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NGI Recipient: Catherine Casiello

Session Attended: Folk Arts Center of New England - FAC Weekend (2009)

Dear Folk Arts Center and Pinewoods Camp,

On the way to camp this year, with instruments, a kimono, and a few umbrellas bouncing around in the back, my parents and I attempted to pinpoint how many years I have been attending Folk Arts Center Pinewoods. (We were unsuccessful, but if anyone else has an idea, let us know!) The earliest we could positively identify, I was about four or five, judging from a picture of me fast asleep on a pillow in the sound closet in the old C# band shell, sucking my thumb and absolutely covered in mosquito bites. I’ll be 24 in December – that makes it almost twenty years at the very least. Probably not the world record for consecutive Pinewoods attendances, but still: whew!

Pinewoods has been a fixture in my life for as long as I can remember. Sadly, in recent years I haven’t been able to make it for the whole week, or sometimes even the whole weekend – but I have never missed one. I was able to share this great part of my life with my husband Ben last year when he received the NGI scholarship. This year, Ben was unable to attend because of a scheduling conflict, but I was faced with the choice of either attending Pinewoods or obtaining my licensure and registration as a new speech-language pathologist. I was elated that I had finally graduated and was done with grad school (by the way – YAY!), but it was bittersweet in that our financial situation wouldn’t allow me to both begin my career and go to camp.

(Insert superhero music of choice here.) NGI Scholarship, to the rescue! Thanks to Folk Arts Center and Pinewoods Camp, I was allowed to keep my “years at Pinewoods” count going – even though I still can’t figure out how long it has been. A few of us also discovered that we share the same profession – did anyone know that there were a total of four speech-language pathologists at camp this year? That has to be another record of some sort!

The NGI scholarship program is a great idea. So many of my friends, dancers and non-dancers alike, would love to try something new or devote a few days to an important part of their lives, but are unable to because the rent is due next week, or the car is about to run out of gas, or all they can afford to eat is Ramen noodles (with hot dogs added to be healthy, of course) and there’s little room for anything else in the budget. This scholarship program gives young adults like Ben and I the opportunity to try something new or continue an old tradition. (Now we just need to find the time – something else of which we tend to be short!) It also invites young newcomers in – to join us, revitalize us, laugh and cry with us, learn from us, change the way we think, dance and sing with us, and share with us. What else are new friendships for, but to leave each person in a better place? This is the potential, and the effect, of the NGI program.

So, thank you. Thank you to Folk Arts Center, to Pinewoods, to everyone who worked to make the NGI scholarship available to all the recipients, to everyone at camp over the past “twentyish” years who have given me the following memories (a minute selection, in a generic as-far-as-I-can-tell chronological order):

Going down the road from the Camp house to the Dining Hall on Steve Gruverman’s shoulders

Playing soccer with all the kids in front of the Dining Hall

Being afraid to use the outhouse next to Twin Sisters because it was chock full o’ spiders

Listening to the Pinewoods Band getting ready for Skit Night next door while I pretended to be asleep, and wishing I was old enough to go with them

Piling as many kids as we could into the hammock in the Square

Being really, really, really excited that the “chicken dance” (a.k.a. Paduretul) was on the program

S’mores parties at Hunsdon House

Building sand castles on the beach (back when there was one!) and imprisoning toads in them

Watching Przeworska, and wishing I knew how to do it

Attending the advanced Romanian class with Teodor and Lia Vasilescu for the first time, and feeling very proud of myself

Seeing Marcie get a pie in the face

Being really, really, really excited, and feeling very grown-up and responsible, that I got to room with a friend for the first time, even though we had parents on either side of us, keeping tabs the whole time

Teaching the broom dance and rapper to the younger children with Alex and Jeremy

Dressing up as Charlie’s Angels with Vanessa and my father: lipstick, glitter, and all

Attempting, and succeeding, at Przeworska with Erika in the wee hours of the morning

Combining the different folk areas of my life (Folk Arts Center, Morris/rapper, contra, Mladost, Scottish) into one place

Very slowly and carefully finding my way back to the Highlands from the after party with Andy, without a flashlight (oops)

Walking around camp with Ben for the first time, pointing out where all these memories occurred

Watching children grow up into teens and young adults and friends

Doing the Michael Jackson Racenica

… and I’m sure there are many more to come.

Here’s to the next “twentyish” years – may they be filled with love, music, dance, and friendship for all of us.

Much love and gratitude.