Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Farewell to Fort Collins (or How to Start a Musical Career)

(Here is the original edit of my Farewell to Fort Collins "Soapbox" Article for the Fort Collins Coloradoan.  You can read the shorter, Soapbox edit here.  If you'd like to explore making a living in music, come to the workshop I'm hosting Dick Weissman on February 1, 2014. More info here.)

When we moved to Fort Collins, about 40,000 citizens ago, I had no idea what I was going to do  with my time and skills, other than parent our two children.  After a dozen years of serving as a pastor in the innercity of Kansas City, I was exhausted and ready for a change, and I was feeling a vocational tug in the direction of music.  To be honest, this was the tug that had been there since my earliest memories as a child.  I didn't know exactly how to go about starting such a career, although I felt confident in both my performing and teaching abilities since music had been a key organizing tool for our multi-ethnic congregation in Missouri.

The short story I like to tell is this: I threw every line into the water and pulled on the ones that bit.

I played special music for worship at an ecumenical set of congregations, I gave programs for   Church Women's United, the CSU Women's Association, Rotary and Kiwanis.  I contacted the local funeral homes and provided music for several funeral and memorial services.    I led music for Brownie and Girl Scout Day Camp at Lee Martinez park for two years.

I walked a block from my house to meet Russ Hopkins at KIVA studio, and he became my recording engineer, mentor, co-producer and peer.  With him I recorded and produced many records which have gone on to win awards and acclaim and continue to find the ears of appreciative listeners.

I went weekly to the Bluegrass jam at Avogadro's Number on Wednesdays, and was warmly welcomed into the experience of learning, playing and sharing music by ear.  I played the weekly Open Mics at Avo's and Lucky Joe's, and several others as they cropped up around town.  I auditioned to play at Barnes and Noble, and landed a Wednesday lunch-time gig at Deja Vu (at the time, the oldest continuously running coffeehouse in town) that lasted for 10 years!

I auditioned for the accompanist job for the Rainbow Chorus, and didn't get it.  But I filled in when they needed a sub and then was commissioned by them to create and arrange a suite of songs for their millennium concert and recording.

I've played Noontime Notes in Oak Street plaza and on the Old Town stage, all the stages at the Lincoln Center, the Fort Collins Museum in both of its locations, several locations on the CSU campus, Walrus, Ben and Jerry's, Stone Lion and Starry Night for First Night, and most Old Town street corners with Streetmosphere and countless weddings all across the Front Range.

I was the guitarist for Agua de Vida Luterana, the Music Director of First Presbyterian Church in Loveland, the choir accompanist for Westminster Presbyterian Church in Fort Collins and the Director of Music for the Lutheran Campus Ministry at CSU.  I have been a Substitute Teacher and para-professional in the Poudre School District at Lincoln (then-) Junior High.  I have taught well over a hundred students in my private music studio and have watched some of them go on to music careers, while others enrich their lives with their musical participation.

I started and ran the Colorado Dulcimer Festival located here in Fort Collins for 10 years and have passed the mantle of leadership on to an able and dedicated crew who are preparing for the 11th one next Feb 7-8. (

Fort Collins, it turns out, was the perfect location for me to root and expand a new career that has taken me to perform and teach across the USA, Canada, Mexico, England, Scotland and Germany.

And now It is time for us to pull up the tent stakes and move. 

My spouse, Connie Winter-Eulberg, has been pastor of the Lutheran Campus Ministry at CSU since 1997, and has accepted a call to become the pastor of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church on San Mateo, California.  So that means it is time for me to re-establish Owl Mountain Music in a new nest.  But I want to express my deep gratitude and appreciation for all that the citizens and community of Fort Collins has meant to us.  I will be back, and in fact have some events already planned early in 2014, so I look forward to seeing many of you then.

If you would like to bid us farewell, come on by our Bon Voyage Hootenany at the Community Creative Center at 200 S. Matthews In Fort Collins on Saturday, Dec. 14th from 6:45 to 8:45 pm.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Playing and Singing with Holly Near

Holly Near and Steve (with baritone mountain dulcimer)
Over many years, the music, witness, example and life of Holly Near, has enlivened my music, revived my flagging hope, renewed my resolve and helped me focus on how I choose to be in the midst of forces that bid me to sink to a more base level.

My spouse, Connie, and I have sung Holly's music for public gatherings, for and with our children, in our churches and communities.

She has been a long-time (and long-distance) colleague of mine in the musician's union (Local 1000 AFM) and became a friend when we met at our local's membership retreat at the historic Highlander Center in Tennessee in 2012.

So, when she invited me to join her on stage for her concert celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center (RMPJC)  in Fort Collins in mid-October, I was delighted.  When that concert was cancelled, she renewed the invitation to come to Boulder, so Connie and I saddled up for a delightful evening.

Rehearsing Mountain Song
Holly asked me to play mountain dulcimer on her "Mountain Song" (which has long been a favorite of mine!) to begin the Second Set.

In the conversation following our rehearsal, both she, the hosts and the other musicians and I began trading stories about being active in the movement which inspired the formation of RMPJC back in 1983:  the Encirclement of Rocky Flats.

At the time, Rocky Flats was the producer of all the plutonium triggers for the USA's nuclear weapons arsenal, the arms race was very hot and the anxiety about the possibility of nuclear annihilation of the human race and the entire planet was a common topic of conversation.

More than a thousand Colorado citizens decided to encircle the 17 mile perimeter of the Rocky Flats plant with a hand-to-hand human chain on a sunny day in October.

I was one of those citizens, and I had been trained as a peacekeeper (with a completely different mission than the missiles that then-President Reagan had named with the same name!), and I was carrying my trumpet, because I was one of the many buglers assigned to play "Taps" at the appointed hour, signifying the ending of the creation of these weapons.

There had been many demonstrations before and after and, in our conversations, we lamented that it appeared that little would every happen.

But, something DID happen.  The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center was born and has carried on with similar work for 30 years.  AND, Rocky Flats did close, the arms race began to cool down.

In her words to the gathered people at the (delicious!) reception before the concert, Holly encouraged the young people present not to give up hope, saying that even though we may not get thousands of people together with a common purpose, we could get 250 or 300.

So to demonstrate and share this experience, Holly had three Boulder choruses join her for her final song (instead of the "traditional" encore).  And for the "2nd non-traditional encore" had the rest of the audience stand and join hands around the sanctuary of the Unity church to sing the song she wrote after the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone in San Franciso in November of 1978:

"We are a gentle, angry people
and we are singing, singing for our lives...."

I was so inspired and honored to be there in 1983 AND in 2013!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Re-Evaluating one's Bullies/Antagonists/Enemies/Straw Dummies is good for one's soul.

A painting of Andrew Jackson late in his life,
on display in the Hermitage Museum.

I arrived in Nashville a day earlier than I needed to for a gig that fell through, so when the brown historical marker sign presented the opportunity to visit the Andrew Jackson Hermitage (Presidential Home & Museum), the history buff in me couldn't say, "No."

The legacy of the Jackson presidency is one that leaves a lot of distaste in my mouth.  One reason is his Indian Removal Act and the resulting Trail of Tears, which affected one branch of my ancestry in powerfully negative ways.  The legacy of yet another slave-owning president is another.  

And yet, as an historian, I've always argued that people should be evaluated in the context of their lives and experiences.  So, once again I was surprised to find some affinity and empathy for Jackson's life and situation.  

In the context of his situation (being unsuccessful in his first presidential campaign, after winning both the popular and electoral college votes, but losing in the House of Representatives) I understand the motivation to "get the word out" for the 2nd try, which resulted in his running the first presidential "campaign."

Viewing his candidacy as a "democratic" candidate (one of the people), versus the eastern establishment which favored "republican" government (keeping the "unwashed masses" out of the political process), helps me to bring into better relief some conversations I've had with friends in recent years.

"We want to be sure to have INFORMED voters" is a justification for the current attempts at voter suppression.  Well, that IS a republican virtue.

"We want to be sure that EVERYONE has a chance to participate in the electoral process" is the argument for those who seek broader voter registration and electoral participation.  And that IS a democratic virtue.

The extent to which the Capital Letter Party versions of these virtues embrace, embody and live up to these virtues is not what I am debating here, I'm interested in the philosophical underpinnings that are behind the virtues.

People who seek to limit the pool of eligible voters are hoping to have greater influence over the smaller number by being able to control not only the message but the audience.

Beautiful shade tree on the grounds of the Hermitage, resisting
the surrender of all of its colorful leaves in early November.
This appears to be very similar to what I discovered when doing my undergraduate historical research.  I began reading William F. Buckley's columns in The National Review.  It became obvious to me that he arrived at his positions clearly (and cleverly) because he was careful to define the playing field to the advantage of his opinions.  And then, he played ONLY on that field.

As one who was raised in a small town, far from the centers of influence, with little or no expectation of ever being able to enter or even access them, this felt like being hazed in high school.  I wasn't now, and could never hope to be a part of the in-crowd.  But my response, rather than seeking to ingratiate myself and attempt to enter this elite group, was to conclude that the very definitions themselves, while clever, did not accurately mesh with the messy world as it is.  So I dispensed with them.  I may not be able to offer an articulate answer to what appears to be a well-reasoned argument in the heat of the debate, but I am less invested in winning debate points than in probing the assumptions behind the arguments.

I come down on the side of recognizing that while the masses of people can behave like sheep, sometimes led to the slaughter by their own decisions to choose options which are against their interests, that I still trust them MORE than I do those who feel that their enlightened opinions are more important or valuable than those held by ordinary people.

Therefore, when I re-evaluate an historical figure that I've previously concluded is distasteful, I find that I am re-evaluating myself and find both things from which to repent and things for which to give thanks.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Changes: A New Nest for the Owl

As the traveler, usually I am telling stories about where I am going and how glad I am to return home.  And, since I enjoy both the leaving and the returning, I love sharing about both movements.  One of my teachers in seminary talked about this as the rhythm of "Access and Retirement".  Going out and coming in; like a contradance.

But today's post is about a change in venue.  But not the ones to which I travel to perform and teach.  This time the venue change is the location of where I'll return.

My spouse is a pastor, and after nearly 17 years of joyful and grateful service to the campus of Colorado State University through Lutheran Campus Ministry, she has resigned her call in order to accept the call to be Pastor of St. Andrews Lutheran Church in San Mateo, California.

This will be a huge change for us since we have grown to love being Coloradoans, but it is time and we are ready for the next adventures that await.  And, since both of our children are in the Bay Area (for the near future, anyway), we'll have the joy of connecting with them more frequently in person!

The timing of the change is certain for Connie, who will begin her service on January 1, 2014, but is less certain for me, since I will remain behind to fix up and prep our house for sale and stay with it until it sells.  So, I am assuming I'll be around for a couple of months, anyway.

I will continue teaching and performing and traveling, while preparing to re-root Owl Mountain Music, Inc. in its third nest since beginning in 1990.  For those of you keeping score:  Kansas City, MO, Fort Collins, CO and now San Mateo, CA.
Dancing at Aunt Darline's 1984

There are some other changes that have been underway this year:

I am also excited that I've been able to let go of responsibility for the Colorado Dulcimer Festival, which I began and ran for 10 years with a dedicated crew of volunteers.  These volunteers have incorporated and are planning to carry it on for several years into the future!

And, I am delighted that Scott Berwick has been elected to the office of Secretary-Treasurer of the Traveling Musicians Union, Local 1000 AFM.  He takes over when my term ends on Dec 31st of this year.

So, now I am in the process of shedding, shredding and packing in preparation!  All activities which make a perfect fit with autumnal rhythms.  Let's dance!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Power of Music and the Power of Connections #2

This story also begins with the ring of a telephone:

I am on tour in Berkeley, California in May of this year and my phone rings.  My colleague, folk-singer John McCutcheon, is on the end of the line.

He asks if I remember the Woody Guthrie song, "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)" about the immigrant farm laborers who were being deported from the US when their airplane crashed.  Radio reports named the crew and white immigration workers who were killed, but only said the rest were, "deportees."

I said of course I know that song.

He said, "If these people were being deported, then the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) had to have had their names written down somewhere.  Some younger people, who were not alive when the crash happened, who only knew of the story from Woody's song, had determined to find out the names of all of these victims and were seeking to create a memorial and funds were needed."

"They found their names, and now they are raising funds to create the memorial in Fresno at the cemetary where the mass grave is.  I think we, as folksingers, should support this project."

Because of John's instigation, members of my union, Local 1000 AFM (American Federation of Musicians), became the largest single financial supporters of this project, which was unveiled earlier this month on Labor Day.

John reflected, "It is the power of a folk song that kept this tragedy of this incident alive, long after all the participants and witnesses have died."

The Fresno Bee has this article about the unveiling.

Almost everyday since Labor Day I have been singing Woody's song, this time ending,

"Now we know your names when you rode the big airplane, 
Now we won't call you "deportee."

The Power of Music and the Power of Connections #1

The phone rang in my Kansas City Office.

When I answered, the voice on the end of the line was that of a pastor of a partner church in Oberlin, Kansas.  The pastor had remembered me saying at a church meeting, "those of us in the inner city and the rural areas had a lot more in common with each other than either of us had with those in wealthier, suburban settings."

"We need your help,"  he said.

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Energy Department of the United States want to put a nuclear waste dump on land in our area."

"You have more experience with organizing than we do, but we want to know if you and your congregation can write letters urging them NOT to put the waste from nuclear reactors from around the country in our back yard, just because we don't have a lot of people to resist them."

The congregation I served as pastor and I had some experience with church-based community organizing (gathering neighbors together to discern and act upon their shared understanding of values and self-interest in order to have the power to impact our own lives and the environment in which we live.)  From our work we came to understand our deeper connections with each other in our neighborhood and across many miles.

So I agreed.  And I shared the concern of this pastor with our congregation.  We prayed for their situation in our gatherings and in worship.  And we wrote letters.

And we continued to communicate with each other.

On one occasion, he told me how he had observed a local musician learning a new song over the telephone, listening to a musician from another rural community in Nebraska which had gathered together to resist this effort to dump nuclear waste in their neighborhood.  That song was then taught to the crowd and sung in the public meeting in Oberlin.

In the end, thousands attended the public meeting with the officials, who gulped as they entered and saw the resistance in the faces of those gathered.  One commented to my colleague, "I hope these people are Christians."

Today, as I embarked on my Fall Kansas Tour, I took a different route through eastern Colorado, southwestern Nebraska and western Kansas to my Belleville destination.

This route took me directly through Oberlin, and I remembered again the power of this story, and of the role that music played in gathering and coalescing a group of people to express their power, united against the outside decisions that would negatively affect their quality of life.

And I gave thanks for relationships, for music, for connections and these memories.  And this thanks makes me sing!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On the Mend/Caringbridge

Following surgery, I found playing my old classical guitar charts and Hawaiian slack key tunes to be very therapeutic.

I am making progress following my surgery 12 days ago, and my voice is also making a comeback, with many thanks to Cynthia Vaughn of Magnolia Music Studio here in Fort Collins.

I had a couple of instrumental gigs last weekend, one for Streetmosphere and one for worship at Whole Life.  I'm resting my voice, so the gigs this weekend will be instrumental as well.

If you want to follow my treatment process I'm journaling here:

This is actually an amazing site that is available to anyone for any medical event as a helpful way to keep connected and preserve the energy of the healing one and his or her caregivers while still connecting those who care for them, whether far or near.

One of my far-flung friends is grateful that I've used the site, because now her family has been able to create and connect with one of their loved ones during their time of healing.

This site is completely free, but welcomes donations as "tributes."  Please feel free to support them as they have enabled many to support me.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The VOICE-Update

Hometown Streetmosphere

Back in Fort Collins, I was playing my Friday night Streetmosphere gig on Mountain Ave by Enzio's restaurant (bless their wait staff for providing me with ice water in the 90°+ heat!)

My friend John Drege stopped by and took some photos.  Highlights:  a just-married couple stopped by to get some photos taken in front of the murals, a Grandma and Grandbaby enjoyed the music and several bicyclists stopped, too.

G-ma and grandbaby enjoy the acoustic tunes

dulci-bro is always good on a sweaty day!

what a mural!

The dulcimer even stops bicycles!

Back home after 4,500 miles, 9 states and 24 days....

My midwest, early summer tour is now completed and I am glad to be back home!  This was a much longer time away than I prefer, but that is how the festival season ended up.  Despite the cancellation of a festival in the middle due to extreme damage from April storms to the festival location, I was able to fill in the open days and even give a benefit concert with my buddy Kerry Patrick Clark at his church in Maumee, OH where we raised $1,700 for the survivors of the Oklahoma tornadoes.

Venues included:  festivals, house concerts, the Dayton Veterans Administration Hospital and Hospice unit, some churches, a live in-studio radio show, a couple of churches and some afternoon workshops.  Most were solo performances, but it all wrapped up with a hot time at the Americana Music Academy in Lawrence, KS with Erin and Amber Rogers of Scenic Roots, who had been spending the week teaching the Kids Camp.

Here are some views from some of the venues across the 9 states:
Kick-Off Barn Dance for Three Rivers Dulcimer Festival, LaCrosse, WI

Ohashi-Berg House Concert set up, Rochester, MN
With buddy Joe Jencks (of Brother Sun) at Lake Michigan, Evanston, IL
Kerry Patrick and Amy Clark with their sponsored Butterfly in Whitehouse, OH

Bluegrass Ensembles, KMW, Bardstown, KY
Kentucky Music Week Merchandise Table

Evans House Concert, Blacklick, OH

Emanuel Episcopal (Rick Thum, special guest) St. Louis, MO

Anderson-Little House Concert, St. Louis

Our Place on Park Place (Fowler, Wichita, KS)

Lawrence, KS

Kids Jam after the American Music Academy Concert with Scenic Roots (Erin Rogers, standing)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Sound System Died...but the Music Lived On!

Near the end of the 2nd to last set in the concluding Saturday night concert at the Lagniappe Dulcimer Society's annual Fete in Port Allen (Baton Rouge), Lousiana, there was a loud pop(!) and the sound system stopped working.

Ken Bloom and his new friend, Charlie Patton of Mississippi, were playing a duet of bowed dulcimers on Klezmer Tunes and everything went suddenly....acoustic.

These were acoustic instruments, however, so the music didn't stop.

My set was the final one of the night and because it was clear that they high school gymnasium was going to be an unplugged venue, I launched into my set, reminding people that this is how Old Time Music was always played.  

The mountain dulcimer isn't a loud instrument, but it did just fine with She Thinks My Dulcimer's Sexy, and then the Dulci-bro (a resonator instrument that uses the first "amplification" technology of the twentieth century) sang out loud and clear.

Sharrie George's Taylor guitar did just fine with my fingerpicked version of Didn't Know I Was Lost (Until You Found Me), and Ken Bloom joined me for a Galax Dulcimer / Bowed Dulcimer duet on Miss McLeod's Reel, (thanks for the instrument loan, Bob Magowan!) and I ended the set with our planned trio:  me: hammered dulcimer (thanks Peggy Carter!), Ken and Charlie Patton on bowed dulcimers dancing up the fine Ragtime Annie tune.  (See photo on right.)

Reviews from those in attendance were that the sound was fine and well-balanced.

It is a little bit anachronistic that we players of old-time musical instruments have come to depend upon modern electronic sound systems, and we listeners of live music have come to expect that that amplified sounds are "better" for listening...when in this instance, those leaning in to listen had a fine experience without the electronic support!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Artist Interview for Concerts in Your Home

Here is a link to an interview that was conducted while I was on the road in Kansas early last summer.

The interview was conducted by Fran Snyder of Concerts In Your Home for the artist's directory of this network which gets performing musicians connected with people who like to host concerts in their living rooms!(which, incidentally, is one of my favorite places to play.) (This link has been removed, so please look below!)

Some interesting questions led me to some interesting answers.

Please let me know what you think!

Act Name: Steve Eulberg
Member of CIYH since: 2008-06-19
1. Describe your most memorable house concert experience.

Anytime someone who is leaning away begins to move toward live acoustic music:
For Example:

My teenaged godson's girlfriend was brought by him to one of my house concerts.  She related to his dad on the way home, "When I heard this was going to be a Folk concert, I was pretty scared.  But this was a great concert!"  

When people from different parts of my life show up in the same place and begin (or discover) connections with each other! The crooked lines make the straightest paths to relationship phenomena!

For example:

A friend from college agrees to host a house concert at her parents' home in central Ohio.  One of my on-line JamPlay students, who has hosted a house concert for me before, comes with his wife and one of my far-flung students from southern California flies into town for a continuing education event, but convinces her daughter that they must both come to my concert before she goes to her daughter's home.   Turns out that the daughter and my college friend have some connection that they hadn't realized before.  And here we all are, filling a living room with song!

2. What's your best opening line? (from one of your songs, or one of your favorites) 

Can't choose just one!

Growing Up in an uneasy time, blue stars on the windows.... (from "war is sweet" on "a piece of it all")


Mailman's come and gone, brought a letter from my old mom, still singin the same old song....(from "porch swingin' " on "a piece of it all")

You and I agree, we should live apart.... (from "sad" from "a piece of it all")

Rippling Wave of a bounding squirrel, jumping rope of a knee-socked little girl... (from "beauty in the world" from "a piece of it all")

3. What song is most likely to make you cry? (if you were the crying kind)

My name is Sam, I'm the family dog.... (Berkley-Hart on Crow)

4. How many miles did you drive last year?

oy, The car now has almost 230,000 miles on it...but I couldn't tell for sure about last year.  Several flying miles, too.

5. What is your favorite thing about house concerts?

The personal connection and the ability to interact with an audience.

6. If you could no longer sell your music on CD, what would you do differently?

Use the digital downloading process I've got set up.

7. When is the last time someone critiqued your song, suggested a way to make it better, and you agreed?

I was saying "I Said Nothing" too many times in that song and someone suggested that I say it less, and let the actually "nothing" say it.  Tremendous advice!

8. Have you ever watched yourself do a full concert on video? If so, what did you learn?

Yes.  Recently released one on DVD.  I should wear taller socks or longer pants!  Lighting design can make a big difference....sometimes I go with the flow and the flow takes me where I shouldn't go...Could use more tightness in my between song banter when I have full sets.  I can certainly craft that for the showcase or festival sets, but have to continue working on that wrinkle.

9. Is there anyone you like to go to for songwriting help or advice? If so, who?

Russ Hopkins, Kiva Records.

10. What is the best stage name of all time?

Slim Pickens.

11. Car you drive vs the car you'd most like to drive. 

I'm renting a Prius for this tour and so, at the moment, it fits both categories!

12. What percentage of your songs are about love relationships?


13. You can bring back any dead artist, and be their apprentice for a month, who do you choose?

Jim Croce, hands down.  That dude could tell a vivid story!

14. You can recruit anyone in the world to manage your artistic career, who is it?

Holly Near.

15. You can work with any living record producer. Who do you choose for your next project?

Ken Whiteley, Pyramid Records in Toronto.

16. You must personally destroy every instrument you own, except one. Which do you keep? Which do you destroy first/last, and why?

My voice is the one I keep. 

I refuse to destroy the instruments, I'll give them away...or if I must appear to destroy them, I'll disassemble them, distribute the parts and instructions on rebuilding them to people across the world.

17. Cat, dog, or goldfish?


18. Writing retreat. You can go anywhere in the world for 2 weeks, where do you go? One instrument, one suitcase - what do you bring?

Nova Scotia--never been there and I'd love to see what it brings out of me.
Guitar, my pillow and my slippers.

19. Plan B, or no Plan B?

Plan B is work Plan A harder, or adapt it and work it smarter.