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 · Folk Music Meets the iPod...
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Folk Music Meets the iPod Generation

Kristi Kates - May 5th, 2014  

In 1938, musical archivist Alan Lomax traveled throughout Michigan, recording more than 900 songs on his Presto audio recorder for the Library of Congress.

From the blues of Detroit to maritime tunes, lumberjack chants to love ballads, Lomax captured the state’s musical traditions on his machine, which recorded audio directly to vinyl. Today, two local organizations are exposing these 75-year-old recordings to a whole new – but digitally obsessed – generation.


Tapping into the Lomax collection, this spring middle and high school students from seven area schools used the recordings to create a performance called “The Quest – A Celebration of Community.”

The show, scheduled for May 9 at the City Opera House in Traverse City, has taken the group months to write and rehearse, organizers say.

The students are part of SEEDS’s After School program and collaborated with the Earthwork Music Collective and Blackbird Arts, said Earthwork’s founder, Seth Bernard.

“The Lomax recordings are such a superdiverse and vast collection,” Bernard said.

“And there are so many gems and treasures within it.”

But how best to translate old tunes to youthful musicians, who are most often glued to their iPods?

Give them “creative empowerment,” as Bernard calls it.

Creative empowerment is where the SEEDS program steps in. A local nonprofit that works at solving global issues at a local level, SEEDS challenged the kids to tap into their communities’ histories through Lomax’s recordings, and then create their own interpretations and original music with the help of Earthworks.


Bernard, who is directing “The Quest,” said that the production uses a range of artistic mediums for its “celebration of local culture – past, present, and future.”

“We’re talking stories, slideshows, puppets, set designs, and all kinds of songs,” he said. “[It will] take the audience on a unique journey through Michigan.”

The kids, who come from Kalkaska, Forest Area, Frankfort, Benzie Central, Brethren, Manistee, and Suttons Bay schools, have been working for months on the show, taking inspiration from the old songs and writing new verses, or new songs entirely.

“Old songs are merging with hip-hop beats, rock and roll, choreographed dance moves, and infectious sing-a-long choruses,” Bernard said.

One of the kids’ songs, inspired by a Detroit-area Lomax blues recording, is called “Engineering,” a song about the men who traveled north to take jobs building cars. Another is a revamp of Lester Wells’ 1938 recording of “When I First Came to Traverse Town”; the new version mentions the people and places of Traverse City today. “Little Sleepy Bear” uses pop music to tell the legend of Sleeping Bear.

“This project will help the students connect to their history using their own words through songs and art,” said Bill Watson, SEEDS’s after school program director. “They have had this time to learn about the history of the places they live and celebrate it.”


Bernard said the idea for “The Quest” was meant as a way for kids to give back to their communities.

“The idea for ‘The Quest’ all came together as an awesome way for these kids to give a gift to their community in the form of this inspiring, culturally rich performance,” he said. “The more understanding and appreciation we have of the past, the more fully engaged we can be as citizens in our communities today.”

The project also deepens Earthworks Music’s work with SEEDS, as well as their collaborations with the American Folklife Center, the Library of Congress (which contacted Bernard about helping raise awareness of the Lomax recordings) and Blackbird Arts, which is creating the art design and puppets for the show, which is slated to be at the City Opera House in Traverse City.

The successful collaboration between all of the organizations speaks to their respective commitment to local causes, Bernard and Watson said.

“SEEDS has done so much incredibly good work in this region,” he said. “They truly make dreams turn into realities that benefit so many, so well.”

Watson agreed. “And we are so fortunate in this community to have such wonderful music and musicians, many of them from the Earthwork Music Collective,” he said. “It really is a vibrant music scene here, and I feel that the music recorded by Alan Lomax shaped many of the musicians that are performing in our community.”

“The Quest: A Celebration of Community” will take place on May 9 at 7:30pm at the City Opera House in Traverse City. Tickets are $10 for adults; $5 students. For more information, visit the official website at http://keepupthequest.com or the City Opera House site at cityoperahouse.org.

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