Day 39: Interstate Tour 2018
McDaniel College was established in 1867 and is a private four-year liberal arts and science college where Common Ground On The Hill takes place. I taught and performed here in 2011 and 2012; it's a fantastic event that stretches over three weeks, culminating in a full-blown music festival. The idea behind CGOTH is to bring artists together from all over the world to exchange ideas, trade cultural experiences and open creative and life-changing dialogue by way of the arts.
It's a beautiful campus, literally located on a hill overlooking Westminster, Maryland, and summer sessions find our group mixed in with a number of other groups, most of whom appear to be athletes this time around.
After sleeping way in, I jumped on the bike and headed downtown to pick up a tire pump (can't believe I never got one of these - instead relying upon an over-the-top pancake air compressor), gauge and helmet. Came back, went to check-in and pick up my teaching packet, talked with some friends that I haven't seen in a while and then headed back to Imua to plan the week.
Dinner at 5:45 pm and then off to instructor orientation at 7pm, where Walt Michael, founder and executive director of CGOTH (and internationally-famous recording artist and performer) asked me to be one of the performers in tonight's 8 pm camp orientation. I said "yes" aloud and "YES!" inside, walked back to Imua after the first orientation broke, switched from shorts to pants (self-imposed rule #1, never play on stage in shorts - if you're gonna show your legs, wear a kilt), grabbed my axe and got back to the Alumni Hall just as the carillon rang out eight bells.
Shelley Ensor, Pete Clark, Andy Cohen, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker and Walt were some of the other folks who performed a song in between announcements from some of the staff. The energy at CGOTH is electrifying, even with the fatigue that had set in for folks who were now going into their third straight week of workshops, jams, talks, dances, meals, concerts and a good amount of partying (uptight doesn't exist in this dojo.)
Mountain dulcimer is a minor player here and many people are either unfamiliar with it or haven't heard much other than traditional music played upon it. So, my Delta blues tune "The Flip Side" caught a lot of people off-guard and they let me know after orientation had let out.
"I've never heard a mountain dulcimer do that before!" was the consensus.
The year that I discovered the instrument and worked for Cripple Creek Dulcimers at Knott's Berry Farm was 1986, but I was laid-off at the end of the summer because business trailed off. From that point to around 2002, I didn't see another mountain dulcimer or dulcimer player. Until one fateful day at the Central Florida Fair when I stepped into one of the exhibit buildings and, lo, there were 25 mountain dulcimer players, sitting in a circle and rocking the old time out. It was like peeking over the hedge and seeing a whole new world hiding back there.
Once I dove into that world, though, I saw just how huge it was with room for so many different approaches to the instrument. Whenever people respond to my act the way they did tonight, I usually mention that they really need to listen to cats like Stephen Seifert, Aaron O'Rourke, Sarah Morgan, etc., and really get their minds blown. One of my jobs is to get people hooked on the mountain dulcimer so that they can peer over the hedge and have the same, crazy, wild and wonderful experience that so many people do. We need more dulcimer players - we need for it not to be an odd thing that you're playing a dulcimer. It's way too cool of an instrument for it to remain as low-key as it's been in American music history. It's as American as it gets; an instrument created by immigrants on the new soil of hope and freedom, its voice is the song of the melting pot of gold that is the Southern Appalachians and its heartbeat is a gandy-dancin' rhythm played with a quill.
Annette Lindsey and I are both teaching mountain dulcimer during week 3 here at CGOTH and I'm pleased, honored and excited to be sharing the instrument with students this week. Tomorrow's resource materials are printed out, the alarm is set for an early rise and, for some reason, I've got Journey's "Only Solutions" going through my head and I'm keen to know why.