that. How did that come about? How did they decide it would be you guys that went over?
JM: The Russians had to go look at a bunch of American groups and decide which one they would approve. It was in the agreement between the State Departments that America would bring over whatever they wanted, but they had to commit to bringing over a band — not a lead guy, a star with a bunch of musicians, but an actual, democratic band. They went and looked at a bunch of groups and they ended up picking us. We did twenty-eight sold-out shows.
I took an 8MM sound camera with me, in 1977, and when I have enough time — which I will, for this show — I go through the Russia trip a bit. John Cable’s up there in the pictures, but now it’s thirty years later. He has more hair than Les, though. Les has less hair. [laughs]
TAC: Besides Les, who else are you going to have on stage with you for this show?
JM: On stage with me also will be a guy I’ve been playing music with the last twenty-five years: Matt Cartsonis. He plays mandola, guitar … but I don’t let him sing till the middle of the show ‘cause he’s so hard to follow. [laughs] Matt just rocks out. It’s all acoustic, no drums: stand-up bass, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandola. We cover music from the early Dirt Band, music from my String Wizardsalbum, and the new album, Made in Brooklyn. Matt’s an integral part of the Made in Brooklyn album.
TAC: On your latest album, Made in Brooklyn, you play the title track from an earlier album, Acoustic Traveller.
JM: It’s a song from Acoustic Traveller with a different arrangement. Made in Brooklyn features people I’ve been wanting to record with for many years, like David Bromberg, Jay Ungar, John Cowan. Matt’s singing the song John Cowan did, and he’s killing it. It’s exciting every night. After we do some Dirt Band songs, and the Circle story, we get into that music — more bluegrass than the Dirt Band does.
What’s important about this trip — well, I think every show is important — but this particular trip is the first time I’m actually going out as an ex-member of the Dirt Band. I just departed at the end of October. After fifty-one years, I just need to do what I want to do. It’s awful hard to be in a band and say, “Hey guys, I’ve got twelve songs I want to put on the next album,” you know? It’s awful hard to be in a band and say, “I want to do these fifteen songs on stage tonight.” But my players — Les and Matt and John Cable — we like to play everything. They like to play everything. They like to follow my suggestions, and they have so many good ones of their own. Everybody listens to each other.
TAC: You have more creative freedom under your own name, I imagine.
JM: Totally. With the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, it had come down to where I wasn’t fingerpicking guitar anymore. I wasn’t playing enough bluegrass music or enough Carter Family songs, or our new music. The band basically played the same set for the last 11 years: “OK, the show started at 8. What time is it now? Oh, ‘Bojangles’ is starting, so it must be it’s 8:52!” [laughs]
At this show, we’ll play at least one or two songs that we’ve never played before together. Somebody might yell out a request, and I’ll say, “John, do you know that one? Matt, do you know it? I know it, follow me.” Or, “You know it, I’ll follow you.” And that’s not to be haphazard. It’s to capture that moment when music is for the music and not just because it was on a record – to put people to the test.
TAC: It sounds like you have a lot of flexibility on stage, a lot of spontaneity.
JM: Exactly. And keep in mind, the Circle album was thirty-five songs done in six days. And that was because everybody had studied what to do. The Made in Brooklyn album, with all the people I mentioned and several others like David Amram, Andy Goessling from Railroad Earth, Skip Ward on bass, John Carter Cash, Steve Martin plays banjo on a Warren Zevon song – we’re doing a couple Warren Zevon songs because I think he’s an overlooked guy. Made in Brooklyn has fourteen songs and was done in two days. We recorded it all in one microphone, and you had to be able to know the song and play it right once.
TAC: Tell me a little bit about that binaural recording technique, because it’s pretty interesting. In photos, everybody’s gathered around a model of a human head, and the mic kind of replicates how we hear the music in a room.
JM: You know when you drop your car keys, you hear ‘em hit the ground, right? A bird chips in a tree and you hear it above you. A car honks its horn while you’re walking down the street and you can tell it’s behind you, right? That’s the way you actually hear. But most stereo records are mixed right to left, as though everything is right in front of you. This binaural mic — in a dummy head with two split mics, one in each ear — it hears the way you hear. When my daughter first got the album, she said, “Dad, I wish you would’ve warned me. I was home alone playing the record and I thought somebody came in behind me.” [laughs] It’s like surround sound without the speakers.
TAC: I’m not sure I’ve heard another binaural record.
JM: There’s a bunch of ‘em on Chesky Records. They’ve made about four hundred albums over the years. When the owner of the company came to me with a proposal, it took a while to get it going, to get everybody’s schedules to match up. Then we rehearsed the songs for about five days — we rehearsed by email, too — and it came together.
On the “Miner’s Night Out” cut on Made in Brooklyn, the drum sound is one of my favorite I’ve ever had recorded with my music. And it’s all with the one mic, all in one take! It amazed me. I was thinking the drums weren’t going to pick up good enough, but no: it was perfect. That was also because of the drummer: he knew that he wasn’t playing rock and roll drums. He was a percussionist.
The engineer would come out after we ran a song once and he’d say to one person, “You move back two feet, and you move in a foot. And I gotta move you over to the left about four feet.” Because we were surrounding the mic. And dang, Skip Ward, the bass player — I used Skip Ward on The Crow, the album I produced for Steve Martin. I’d spent five days in the studio with him there and in rehearsal for this album, and I’ve never heard him make a mistake! It’s really disgusting! [laughs] He’s so good. One of the top New York bass players.
TAC: Did the setup in the room affect the arrangements of the songs themselves?
JM: It meant we didn’t need echo, because the room was a big, old, out-of-business church that had its own natural echo. That’s why we recorded there. Chesky records in that building all the time. It was a simple formula: the engineer said, “If you can’t hear the other guy playing, then you’re playing too loud. Play like you want to hear each other. If it’s your solo, and they can’t hear you, then they’re playing too loud.”
TAC: You’d have to have some disciplined musicians to pull that off.
JM: They certainly were. All these people have been recording for 40 years or more. They’ve gone through all the mistakes and the accomplishments of recording well. I told David Bromberg on “She Darked the Sun,” “Just play one of the solos that I used to have to buy the album for.” [laughs] Sometimes you’d hear a record back in the 70’s and go, “Geez, how did he play that?!” and you’d buy the album because of that one solo.
That recording attitude is reflected in the live show. It’s a wonderful thing. We feel at ease in what we’re doing but excited about getting out there. We’re playing all the time. The sound check usually goes long because we’re done in about fifteen minutes but we play for another hour. Then we go back to the dressing room and play because you can’t play in the rental car, you know? That’s the excitement I miss.
TAC: This is a Carrboro show, and The ArtsCenter is literally two blocks from where Elizabeth Cotten grew up on Lloyd Street. You told me you were thinking of doing a special tribute or acknowledgment of her at the show. Are you still planning on doing that?
JM: Yeah. The first song I learned fingerpicking was “Freight Train.” Years later, I was booking and producing a show for Austin City Limits, and I booked Elizabeth Cotten to come out and tell her story. That was a really neat thing, to get to meet her. At thirteen years old, she had written a song on fingerpicking guitar that has had as much effect on the guitar world as Maybelle Carter’s guitar playing did.
I was talking to Duane Allman’s daughter a year or two ago. She wanted to find out about her dad because she was only three or four years old when he died, so she was calling people that knew him. I’d spent time with Duane. When The Allman Brothers first came to LA — my brother had convinced the band The Allman Joys to come out to Los Angeles — they moved into the house that I’d rented up in the Hollywood Hills. We had one floor occupied by The Allman Joys — which was to become The Allman Brothers — and the other three by Dirt Band people. It was a mess. [laughs]
It was really fun. We were on the radio for the first time, and this group of great players had come out. They were set up and playing on one floor, and we were on the other three. They became The Hourglass, which lasted about a year and a half. Then that broke up, and so forth.
TAC: Looking back, that was such a magical time. You had an intersection of great talent, recording technology that was coming along very rapidly, and an industry with infrastructure that could support new artists. It’s incredible to think back on all the great music that was made back then.
JM: It was very strange: I was living in Laurel Canyon, in the middle of Hollywood, kind of. Across the street was [“San Francisco” singer] Scott McKenzie with flowers in his hair. Next door was Ian Whitcomb from England with a hit [“N-Nervous”]. Down the street were The Mamas & the Papas. Across from them were The Mothers of Invention. And at the top of the hill was Steve Martin, writing for the Smothers Brothers’ show, and my brother was managing him.
I had a young kid, a nineteen year-old, approach the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1969, and he wanted us to record some of his songs. So I had him come up to make a demo. I play one of those demos as part of the show and talk about how Kenny Loggins came into the radio world through the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which has always been nice to remember. We recorded four of his songs from that demo. You’ll hear him at nineteen years old and we’ll sing along with him, it’s really fun. You feel like you’re going back to that era, only the sound is better. [laughs]
John McEuen plays some licks during our Skype interview:
UNC Library’s Southern Folklife Collection and the Friends of the Library Present the Masters of Cajun Accordion Festival at The ArtsCenter on Sunday, October 1st
Interview: Steve Weiss
Posted by Jenks Miller
Residents of Chapel Hill/Carrboro enjoy proximity to one of America’s foremost archival resources for American folk music and popular culture, UNC Library’s Southern Folklife Collection. The SFC grew out of the Curriculum in Folklore at UNC – which was itself among the country’s first graduate programs in folklore when it was established in 1940 – and features materials documenting the development of all folk musics endemic to the South, including old-time, country-western, hillbilly, bluegrass, blues, folk, gospel, rock and roll, Cajun and zydeco. The collection spans an impressive range of media: according to the library, the SFC now contains “over 250,000 sound recordings, 3,000 video recordings and 8 million feet of motion picture film as well as tens of thousands of photographs, song folios, posters, manuscripts, books, serials, research files and ephemera.”
One of the challenges facing public archival collections of this size is how to make them accessible not only to researchers, but to the populations they represent. To meet this demand for accessibility, the SFC regularly presents lectures, concerts, and viewings of its materials, often curated to reflect certain topics of interest in today’s popular culture. In this way, archives like the Southern Folklife Collection ensure that we remain informed by our many histories.
The next event to feature materials from the SFC archives will be the Masters of Cajun Accordion Festival, presented by the SFC and the Friends of the Library at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro on Sunday, October 1st. This event celebrates the forthcoming release of Swampland Jewels, a compilation of classic Cajun music produced in a new partnership between the SFC and Hillsborough’s Yep Roc Records. We spoke with Steve Weiss, Curator of the Southern Folklife Collection, about the history of the archive and the details of the Masters of Cajun Accordion Festival.
The ArtsCenter: First off, I wanted to get a little background on the Southern Folklife Collection for readers who may be unfamiliar with the special collections archives at UNC. The SFC is unique not only in its significant size: it also feels more outward-facing, or interactive, than many cultural archives concerned primarily with preservation. Was the SFC originally designed as a platform for festivals, conferences, and publications, or did that function develop as the archive grew over the years?
Steve Weiss: When the Southern Folklife Collection first opened in 1989, it was celebrated with a large event called Sounds of the South which included an academic conference, a concert (held at the ArtsCenter!) and was followed up with a book of the conference proceedings. Ten years later, when I started as the director of the collection, the SFC was co-publishing our second book, a major reference work entitled Country Music Sources which spawned another academic symposium. Since then I’ve made public programming and publications a more active part of our mission, culminating now in our partnership with YepRoc Records.
TAC: This year, the SFC has been involved in presentations on depression-era grassroots music and left-wing politics (March’s “Depression Folk” lecture and concert); the twenty-five year partnership between farmworkers and students in the Southeast, as chronicled in Student Action with Farmworkers’ archive of photographs and oral histories (August’s “Más de Una Historia”); and the legacy of Eno River conservation efforts (August’s “Saving the River One Song at a Time: The Eno River Festival Legacy”); among other themes. The topics here feel less like dry history and more like the living and breathing issues currently debated in our state politics and across the Southeast at large. Looking at the SFC’s activity since the 2016 election season, I’m reminded of that famous Faulkner quote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” To what extent are the SFC’s various activities informed by today’s headlines and political discourse? Do you make an active effort to engage on these issues, or is this another example of history’s seemingly inescapable cyclical nature?
SW: Great question! It is inevitable, because of where we live and the important work done by grassroots organizations in our community. The work documented by the materials in the library is never really dead, only dusty if there is no one to make sure it is promoted to the public.
TAC: The Masters of Cajun Accordion Festival, which will be presented by the SFC and the Friends of the Library here at The ArtsCenter on October 1st, features a free 6:00pm lecture from Barry Jean Ancelet, aka Jean Arceneaux, a Cajun folklorist, author, poet, and lyricist. Before retiring from the University of Louisiana Lafayette faculty, Ancelet gave a talk on “the theory and practice of activist folklore” for UL Lafayette’s Last Lecture series. Some of us may associate folklore with storytelling and oral history, but this sounds different. What do folklorists mean by “activist folklore?” Do you know what Ancelet will be speaking about on October 1st?
SW: I’ve invited Barry to speak on the Cajun Music. I’m not familiar with the definition of “activist folklore” as Barry has presented it, but it isn’t hard to imagine as the role of the folklorist is working with communities, and confronting the issues communities face is inescapable. Of the collections in the SFC, the late folklorist Guy Carawan comes to mind as a great example as he was actively involved in voter rights issues while living in the Johns Island, SC community and recording fieldwork.
TAC: The festival also features a ticketed 7:30pm concert by Jo-El Sonnier with Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Both Sonnier and Riley are living legends of the accordion, with records on Rounder, Mercury, RCA, and Capitol, among other labels (Sonnier’s cover of Richard Thompson’s upbeat and tragicomic “Tear-Stained Letter” was a country radio hit single in the 1988). Will there be two separate sets, or will Sonnier perform with Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys? What can audiences expect from these artists in a live setting?
SW: Jo-El will be performing in a small trio setting. Steve will be playing with the Mamou Playboys. I imagine there will be some nice collaborations during the show.
TAC: What else does the Southern Folklife Collection have in store for 2017? Will we see more presentations in off-campus locations in Chapel Hill and Carrboro like The ArtsCenter?
SW: On October 26th, we will be presenting an evening with banjoist and scholar Stephen Wade who will be performing music from his new Smithsonian Folkways CD Across the Amerikee: Showpieces from Coal Camp to Cattle Trail. That event will be held in Wilson Library.In early 2018 the SFC will release our second album with YepRoc, a live recording of Doc Watson at the beginning of his solo career in 1963. We hope to do something for the record release at MerleFest this Spring.
Masters of Cajun Accordion Festival
Presented by the Southern Folklife Collection and the Friends of the Library
Our 2017/2018 Season Brochure is here and you can peruse it online from your computer or phone! Our interactive digital catalog allows you to flip the pages, learn about the amazing artists coming to The ArtsCenter this season, and buy tickets by clicking on the name of an artist! Try it out below:
Our Fall 2017 ArtSchool Catalog is here and you can peruse it online from your computer or phone! Our interactive digital catalog allows you to flip the pages, learn about our class offerings, and register by clicking on the name of a course! Try it out below:
The ArtsCenter seeks a highly motivated and detail-oriented Production Manager to join The ArtsCenter (TAC) team in presenting 100+ performances and educational programs yearly. In this full-time position, the Production Manager will align with and support The ArtsCenter in all production and technical needs, supervise freelance lighting and sound crew, advance and execute all incoming shows, and maintain building calendars for all programs.
The Production Manager position reports to the Executive Director and is responsible for all front of house and back of house operations and oversight; and ensures maintenance of the venue, its equipment, and systems to provide a superior facility for the community’s use and enjoyment.
The ArtsCenter is a very team oriented atmosphere with staff frequently overlapping in duties and responsibilities. Someone who thrives in a team environment will excel at The ArtsCenter.
Advance all technical/ hospitality elements for each performance via artist, agents and managers as well as TAC tech and hospitality.
Excel at either general lighting (ETC console) or sound mixing (analog) or both. The ArtsCenter works with a very strong and talented core of freelance sound engineers and lighting designers, but Production Manager will operate lighting and/ or sound for some performances.
Production Manager will maintain a somewhat flexible schedule based on The ArtsCenter’s needs; production manager will not be required to work all performances, but will work the majority of performances during the year.
Maintain Master Calendar and coordinate scheduling of all building activities.
Oversees management of 20,000 sq/ft of facility and works with contractors on maintenance and repairs.
We are looking for an individual who is an organized, creative, efficient team player with a genuine interest and demonstrated background in music and theater, production, event coordination, community outreach, and/ or arts management.
The candidate must be able to efficiently manage a wide-range of tasks with accuracy, grace and humor– demonstrating a “let’s-do-this” attitude. This person must be able to juggle multiple projects at a time, meeting strict deadlines and working well under pressure. We are looking for a solution-finder, with the ability to calmly and efficiently solve problems. Candidate must be a strong manager of time, with the ability to deftly handle a variety of tasks. They must be discreet, able to handle sensitive information with reliability, maturity, and confidence. Also, must be able to spot opportunities to make a positive difference. Candidates must be proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook. Some heavy lifting of furniture, set pieces, props, instruments, and other equipment is required.
Salary negotiable based on experience. Benefits included. For consideration, please send letter and resume to: Dan Mayer @ email@example.com with “Production Manager Applicant” in the subject line. Interviews will be scheduled after June 26th. Equal opportunity employer.
Recently, Pete Seeger’s birthday gave us a chance to reflect on the late folk singer and social activist’s work and legacy. With a career that included early radio success with The Weavers in the 1940’s and 50’s, blacklisting in the infamous McCarthy era, a prominent role in both the folk revival and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, Seeger played a significant role as a musician and leader in social movements until his death in 2014. In a written statement memorializing the folk legend, President Obama noted that Seeger “believed in the power of community – to stand up for what’s right, speak out against what’s wrong, and move this country closer to the America he knew we could be.”
Of course, the America of 2017 is still a far cry from the America Seeger knew it could be. On May 3rd of this year – also Seeger’s birthday – the head of the Trump Administration’s State Department, Rex Tillerson, became the first Secretary of State in decades to skip the press conference accompanying his department’s annual human rights report, claiming that the United States’ traditional insistence that its allies adhere to its values of freedom and human dignity creates “obstacles.” While Seeger would likely be among the first to note that there is still much work to be done in the pursuit of justice and human rights, he also embodied an unflagging optimism. His message was one of tireless engagement and sustained action. As he put it, “Participation – that’s what’s gonna save the human race.”
Today, Seeger’s message is sustained in The Storm King, a touring multimedia presentation of Seeger’s recorded stories, narratives and poems set to music and video. The Storm King, curated and presented by Grammy award winning percussionist/producer Jeff Haynes, comes to The ArtsCenter on Saturday, May 13th. We spoke with Haynes about his work with Pete Seeger and the role of the folk tradition in a changing world.
Photo courtesy Pete Seeger: The Storm King
1. First things first! What got you interested in Pete Seeger’s work? Do you recall a specific event, or did your creative paths slowly merge?
It’s like what you said. It was an organic process that Pete and I had together. It started when we were performing in local schools for children in Beacon, NY. Then we collaborated on a children CD called “Tomorrow’s Children” and another called “A More Perfect Union.” From that point on, Pete never stop coming to my recording studio. He would come at least two or three times a week for 3 hours each session telling me his life stories. I decided to ask him if I could produce a spoken-word CD recording the stories he was sharing with me and he agreed. So the process started at that point and lasted five years and that’s how the Storm King volume 1 evolved and then came volume 2.
2. The Storm King is the product of countless hours of conversation, listening, composing, arranging and editing: a true labor of love. Could you take us through the process that led to the finished presentation?
As you said they were countless hours—literally hundreds of hours of editing, fact checking, mixing and mastering the whole project, producing it, and deciding which piece of music would go under which particular story or which particular story would go with a piece of music that would not get in the way of Pete’s stories. Each piece of music and story had to be a perfect blend—a balance between each piece of music and story—so that it wouldn’t take away from Pete or draw attention away from his speaking. It had to enhance his story. Each piece of music had to be like a movie soundtrack. The same approach was taken with the performance.
3. What can attendees expect during your show at The ArtsCenter? Will there be familiar songs to sing along with, or is the presentation more focused on sharing unheard words from Seeger himself?
What I find to be true is that the audience will get a beautiful balance of Pete’s music, original songs from the artists on stage, and also music by Pete that was not mainstream—that he wrote when he was in a influenced during his travels around the world when he was blacklisted. He wrote songs with Tommy Sands from Ireland, he covered the song called Raghupati from India which was one of Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite songs. So the audience will get a buffet of old and new songs that they have not experienced before. And within that, they’ll be hearing stories and experiencing Pete telling them in his own voice as if he was in the room with us as well as the music.
4. The Storm King project has spanned both sides of the presidential election of 2016, when the country experienced what many feel is a kind of upheaval or realignment. Is there any difference in how you approached the project in, say, early 2016 and how you approach it now? Has the audience reaction been any different? What kind of feedback are you getting these days?
I truly don’t want to get too political with this, but I know where Pete stands and I think that his beliefs are reflected in the show and that these beliefs stand true from 2016 to now. I think the show represents how he feels—from many years ago through the civil rights movement, to his stance on the environment. He’s been a long time supporter of human rights reflected in the fact that he changed the lyrics to an old miner song singing, We Shall Overcome.
5. So far, you have curated two volumes of Pete Seeger’s stories and narratives. What is the future for The Storm King? Will there be a third volume in the series?
There is enough material for a third and a fourth volume if we should choose to do so. I would love to have success with the first two volumes, which I believe we are. God willing and if the universe provides the means, I would truly love to do more volumes. I truly love sharing Pete’s spirit with the world.
Jeff Haynes brings The Storm King to The ArtsCenter on Saturday, May 13th. Showtime is 8pm.
The ArtsCenter would like to welcome two new members to the board of directors: Artie Bolick and Bruce Runberg. Artie is a Partner in the Brooks Pierce law firm specializing in construction law, plays the mandolin and lives in Carrboro; Bruce is the former Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Services at UNC and is currently a Co-Chair of the Orange County Veterans Memorial Committee.
Also, join us in congratulating the new officers for 2017/18: Michael Parker, President; Bernadette Pelissier, Vice Chair; Charlotte Walton, Treasurer; and, Wendy Smith, Secretary. Thank you to our immediate past president Don Rose and outgoing secretary Beth Minton for their service.
Our Summer 2017 ArtSchool Catalog is here and you can peruse it online from your computer or phone! Our interactive digital catalog system allows you to flip the pages, learn about our class offerings, and even register directly from the catalog by clicking on the name of a course! Try it out below: