A blog sponsored by the Michigan State University Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Sharing news and information about the Great Lakes Folk Festival, Quilt Index, the MSU Museum's traditional arts activities, Great Lakes traditional artists and arts resources, and much more. Development of content for this blog supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rhiannon Giddens Featured on NPR

Photo courtesy of rhiannongiddens.com

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens performed at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in 2008 with her band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops. It was clear seven years ago that this band was one to watch. A recent NPR story confirms this. Rhiannon sat down with NPR's Renee Montagne to discuss her recent release, musical influences, and past experiences. Click here for the full NPR article.

Since then, the band has released another album, and has undergone some transformations. In 2010, the group received a GRAMMY Award for their album, Genuine Negro Jig. Two members amicably left to pursue solo careers (Justin Robinson and Dom Flemons) and three new ones joined (Hubby Jenkins, Rowan Corbett, and Malcolm Parson). Giddens recently released her first solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, to much acclaim.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

MSU Museum Welcomes Visiting Scholar Aleia Brown

Photo courtesy of Aleia Brown
The Michigan State University Museum welcomes Aleia Brown, a Middle Tennessee State University doctoral student in public history who recently started a 9 month residency as a visiting scholar at the MSU. She was formerly a curator at the National Afro-American Museum in Wilberforce, Ohio, and is part of a national cohort group leading a very important web blog and twitter chats on museum responses to Ferguson. Click here for more information.

At the MSU Museum, Aleia will be engaged in a number of research, administrative, and educational activities affiliated with folklife and history. One collections-based activity will focus on cataloguing the recent donation of the Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi/Women of Color Quilters Network collection, as well as conducting interviews with key quilt artists who make work addressing civil and human rights.

Friday, February 13, 2015

An Interview with AFC Lomax Family Collection Curator Todd Harvey

In honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 75th anniversary of his 1938 collecting trip through Michigan, an upcoming exhibition at the Michigan State University Museum will focus on the extensive upper Midwest materials collected by renown folklorist Alan Lomax. This exhibition, entitled "Michigan Folksong Legacy: Grand Discoveries from the Great Depression," has travelled around the state of Michigan, landing in schools, libraries, museums, and community spaces. It was generated through a partnership between the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress (AFC) Michigan Traditional Arts Program of the Michigan State University Museum (MSUM); the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Culture, University of Wisconsin, and the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE). The exhibition is part of a larger project that includes innovative publications, community engagement, digital educational resources, and the repatriation of copies of collections to their home communities. It inspired concerts, public programming, and even a collaboration between the Earthwork Music Collective and seven underserved northwest lower Michigan schools (read more about that here).

Photo courtesy of the MSU Museum website
These programs have been made possible in part by a grant from Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities; with additional support from the Michigan State University Museum and its the Great Lakes Traditions Endowment; the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress; the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures at the University of Wisconsin; the Association for Cultural Equity; and the Finlandia Foundation.

I interviewed Lomax Family Collection Curator Todd Harvey to get a better understanding of the exhibition, the collection, and the role that archives play in current society. Here is a look into our conversation:

What is your role at the American Folklife Center with the Lomax Collections? What do your daily responsibilities entail?

I am the Curator of the Lomax Collection. I oversee processing of materials and am the content and reference specialist. I help to promote and interface with other organizations. You could say I am the "point person for all things Lomax."
Every day I get queries about the collection. Some of them might be, "Can I have some materials?" or "Can I do some licensing?" Others are more broad, such as an eighth grade student doing a National History Day project on Alan Lomax who wants access to some of our collections or a record producer who wants help with getting proper permissions, content, and track information.
In the longer term, The Lomax Family Collection is engaged in a large-scale digitization and online publication project where all Lomax manuscripts in the collections will be presented online, plus ninety-eight other Lomax family collections. This involves between 350,000-400,000 scans that will be available through the Library of Congress. I help to select and prepare that materials, which then move to the conservation department, then to digital curation, etc. It is an extremely large institutional project. 

Why should visitors to the exhibition care about fieldwork that Lomax did in Michigan? What can we learn about Michigan and the upper Midwest from his fieldwork? 
I think you can learn about the incredible ethnic and cultural diversity of the upper Midwest. That is what really struck Lomax in Ohio and Indiana in the spring of 1938 and in Michigan in the fall of 1938.
He intended a rapid recognizance survey of the upper Midwest cultures, those present in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota,  Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, but he got stalled because, as he put is Michigan was "the most fertile source for cultural expression."
People should care  because some of the earliest documentation of those cultures, certainly earliest fieldwork documentation, occurred during this period. This was one of the first times an ethnographer had worked in the upper Midwest. It is early and unique and precious.
At its core, this fieldwork shows the great depth of expressive culture in Michigan in the 1930s. 
What surprised you about the collecting work that Lomax did in Michigan?
 A lot of things surprised me. Because I went day-to-day looking at his work, I was surprised by the intensity of the work and the constancy of the work. He didn't take a lot of days off. He was always moving from one town to the next, finding performers, recording them, and moving on.
I was surprised by the diversity as well. I think he recorded twelve languages [during his time in Michigan]. It represented so many culture groups for not much geographic space. 
It seemed like a tremendous amount of fun. His correspondence showed a good sense of humor about what he was doing. He seemed to be totally in his element. He would write these messages... "I'm getting such great stuff, I can't bear to leave. Send my advance to the next town." He was always broke because he was always paying performers. He truly embodied that nostalgic sense of the fieldworker, constantly recording, alone on the road but so happy to be there.
One of my favorite stories is that of Ted Lewandowski from Cheboygan, Michigan. Lomax had recorded Ted singing old songs, and then proceeded to ask his two young daughters if they had anything they would like to share. They start singing this cowboy song, "Goldmine in the Sky," which was a title track to a Gene Autry film which had been playing at an area theatre. They copied it from the film. It was popular music of the moment. Here you had a father doing songs from the old country juxtaposed against this pop song from a film. Lomax wasn't just interested in "old people doing old songs." It was real culture.
When you read Lomax's notes, there are all sorts of events like that. For all the successes he had, he would write down the negatives as well. A priest would throw him out of a church, or he would arrive at someone's house to record them only to discover that they had died. He once said "I'm beginning to think I'm death's special messenger."
The 75th anniversary of the Lomax fieldwork in Michigan and the 100th anniversary of Lomax's birth has led to a rich collaboration between the American Folklife Center/Library of Congress, the MSU Museum, and other partners. Can you reflect on this partnership and how it worked?
We started to reflect on the 75th/100th anniversaries with the idea that it should focus on the performers and the cultures they represented, on the documentation rather than the documenter. That was Lomax's way.
We are particularly fortunate because of the strong MSU/AFC bond that already existed. They were the obvious partner for us to approach. When we decided to work together, we agreed that we would use our complimenting strengths to create a viable program. The Library of Congress is great for preserving materials and creating authoritative metadata. We have discovered that the MSU Museum is good at promoting materials throughout the state of Michigan. They are the best at it! Who did Kurt Dewhurst (MSU Museum Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage) hire but one of the best-known fieldworkers in the state, Laurie Sommers. She knew which venues and communities to talk to and which reporters to approach. The great press snowballed.
We tried to keep things modest in scope. We did what each organization does best and played to our strengths. We involved other organizations as we needed them or as they approached us (The Michigan Humanities Council, the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures at the University of Wisconsin, the Association for Cultural Equity, and the Finlandia Foundation) and were intentional with our branding. 
 Why are fieldwork collections by folklorists, ethnomusicologists, and other scholars held in professional archives so important to us today? 
At the Library of Congress, our goal is to create a universal body of knowledge that represents culture. Much of this is achieved through archives. This includes photographs, sound recordings, etc., of people. For a long time, this meant congressmen, senators, and people in power.
In the 1920s when the folk archive was founded, it gave a richer, truer picture of American culture. Ethnography is that in many ways... that expressed culture of ordinary people, and of everyone. Is this a world of power and ideas and reports? Or of things that are passed down from generation to generation? It is important to represent both of the aspects of culture.
We are only part of a continuum. There is someone who keeps a tradition alive in their world and in their family by practicing it. At some point, this tradition is documented, preserved, then learned and reinterpreted. This repeats. This is how expressive culture is maintained in the digital age. We are all tradition bearers, like it or not, know it or not. 
At the Library of Congress, we are stewards of this material, which is only useful if someone uses it, looks at it, and learns something from it. We have to be inward-facing preservationists, but also face out to the world and present this material. The Michigan Folksong Legacy Project was unique because we didn't just present academic papers, but tried to sew materials back into the communities from which they originated through the exhibition and public programs.
Why do you think that there is growing interest and passion by the younger generations for early recordings?
I hope it is because mass culture is finally beginning to mature, and digital natives are the benefit of that. We don't have NBC broadcasting a "folk show" on Thursday night as the only representation of what traditional culture is. We have a million ways for younger people to grab culture and use it. We've seen an atomization of American culture. We have access to everything, so we are able to ask: what is important? The answer is becoming: our traditions. I think that is what is happening. I am glad to be a part of it. If I can teach some high school students to use our archive, we are relevant for another generation.
I am reminded of Alan Lomax's principle of "cultural equity." In a big way, what happened in the 20th century was a cultural grey out. The growth of media in the 1920s caused people to turn less and less to their own culture and more and more toward mass culture. It's hard to fight that. It's hard not to take the "hee-haw" as a true representation of rural American culture. It was half Vaudeville and half... something else. Lomax proposed equal time for all cultures on the air and in the classroom. In that way we can help to encourage the beautiful cultural diversity that we see in the US and the upper Midwest. This is a foundational principle of the Lomax Collection.
What do you think Lomax might be collecting in Michigan if he were alive today?
He collected folksongs because that was a big way for people to express themselves in 1938. He was especially interested in the way these songs moved across the country and the world. He also collected oral histories and instrumental music. He would be looking at vestiges of traditional culture being expressed... Finnish culture in the Upper Peninsula, children's games, polka music on the east side of the state, dance throughout the state, "the urban strain" as he called it-- urban popular music and how has changed and moved in Detroit. He was also interested in recent immigrant communities, so I think he would take a look at the Arab communities around Detroit as well.
 I wouldn't be surprised if he went over to the Traverse City area to talk to some of the Earthwork Music Collective members because they are transforming folksongs
and keeping them alive. 

Click here to listen to podcasts generated by the Library of Congress about the work of Lomax.

"Michigan Folksong Legacy: Grand Discoveries from the Great Depression" will be on view at the MSU Museum from March 2nd through October 18th in the Heritage Gallery.

Listen to a clip of one of Lomax's recordings here!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mark Priest and Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives

Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives, a partnership of the MSU Museum and the MSU School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, proudly featured a number of Mark Priest's artworks in the one-man exhibit "Iron Men, Steel Rail," which was held at the MSU Museum in 1996. One of the paintings from this exhibit was purchased by the MSU Museum and remains in the collection today.

As reported a few weeks ago, Priest has continued in his vein of socially informed paintings with a number of series focusing on African-American history and the experience of the Underground Railroad. An exhibit of Mark Priest's current work, “Underground Railroad 2015,” is currently on display in two locations at the University of Louisville where Priest is a professor of art.

Mark and a great representation of the art in the exhibit were recently featured in the video below, generated by the University of Louisville.

The Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives Brown Bag Presentation Series schedule for winter/spring of 2015 can be viewed below:

Philipp Scholz Ritterman
photographer Seeing China exhibit
"Emperor's River: Photographing along China's Grand Canal"
Monday, February 23, 2015 
7:00-8:30 pm
MSU Museum Auditorium

Laurie Sommers

MSU Museum
"Songs of Miners, Lumberjacks and Schooner Men: Alan Lomax's Michigan Legacy"
Monday, March 2, 2015 
MSU Museum Auditorium

Marcie Ray
MSU College of Music
"Love, Sex and Greed: Reflecting Gender and Class in French Comic Opera"
Friday, March 19, 2015 
MSU Museum Auditorium

co-sponsored by the MSU Center for Gender in Global Context and the MSU Women's Resource Center

Rebecca Meuninck
Ecology Center
"Labor, Livelihoods and Brazilian Black Gold: Navigating Fair Trade, Coffee Quality, and Environmental Standards"
Friday, March 27, 2015 
MSU Museum Auditorium

Maria Cotera, re-scheduled
American Studies and Women's Studies, University of Michigan
"Working for Justice: Legacies of Latina Activism in Southeastern Michigan"
Monday, March 30, 2015
MSU Museum Auditorium

co-sponsored by the MSU Center for Gender in Global Context, Chicano/Latino Studies Program, Julian Samora Research Institute and the MSU Women's Resource Center

Maite Tapia
School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, Michigan State University
"Organizing the Fragmented: Workers, Unions and the Fast Food Industry"
Friday, April 10, 2015 
MSU Museum Auditorium

Peter Cole
History Department, Western Illinois University
"On the Waterfront in Durban and San Francisco: Longshoremen and Social Movement Unionism, 1934-1994"
Friday, April 24, 2015
MSU Museum Auditorium

co-sponsored by the African-American and African Studies

For more information, contact John Beck at (517) 432-3982 or beckj@msu.edu or Kurt Dewhurst at 355-2370 (517)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

New Feature: Local Learning Dress to Express Museum Modules

In conjunction with first issue of the Journal of Folklore and Education, “Dress to Express: Exploring Culture and Identity,” Local Learning proudly announces the launch of three museum modules that extend this theme in our new online Discovery Studio. Because dress and adornment carry such deep, complex meaning, they present exciting opportunities for learning across disciplines and age groups and in diverse settings. Dress and adornment create accessible portals to culture and community as well as to historical and contemporary identity.

The images made available by our museum partners bring the museum collection to the computer screen, and the suggested lessons offer new ways to think about history, identity, art, and culture as well as encourage close observation and interpretation. Activities suitable for grades 4-12, university, museum, and community settings accompany the images. Find more activity and context on this theme in Volume 1 of the Journal of Folklore and Education.

Exploring Dress, Culture, and Identity in Asian Art
by Joanna Pecore
Asian Arts & Culture Center, Towson University, Towson, Maryland
What do art objects from distant times and places express about the identity of the people and the cultures depicted in them?

Exploring Dress, Culture and Identity in American Indian Dress and Objects
by Lisa Falk
Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson Arizona
How would you feel if someone (outside your identity group) used your identity design references in a clothing line? What might change how you feel about this use? 

Lau Hala Weaving and Hawai’ian Cultural Identity
by Marsha MacDowell
Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, Michigan
How is the weaving and wearing of lau hala papale (hats) connected to Hawai’ian history, identity, natural resources, and culture?

Find the Dress to Express Museum Modules in the Discovery Studio of the Local Learning website and explore more activities and context on this theme in Volume 1 of the Journal of Folklore and Education, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Please publicize these free resources among your colleagues and networks.

Paddy Bowman, Director, pbbowman@gmail.com
Lisa Rathje, Assistant Director, rathje.lisa@gmail.com
Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education

Friday, January 30, 2015

Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Seeks Fellows

Photo courtesy of the NACF Website
From the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Website:
"The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) seeks to recognize innovative American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian artists and culture makers across the country through the 2015 NACF Artist Fellowship. 
The coveted national award recognizes artistic excellence and includes support ranging up to $20,000 per artist. Awards will be made in six artistic disciplines, including: performing arts, filmmaking, literature, music, traditional arts and visual arts. 
To apply, artists who are members of federally and state-recognized U.S. tribes, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities can review criteria and complete an application at http://your.culturegrants.org. 
To date, the foundation has recognized 41 American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian artists with the unique national award. Past fellows are ineligible for applying for the current year’s award. The foundation will announce award recipients in August 2015. "

The deadline is Monday, April 6th at 5pm PST (8pm EST).

Monday, January 26, 2015

Michigan Heritage Award Winner Julia Mainer Dies at 95

Singer and guitarist Julia "Hillbilly Lilly" Mainer died on Wednesday, Jan. 21, at age 95 after sustaining injuries from a fall. Mainer was a resident of Gennessee County. She and her husband Wade Mainer received a Michigan Heritage Award in 1996 for their knowledge and performance of old time music. Wade passed away in 2011 at the age of 104.

Hear Julia and Wade Mainer perform "I Can't Sit Down" at Michigan State University Museum's Festival of Michigan Folklife in East Lansing, Michigan, 1989.


From the Michigan Heritage Award website [bio c. 1996]:
"Wade and Julia Mainer have done what all great folk artists have always done: they received their music from earlier generations, gave it their own special shape and stamp, and passed it on to younger musicians. They have played exemplary roles in preserving old-time Appalachian music and hold a special place in southern musical history. 
As a fine singer and guitar player, Julia had her own radio program in the 1930s. A deeply religious woman, Julia specializes in gospel songs. In addition to solo work, she has served as Wade's guitarist in concerts and on records for almost 25 years. She also sings harmony with him. 
Wade, a living legend of traditional mountain music, grew up in a musical family from his birth on April 2, 1907. He learned to play the banjo, which became his specialty, by watching local musicians at Saturday night barn dances. In the 1930s he began his musical career, joining with his older brother, J. E., to form the string band Mainer's Mountaineers. He soon formed his own group, Sons of the Mountaineers, and continued to record and work in radio until 1953 when he moved to Flint to work for General Motors. Wade's large recorded repertoire in the 1930s served as a bridge between the older mountain music and the Bluegrass style of the 1940s and 1950s. He was one of three musicians who kept the five-string banjo and its old-time repertoire in the public eye through records and the radio until the arrival of musicians such as Earl Scruggs. 
During the early 1950s, Wade and Julia gave up musical entertainment, singing only in religious services. Persuaded years later that the banjo and gospel music were compatible, they returned to public performance, and by 1961 had begun to record again.  
After Wade's retirement in 1973, he and Julia began to perform at bluegrass festivals, concentrating on mountain gospel music with an occasional old and rare secular piece. They have been together in marriage and music for 63 years. In 1987 Wade was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship for his role in the development of two-finger banjo picking in the style of his native western North Carolina. 
Wade Mainer also received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1987." 

Hear Julia and Wade perform once more at Michigan State University Museum's Festival of Michigan Folklife in East Lansing, Michigan, 1989.

Read more on BluegrassToday or MLive.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

FolkStreams.net Offers Films About Traditional Culture

FolkStreams.net is a fantastic resource for those interested in traditional art, culture, music, and dance... especially for those interested in documenting these practices. From their website:
     "Folkstreams.net has two goals. One is to build a national preserve of hard-to-find documentary films about American folk or roots cultures. The other is to give them renewed life by streaming them on the internet. The films were produced by independent filmmakers in a golden age that began in the 1960s and was made possible by the development first of portable cameras and then capacity for synch sound. Their films focus on the culture, struggles, and arts of unnoticed Americans from many different regions and communities."
Many of Alan Lomax's films can be found here. Lomax received a Michigan Heritage Award in 2014 for his documentation of Michigan music and traditional culture during his 1938 collecting trip through the state. While these films do not reflect this trip, they are fascinating records of traditional American music, from Cajun to old time.

This site is a partnership between FolkStreams, Inc., Ibiblio.org, the University of North Carolina, and the Soutern Folklife Collection.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Crossing Borders: Exhibit Open House with MSU Artist and Professor Dylan Miner

Courtesy of MSUglobal 
MSU Residential College in the Arts and Humanities Professor Dylan Miner has a new exhibition opening at the MSU Global Gallery. The bikes included in the exhibition were featured at the 2013 Great Lakes Folk Festival.
From the MSUglobal Press Release:

"OPEN HOUSE: Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 3:30 – 6:00 pm. Join us for the gallery opening and meet Michigan State University artist and activist Dylan Miner, whose work will be on display.

Location: MSU Global Gallery, Nisbet Building Suite 301, 1407 S Harrison Rd, East Lansing, MI 48823

RSVP Here!

If you can’t make it to the opening, you can still come view the artwork! The exhibit will be open to the MSU Community and runs from January 20 – February 18, 2015 and the gallery hours are from Monday – Friday, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm with the exception of university holidays.

DYLAN MINER is a border-crossing artist, activist, and scholar. He is Associate Professor in the Residential College of Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University, where he coordinates a new Indigenous contemporary art initiative and is adjunct curator of Indigenous Art at the MSU Museum. Learn more about what inspires him and influences his work here.

CROSSING BORDERS features select pieces of Miner’s work from two projects that are influenced by Indigenous history and culture. They explore themes of collaboration between art and community, while prompting us to think about how we can become active participants in building a better society. Native Kids Ride Bikes is an ongoing project that brings together Indigenous youth and artists with non-Native university students to create low-rider bikes that give insight into the foundation of the Anishinaabeg people’s teachings. Each bike represents a different teaching of Our Seven Grandfathers: wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth.

Michif-Michin or, “the people, the medicine” represents non-Western forms of community healing and health through soft and bright relief prints of plants, which Miner collected when he was learning about the various ingredients of earth-medicines."

Read a conversation with Dylan Miner here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Michigan Heritage Award Winner Alberta Adams dies at 97

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Free Press website, taken by Robert Barclay
Alberta Adams, treasured Michigan blues singer, passed away early Thursday at a Dearborn, MI, rehabilitation facility of congestive heart failure. Adams received a Michigan Heritage award in 2010. Here is more information from the MHA website:

"Alberta Adams is known in Detroit and nationwide as the Queen of Detroit blues. Alberta was born Roberta Louise Osborne in Indianapolis in 1917. She began performing as a dancer at an early age and, when the vocalist at the Club B and C in Detroit fell ill, she stepped in as a singer. By 1945 she was performing on tours with such well-known national artists as Duke Ellington, T-Bone Walker, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and, when in Detroit she worked with Big Joe Turner and Wynonie Harris. In the 1960s Adams made Detroit her home and appeared regularly in local nightclubs. When she and the Detroit Blues Review performed with guitarist and vocalist Johnnie Bassett at the 1994 Montreux/Detroit Jazz Festival, her work garnered renewed interest. She went on more tours in the U.S. and recorded the 1997 album Blues Across America: The Detroit Scene. In Michigan, she has also performed at the National Folk Festival, Festival of Michigan Folklife, and Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing, Michigan. Adams has five CD releases and her Detroit is My Home was recognized with a Detroit Music Award for outstanding blues/R & B recording in 2009. The Detroit Blues Society honored Alberta with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. "

To read more of her story, as well as funeral information, click here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Keeping a Tejano Sound in Michigan

One Saturday night last June, I walked into the Eagles Club near the Lansing, Michigan, airport, recording equipment in hand, in the midst of a big family celebration for a high school graduation. The guests were finishing a dinner of home-made Tejano (Texan Mexican-American) specialties, and the dance floor was still empty, strobe light glittering above. Members of Lansing’s Tejano Sound Band were setting up: keyboard, drum set, electric bass, saxophone, diatonic button accordion, and the 12-string guitar bajo sexto.

It felt like déjà vu. There was a time when I was known as “the woman who was paid to go to Mexican bars” (a reference to the numerous Saturday night dances that have been a staple of Texas Mexican bands in Michigan and elsewhere). “Paid” because—as a staff member of the MSU Museum’s Michigan Traditional Arts Program—I had spent eight years from the late 1980s to mid-1990s studying Michigan’s Mexican American music. My research had taken me across the state to communities where this music was played in bars, clubs, and at family parties such as weddings, anniversaries, quinceañeras (a girl’s 15th birthday coming of age party), and graduations. Then, about the same time that Tejano Sound Band was formed, I moved out of state. This was my first foray back into state’s Tejano music scene in twenty years.

The evening’s event had brought together family from Michigan and Texas to celebrate the remarkable achievement of young Marco Solis, who had not missed a single day of high school in four years. His proud great-uncle and grandpa respectively were Tejano Sound’s co-founders, Johnny and Richard Vasquez.

Brothers Richard (left) and Johnny Vasquez, co-founders of Lansing’s Tejano Sound Band, 
play bajo sexto and diatonic button accordion. Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers, 2014.
The brothers grew up playing music. Johnny and Richard, along with siblings Frank Jr. and Fred, started the band Los Hermanos Vasquez (Vasquez brothers) in the late 1950s when Johnny―the youngest―was just eight years old. The family had come north from Texas as part of the migrant stream that introduced Tejano culture to Michigan in the years following World War II.

The 1950s were also the golden age of conjunto music, a regional style of the Texas-Mexican border that has at its core melodies of the button accordion and rhythmic accompaniment of the bajo sexto, along with drums and electric bass. The Vasquez brothers practiced in their living room, learning songs recorded on 45 rpm records by the great conjunto musicians of the day: Tony de Rosa, Paulino Bernal, Ruben Vela, Gilberto Perez. “We’d take a little bit from everybody,” Johnny recalled, “learn it, sometimes add new music to it, sometimes take it just like it was.”

Los Hermanos Vasquez played at dances and family events, traveling in an old bus with their parents and siblings. They rarely performed at clubs or bars because Johnny was too young to be allowed to stay. Johnny started as the group’s drummer, but early on he was attracted to the button accordion and soon replaced his brother Fred as the group’s accordion player. When, during the mid-1960s, the older Vasquez brothers began joining their father working for General Motors in Lansing, the group disbanded.

Johnny continued his passion for the accordion with other Lansing bands, such as Grupo Aldaco, La Corporación, Los Capitolinos, and Latin Sounds Orchestra. Finally, in 1994, he asked Richard to join him in starting their own group. Tejano Sound Band was born, its name drawing on the popularity of “Tejano music” that by this time included keyboard or synthesizer (sometimes in place of the accordion) and had more influence from rock and roll, jazz, and country than did the older conjunto styles.

Tejano Sound Band has kept the grassroots sound of accordion and bajo sexto, but modernized with the inclusion of synthesizer, saxophone, jazz improvisation, and sophisticated arrangements of original songs and old standards. The current line-up includes Johnny Vasquez on accordion and vocals; Richard Vasquez on bajo sexto and electric bass; Lupe Moreno on vocals; AJ Garcia on bass; Andy Pizaña on drums; MSU Jazz Studies faculty member Diego Rivera on saxophone (or various current and former students); Rolando Revilla Jr., on keyboard, vocals, accordion, as well as sound and musical arrangements; and Mark Garcia (manager).

Tejano Sound Band plays for a family graduation party, 2014. 
From left, Rolando Revilla Jr., AJ Garcia, Mike Heimstra, Bobby Gonzalez (guest drummer), 
Lupe Moreno, Richard Vasquez, and Johnny Vasquez. 
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers.

The band has produced three CDs. To hear examples from Tejano Sound Band’s latest CD “Cierra Los Ojos” (2012), click here. The CD includes “Por El Amor de Una Mujer”― featuring vocals by Lansing native Ricky (Villareal) Valenz and band member Lupe Moreno―which won “Vocal Duo of the Year” at the 2013 Tejano Music Awards in San Antonio.

The latest CD includes original compositions by band members and others as well as standards.
For Johnny Vasquez, however, this music is still about the diatonic button accordion sound he fell in love with as a child. In addition to becoming an accomplished performer of the instrument, he has also developed a cottage industry in accordion repair. Tejano musicians from throughout Michigan send him their instruments. One day after the graduation party, I caught up with Johnny in his home workshop, a small space full of accordions, accordion parts, and memorabilia from his music career.

Johnny Vasquez in his accordion workshop, Lansing, Michigan.
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers, 2014.
One of the common adjustments his clients request is to create the preferred “Tejano sound” by removing vibrato from the instrument’s sound. Button accordions come from the factory with vibrato, or the pulsating sonic effect caused by rapid and slight variations in pitch. On accordion, vibrato (or what Johnny calls the “wow”) is produced by paired reeds of slightly different pitch. To eliminate the “wow,” Johnny raises or lowers the height of the reeds.

See Johnny Vasquez demonstrate accordion repair as he removes vibrato from a reed block. Normally, Johnny does this work with the reed block still inside the instrument, but clients often send him just the reed blocks to save on shipping expense.

Tejano Sound Band continues the rich legacy of Tejano music in Michigan. And Johnny Vasquez ensures that his fellow button accordion players can perform with the truly Tejano sound they prefer.

Back at the graduation party, Tejano Sound Band’s light machine was flashing different colors, and the strobe light was whirling above the dancers as they moved to the beat of cumbias and rancheras. For family parties such as this, the band mixes in a few original compositions but tends to stick with the old standards that people know and love. Every once in a while, they’ll throw in an instrumental polka, where Johnny Vasquez can ripple the keys of his button accordion. “People just love the feel,” Johnny told me. The instrumental dance music of button accordion and bajo sexto helped shape the very beginnings of this musical style. Why let go of a good thing?

Dancers enjoy the music of Tejano Sound Band, June 2014.
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers
Click here to hear Johnny Vasquez and Tejano Sound Band play the classic polka, “Atontonilco.”

This post was written by Laurie Sommers in conjunction with the Michigan Traditional Arts Program and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Fieldwork with Johnny Vasquez and Tejano Sound Band was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Last Waltz for Les Ross Sr. and the Lumber Jäkki

I wanted to be there because I knew it would be something special. This past February, at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, the great Finnish American harmonica player, Les Ross Sr., was performing as part of the group Lumber Jäkki (Finnish for “lumberjacks”). Les was now 90 years old. I knew I wouldn’t have many more chances to hear him.
Les Ross Sr., in rehearsal for the Lumber Jäkki performance at NMU, February 22, 2014. 
Photo by James P. Leary.
The performance almost didn’t happen. The Polar Vortex was wreaking its havoc with gale force winds and white-out conditions pummeling Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Mackinac Bridge was closed for 13 hours. All flights to Marquette were cancelled. Les lived in Marquette, but Oren Tikkanen—one of the Lumber Jäkki who lives in the Keweenaw Peninsula―carried his instruments down to his neighbor’s the previous night, for fear of being snowed in. But it takes more than a snowstorm to thwart a U.P. event. The show went on, but without me. After spending the day in the Detroit airport listening to cancellation notices, I gave up and returned home. It turned out that I missed the last public performance of Les Ross Sr.

Hear Les Ross Sr. on “Slakkijarven Polka,” accompanied by Bob Guidebeck, bass; Oren Tikkanen, banjo; and Randy Seppala, rhythm bones, February 22, 2014. Video courtesy of Northern Michigan University.

The Lumber Jäkki were featured that night as part of “Folksongs from Michigan-i-o,” a Michigan Humanities Council-funded program commemorating Alan Lomax’s 1938 folk music collecting trip across Michigan. Although there were four men on stage—all tremendous performers in their own right—Les was the star of the evening.

Les Ross Sr. was born in 1923 on a farm in Eben Junction in Michigan’s north central Upper Peninsula, an area heavily populated by Finnish Americans. He would have been a teenager in 1938, when Alan Lomax traversed the U.P. in search of folk music for the collections of the Archive of Folk-Song at the Library of Congress. Les’s style of playing (using “tongue blocking” to play both melody and harmony on a single harmonica) was still widely performed at the time Lomax recorded in the region’s Finnish enclaves. Les had learned as a boy from family elders, old 78 records, and from the Finnish-speaking lumberjacks who would hang out at the Blue Moon Tavern in Les’s home town of Eben Junction.

The New Moon Tavern (painted blue!) in Eben Junction has replaced the Blue Moon of Les’s youth, and the old lumberjacks who sang, drank, and passed their traditions on to the young Les Ross are long gone.
Photo by Laurie K. Sommers, 2014.
While Lomax recorded a rich variety Finnish of music in 1938, he never documented the Finnish American lumberjack harmonica style that became Les’s specialty. Fortunately, Les’s skills and the tradition he represented did not go unnoticed by later generations of folklorists and Finnish American musicians. He received a Michigan Heritage Award from the Michigan State University Museum’s Michigan Traditional Arts Program in 2009 and a 2010 U.P. Folklife Award from the Beaumier Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University. Over a decade earlier, his first recording was released: Hulivili Huuliharppu (“Rollicking Harmonica”), a 1998 compilation of Finnish American dance music and songs learned in his youth. There had been radio, television, and festival appearances over the years. And on this cold February night at Northern Michigan University, Les Ross Sr. would perform repertoire from his second and latest recording, Lumber Jäkki: Les Ross, Sr.—Old Finnish-American Songs & Harmonica with Randy Seppala & Oren Tikkanen. The CD had just been finished.

The recording was a labor of love by Finnish-Americans Randy Seppala and Oren Tikkanen, each a U.P. musical institution in his own right. Randy met Les Sr. through his good friend, the late Les Ross Jr., who had encouraged his father to play in public. Oren had a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship with Les Sr. in 2002 to learn his style of harmonica playing. Both Randy and Oren played with Les Ross Sr. and the Finnish American All-Stars, the band that featured Les Sr. and his repertoire in recent years. As Randy describes it, the more Les played, the more he seemed to remember old songs learned from the lumberjacks he heard as a youngster. Most of these songs had bawdy lyrics—not surprising, given their origin with a male occupational group that spent weeks if not months away from female companionship. (Lomax also collected his share of off-color songs from former lumberjacks and lakes sailors in 1938.) Les had rarely sung these songs in public. But Randy and Oren understood their importance to the Finnish folk culture of the region, and began performing with Les as the Lumber Jäkki.

Cover image from the Lumber Jäkki CD, courtesy of Randy Seppala.
On February 22, the audience of about 130 lucky souls got to hear Les Ross, Sr. perform a selection of songs from the new CD, plus a few other favorite dance tunes. I hope they took Oren’s album notes to heart as they listened: “Imagine that you are sitting by the woodstove in a logging-camp bunkhouse on a winter’s night. Perhaps someone has smuggled in a forbidden bottle, and it’s making the rounds. The boys are in good humor, and Les Ross, Sr., begins to play and sing…”

Hear Les Ross Sr. on “En Minä Kaikkia Rahojani Juonu” (I Didn’t Drink All My Money), a selection from the 2014 CD, accompanied by Bob Guidebeck, bass; Oren Tikkanen, banjo; and Randy Seppala, rhythm bones and washboard, February 22, 2014. Video courtesy of Northern Michigan University.

Few people knew that Les was terminally ill at the time. His wave to the audience after the final tune marked the end of an era. He died four months later, June 26, 2014. With the Lumber Jäkki that night, he played his last waltz.

Hear Les Ross Sr. play the well-known “Vagabond Waltz,” accompanied by Bob Guidebeck, bass; Oren Tikkanen, banjo; and Randy Seppala, rhythm bones, February 22, 2014. Video courtesy of Northern Michigan University.

To order the CD Lumber Jäkki: Les Ross, Sr.—Old Finnish-American Songs & Harmonica with Randy Seppala & Oren Tikkanen, contact Copper World in Calumet.

Special thanks to Randy Seppala, Oren Tikkanen, Dan Truckey, and Jim Leary.

In memory of Les Ross Sr.

This post was written by Laurie Sommers in conjunction with the Michigan Traditional Arts Program, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Chinese Orchestra for Michigan State University

I first encountered the Silk Road Chinese Orchestra (SRCO) at an April 17, 2013 concert at Marshall Music in Lansing. It was quite by chance that I noticed the small flyer advertising the event. I thought that the concert would be a rare opportunity to see a traditional Chinese orchestra in the Lansing area (and for free!). To my delight I learned that— rather than a traveling ensemble― this was a Michigan State University student group founded by Shanghai native, Shujing (Andrea) Xu. Shujing was inspired to start the orchestra based on her own experience with similar ensembles in China: from 2009-2010, for example, she served as student director of the Student Orchestra of Shanghai.

Now in its third year, the SRCO recently added this photo to its Facebook page,
taken at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on MSU’s campus in fall, 2014.
Photo courtesy of SRCO, used with permission.

Although inspired by much older antecedents, this type of Chinese orchestra— set up in a Western format with a conductor, stage, and music stands— first appeared in China in the 1930s. These ensembles typically feature a mix of traditional Chinese and Western instruments: bowed strings, plucked strings, winds, and percussion. Compositions often highlight or contrast the different timbres of the various sections of instruments.

This photo, taken at the SRCO’s second annual spring concert in March, 2014, shows the sections of instruments. From left, the bowed two-string spiked fiddle erhu; (back row) the hand cymbals and temple blocks of the percussion section; the wind section, featuring the side-blown flute dizi; the Western cello and string bass; and (foreground) two guzheng or Chinese zithers, liuqin (small, pear-shaped fretted lute) and pipa (larger fretted lute). Directly behind the conductor is the trapezoidal yangqin, a Chinese hammer dulcimer. Founder Shujing (Andrea) Xu is the liuqin player, second from right. Photo courtesy of SRCO.
Hear the SRCO of MSU play the well-known piece, “Blooming Flowers and Full Moon,” which concluded their spring concert held in the Cook Recital Hall of the MSU College of Music, March 27, 2014.

This performance illustrates the tonal nature of music played by Chinese traditional orchestras. The piece is characteristic in its use of a unison texture contrasted with different sections of instruments (such as flutes, plucked strings or bowed strings) each playing the melody while the rest provide accompaniment. Video by Haochen Han, courtesy of SRCO.

Shujing Xu has worked tirelessly to make the SRCO a success. She began her study of the liuqin at age four while attending a special school for the arts in Shanghai: the small size of the instrument was deemed especially suitable for a young girl. She continued to play and study. When her university career brought her to MSU, she thought, “Is there any Chinese orchestra here that I can play with?” Initially, she shared her musical artistry as a solo performer, first at a monthly meeting of MSU’s LATTICE (Linking All Types of Teachers to International Cross-Cultural Education), and later at various cross-cultural events such as World Culture Day, Chinese Night, World Friendship Day, and the Greater Lansing United Nations Peace Day.

Shujing (Andrea) Xu, founder of the SRCO at MSU, rehearses on her liuqin.
During fall and spring semesters, the ensemble practices about eight hours weekly.
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers, 2013
In 2013, with encouragement from Kang Li, an academic advisor at MSU, she decided to form MSU’s first Chinese orchestra. “At first I started with Chinese Facebook and a mailing list from CSSA (Chinese Student and Scholar Association),” she recalled, “to ask if people could play instruments and wanted to be in my orchestra. I collected names, and found scores through my teacher in China.” One major difficulty was getting instruments. Few students bring their instruments from China. With help from the University’s Confucius Institute, Office for University Outreach and Engagement, and other organizations, she was able to obtain instruments. She held auditions, recruited a conductor, and worked to adapt the scores to the instruments and varied abilities of the orchestra members. The ensemble maintains a rigorous practice schedule and performs on campus and in the community. In 2014, SRCO appeared at MSU’s Global Festival, local celebrations of Chinese New Year, and the Broad Museum of Art, among other events.

SRCO conductor Shupeng Zhang with yangquin player Yaoting Xu, in rehearsal, 2013.
 Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers.
In recognition of her contributions to international and cross-cultural awareness at MSU and in surrounding communities, Shujing was awarded a 2014 Homer Higbee International Education Award from MSU’s Office of International Programs. The text of the award reads in part, “The SRCO provides an opportunity for Chinese students to celebrate their cultural heritage while connecting with other Chinese students on campus. Their music also serves as an important creative outlet for them, a time-out from their rigorous studies. The success of SRCO is due to Shujing’s exceptional musical talent, leadership capacity, high intelligence, hardworking spirit, and maturity. She has made a great impact on the MSU campus, at local schools, and in surrounding communities—volunteering her time so that others might have an experience that enriches them culturally and enlivens them personally.”

Hear Shujing Xu play an arrangement of “Li Xianglan” at the 2014 SRCO spring concert.


The piece is an instrumental version of the haunting song of lost love made famous by Hong Kong singer and actor, Jacky Cheung. It is a tribute to the late Yoshiko “Shirley” Yamaguchi (stage name Li Xianglan), a Chinese-born singer, actress, and politician of Japanese heritage who recently died at the age of 94. Video by Haochen Han, courtesy of SRCO.

This post was written by Laurie Sommers in conjunction iwth the Michigan Traditional Arts Program (MTAP). Field research with the SRCO in 2013-2014 was funded by a grant awarded to MTAP from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Brian Bishop: Third Generation Michigan Violin Maker

On a breezy fall day, as a bumper crop of hickory nuts crashed on the roof, I visited the workshop of Brian Bishop, a skilled maker of violins and violas who works out of his home in Dimondale, Michigan, just west of Lansing on the Grand River.

Brian Bishop, of Brian Bishop Violins, working on a viola top, 2013. 
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers. 
Brian was in the midst of making a viola for a graduate student at the Michigan State University College of Music, an outgrowth of the excellent relationship he has developed with MSU string faculty over the years. The workshop overflowed with tools, jigs, fixtures, jars of special varnish, and pieces of seasoned maple and spruce.

Brian Bishop came to violin making through his interest in fiddle, an instrument he took up in the mid-1970s when he began working at Elderly Instruments in Lansing. As he wrote in his blog in 2010, “It soon took over a good deal of my life.” In the 1980s he first met violin maker Keith Doerr of Union City, Michigan, and from 1991-94 Brian changed the course of his life’s work with a four-year violin-making apprenticeship with Keith and his brother Ray.

Brian Bishop, Feb. 6, 1992, holding the first two violins he completed
under his apprenticeship with Keith Doerr.
Courtesy of Brian Bishop.
Keith at the time was in poor health and not expected to live long. He took Brian as his last apprentice. Fortunately, Keith’s health allowed Brian to complete the apprenticeship. He spent three days per week over four years living with Keith, making 25 instruments. He also spent an additional two years studying with Ray Doerr, concentrating on varnish-making and developing a greater understanding of how arching and plate graduation can create different tonal results.

Brothers Keith and Ray Doerr (of Union City and Kalamazoo respectively) learned from their father, Ray Doerr, Sr. The senior Doerr was a wood pattern maker who became a self-taught violin maker. Ray Jr. and Keith were both born in the 1910s. Ray had won a Fisher Body scholarship to the college of his choice and chose to study engineering at the University of Michigan. Eventually both Keith and Ray followed their father’s footsteps in violin making.

Brian’s copy of the Violin Makers Handbook, by Ray Doerr. 
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers.
While many West Michigan musical instrument makers of their generation came to the craft through skills learned in the furniture industry, the Doerrs approached violin making differently. A Brian explains, “They were tool and die guys. They were very much into their mechanical processes, and much more jig and fixture oriented than a lot of makers are. They would use tools for a lot of basic early stage processes. At the end stage, it’s all the same hand work―scraping, using knives and gouges. At the beginning it’s more machine tools, because that is what they were skilled at. Their training was to come up with ideas and applications for machine tools to do certain jobs in a cleaner, better way, or to accomplish certain goals with a mechanical process. That’s what sets them apart. Frankly, when I thought about it, I wasn’t attracted to that. I thought, ‘Do I really want to learn this sort of non-traditional method of making violins?’ In the end, two things won me over. I really liked Keith, and the other thing was, I would look at his violins, and I thought his fiddles were great. If the worst thing that happens is I make a violin as nice as this, I guess I could live with that.”

Hear Brian Bishop talk about his apprenticeship with Keith and Ray Doerr.

Brian still keeps notes from his apprenticeship with the Doerr brothers. 
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers, 2013.
The Doerr legacy is tangible. Brian still uses Ray’s formula for a soft, flexible, oil-based varnish. “I remember well one winter when we made 10-15 gallons of varnish,” Brian recalls. “We use an oil varnish; linseed oil is the base―then you cook it 500-600 degrees. We did it in his basement, venting into the chimney. You start adding various gums and resins. A lot of guys have commented on my varnish being very attractive, sort of similar in quality to some of the old Italian varnish. That’s because its similar oiled-based varnish, as opposed to spirit varnish, or synthetic varnishes now available. So I did varnish making with Ray. Haven’t done any since; haven’t had to. I’ve got enough for the rest of my life.”

Bottles of varnish made by Brian and Ray, using Ray’s distinctive formula.
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers, 2013.

In addition to the varnish, the shop contains tools, wood, templates, jigs, and fixtures that came from the Doerr’s after they passed away. Certain fixtures—like the iron (as in clothes pressing iron) crafted into a wood bending tool, and the bowling ball attached to a clamping plate that allows Brian to approach the task at hand from the most advantageous angle—are Doerr inventions.

Brian holding one of his instruments, which has an unusual sycamore back. 
The Doerr’s bowling ball holding fixture, topped with a clamped 
mold, is pictured to his left. 
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers, 2013.

Brian was Keith Doerr’s last apprentice. Another Michigan violin maker, Ed McCoppin, who lives outside Monroe, Michigan, lists Keith and Raymond Doerr among his teachers, although he didn’t finish a full apprenticeship. Like many contemporary makers, he has taken a number of summer workshop classes to further his training. Elon Howe of Newaygo, Michigan, has an eclectic background that included tips from Ray Doerr but not a formal apprenticeship. So Brian Bishop remains the best example of the Doerr legacy. Twenty years later, he still remembers the words of wisdom from his teacher and mentor, Keith Doerr:

"One time I’d screwed something up, and talking to Keith, I was bemoaning the fact that this is so hard! He said, “Brian, if it was easy, everybody would do it, and you’d ask people if they wanted fries with it. He was pointing out that this is very specialized, rare thing. Even if you make one violin, you can legitimately call yourself a violin maker."

From those first 25 instruments, Brian has gone on to complete a total of 155, selling his instruments by word of mouth and through Psarianos Violins (Troy and Ann Arbor). If Keith were still around, he would smile and say, “Brian Bishop is definitely a violin maker.”

Brian Bishop, of Brian Bishop Violins, poses with the top
and back of a viola in progress, 2013.
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers.

This post was written by Laurie Sommers in conjunction with the Michigan Traditional Arts Program, the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2015-2017 National Folk Festivals Location Announced!

This just in from Julia Olin, Executive Director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts:

Greensboro, North Carolina
courtesy of the National Council for the Traditional Arts website

"Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to share with you that Greensboro, North Carolina, has been selected as host city for the 2015-2017 National Folk Festivals. The festival’s three-year tenure in downtown Greensboro will begin with the presentation of the 75th National Folk Festival over the weekend of September 11-13, 2015.

Since 1934, the National Folk Festival has provided a way for people to embrace the dazzling array of cultural traditions that define our nation, celebrating the diversity and vibrancy of American culture through music, dance, traditional craft, storytelling, food and more. To date, this free-to-the-public "moveable feast of deeply traditional folk arts" has been held in 27 communities around the country.

The National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) chose Greensboro through a nationwide competitive process involving 32 American cities. This marks the first time the festival will be held in North Carolina.

As always, the festival will showcase the very finest performers from all parts of the nation, representing a broad diversity of cultural traditions. Six to seven stages ranging in size from large, open-air venues to small, intimate stages will offer continuous performances throughout the three-day event. There will be a pavilion where festivalgoers can dance non-stop, plus workshops, regional and ethnic foods, puppetry, parades, crafts exhibits and demonstrations, a family area and a festival marketplace.

The festival will also celebrate deep traditions for which North Carolina is famous, as well as shine a light on the living heritage of immigrant groups new to the region, reflecting the evolving character of the host city and state. Greensboro's unique history has been shaped by the pacifist traditions of its 18th-century Quaker founders, a pivotal battle of the American Revolution in 1781, the city's emergence as the center of the textile and furniture industries, the beginnings of the Civil Rights sit-in movement in the 1960s, and the arrival of new populations from around the globe.

The NCTA is producing the 75th, 76th and 77th National Folk Festivals in partnership with ArtsGreensboro, and in cooperation with the City of Greensboro, the Greensboro Convention & Visitors' Bureau, Action Greensboro, and other local groups.

We hope to see you in Greensboro this coming September. Our new web address is www.ncta-usa.org."

If you enjoy our presentations of traditional culture at the Great Lakes Folk Festival, it might be worth it to make a trip to North Carolina!