"Catching the Music on Folkstreams" -- Participants:
Bios of Participants in the March 11 Show at the American Film Institute Silver show.
Peggy A. Bulger
Peggy A. Bulger is director of the American Folklife Center, the second person to hold that position since the Center was created by the U.S. Congress in 1976. A native of New York State, she holds a B.A. in fine arts from the State University of New York at Albany, an M.A. in folk studies from Western Kentucky University, and a Ph.D. in folklore and folklife from the University of Pennsylvania. A folklorist, consultant, and producer, Bulger has been documenting folklife and developing and managing folklife programs for more than thirty years. She has been Florida State Folk Arts Coordinator (1976-79), Florida Folklife Programs Administrator (1979-89), and Program Coordinator, Director, and Senior Officer for the Southern Arts Federation (1989-99).
Peggy Bulger is the author of South Florida Folklife, with Tina Bucuvalas and Stetson Kennedy, (1994) and the editor of Musical Roots of the South (1992). She is the producer of many videos, including Music Masters & Rhythm Kings (1993), Every Island Has Its Own Songs: The Tsimouris Family of Tarpon Springs (1988), Fishing All My Days: Maritime Traditions of Florida’s Shrimpers (1985); and a number of recordings, including Deep South Musical Roots Tour (1992) and Drop On Down in Florida (1981). She is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the New York, Kentucky, and Florida folklore societies, and she served as president of the American Folklore Society (2000-2002).
Bulger serves on the U.S. delegation to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Inter-governmental Subcommittee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore. She is a member of the Organization for American States’ Committee on Culture, and she sits on the advisory committee for the US Dept. of State for discussions on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage and Cultural Diversity conventions.
Jason Byrd (guitarist and singer). Born in Eden, North Carolina, in 1974, Jason Byrd spent his first years hearing bluegrass and country music stream from the radio in the house, the family car, and the store down the street. At an early age, Jason’s family moved from Eden, home and resting place of Charlie Poole, leader of the North Carolina Ramblers, to Albemarle, east of Charlotte, NC. Here in this community, Jason discovered rock music as a teenager and began playing guitar. His early interests in blues-based guitarists such as Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan led him to discover such prime movers of electric and country blues as Muddy Waters, the three Kings (Albert, B.B., and Freddy), Robert Johnson, Lightning Hopkins, and Skip James. Further inspired by pop groups such as the Beatles and Beach Boys, Jason began writing songs and as a vocalist, taking an especial interest in singing harmonies.
Before moving to the Washington, DC area from Charlotte, Jason earned a Master’s Degree in English. He was lead guitarist, singer, and songwriter in Wavy Train, a jam band who often played festivals that featured artists such as Colonel Bruce Hampton, String Cheese Incident, Ratdog, and Steve Winwood. As a solo and duo performer, Jason has opened for Little Feat, Don Dixon, and Marti Jones. Jason regularly performs at festivals and clubs in the DC area and beyond, and also contributes to studio recordings as a guitarist and vocalist. Jason has released one pop album entitled Busy Day, and plans to release other recordings that draw on the traditional folk and country stylings that he was first exposed to as a youngster. Jason’s earnest desire to learn from and to build onto the influence of his musical forbearers – artists who played a kind of music which spread from hand to hand on the banjo and guitar – represents the spirit of “catching the music.”
Tom Davenport (Folkstreams Project Director) is an independent filmmaker and film distributor living in Delaplane, Virginia. He was graduated from Yale University, went to Hong Kong with a Yale program to teach English in New Asia College, and spent several years in Taiwan studying Chinese language and culture. He began work in film with documentary filmmakers Richard Leacock and Don Pennebacker in New York and made his first independent film in 1969 on the Chinese martial art of T'ai Chi. In 1970 he returned home to rural Virginia and started an independent film company (www.davenportfilms.com) with his wife, co-producer and designer, Mimi Davenport. They are best known for a series of live action American adaptations of traditional folktales in series called From the Brothers Grimm. The last film in that series Willa: An American Snow White (www.pbs.org/ willa) is their first feature length film and the winner of the Andrew Carnegie Award from the American Library Association for "Best Children's Film of 1998." With the University of North Carolina Curriculum in Folklore and Daniel Patterson, he has directed and produced a series of folklife documentaries that include Born for Hard Luck (1976), Being a Joines: A Life in the Brushy Mountains (1980), A Singing Stream: A Black Family Chronicle (1986), The Ballad of Frankie Silver (1998), and When My Work Is Over: The Life and Stories of Louis Anderson (1998).
Jackson Frost (Producer/Director of Catching the Music). As head of his own company, Magic Hour Productions, and as Senior Producer for the Washington, DC, PBS station WETA-TV, Jackson Frost has written, directed, and produced hundreds of television programs for over twenty-five years,. His credits include live network specials, weekly studio series, comedy shows, magazine programs, musical performances, full length dramas, and cultural and historical documentaries.
Mr. Frost produced and directed the first High Definition Television documentary to air on PBS, and has continued to produce and direct in HDTV, including the first HDTV performance specials to originate from the White House. In 1999, he was honored to be an instructor for the first HDTV production seminar given by the Santa Fe Workshops.
His work has earned numerous awards, including fourteen Emmys from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Cine Golden Eagles, Ohio State Awards, Blue Ribbon Awards from the American Film and Video Festivals, and Best Documentary of the Year from the National Black Programming Consortium.
Unfortunately, Jack cannot attend today’s celebration, family matters dictating his presence elsewhere.
Zan McLeod (guitar and mandolin), is one of the nation’s most talented accompanists, producers and arrangers of Celtic music. Originally from North Carolina, he co-founded the Irish-American group Touchstone with Bothy Band alumnus Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, and recorded two award-winning albums for Green Linnet records. Zan tours and records with Celtic musicians throughout the US and abroad. He is also a producer and recording engineer for his own studio, Tonehouse, where he has an impressive list of credits as a producer for fellow musicians. In 2000, he played on the Grammy-winning Celtic Solstice album with Paul Winter. He has appeared on scores of other artists' projects including: Seamus Egan, David Wilcox, Eileen Ivers, The Chieftains, James Horner (Titanic), Jerry O'Sullivan, Billy McComiskey, Mick Moloney, Liz Carroll, and Joanie Madden. He has recorded several film soundtracks, including Edward Burns's The Brothers McMullen, Ang Lee's Ride with the Devil and Sam Shepard's Far North. Zan is also an experienced workshop instructor, recently producing an instructional video on the Irish bouzouki for Homespun.
Born not ten miles from Earl Scruggs' birthplace in Flint Hill, North Carolina, Zan was early on exposed to the music of players like Hobart Smith. In the 1930s, his grandfather, E. B. Stacy of Gaffney, S.C., played every Saturday night on the Spartansburg radio barn dance. Zan's mother Miriam was also a pianist, who, along with a number of other musically trained family members, played at church as well as presenting light classics and hoedowns at home.
In the mid-1970s, Zan's professional career was launched when he began a three-year association with Mike Cross, a popular performer, fiddler, and songwriter from Chapel Hill, NC. For the past fifteen years Zan has taught classes at the Augusta Heritage Center. In 1990, Zan played with Stephen Wade on several albums, later accompanying him in concerts.
Mike Monseur (Five-String Banjo). From the first moment he heard Bill Monroe and Doc Watson sing the Carter Family classic, "Foggy Mountain Top," Michael Monseur knew he wanted to be involved with old-time music the rest of his life. Born in Fairfax County, Virginia in 1985, Michael Monseur was a music fan from his early childhood. But not having grown up around musicians, it was several years before he took up the five-string banjo. During this time, Michael found an interest in the technical side of music production, and by age thirteen, Mike decided he wanted to be a sound engineer. He was later accepted as an intern in the sound department of Arena Stage, a theater which, as today’s audience knows, bears an important banjo legacy.
2003 proved to be a significant year for Michael. While working as a sound engineer for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Michael was assigned to the Bristol Mural Stage; a small platform commemorating the 76th anniversary of the famed "Bristol Sessions" which produced the landmark recordings by artists such as the Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers. On this stage Michael met banjoist Dwight Diller, and Michael soon began trips to Pocahontas County, West Virginia, to study with Dwight. At the same Smithsonian stage, Michael also met Stephen Wade who was there to present and interview a number of the older traditional musicians. Stephen soon opened up a whole other world of the banjo to Michael, especially with the music of Uncle Dave Macon, Hobart Smith, and Fleming Brown.
Currently, Michael works at Airshow Mastering Studios and Bias Recording Studios. Some of his recent work includes producing and engineering a release by the southwestern Virginia band, Chesham Creek; recording, mixing, and mastering an upcoming CD of Old Regular Baptist hymn singing, produced by Jim Lauderdale; and assisting on the newly released Tony Rice and Peter Rowan album.
Liberty Dawne Rucker
Liberty Dawne Rucker (Fiddle and Vocals). With family ties in central Kentucky and western Maryland, and fiddling great grandfathers on both sides, Liberty Dawne Rucker, 35, was mesmerized as a child by the hot fiddle pieces she heard on “Hee Haw” and “The Grand Ole Opry.” After begging for lessons, her parents let her begin classical training at three with the Suzuki method. She continued playing throughout school, but soon realized that the Etudes and Concertos were not the same as the fiery tunes that first caught her attention... and her grandmother's favor. After college, Liberty went back to these original stirrings and committed herself to learning the fiddle. In 2001, she released her debut recording, There Grew a Tree, a collection based on pieces cherished within her family as well as two songs of her own.
Since then she has immersed herself in studies of the folk fiddle largely through recorded sources learned by ear and then transcribed by note. She performs in styles that include country, bluegrass, Celtic, Cajun, American old-time, Italian, and contemporary folk. In addition, she has devoted herself to teaching youngsters and adults, drawing on the ear training of her childhood and her experience as a fiddler combined with the skills required by classical methods.
Liberty Dawne has appeared at local venues since 1994, and can be seen performing around town with her husband, George Welling, on guitar.
Stephen Wade, the writer and narrator of Catching the Music, was born in Chicago in 1953, where, growing up, he observed first-hand some of the wonderful traditional musicians who had migrated to the city from both the Mississippi Delta and the Southern Appalachians. As an eleven-year-old student of Jim Schwall of the Siegel-Schwall Band, Stephen began playing the guitar. By his teens he acquired a banjo and encountered, as he had with the guitar and the blues, a continuing legacy of players devoted to the instrument and its rural history. One of those players was Fleming Brown, a teacher at the Old Town School of Folk Music. In 1971 Stephen began an apprenticeship with this masterful player and singer, and within a few years, inherited teaching his class at the School. During this period, he also began working as accompanist to Fleming Brown's teacher, Doc Hopkins, the great old-time radio singer from Harlan, Kentucky who came to Chicago in 1930 to perform on the WLS National Barn Dance, an occupation which lasted 22 years. Under the loving and watchful care of these musicians, Stephen studied the five-string banjo. Both Doc Hopkins and Fleming Brown encouraged Stephen to travel beyond Chicago to find other players and settings where the music had developed. This led him to record in the field a number of gifted regional musicians. One by-product of this work led to his 1997 collection A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings (Rounder CD 1500), for which he is now completing a book for the Music in American Life series, University of Illinois Press. In 1994, The Newberry Library recognized his research by making him their second Arthur Weinberg Fellow. In addition to recording and producing (his own recordings include Dancing Home and Dancing in the Parlor), his writings have appeared in publications that include American Music, ARSC Journal, Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Studies in Popular Culture, Encyclopedia of Chicago, Musical Quarterly, American Archivist, Southern Quarterly, Journal of Country Music, Chicago Tribune, and The Washington Post. Since 1996, his song studies have appeared on National Public Radio's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Stephen’s theater pieces showcase another direction of his research in narrative, music, and dance. His first one-man show, Banjo Dancing, opened in Chicago in 1979, and on Labor Day of that year, Stephen performed at the White House. Following its initial thirteen- month run, the show went on tour, eventually coming to Washington, D.C. in January 1981. Scheduled for a three-week engagement, Stephen’s performances at Washington’s Arena Stage ran for over a decade, making Banjo Dancing one of the five longest-running, off- Broadway shows in the United States. In 1989 he opened his second show, On the Way Home, in Washington, and in 1991, he began a national tour of both works. In 1993, after a six-month run of On the Way Home in Chicago, he became recipient of that city’s Joseph Jefferson Award (Best Actor). Stephen has also been a five-time Helen Hayes Award nominee and in spring 2003, received the Helen Hayes/ Charles MacArthur Award for his work as composer, adaptor, and musical director of the world premiere of Zora Neale Hurston's Polk County.
Most recently, Stephen’s In Sacred Trust: Remembering the Music of Hobart Smith extends the story told in Catching the Music. This four- man, narrated, multi-media concert piece had its first performance in spring 2006, appropriately enough at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. In the fall of 1963 Virginia traditional musician Hobart Smith (1897-1965) came to Chicago where he not only performed at the Old Town School, but stayed with its banjo teacher Fleming Brown. As the two players faced one another in Brown’s wood-paneled rec room, with Brown’s tape recorder set on a coffee table between them, Smith made the most extensive recordings of his career. Smith died soon after these sessions, and for years the musical past he had shared on those tapes found expression through Fleming Brown’s banjo classes at the Old Town School. Shortly before his own death, Brown passed these tapes on to Stephen Wade for safekeeping, and possibly, future publication. In August 2005, the highlights were finally issued on the Smithsonian Folkways label as In Sacred Trust: The 1963 Fleming Brown Tapes. Since then, the In Sacred Trust concerts have celebrated their release. Like the album, the stage piece, which features Mike Craver, James Leva, and Zan McLeod, along with Stephen Wade, focuses on the learning and energies that have sustained this music.