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.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Emergency Relief Guidelines for Folk and Traditional Artists from CERF+

courtesy the CERF+ website
The Craft Emergency Relief Fund+ has announced new guidelines for folk and traditional artists. Read more below:
For over 30 years, CERF+ has provided emergency relief to artists working in craft disciplines across the nation who have experienced a career-threatening emergency. In an effort to assist more artists working in craft disciplines whose work is rooted in and reflective of the cultural life of their community, CERF+ has developed guidelines that specifically address the needs of folk and traditional artists.

1. Folk and Traditional artists applying for CERF+ Emergency Relief under these alternate guidelines must have had a recent, serious emergency, but the eligibility guidelines don’t focus on a “career” or a “business.”

2. Applicants must document an ongoing history of handmade objects that embody the National Endowment for the Arts’ definition of folk and traditional arts by providing a statement about the artistic tradition they have practiced over the years. Photos of their artwork as well as completing our application are also required.

Please help us spread the word to raise awareness of this grant by forwarding this announcement to folk and traditional artists, arts agencies, program staff, organizations, funders and others.  The full guidelines and application are at https://cerfplus.org/craft-emergency-relief-fund.

CERF+ envisions a future where working artists thrive and have a safety net of resources and support to protect and sustain their livelihood, studio and art. CERF+ was started by artists for artists in the craft community as a grassroots mutual aid effort in 1985.  CERF+ has since emerged as the leading nonprofit organization that uniquely focuses on safeguarding artists’ livelihoods nationwide.

CERF+ is readiness, relief and resilience for studio artists, ensuring that they are as protected as the work they create. We provide resources + information, education + training, advocacy + research, emergency relief, emergency readiness + career protection tools.

For more information, contact:
Les Snow, Program Manager
 If you are, or if someone you know is, a traditional artist in need of financial assist due to an emergent situation, consider applying for aid from CERF+.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Tribute to Alan Jabbour

Caption from the Library of Congress Blog: "Alan Jabbour, Head of the Archive of Folk Song (now Archive of Folk Culture) at the Library of Congress, reviewing sound recordings of folk music from the Archive’s collections, July 1972. Jabbour is pictured in the Library’s Recording Laboratory in the Library’s main building (now called the Thomas Jefferson Building). Photo by Carl Fleischhauer."
From Dr. C. Kurt Dewhurst:

Last month we lost a very special friend of folklife. Alan Jabbour, musician, scholar, teacher, cultural administrator, and advocate for folk culture on the local, state, national, and international level. He was a seminal figure in the fields of ethnomusicology and folklore—and his legacy will live in the collections he developed, the national programs he founded, and the many students, colleagues, and friends who were enriched by their time with Alan.

Alan Jabbour’s contributions in Michigan are worth noting and celebrating. Back in 1975, Alan served as the first Director of the Folk Arts Program (now known as the Folk and Traditional Arts Program) at the National Endowment for the Arts. He was not only the chief administrator, he also was the inspired force for the preservation, documentation, and presentation of American folk culture. Marsha MacDowell and I learned about this new NEA grant program and we had the idea of doing a survey documentation project of the folk arts of Michigan. We contacted Alan and shared our vision of what we hoped to do. He encouraged and advised us with warmth of a long-time friend. We crafted our first grant application and submitted it to the NEA. A few months later, we were thrilled to learn that we were being awarded a grant to conduct a year-long survey of Michigan folk artistic traditions. We embarked on a year of traveling across the state visiting museums, cultural festivals, local historical societies, MSU Extension Offices, and meeting with traditional artsists. This survey led to the first exhibition of Michigan folk arts that traveled across our state for the Michigan the national bicentennial. We learned later that this NEA grant was one the first folk art state survey grants given by the NEA (the other was in Georgia). In the years to follow, other states conducted similar surveys that helped set the stage for the establishment of state folk arts programs in virtually all states and some territories of the US.

Alan continued to support our work in Michigan while he was at the NEA and then when he took on the challenging role as the founding Director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. From this new seat, he continued to find ways to work together and he proved to become a close personal friend in the following years. He visited the MSU Museum a number of times and also became an important advocate for our Michigan Traditional Arts Program including the Michigan Heritage Awards Program, the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, our exhibitions program, the development our Michigan Traditional Arts Archives, our growing folk art collection, and our annual festival programs.

During this past year, I had the opportunity, in my role as the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, to introduce a special 40th anniversary program for the AFC in Washington, DC. The program was the first time that the Directors of the AFC were all together on a stage to discuss the remarkable contributions of the center to our nation. The conversation traced those early years of the center right up to the present day—and the future role of the center. While it was the tireless champion of such a center, Archie Green, who is properly credited with successfully lobbying for the creation of the center, it was Alan who with his wit, generosity, creativity, and leadership that enabled the center to thrive and eventually gain permanent federal authorization.

The world has lost a legendary figure who dedicated his life to giving voice to the creative expressions of people from diverse communities. We in Michigan are grateful to Alan for his nurturing support and counsel for our own folk and traditional arts programming-- based at the Michigan State University Museum. Clearly though we all have been enriched by his work and a life truly well-lived.

To learn more about Alan Jabbour’s life go to:

To learn more about the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress go to: https://www.loc.gov/folklife/

Dr. C. Kurt Dewhurst is Director Emeritus and Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage for the MSU Museum. He is also the Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives and Senior Fellow for MSU University Outreach and Engagement. He co-directs the Great Lakes Folk Festival and is a Professor in the English Department of MSU.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Science of Dance, Art of Rhythm: A lesson in tap•ol•o•gy with Alfred Bruce Bradley

The following is a guest post from fieldworker Nic Gareiss. Photos and video provided by Nic Gareiss.

Alfred Bruce Bradley, tap dancer and founder of the Tapology Festival
"Repeat after me: when I listen, I learn." Standing in a room with Tapology Festival director Alfred Bruce Bradley, the sense of his mastery is palpable. In his weekly evening classes at Creative Expressions Dance Studio in Flint, Bradley demonstrates each step carefully, articulating rhythms expertly in a series of vocable sounds he scats to the room full of young dancers. "Ba-ba-boo, ba-da-da-ooh..." The students stand wide-eyed and attentive, and so do I. It's difficult not to in Bradley's presence.

"When I started there wasn't a scratch on this floor," he quips, "over the years I've worn them all down." Looking at the floor, it's as though one could see the ephemeral effect of the dance - an art form that usually finds its meaning in its disappearance - made visible in the flecked layers of finish, varnish, and bare wood excavated by steel taps attached to sounding feet. During his class we see a vestige of the bodily labor and artistry of Bradley and his legacy. If these floors are a testament to his love for American tap dance, it's clear that love runs deep indeed.

The floor at Flint's Creative Expressions Dance Studio, worn
and well-loved by Bradley and his students' tap dancing feet.
Bradley, a Flint native, came to tap dancing at age 32, later in life than most dancers, originally inspired to learn through his career in theater. Working first with Flint's McCree theater, he began learning to tap dance during a run of the hit Off Broadway musical “One Mo Time” at The Village Gate in Toronto, Ontario. Bradley later studied with Kevin Ramsey (a protege of Chuck Green and Henry LeTang) as well as the co-founder of the the Detroit-based tap legends The Sultans, Lloyd Storey, who danced with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. He performed widely, from New Orleans to Zürich, always bringing his new repertoire back to his students in Flint and eventually founding the Tapology Festival, which is now in its fifteenth year.
Bradley's own choreography echoes the dance steps from the great African-American tradition of tap dancers: Henry LeTang, Chuck Green, John Bubbles, Bill Robinson, yet is uniquely his own. Between time spent touring and working with his mentors, he continued to live in Flint and was thereby largely self-taught. "I learned things and then would create rhythms on my own," he shared. He has also developed his own pedagogy. During class Bradley invites his students to demonstrate newly-acquired material on their own upon a 3x3 foot square platform at the front of the classroom. Each student is given an opportunity. During their time on the board, their classmates and Bradley bestow undivided attention. He shared that the board's purpose is not only to check the retention of repertoire but also to demonstrate the benefits of hard work, build leadership, and confidence. "You can teach math and science through this form, you can teach language, and how to memorize and build self-esteem."
Bradley illustrates a step in one of his weekly classes at Creative Expressions Dance Studio in Flint
From left to right: Bradley's Capezio K360 tap shoes, Bradley demonstrating steps for students, Bradley's teaching board
As founder and director of the Tapology Festival, Bradley has a chance to bring his mentors and luminaries of tap dance to his home city. During our conversation he stressed the importance of tap dance in Flint. "It does a lot to bring cultural identity. Tap dance has been embraced across the world by all kinds of people: black, white, it doesn't make a difference. When you can bring kids together - I have kids coming down from Bloomfield Hills, and they dance with kids on welfare - they develop friendships. They learn together. They perform together and have a great experience. Those friendships are going to travel with them the rest of their lives. They are going to bring a new awareness, a new brotherhood...You're developing community through this dance. Because you're teaching the history, they are learning appreciation for an African-American influenced dance form...Through this dance form there's a merging and a bringing-together of people from various social, economic, religious, cultural backgrounds."

For more information on Alfred Bruce Bradley and the 15th annual Tapology Festival held in Flint, visit www.tapology.org.

Tap dancer Alfred Bruce Bradley demonstrates scatting rhythms 
during a conversation with MTAP fieldworker Nic Gareiss

Nic Gareiss is a MTAP fieldworker, professional performer, and dance researcher living in Lansing, Michigan. He holds degrees in Music and Anthropology from Central Michigan University and a MA in Ethnochoreolgy from the University of Limerick. His 2017 fieldwork for MTAP focuses on dance, marginality, and the political salience of moving (and sounding) bodies.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Homage to Karl Byarski, 1916-2016

Karl Byarski with his recording equipment in the basement of his home in Kinde, Michigan

Dave Langdon, a fiddler, fiddle music researcher, and Michigan Folklore Society president, wrote the following words to commemorate Karl Byarski, who sadly passed away on December 22, 2016.

Karl Byarski (August 5, 1916 – December 22, 2016) passed away at his home in Kinde, MI on Thursday, December 22, 2016. Karl had been honored by the Michigan Traditional Arts Program of the MSU Museum in 2014 with the Michigan Heritage Award for his collecting and documentation activities in Huron County, MI and the rest of the Thumb area. Here is a link to his obituary.

Karl purchased a reel to reel tape recorder from Montgomery Ward in about 1952. This recorder was a one speed 1 7/8 inches per second recorder. He liked fiddle music, so he recorded people playing the fiddle. He liked Polish music, so he recorded people playing Polish music. He liked the sounds of nature, so he would wake up at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning and set up his tape recorder to record nature sounds. He was a religious man, having been raised Roman Catholic and attending St. Mary of Czestochowa church in nearby Dwight Township for most of his life, so he recorded special services and the choir of the church (and other churches) and parties at the church hall. He loved his family, so he recorded many family activities both at home and other locations. He liked to record things so he borrowed records from friends and recorded them on tape.

Phil Miller (Karl's uncle from Kinde, MI), Karl Byarski, William Reehl (fiddler from Bad Axe, MI), Ernie Patterson with fiddle (Filion, MI) at former State Senator Sam Pangborn's home in Bad Axe, MI circa 1958. From L to R.

Karl exchanged tapes with several other people who did recording, both in the U.S. and in other countries. Someone would send Karl a tape and he was supposed to listen to it and then record his message and his recordings over the original message and send it back to the person who sent the tape. But Karl would keep these tapes as he kept almost all of the recordings he made.

Karl converted most of the basement of the family home into an amateur recording studio. At the time he started recording, the idea that a person could hear music they had just created was something of a novelty in Huron County, Michigan. People would come over to his house either by invitation or having heard about his recording and be recorded. Many weekend parties took place in that basement and many recordings were made there. Karl also often took his recorder with him to the homes of people who played music and recorded them at their home. He went to other churches in the area and recorded church services and parties at church halls. He recorded some fiddlers’ jamborees. He recorded an outdoor fiddling contest in nearby Ubly, MI in 1965. For a time he had a radio program called the Hometowners on local Bad Axe radio station WLEW where he played recordings he had collected and sometimes had musicians play live at the studio. He recorded the Barney Schubring Show on radio station WLEW and other radio programs as well. He would call friends and record the telephone conversation. He took his recorder with him on vacation and made recordings at some of the places the family visited.

I first met Karl on Friday, July 13, 2012, just before he turned 96 years old. I had borrowed a cassette from a man from Deckerville that turned out to have been made by Karl and I had spent about the two weeks prior trying to find out who had made the borrowed tape and whether there were other tapes. After doing several internet searches and contacting people via email and depending on the help of total strangers, I had been told that Karl had “quite a few tapes” and lived in Kinde and I was given a contact phone number. I called the number and a woman (who turned out to be Karl’s daughter) answered the phone. After giving me the third degree about why I wanted to talk with her father, she put Karl on the phone with me. We talked for a few minutes about his collection of recordings and then Karl gave me his email address and asked me to send him an email, “then I’ll have your email address. I’ll send you some stuff” he said. So I gave him my email address and the next morning as I was sitting at my computer, working, I received an email from Karl with an attached .mp3 file of Ford and Florence Stein playing music. Ford on the violin, Florence on the piano, about 45 minutes worth of music. About 15 minutes later, I received another email with more music from someone else and then 15 minutes later, a third email with more music again from Ford and Florence Stein. I decided that I needed to get up to see Karl as soon as possible, that evening I drove to Huron County and stayed with some friends from Lansing at their cottage near Oak Beach. The next day I went to see Karl at his home for the first time. I met his daughter, Linda and his wife, Margaret as well. We sat at the kitchen table and I talked with them about the collecting work that I was doing and Karl told me a little bit about the recordings he had made and how he got started recording. After a while, Karl asked me if I wanted to see his recordings. I said that I did and his daughter and I helped him go down to the basement where the recordings were kept. As I neared the bottom of the stairs, I saw a handmade wooden cassette storage unit that was full of cassettes. There were 6 rows and 10 columns of cubbyholes. Later I learned that each cubbyhole held about 15 cassettes (900 cassettes). When I turned around, I saw several shelves against the wall full of reel to reel tapes. As I looked around the basement, I saw several other cabinets with cardboard boxes holding cassettes and another smaller cassette storage unit on the wall in another room. I could not believe the number of tapes that Karl had.

Cassette holder (top) and shelves with reel-to-reels (bottom) filled with Karl's recordings.
I spent more than 100 hours interviewing Karl Byarski at his home in Kinde during the time we were documenting and indexing his recordings. One of the biggest problems I had was getting Karl to talk about himself. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. He was always willing to talk with me about his recordings. We would sit at his kitchen table with the recorder going and I would bring several tapes up from the basement and number them and then I would give the tapes to Karl and he would talk about them. Especially with the reel to reel tapes when he took the tape in his hands and looked at the notes he had written on the back cover, it seemed like he would be transported in time back to when he had recorded that tape. Through the interviews I had with Karl, I became much more familiar with Huron County, a place I had hardly visited prior to meeting Karl. And in working to contact families of the people Karl recorded, I met many people from this part of Michigan. Almost without exception, they have been willing to share their time and recordings, pictures and information with me. I have discovered what a fine place Karl had lived in for so many years. One of the first times I visited Karl, he asked me to play some tunes for him and virtually every time I went to his house, I had to play a few tunes for him before I left. He and his family were always very generous with their time and hospitality. I came to feel like a member of the Byarski family. During these last several months as Karl’s health has declined and he was in hospice care at his home, I tried to visit him at his home and play some tunes on my fiddle for him. He always seemed to appreciate hearing and talking about these tunes. It will seem very strange to me now to go to the Thumb and not stop at his house and talk and play tunes for him. But as Karl himself had done over the years, I have preserved the memory of many of our conversations and visits by recording them. These will be a reminder of Karl's love and devotion for music, nature, friends, and family.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Introducing Two New MTAP Fieldworkers

The Michigan Traditional Arts Program (MTAP) was founded by the mission of preserving, documenting, and presenting traditional arts and folklife in Michigan. Fieldwork undertaken by MTAP staff is an integral step in staying true to our mission. We document through interviews with artists, observation of events, and collecting objects; the fieldwork data and reports are then deposited in the MTAP Research Collections which preserves the traditions documented; fieldworkers write books, articles, and blog posts and create multimedia resources like radio shows and YouTube videos to present the research to the general public. This, of course, is a simplification of all fieldwork-related activities at MTAP, but the pursuit of knowledge about traditional arts, folklife, and everyday culture in Michigan is foundational to MTAP.

I’m excited to welcome to some new members of our fieldwork team for 2016-2017. MTAP has contracted two fieldworkers, Nic Gareiss and Dave Langdon, who have some excellent areas of research planned. Both Nic and Dave are performers, practitioners, and scholars of traditional dance and music. They are deeply committed to their communities of practice and research, and care about reciprocity when undertaking fieldwork.

I wanted to introduce Nic and Dave to Great Folks blog readers because they will be writing blog posts on their fieldwork. Without further ado…

Nic Gareiss

Nic Gareiss is a professional performer, teacher, and dance researcher living in Lansing, Michigan. His interests include vernacular dance traditions from many locations, especially Appalachia, Quebec, and the Irish diaspora. Nic holds a degree in Anthropology from Central Michigan University and a MA in Ethnochoreology from the University of Limerick. He has written on the intersections of dancing bodies, gender, sexuality and nationhood. Gareiss' MA thesis based upon his ethnographic work with LGTBQ competitive Irish step dancers was the first piece of scholarship to query the experience of sexual minorities within traditional Irish dance. Other publications include “An Buachaillín Bán: Reflections on One Queer’s Performance within Traditional Irish Music & Dance” in The Meanings and Makings of Queer Dance edited by Clare Croft on Oxford University Press (June 2017) and “The Lion, The Witch, and the Closet: Heteronormative institutional research and the queering of ‘Traditions’” co-written with Aileen Dillane in Queering the Field: Sounding Out Ethnomusicology, edited by William Cheng and Gregory Barz on Oxford University Press (forthcoming). Gareiss’ present research seeks to illuminate issues of national identity, gender, and sexual orientation via ethnography and embodied practice. As a performer, Gareiss has concertized in fourteen countries and continues to tour and teach internationally, working with dance communities and presenting solo percussive dance choreography.

Michigan sustains many remarkably rich traditional dance communities throughout our state. Within these diverse communities bodies become sites of cultural practice as dancers create, transmit, theorize, and engage their heritage through their physical selves. Because of dance's corporeality, moving bodies often become politicized when the communities in which they exist are marginalized. However, dance remain a powerful and transcendent means by which tradition-bearers maintain their cultures, subvert subjugation, and both imagine and enact brighter futures. Nic's research focus lies at the intersections of traditional dance and marginality; in the ways that intangible cultural dance heritage is sustained in communities that are subject to systematic oppression due to race, indignity, national origin, disability, gender, and sexuality. Through the Michigan Traditional Arts Program, Nic hopes to bring both attention and resources to dancers in our state that may be experiencing this kind of marginalization. Whether it takes the form of African-American vogueing in Detroit, Yemeni dance in Dearborn, Appalachia clogging in Bellaire, or Indian Kathak in Midland, Nic is looking forward to helping connect Michigan State Museum to Michigan's vibrant jiving, bouncing, shuffling, gesturing tradition-bearers.

Dave Langdon

Dave Langdon is a left-handed fiddler and collector of traditional Michigan music and dance materials and recordings. He is originally from Owosso, MI, and has played the fiddle since 1977 and has been collecting since 2011. He is a long time member of East Lansing’s Pretty Shaky String Band (an old time jam open to the public) and has played upright bass with the Lansing based Scarlet Runner String Band for over 25 years. Dave worked with Karl Byarski of Kinde, MI for many months to index and organize Karl’s extensive collection of recordings of Thumb area musicians and fiddlers. He also nominated Karl for a Michigan Heritage Award, which was awarded to Karl in 2014. In recent years, Dave reinvigorated the Michigan Folklore Society (MFS) as its president. One of the goals of the MFS is to make traditional music and dance (especially fiddle music) more accessible to the public via the internet. Now retired, Dave worked as an information systems professional and manager after graduating with a B.S. in Computer Science and later earning a M.S. in Computer Science both from Michigan State University.

Dave will be looking into hammer dulcimer music in Michigan. Michigan is one of the major states for hammer dulcimer playing and is also the home of the Original Dulcimer Players Club (ODPC) Funfest held at the Osceola County Fairgrounds in Evart, MI, each year. There are several dulcimer clubs and also music jams attended by hammer dulcimer players and others. Dave will be attending several of these jams and documenting the music and musicians at these club meetings and jams. This might include making audio recordings, doing interviews, taking photos, making video, etc. The end result will be a written report of activities and findings.

I look forward to hearing about the work Nic and Dave produce and I know you will too! Got any tips for traditional artists we should interview or topics we should document? You can send them to msum.mtap@gmail.com.

Thanks to Nic and Dave for providing biographies and summaries of their research plans.

Molly McBride coordinates contract fieldworkers and undertakes her own fieldwork on traditional music and other various topics for MTAP. She is currently learning to knit. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

#FolkloreThursday: Updates from MTAP

Hi Folks,

It’s been a busy time here at the Michigan Traditional Arts Program and regretfully we weren’t able to keep our Great Folks readers up to date with so many ongoings. But today on #FolkloreThursday, I’d love to fill you in on some exciting things that MTAP staff have undertaken and interesting news flashes from around Michigan.

In mid-September, MTAP Coordinator and MSU Museum Folk Arts Curator Dr. Marsha MacDowell was a key organizer for a Folk and Traditional Arts Preconference at the National State Arts Agencies Assembly that happened in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This was a gathering of folk arts program coordinators from across the US that focused on significant and emerging issues these programs are facing: racism and xenophobia, and arts and aging.

In late September, a meet-up for advocates of Michigan fiddle music took place at the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (MSU). This was organized by MTAP in collaboration with the Michigan Folklore Society. It was a successful preliminary meeting that gathered musicians, community organizers, and scholars to discuss what issues are pertinent to the vitality of fiddling in Michigan. We hope to continue these meetings and build networks of communication amongst advocates.
Notes from the September Meet-Up

The MTAP team is working on a new website! It will be more user-friendly and have a host of great resources about traditional arts and everyday culture in Michigan. Keep your eyes out for the debut of our new website in the coming months.

2015 Michigan Heritage Award Ceremony

**We are soliciting applications to the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program and nominations for the Michigan Heritage Awards. The deadline to apply to both programs is December 1st. Please feel free to contact us with any questions. We look forward to reading your application or nomination!**

MTAP is excited to announce that we have some new fieldworkers on board for 2017. Our research will focus on vernacular dance forms, hammered dulcimer playing and building, fiddle music, instrument building, and some aspects of material culture related to water. Glimpses of fieldwork will be featured on this blog, the MSU Museum Instagram, the MTAP Facebook, and MTAP Youtube.

From around the MSU Museum:
  • Dr. Laurie Sommers won the 2016 Dorothy Howard Prize for lesson plans on Michigan’s Folksong Legacy she created for the Association for Culture Equity. The Dorothy Howard Prize is awarded by the American Folklore Society Folklore and Education Section and recognizes work that effectively encourages K-12 educators or students to use or study folklore and folkloristic approaches in all educational environments. Congrats to Laurie!
  • A new exhibition of quilts, “The Unbuntutu Legacy of Love and Action,” was debuted this month in South Africa. For more info on key MSU Museum organizers and partners check out this press release.
  • Curator Aleia Brown was selected to be in the 2016 YWCA Rising Star Leadership Program. The program is focused on preparing interested Rising Stars as equity leaders and supports younger women in pursuit of excellence in their careers. Congrats Aleia!

From around Michigan:

Keep your eyes out for new blog posts updated on Thursdays for #FolkloreThursday. Here's a neat clip about bones player Percy Danforth who was from Ann Arbor, Michigan to take us out on:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Resource for Teachers on Michigan’s Heritage

Attention teachers, students, scholars of Michigan history and music—

As we are all gearing up for another school year, we here at MTAP wanted to share a new resource available on Michigan’s musical heritage. Folklorist and Ethnomusicologist Dr. Laurie Sommers created 10 lesson plans through the Association for Cultural Equity that follow Alan Lomax’s 1938 fieldwork trip through Michigan. Each lesson uses field recordings from a specific area to explore the history and culture of that area, the music tradition heard, and music theory. The lesson plans are designed so students have a hands-on approach to learning history through music. Though the lessons were made with students in grades first through seventh in mind, students of all ages will enjoy these. 

Hear Dr. Sommers speak more in depth about the lesson plans:

The lessons came about due to collaboration between the Association for Cultural Equity,  the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, the Michigan TraditionalArts Program of the Michigan State University Museum, and the Center for the Study of UpperMidwestern Cultures, University of Wisconsin.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

#FolkloreThursday 2016 Heritage Award Spotlight: David Dutcher

David Dutcher
All photos courtesy Nick Schaedig

Continuing our series on 2016 MHA Awardees, here is a little bit more about David Dutcher, awarded for his skill and knowledge in Native american arts, including copper jewelry beadwork, and moccasin making.

From the Michigan Traditional Arts Program bio:
David Dutcher (b.1956) is a member of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians and  an artist who works in multiple genres. He began making traditional Anishnabeg black ash baskets at age 9 with his father, Jon Roy Dutcher. David is skilled in a variety of different Eastern Woodland bead styles beyond those commonly employed by traditional Anishnabeg beadwork artists. Today, David maintains traditional Anishnabeg designs as well as developing contemporary Anishnabeg aesthetic patterns with materials traditionally used in Anishnabeg art. He incorporates custom appliqué beadwork into a variety of traditional and contemporary textile products from moccasins and breeches to laptop bags and purses. His custom stitched garments invoke colonial period aesthetics that draw viewers into sophisticated conversations on hegemonic aesthetic forms and counter-appropriation. David is at home in both these types of theoretical discussions of material culture history and in the specialized and challenging work of re-creating the materials. Many regional pow wow dancers perform regularly in moccasins, jewelry, and clothing created and or decorated by David. With hand tools, including some of his own design, he handcrafts copper jewelry.

In addition to his thriving dress and adornment art practice, David also provides a variety of arts and culture-related services for both his tribe and the community at-large. These include direct collections care for many of the most delicate items in the collections of the Tower of History Museum’s (Sault Ste. Marie) most delicate items as well as providing information on appropriate and respectful storage practices and interpretive information for items ranging from snowshoes to ceremonial rattles. He has also been a professional hairstylist and has been enlisted by community art and theater organizations to help with hair and makeup for stage productions.

David will be present at this year's Great Lakes Folk Festival on Saturday, August 13th and Sunday, August 14th, both to receive his 2016 Michigan Heritage Award, and to demonstrate his artistry in our Traditional Arts Marketplace.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

#FolkloreThursday 2016 Heritage Award Spotlight: Thomas Kelly

In the weeks leading up to the Great Lakes Folk Festival (Aug 12-14), we will be focusing some #FolkloreThursday post on one of our seven 2016 Michigan Heritage Awardees. This week, we're focusing on Thomas Kelly (in the light blue shirt in the above video), the 104-year-old a cappella Gospel singer from Detroit.

From the Michigan Traditional Arts Program Bio:
Thomas Kelly is an institution in the Detroit gospel scene. He was born in East Irondale, Alabama, in 1913. His family moved to Detroit in 1922, and he began singing gospel music five years later.  No stranger to hard work and dedication, he is a World War II veteran and worked as a hi-lo driver at the Chrysler Detroit Axle Plant for thirty years. Beginning in the 1930s, as there was high demand for religious programming on the radio, he made time to sing live on Sundays on Detroit station WJLB-AM.
At age 104, Thomas has a literal lifetime of experience, singing a cappella gospel for the last eighty-nine years. The music as he learned it was not written down, but passed on through repetition and practice. He specifically says that he “got [his] education in the singing from the chording,” or the harmonies present in this genre of music. He remembers a time when he and others would sing on the street corners until the wee hours of the morning, or until the police told them it was time to go home. Thomas has formed many groups throughout the years, including the Marine Harmony Four in 1926, The Famous Wandering Four in 1930 and most recently with the Masters of Harmony (with members David Grear, Neal Lewis, and O’Bryant Walker).
The Detroit gospel scene has gone through many transitions and evolutions through the years, such as the move from a cappella singing to the addition of instruments like the Hammond organ and the electric guitar, but Thomas has remained stalwart in the a cappella tradition, bearing this music forward and keeping it alive. He even composes new music in this style. He has taught countless individuals with his “ministry through music,” including his four-year-old great great-granddaughter.
For his outstanding commitment to and skill in the tradition of a cappella gospel singing, and his lifetime of experience, Thomas Kelly is awarded the 2016 Michigan Heritage Award.
If you're interested in seeing Thomas perform, you can find him at the GLFF on Sunday, August 14th, at the City Hall Stage with the Masters of Harmony from 1:30-2:20, or the Campus and Community Stage from 3:00-3:30. He will also be receiving his Michigan Heritage Award at our special ceremony at 4:30pm on Sunday at the Campus and Community Stage.

Monday, June 27, 2016

In Memoriam: NEA Heritage Fellow and GLFF Performer Dr. Ralph Stanley

From the National Endowment for the Arts's Cheryl Schiele:
June 24, 2016
Washington, DC- It is with great sadness that the National Endowment for the Arts acknowledges the passing on Thursday of legendary bluegrass musician Dr. Ralph Stanley, recipient of a 1984 NEA National Heritage Fellowship and a 2004 National Medal of Arts. Stanley was born February 25, 1927, near McClure, Virginia, in the Clinch Mountains. He and his older brother Carter learned ballad singing and claw-hammer-style banjo playing from their mother. Her repertoire ranged from traditional narrative songs to nineteenth-century hymns sung a cappella, which the Stanley Brothers incorporated into their sets when they began playing professionally.
The brothers began performing with Roy Sykes and the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys in 1946, but soon formed their own band, the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys. They quickly gained a following due to their broadcasts on WCYB in Bristol, Virginia, which reached a five-state area: Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. From 1947 to 1958, the Stanley Brothers recorded with Rich-R-Tone, Columbia, and Mercury record labels, where they defined their signature sound, which revolved around Ralph's mournful vocals and three-finger banjo playing and Carter's masterful lead singing. 
In 1966, Carter died, and after much consideration, Ralph continued his musical career and formed a new band. Many contemporary bluegrass artists have come up through the Clinch Mountain Boys band, including Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Larry Sparks and Charlie Sizemore. In 2000, his career skyrocketed after his music was used in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? (from which his chilling recording of "O Death" won a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance), and in 2002, his band the Clinch Mountain Boys received the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album for Lost In The Lonesome Pines. 
Although Stanley has played primarily a traditional repertoire, he has also written his own songs. "It's something that comes to you. I might write one tonight and I might not write another one for three years. It just hits you, comes on your mind. I've got up at three or four o'clock in the morning, wrote a song or two, maybe wrote three before I went back to bed. If I didn't get up and write them down, I wouldn't have remembered them the next day. One of them was 'Prayer of a Truck Driver's Son.' They were gospel songs. One of them was 'I Want to Be Ready.' There's been so many in so many years. It's hard to remember." 
In addition to his NEA National Heritage Award and National Medal of Arts, Stanley also was a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and named a Library of Congress Living Legend and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 
Visit the National Endowment for the Arts' website to read more about Ralph Stanley https://www.arts.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/ralph-stanley .

View Dr. Ralph Stanley's profile from his 2003 performance on our Great Lakes Folk Festival website here.