Glimpses of Pete Seeger

Article written by on Monday, Feb 03, 2014 in Passings,People

When I saw the news of Pete Seeger’s death earlier this week, I tried to think back to the first time I heard a Pete Seeger song. It’s hard to pin down. Typically what I heard were covers by other artists: “If I Had a Hammer” and “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” sung by Peter, Paul and Mary; “”Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is A Season)” sung by the Byrds, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” sung by The Kingston Trio — you get the picture. I think “Little Boxes” may have been the first song I heard Pete sing, and you might know that one was actually written by someone else. To be honest, I thought for years that it was a Bob Dylan song. Apparently I’m not the only one who wasn’t sure who wrote what. I was long grown before I understood who Pete Seeger was and had some insight into the depth of his contribution to American folk music.

Pete Seeger was a controversial figure whose music was an expression of his political beliefs. He was nominated multiple times for a Nobel Peace Prize (at last count one petition had reached 3,000 signatures), but he did not receive one. He appeared to be embarrassed by the attention.

Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival, an annual fundraiser started by Pete and his wife Toshi in the late 1960s as the Hudson Valley Folk Picnic, is still in full swing today, supporting the work of a nonprofit organization formed to educate people about Hudson River environmental issues.

David Dunaway’s biography of Pete was aptly named: How Can I Keep From Singing? As long as there were issues to be confronted, Pete was there with his voice and his banjo.

Democracy Now’s story includes interviews with Pete from 2004 and from a few months ago. NPR has made available their 2005 “Sing Out!” concert, featuring Pete Seeger and others at the Keswick Theatre in Philadelphia.

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Savannah Music Festival Selects 16 Young Musicians for Acoustic Music Seminar 2013

Article written by on Friday, Feb 01, 2013 in Awards,Festivals,People

The Savannah Music Festival has announced its chosen participants for the 2nd Annual Acoustic Music Seminar (AMS), a mentorship program involving five days of hands-on instruction for promising and talented young musicians (ages 15 to 22) in acoustic music. Led by acclaimed mandolin player Mike Marshall, this year’s students will also study with world-class musicians and artists such as jazz guitarist and composer Julian Lage, bluegrass fiddler Darol Anger, multi-instrumentalist Bruce Molsky and cellist Rushad Eggleston.

Of the 2013 AMS participants, Associate Director Mike Marshall says, “I was overwhelmed by the caliber of the applicants this year. The sixteen students we have chosen really do represent some of the finest young musicians I’ve seen, some of them right at the cusp of their careers taking off. I can’t wait to see what they bring to the program, and I know Savannah is going to be blown away.”

The AMS 2013 participants, in alphabetical order, are: Sterling Abernathy, 19, Nashville, TN (Mandolin); Erik Alvar, 22, Tallahassee, FL (Double Bass)l David Benedict, 20, Clemson, SC (Mandolin); Catherine (BB) Bowness, 22, Koitiata, New Zealand (Banjo); Mairi Chaimbeul, 19, Skye, Scotland (Lever harp); Xavier Foley, 18, Marietta, GA (Double Bass); Tatiana Hargreaves, 17, Corvallis, OR (Violin); Gary Hultman, 19, Johnson City, TN (Dobro); Ethan Jodziewicz, 20, Olympia, WA (Double Bass); John Mailander, 22, San Diego, CA (Violin); Mila Phelps-Friedl, 15, Arlington, MA (Cello); Chase Potter, 20, Columbus, OH (Violin); Matthew Taylor, 16, Maryville, TN (Guitar/Mandolin); Molly Tuttle, 20, Palo Alto, CA (Guitar/Banjo); Leah Wollenberg, 20, Canyon, CA (Violin) and Matthew Witler, 21, La Crescenta, CA (Mandolin).

After a week of master classes also including Dobro master Jerry Douglas, British violinist Daniel Hope and mandolinist David Grisman, along with workshops and jam sessions, AMS culminates in a sensational showcase for festival audiences, entitled Stringband Spectacular. The production includes premieres of new work by AMS participants, performed by breakout ensembles including the clinicians. Tickets are $15-50 for the April 6th production at the Lucas Theatre for the Arts, and can be purchased online or by phone at 912-525-5050. More information on the AMS can be found on the AMS page.

The 2013 Savannah Music Festival takes place from March 20th through April 6th in intimate venues throughout Savannah’s historic district.

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In Memory of Earl Scruggs

Article written by on Thursday, Mar 29, 2012 in On The Web,Passings,People

If you follow national music news, you don’t need me to tell you that world-renowned bluegrass banjo artist Earl Scruggs passed away on Wednesday at the age of 88. If you’re a bluegrass or country music fan, you don’t need me to describe for you his style of banjo picking and the resulting sound. But I thought I would pull together some of the articles I read while looking for more about the life of this performer I used to watch occasionally on my parents’ country music television picks.

So here they are: The Tennessean, with its story (my personal favorite) of the man who brought people of all music styles together by simply playing music right along with them; The New York Times; the Los Angeles Times; celebrity tributes on CBS; and NPR’s The Record, including the accompanying radio clip.

Rest in peace, Earl. Rest in peace.


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Call for Papers Issued for Woody Guthrie Centennial Conference

Article written by on Sunday, Mar 04, 2012 in Concerts,Conferences

The Pennsylvania State University has announced a call for papers for Woody@100: Woody Guthrie’s Legacy to Working Men and Women, conference and concert to be held at Penn State, September 7-9, 2012. The event is part of a year-long centennial celebration of Guthrie’s life and work created by the Grammy Museum and the Guthrie Foundation and Archives.

As described in the Penn State press release, “papers may address any aspect of Guthrie’s legacy and influence with regard to folk music, art, literature, rhetoric, philosophy, media studies, politics, and culture; labor history; gender, free speech, and class issues; the history of social movements; the global fight against fascism; and/or the work of the many writers, artists, and musicians whom Guthrie inspired and influenced.”

Those interested in contributing should send 200-word abstracts to by April 1, 2012. (The deadline has apparently been extended from the date originally posted on the PSU site.)

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Folk Musicians Featured in International Acoustic Music Awards

Article written by on Friday, Feb 17, 2012 in Awards

The Wailin Jennys picked up first prize in the Group/Duo category at the International Acoustic Music Awards for “Bird Song,” on the Bright Morning Stars album. Ruth Moody, a member of the group, was runner-up in the Folk category for the title song on her album The Garden. The Folk first prize went to William Michael Dillon for “Chasing a Dream,” on Black Robes and Lawyers–the expression of decades of experience as a wrongly convicted prisoner before William’s release in 2008 with the help of the Innocence Project.

Lizzy Hoyt took top honors in the Best Female Vocalist category for “Vimy Ridge,” a ballad (on the Home album) commemorating a World War I battle involving Canadian soldiers. Lizzy Hoyt and Ruth Moody were also nominees in last year’s Canadian Folk Music Awards.

The complete list of winners is available on the IAMA site.

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Secret Sisters Among Americana Music Award Nominees

Article written by on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 in Awards

Lydia and Laura Rogers, aka the Secret Sisters, are among the nominees announced on Monday for the annual Americana Music Association Honors and Awards to be given in October. The sisters, along with Jessica Lea Mayfield, The Civil Wars, and the British group Mumford and Sons, have been nominated for the New/Emerging Artist of the Year award. Mumford and Sons and The Civil Wars are also candidates in the Duo/Group category.

Justin Townes Earle‘s “Harlem River Blues” is up for both Album of the Year and Song of the Year. Lucinda Williams‘s album “Blessed” is another Album of the Year nominee. Elizabeth Cook, Buddy Miller and Robert Plant are nominees in multiple categories. The full list of nominees is available on the American Songwriter, Country Music Television and Music Row sites.


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Newport Folk Festival Tickets On Sale March 31

Article written by on Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011 in Festivals

Tickets for the Newport Folk Festival will be available on the festival website starting Thursday, March 31 at 10:00 a.m. The festival will be held July 30-31 in Fort Adams State Park, Newport, Rhode Island. Musicians scheduled to perform span a variety of folk music, from traditional to pop-folk to folk rock to blues and even a brass band, and a variety of experience levels from classic to newfound. I enjoyed going through the groups and finding a few new candidates for my personal music library.

Saturday’s lineup includes The Decemberists, Gillian Welch, Gogol Bordello, Earl Scruggs, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Tegan and Sara, Mavis Staples, The Felice Brothers, Delta Spirit, Freelance WhalesThe Devil Makes Three, Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, Typhoon, River City Extension, PS22 Chorus (a nationally recognized elementary school chorus), The Wailin’ Jennys, The Ebony Hillbillies and the What Cheer? Brigade (that’s the brass band). Events also include a Song Circle with Dar Williams, Ellis Paul, John Gorka and Liz Queler. (Note for Mac users: the PS22 website crashed my Safari browser twice in a row but worked fine with Firefox.)

Sunday’s performers are Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Amos Lee, M.Ward, Wanda Jackson, Middle Brother, Justin Townes Earle, Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Civil Wars, Trampled By Turtles, The Cave Singers, The Head & The Heart, Secret Sisters, David Wax Museum, Mountain Man, Brown Bird and The Seeger Clogging All-Stars, led by Tao Seeger.

Tickets are expected to go quickly, so early purchases are advised.

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Cecil Sharp Appalachian Diaries to Inspire New Music

Article written by on Monday, Feb 28, 2011 in Concerts,Conferences,Organizations,People

English folk musicologist Cecil Sharp and his secretary Maud Karpeles spent several months of 1916-1918 on multiple trips through the Appalachian Mountains collecting folk songs, largely those Sharp believed to be of British origin. Sharp’s Appalachian diaries are the focus of an upcoming residential project sponsored by the English Folk Dance and Song Society and the Shrewsbury Folk Festival.

Participants include British folk artists Steve Knightley, Jackie Oates, Andy Cutting, Jim Moray, Patsy Reid and Kathryn Roberts; American folk artist Caroline Herring and Canadian folk artist Leonard Podolak. The week-long project begins March 18 and is intended to result in new folk music works. Concerts and a CD release will follow.


[Photo © rosta –]

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