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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Streetmosphere in the Rocky Mountain Collegian!

Local event firm brings global art to Old Town Here is an article in the Rocky Mountain Collegian (the Colorado State University campus newspaper, about Streetmosphere.  The author Hannah, interviewed me for the article.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Kicking off the First Leg of the Summer Tours

Up early to leave at 6 am.  Unseasonably cold, windy and rainy all through Colorado today.  I stop for gas at Tomahawk, just east of Denver and the north wind is chilly.

At a pit stop in Limon, I have to dig my fleece out of my luggage and turn the car's temperature control to heat!

This tour begins and ends with long driving legs.  Today will be 10 hours long.

An audiobook by Kitty Kelly, The Last Star (about Elizabeth Taylor) plays on my tape player.  It is interesting to focus a bit on the famous life of someone whose life and loves has been on everyone’s lips throughout my rearing but about whom I’ve paid little attention.  

But the story ends abruptly.  Kind of like the author ran our of advance money and the publisher demanded a completed product, rather than reaching an appropriate end to the story!

The rain continues to spit as I drive across the long state of Kansas, but at times the clouds spread apart to reveal some blue sky.  The temperature is heating up as I travel east.

I arrive at Jim and Pam’s in Kansas City, thankfully, without incident.  Once again the moisture-rich atmosphere of this river town has produced a verdant and lush appearance of lawns and gardens.  They tell me about the deluge they’ve had, but which has passed over and moved east by now.  It is good to catch up with friends over a delicious meal, share music and stories.


Today's shorter trip (4.5 hrs) means a nice leisurely breakfast with conversation before I cross Missouri to Hillsboro, southeast of St. Louis.  The granite bluffs greet me along I-70 and the rich, full-leafed trees provide shade from the bright sunlight as I travel and winding rural route the last hour of the trip.

My destination  Bev & Roy Robbins, Jennie & Justin

Friday, June 11, 2010

Puzzles & Card Games: All the Details

I just learned this morning that my ride from Atlanta to Cullowhee for the Western Carolina Dulcimer Week next month has had to cancel, so one of those lynchpin connections has come loose!

As a solo artist, getting to and from the gigs, especially when they are in vastly different parts of this big country of ours, can be an invigorating (or frustrating) puzzle.

The variables for how one experiences these shifts and turns include (but are not limited to):

•the amount of sleep one has had the night before...

•how close in time one is to the change in plans...

•the number of unexpected changes that have happened recently (you know, things fall apart in threes, or something like that)...

•how expensive the change will be...

•how many options one can imagine...

Always lurking somewhere in the shadows are the questions:

"Should I really be doing this?"

"Who do I think I am to be traveling this way?"

"Is this trip/gig worth it?"

"When do I decide to bag it?"

Long after I did so poorly in my Algebra classes in 8th Grade, Mrs. Kuhlman told me I should have looked at the "problems" as puzzles.  This perspective actually might have helped me because I do like to solve puzzles.

At the time, however, I just thought that the urban-based questions were ridiculous and far outside my small-town experience of life.

(For example:  "You have a ticket for the train that will come in 3 hours.  How far can you go on the bus while you wait for the train?"  My answer:  Didn't your mama teach you anything?  You DON'T take a bus trip while waiting for the train!  Just sit still and read a book!)

The problem with puzzles, as a metaphor, is that they are a bit static for situations like these.  Card games, where everything shifts from hand to hand, requiring adaptability, imagination, adventure (and a sense of humor!) actually describe my current challenge more accurately.

The other day I was talking to some young friends of mine (a duo) who are embarking on this traveling musician path for their career and I asked, "do you like to do puzzles?"

One immediately answered:  "Yes!  I love to do puzzles!"

The other replied, just as quickly: "No!  I love contests!"

It is clear which one will have a better time with negotiating all the details and fitting the puzzle pieces together.

But the challenge of winning the hand or the game will also require the skills of the other one.  Because sooner or later the puzzle will come apart, or the pieces will no longer fit or will go missing.

As a child I recall the fun we had sometimes as a family, sitting around a card table on the cold dark nights of winter break, fitting puzzle pieces together to reveal large intricate scenes.

But I also recall the joy and laughter of the card games that we love to have with our children and friends when we gather these days.

So, I think that today (having had good sleep, and there is still some time until the event),  I'll lean toward the card game analogy and focus on the fun...while still doing the methodical turning over of every puzzle piece to re-weave my transportation web.

Hey there:  Anybody going from Atlanta to Cullowhee, North Carolina July 18th and then back again on the 24th?  I can use a ride.

[And if you want to hear and support some fun acoustic music visit Erin and Amber Rogers' Scenic Roots website.]

Monday, June 7, 2010

Streetmosphere: 30 Dulcimer-Filled Years Summer Music Begins at Home

Diary of a new gig in a unique venue:  
My Own Town!

March 2010:  A call goes out recruiting local artists to audition for an Inaugural Program that will pay musicians, actors, jugglers and more to perform on Old Town street corners throughout the summer.

April 6:  I am the last on the schedule to audition at Bas Bleu Theatre for this evening's session; double-booking of the venue means we have to sit quietly backstage until the Reader's Theater performance is completed.  Then I play both kinds of dulcimers and coax the auditioners to sing along with me to "Celebrate Life!"

mid-May:  Notified that I've been chosen as one of 57 acts for performance this summer.  Dates that are compatible with my summer touring schedule are agreed to.  Contracts are signed.  Add to my gig calendar and Facebook notifications.

May 26:  Answer questions for a bio form that will be posted on the website.

May 27:  Film an email Invitation, edit, render send to the Beet Street Office.  When it is posted make links from my calendar and Facebook pages.        
June 1:  I open this summer's Noontime Notes Concert Series at Old Town Square and once again discover the excitement that bubbles through the crowd when I offer the invitation to come downtown for live entertainment on weekends throughout this summer.

Friday, June 4:  Send a final email blast to my local list to remind them about Streetmosphere and let everyone know that I'll be on one corner, rather than packing up and moving around (like I previously thought)

3:30 pm call at the Warehouse on Linden Street to check in (in order to be paid!) and to connect with the volunteer (Chris) who will pull the wagon with all the Streetmosphere Gear to our corner at Olive and College (in front of Mugs).  Bryan the juggler is warming up and other volunteers and Brenna from OpenStage arrives.  The excitement is building.
I park in the city lot along Remington and schlep my gear to the destination corner.  The shade is perfect, the temperature  and breeze are gentle.                                                              

Chris works at HuHot (right next door) and, as he expects, is familiar with many of the people who walk by or hang around to listen.                                                                                                  

4- 8 pm is my shift.  The goal:  (8) 20 minute sets with a 10 minute break between each.    The alarms on my cell phone ring for the first time and I learn that I can't count!  I keep playing 30-minute sets instead of 20-minute ones.  And, since I'm not used to using the alarms, I keep wondering where that ringing sound is coming from?!

We are at the southern entrance of Old Town and at the 4 pm beginning, people are still a bit unsure about what is going on.  Folks take seats in the Mugs' outdoor seating, or on the benches beneath the shade along College Avenue to listen.  Tourists walk through, pulling their luggage as they prepare to check in at the Armstrong Hotel.  The diesel thrum of trucks and busses on the street provide a much more vigorous competition than capuccino machines that I'm used to at coffeehouse gigs.  But when the light changes, they move away.

Some pedestrians are nervous when Chris tries to hand them a schedule for the summer's events.  Another volunteer wonders if they think we are promoting "Dulcimer Church"  (Not a bad idea, I think!)   
A little girl starts dancing when she hears the music and brings her parents over to better see and hear.  When she asks I let her try the hammers.  Another young couple with little children is visiting from Minnesota, scouting the area as they plan to move to Fort Collins next year.  Another young family is drawn to the instrument because Dad is a drummer who just has to get his hands on the hammers to try this.  The infant, hanging in a front pack on his Mama's chest is smiling, kicking and waving his hands to the music!  One of my son's Poudre High School teachers stops by and commends my son (a 2010 grad) to me.  People passing in cars with windows down smile and nod their heads as they wave.  

When the music stops people applaud and ask "what IS that instrument?"  A trio of my-aged men stop to listen.  People with flourescent-dyed hair walk by and grin.  When people leave their tables at Mugs, others scramble from their bench to take the coveted seats.  Dogs' leashes are tied and untied, bicycles parked and re-ridden, people stop and tap their toes, nod their heads and smile.  Some hang back to observe, others walk right up and ask questions.  The bride, whose wedding I'll play for next week, and her mother come by and sit down to listen.  A Coloradoan photographer shoots from several angles and is drawn to the disarray of my many hammers as they lay in preparation for their turn to jump on the strings.

I've set a goal not to repeat ANY tunes during my shift, and when we begin to pack up 4 hours later--I am successful!  A couple arrives and sadly says, "Oh no, are you done already?  We've been looking all over for you."  I still have more tunes and play them a vigorous finish of Snowbow at Sky. 

"When will you be playing again?" they ask.  Since I'm on tour in June and July I give them my August schedule and they promise:  "We'll be back and we'll bring the kids!"

Now is the zen-like experience of packing up and returning this corner to its usual use and myself to home for some supper.  That is a very satisfying finish for a musician's gig, since often when it is over I'm not anywhere near home!  

This was a great start to an exciting summer of music at home and on the road.  Thanks BeetStreet, thanks Chippers (the sponsor of my corner), thanks Fort Collins!

(Photos by Scott, another Beet Street volunteer)