Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

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.”

CLASSICAL FUSION
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.

COOL COLLABORATIONS
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.”

NATIVE INSPIRATION
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.”

MUSICAL CONCLUSIONS
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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