About MeI began playing the guitar in elementary school. Some of my fondest memories are of every Thursday my mom brought me to a woman's home where she had a group of 4-5 kids sitting in a circle. Each of us had a bright red notebook filled with folk songs. I still remember my favorites were: "The Streets of Laredo", "The Cuckoo", and "I Ride an Old Paint". This wise woman ( sure wish I remembered her name) taught us to play the guitar with simple chords and to proudly sing our hearts out. Even though I was too shy to sing out loud in her group, at home, in the privacy of my room , I belted out my songs . Playing the guitar became my safe haven. Every time I needed a boost , I would pull out my red notebook and tiny guitar and express whatever was in my heart. I am grateful my parents gave me the opportunity to learn an instrument at an early age. It became natural for me to use music at an early age as a healthy form of expression. Jean Redpath told me there she'd never felt an emotion that could not be expressed in song. I am thankful to have learned this as a very young girl.
In high school my mom took me to voice lessons. The teacher lived by an apple orchard. It was during these lessons I learned to project my voice, using the long rows between. the apple trees as a very clear image of how far I needed to project my voice when performing, so everyone could hear my voice. It was during high school that my family moved to the country. There were no cell phones or computers to occupy my time and we lived several miles from teens close to my age. This is where I began to love the solitude of the woods, appreciated creating "a room of one's own" and during these years I spent a lot of time meandering in the nearby forest as well as listening to my favorite records. The artists who inspired me were Judy Collins, Janis Ian, Joan Baez, Carole King , Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, The Doors, and The Beatles. Their messages of love and tolerance were comforting throughout my turbulent teen age years.
Towards the end of high school a good friend of mine was close to Pablo and Andrea Frank, who were the children of the film director and author Robert Frank. The Frank's lived in the nearby town of Woodstock, NY. Robert Frank had created a photographical homage to "The Americans", first published in 1958. Not only did his book "change the nature of photography... what it could say and how it could say it." but it opened the eyes of young folk musician like my self to be introduced to the myriad of folks and ways of living in all parts of the United States. Frank expressed the emotional rhythms the states, through his photography — "how it felt to be wealthy, to be poor, to be in love, to be alone, to be young or old, to be black or white, to live along a country road, or to walk a crowded sidewalk, to be overworked or sleeping in parks, to be a swaggering Southern couple or to be young and gay in New York." Looking at Franks' photographs inspired me to sing about the the America he photographed as well as see with my own eyes all the diversity within our country. This was my first inkling as to what I wanted to sing about.
I keep reminding people that an editorial in rhyme is not a song. A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think.
A summer spent in Great Britain gave me the opportunity to learn a collection of about 200 songs with the legendary Scottish folksinger Jean Redpath at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Jean's scholarly approach to the music introduced me to the historical background of folksongs and encouraged me to be more disciplined in my pursuit of finding folksongs that resonated with me. An impressive evening for myself as a young folksinger was being introduced to the Stuarts, a gypsy musician family at a local party. The musical Stuart family are collectors of Scottish folksongs, which they have passed down from generation to generation (similar to the American Indian tradition of sharing dances and chants). I will never forget the intense haunting solo heard from the gypsy woman that night, "When Mickey gets Home I get Battered". The rage and pain she expressed in her song still haunts me to this day. That night I experienced the power of music, intimate experiences relayed by one voice, no matter how painful this woman's cry for help was, it deeply moved me.
Diane and Pete SeegerI am still extremely grateful to Rienk Janssen from the Netherlands who gave me the opportunity to perform in Europe in the early 90's in many diverse settings such as house concerts, radio stations, and coffeehouses. It was inspiring for me to experience the enthusiasm and thirst for American music which still exists today. After returning from Europe, I continued traveling, enjoyed meeting so many different types of persons who appreciated folk music, and am ever so thankful to all that they gave me the opportunity to share my voice. My travels took me from the Hudson Valley NY to Nashville and then across the country where I played venues on the Pacific Coast and then returned to the midwest. During one summer, I had the good fortune to sing with a band from rural Appalachia, "The Peach Mountain Boys." One band member, the late guitarist/singer Jim Jeffries, who's love of expressing oneself through song, is still a constant inspiration. Jim immersed me in the deep and rich culture of Appalachia and was living proof that music in one's life needs to be part of a daily routine, just as (if not more!) important as eating.
Taking a break from being an itinerant musician I raised two wonderful children, whom are both my heroes. While being a mother, I couldn't stay away from music and began teaching music in the public school to challenged youths (after both had started primary school). I got my New York State permanent teachers license after I received my master's degree ,and enjoyed teaching for fifteen years. My job never felt like a burden. It was invigorating to share music with so many different types of students — boys who had been funneled from foster homes through the juvenile justice system as well as young children who were so severely physically impaired there only response to me was blinking their eyes.
Today, as an active member of my local music community, I hope that folk music continue to be a source of joy, comfort, and inspiration for all the pickers as well as listeners. My wish is that every one can find a part of themselves in the songs they play and hear. Folk songs introduce us to lives and struggles of people everywhere , puts oneself in the shoes of another. Participating in all ways (listening, toe tapping, singing-a -long) shows us healthy ways to feel connected to one another . Music can heal, it brings out the better part of humanity, builds community in a lovingly, creative way. My sincere wish is that my music touches your heart and makes you reflect on the full integrity of the moment, blessed with goodness and the gracious intentions of our human spirit.