Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Music · Arvel Bird‘s violin journey
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Arvel Bird‘s violin journey

Kristi Kates - August 23rd, 2010
Arvel Bird’s Violin Journey
By Kristi Kates
The dulcet sounds of the violin are perhaps not usually thought of as being part of Native American musical culture. But musician Arvel Bird is drawing on little-known history to bring native violin sounds into the spotlight.
“You’re right - it’s not well-known as an instrument traditional to natives,” Bird explains, “but I understand that the violin was introduced to the indigenous people of North and South America beginning as early as 1689 by the Jesuit priests from Europe who brought the harp, guitar and violin so that they could have music for Mass on Sundays. So I think it’s safe to say that it’s been a tradition for the last 321 years. Almost 13 generations of some indigenous people have played the violin.”
While the history is fascinating to Bird, it was the sound that drew him to the instrument.
“I could go on about tribes and history and usage and music played, but that wasn’t what got me interested in playing the violin or using it to express my heritage,” he says, “it had already become the ‘voice’ of my music, so instead of singing or drumming or playing the flute, I simply applied/adapted the violin to my story-telling through music.”

Bird, who was born in Idaho and raised in Utah and Arizona, studied classical music for 11 years while in school, eventually working under the tutelage of renowned Hungarian violinist Paul Roland. Soon, he found himself being drawn to and inspired by the Appalachian, bluegrass, and Celtic styles of music; so he decided to tackle crafting his own mix of sounds that would also incorporate his Native American heritage.
“It was a tricky transition, but a deliberate and ongoing one,” Bird says. “I knew how to play the violin, but I didn’t know where music ‘came from,’ and so that became my goal. Classical playing is a great foundation for technique and training, but its very sterile and limiting when you play in an orchestra, and I knew I had a lot of my own music in me.”
“So, instead of learning more dead composers’ music, I quit taking music lessons, quit reading music, and began to explore other realms of music. As I began to incorporate the different styles into my own playing skills, it created my own “fusion.” That helped me to not compare myself with other people and players, allowed me to be myself and become my own musical artist. Now I’m not trying to do what anyone else does, and no one else can do what I do -and I don’t worry about that anymore,” he smiles.

Today, Bird is an acclaimed musician in his own right, having received six nominations just this year at the ISMAs (the prestigious Indian Summer Music Awards, which will be awarded this September) - and he has had the opportunity to work with a wide range of fellow musicians, including two standout experiences with Glen Campbell and Loretta Lynn.
“In the mid ‘80s, a band I was with won a big competition which landed us an opening spot for Alabama, Merle Haggard, and the Judds at the Phoenix Coliseum,” Bird remembers. “We were having a great time backstage in our dressing room after the show when in walks Glen Campbell, and he sat down to chat with us. Later that weekend we played in Cave Creek, Arizona, at a golf resort that Glen belonged to and happened to be at that day. We knew a few of his songs, so he got up and sang with us. Right there on the spot, he hired us to be his backup band - and I toured with him for almost six years. It was a great experience. During this time I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where I auditioned for Loretta Lynn, who is also a wonderful person and very down to earth, funny and easy to get along with. I’ve been fortunate to play with some incredible stars.”

Bird’s albums get plenty of notice on their own, too; his latest set, Ride Indian Ride, was recorded in Nashville, with Bird’s goal being to honor the enduring spirit of the Indian motorcycle with a blues/rock style that uses both the violin and Native American flute as lead instruments.
“I also decided to add songs with lyrics to the instrumentals on this CD, to give people something to sing along with,” Bird explains, “I recorded honor songs about some of my First Nations heroes like Geronimo, Crazy Horse, Chief Joseph, the Cherokee Lighthorse, and one for the patriot chiefs, who fought for the rights of their people in peace and wartime.”
Bird says that he’s inspired by any number of things - other composers, movies, books - and generally prefers writing in the mornings, after his structured practice sessions.
“I start hearing a recurring piece of music start - a rhythm, a riff that adds color to a specific scene,” he explains, “when I feel ready, I normally book studio time in Nashville, where I’m familiar with the studio engineers and musicians. The creative/writing process varies from project to project, but usually I’ll start with a theme; the music itself is usually a reflection of my Native American (Southern Paiute) heritage and my Celtic roots. I also like to record music that honors the enduring spirit of the North American Indian, utilizing Native fiddling as well as Celtic fiddling.”

If you’re thinking that Bird’s compositions and songs contain plenty of colorful imagery, you’d be right. He’s as much a storyteller as he is a musician. And his upcoming show in Charlevoix will showcase plenty of examples of both.
“Fans have called the violin sounds cinematic and visual, which is what I was going for so that my audiences can take their own journey and find their own connection and identity to the Creator,” Bird says.
“I can promise the Charlevoix audience a concert which feels like a cross between Braveheart and Last of the Mohicans,” he continues, “mixed with some fiddle tunes and a few of my blues songs. What I hope happens is that they are transported for that two or three hour period into their own dreamworld, and take a musical journey around the world with me. Lastly, I never know who might be there that I can get up to perform with me, but I’ll be looking!”

Arvel Bird will perform in Charlevoix as part of the Black Cat Concert Series on Thursday, August 26 at 8 pm. Tickets ($15) and more info can be found at www.blackcatconcerts.com; more info on Arvel Bird can be found at www.arvelbird.com.

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