I am winding up a most marvelous summer adventure. This all started some months ago when 1) we decided to buy a 1991 Roadtrek that turned up for sale in our neighborhood, and 2) I got invited to join the Midwest Banjo Camp which took place June 5- 8. I decided to drive up to the camp, which takes place in Olivet Michigan, and on the way, make brief stops Columbus and Cleveland Ohio.
Of course, to do this, I had to leave my dear daughters, wife, and precious poochie. I am grateful for their continued support and tolerance, and I missed them when I was gone, and counted the days until I can return.
On Monday, June 2, I left Gainesville and drove from Columbus Ohio to arrive at Delanie Seman’s house. We visited that evening and the next morning. Delanie, whom I have known since she was 3 and I was 20, is very dear to me, and someone with whom I had recently re-established contact. It was lovely to spend time with her again, to learn about her life and to just hang out and catch up, and see her daughter Victoria, if even briefly. We walked to the local dog park with Victoria’s dog, who romped and played and chased, while we pondered life’s challenges, and just sat close.
Next, I got to visit with Theresa Frasca Berner at Columbus’ North Market. Theresa and I worked together at Ohio State in the wheeled mobility clinic. When I left Columbus 15 years ago, she continued the good work, and has built a vibrant service overcoming a number of obstacles. Again, great to catch up, share family photos and stories, and hear of her latest accomplishments. I am enormously proud to know her. While at the North Market, I visited the inscribed bricks we placed at the there, marking the birthdates of our children. On the way out of town, I visited Pat Wilcox. I was able to return to her two banjos she had built long ago for Pat Conte. Pat Wilcox’s instruments show remarkable craft in their construction, and it was a sweet sorrow to part with them and bring them home. Pat and I sat talked music, while the afternoon sunlight illuminated the living room with various banjos guitars and mandolins listening from their purchases on the wall and in stands on the floor. There were many more folks I would have liked to have seen, but was only in Columbus from Monday night through Tuesday afternoon.
That evening, I returned to Cleveland, my old hometown, where Kevin Richards and his wife Pat welcomed me. Kevin is a terrific musician, steeped in American roots music, including old-time, and country blues, amongst other styles. He founded Roots of American Music (ROAM), an organization that brings traditionally-based music into the classroom. The next day, (June 4th) I got to meet some of the ROAM staff, specifically Tam Sivertson (I think) and Sheela Das, and later got to see Sheela lead a first grade recital. It was powerful to see the young voices embrace song (which incidentally had content to enhance literacy) with such joy, and to see the devoted care Sheela put into her work.
In the afternoon, I met with Rosalie Thomas and Edna Williams. Rose, who is now in her late 80’s, did domestic work in our home for many years when I was growing up. She is an exceptional individual, whom I am quite fortunate to know. She brightened our home and my childhood with a grand, sweet kindness, which enveloped us all. I can still feel her beaming pride for any of a number of small childhood accomplishments I presented to her. Her daughter Edna and my sister Ellen became friends, and I remember meeting Rose’s son Gary, when he was still an infant. Although I left Cleveland thirty years ago, Rose and her family remained close and important and supportive, particularly of my mother. I am blessed to know them. Rose, Edna and I met for a too-brief reunion over lunch (with Gary attending by phone). Rose’s light still shines brightly in Edna and Gary’s loving care. That evening I arrived in Westlake to visit with Dick and Joan Schwertle. In the 1980’s (or maybe earlier), Dick, Joan, and I were involved in personal growth, self-help, world change activities; the last time I saw them was 20 or so years ago. Again it was grand to see these old friends, to reminisce and catch up, to renew our enduring friendship and to enjoy the kindness and generosity of their hospitality. And again, my apologies to others who I hope to see next time, perhaps when there is more time.
On Thursday morning, June 5th, I headed off to join faculty of the 10th annual Midwest banjo camp at Olivet College. Directed by Ken Perlman (my partner in Suwannee Banjo Camp) and Stan Werbin (of Elderly Instruments), MBC was most impressive. More than 250 participated, including a world-class, crackerjack team of banjoists, joined by an equally renowned group of performer/teachers offering instruction on fiddle, guitar, bass, mandolin, and dobro. Thursday afternoon-Friday morning was dedicated to demonstration/workshop classes with jamming in the evening. The rest of Friday through Sunday featured classroom instruction during the day with jamming and concert performances in the evening. The weather was perfect, sunshine bathing the modern and older buildings, cooler at night for good sleeping
My major assignment was to teach clawhammer novice classes. Most of the students were new to the banjo, although a few where bluegrass players interested in old-time. It is such great pleasure and honor help folks begin to gain mastery over their instruments, and to discover and express their music through the banjo. My students were eager and interested, and we attacked the challenge with gusto and good humor, and at least from my perspective, everyone made meaningful progress. Highlights for me included meeting wonderful students including Brian, a thoughtful and caring physical therapist, someone I would like working on my team, and Layne Kalbfleisch, a cognitive neuroscientist and a great original thinker; seeing/hearing Bruce Molsky play a Dave Forbes banjo that I now own, that was his originally; playing two original tunes with Erynn Marshall in the faculty concert (Erynn’s “Levy’s Blues”, and my “Mars Hill March”); jamming with Ken Perlman, Cathy Barton-Para and Dave Para, the slow old-time jams, getting to play with Ben Luttermoser, sharing music with Margie Skora, and starting friendships with Elizabeth Loring and Hannah Lewis, and catching a few tunes with Adam Hurt, Samuel Herman, Pat Wilcox and on and on.
On Sunday, June 8th, after the camp, Erynn, Bob Carlin, and I travelled to Redbud Farm in Kalamazoo, guests of Marilyn Branch and her husband. Their organic farm is infused with care and serenity. It was a great place to catch a breath and reflect. After visiting the site of the Gibson Factory in Kalamazoo on Monday, Erynn (fiddle), Bob (guitar)and I (banjo) were joined by Mike Compton (mandolin) and Mark Sahlgren (bass) to play the Kalamazoo dance. I was nestled in between Bob’s rock solid guitar and Erynn’s blazing fiddle, and across from Mike’s brilliant mandolin lines, all supported by Mark’s bass. Even though I didn’t know most of the tunes, everyone else was so good, it was easy to find my way. So the music was hot, with Tamara Loewenthal calling intense squares, enthusiastic dancers…this was old-time music that I aspire to, but seldom achieve!
The dance ended after 11 pm Monday night. Sometime around midnight, I hit the road and headed for home. I drove and drove, slept for a few hours in Indiana, and kept driving, through the rain, through Kentucky, Tennessee, Atlanta, and arriving home late Tuesday evening.
I had intended to take the next couple of days off, but ended up engaged in work, even though I was at home. Friday morning I attended the quarterly meeting of the Center of Innovation for Disability and Rehabilitation Research. That evening, I was out at O’Leno State Park, with Aisha Ivey and the gang at the Second Annual Sparrow Music Camp. This is a family-friendly fiddle, banjo, guitar, mando, dance, and dulcimer camp. It was great playing with Aisha, Sharon Hartmann, Jim Selikoff, Tom Wilson, Stephen Michael Hedges, Anna Strickland, David Strickland, Nathan Stinette, Madison Taylor, and seeing Kerry Blech, Jane and Gordon Scott, and Debbie Harris and a bunch of others.
Came home Saturday the 14th. On the Sunday, Sandy and I snuck of to St. Pete for a moment of R and R., then back to work. On Sunday, June 22nd, off to DC for Veterans Health Service (VHS) meeting. The meeting united practitioners from the United Kingdom’s National Health Service with their counterparts in VHS, to lay the groundwork for collaboration in telehealth with an emphasis in text messaging. It was truly exciting to be surrounded my interesting and innovative health practitioners, ushering new models of health care delivery. I arrived home earlier this week, and now am here to stay for a while.
Hope your summer is going grand! Write and tell me about it.