Category Archives: banjo
In 2008, my pal invited me to go to a square dance that was happening at an art gallery in Los Angeles. Michael Ismerio called the dance and Triple Chicken Foot played. I hadn’t square danced since childhood and didn’t know what Old Time music was, but by the evening’s end, I was hooked! Michael’s charisma and teaching style, along with the rip roaring tunes of the band won me over. I saw how the dancing and music could bring all types of people together in a personal way. Because of that night, I became a square dance die-hard, eventually learning to call. I met Bob Dalsemer at Dare to Be Square West in Seattle and that’s how I found out about the Folk School. And now everything has come full circle because just last week Michael came to the Folk School to teach fiddle, call a dance and play the concert.
Michael taught old time fiddle at the Folk School and capped off the week with treating us to a Friday Night Concert on March 8th 2013. What a wonderful night filled with old time tunes, ballads, and fiddlin’! Here is a sample snippet from a wonderful evening. The tune is “Chased Old Satan (Starry Crown)” with Michael on fiddle, Géraud on bass, Annie Fain on banjo, and Sandy on guitar.
The porch is a favorite place of my house. It is vast, wooden, and has a lovely views of the surrounding woods. Great for coffee drinking, banjo playing, crafting, or just sitting, our porch welcomes us and bids us farewell everyday. Charlotte cuts all the wood for our wood stove with her “toy” chainsaw and lines the porch with logs. The wood has been depleting rapidly lately – time for some collecting in the woods!
Recently I was able to cross something off my personal lifetime to do list! Even before I came to the Folk School I knew that I wanted to design a poster for the school. This year I was asked to come up with a design for the biggest event of the whole year, the Folk School Annual Fall Festival. I was so honored and excited.
This is the finalized design:
My old hen’s
A good old hen
she lays eggs for the railroad men.
Sometimes enough for the whole dang crew.
When I walked into Lyle Wheeler’s ladderback chair making class, I had no clue what to expect. I just knew that I liked all the ladderback chairs around campus and that it would be challenging and cool to build one. Well, when I got to class, I got my challenge: we didn’t use ANY power tools and we started with a red oak log. Yep, first step…divide the log with a fro. Up until this class, a fro was a hairstyle, not a tool for splitting wood! After we got our log sections divided, we used the draw knife and spokeshave on the shaving horse all week long to create what you see above. There’s not even any glue involved; the green wood tightens around the dry wood to seal the joints. Since I took these photos, I put a splint bottom on my chair when I took chair caning… photos coming soon! I declare this chair my banjo playing chair!
I am alive; thanks to Candice for the booty kick and the realization that I am long overdue for an update.
So, since you last heard from me, I have assumed my host position at the John C. Campbell Folk School. At this point, I am more than halfway through my term and it has been an INCREDIBLE life changing experience. The host position is a scholarship job where I live and work at the folk school as an RA of sorts with the exchange of getting to take a class every single week.
The work study position I had in the winter was only a nine week program where I worked on a team of five people and we did mainly gardening and maintenance projects. The work studies work 6 weeks and get to take 3 week long classes. The work study scholarship is either working 9-5 OR going to class like a regular student the other weeks. The host position is like working full time and going to school full time, hence being WAY more busy all the time (hence my absence from the digital world); you are on call all the time. It’s exhausting, but the experience is really invaluable because I get to take so many classes.
The host job is a four month position and there are always 2 hosts. As of 2 weeks ago, I am senior host and Rebecca Gallo of Hyde Park, New York is my junior co-host. When I was junior host, the lovely Ms. Leah Dolgoy of Montreal (see photos below) was my co-host for two months. The terms overlap so one host can always train the incoming junior host.
Enough technical talk…. so classes! (besides getting your own room) the classes are the BEST part of being a host. I have taken thus far:
Beginning Blacksmithing with Paul Garret
Ladderback Chairmaking with Lyle Wheeler
Lighting in Blacksmithing with Greg Price
Chasing Tools and Toolmaking in Blacksmithing with Bill Robertson
Dance Calling with Bob Dalsemer
Beginning Fiddle with Cathy Grant
Quilt Making with Audrey Hiers
Chair Caning with Gwen and Jared Chafin
Mountain Dulcimer Building with John Huron
Medicinal Herbs with Cathy Merckens
Spoon Carving with Frank Boyd
Forge Building with Bob Alexander
Pictorial Woodburning with Debbie Pompano
As if I wasn’t already randomly skilled in many random things, I am totally upping the ante here at the folk school. Next week I am taking basket weaving. I love it.
I miss playing music with Leah! She and I would always jam together during random spots throughout the day when we had a moment. We also had many clandestine meetings in areas of the campus where late night music could not be heard by sleeping ears. As you can she in the photo, she plays autoharp and I of course play clawhammer banjo.
She tunes we would play most often included:
“Bury Me Beneath the Willow”
“The Marching Jaybird”
“Say Darlin” Say”
“My Long Journey Home”
“Virginia Bootlegger Song”
This is the front license plate of my banjo teacher David Brose, who is also the school’s folklorist. We learned the tune Shady Grove in class…