«Back to all NGI Letters

NGI Recipient: Louli Zeichner

Session Attended: Folk Music Society of New York and others - TradMad (2019)

My deepest thanks go to Heather and Joy and Pinewoods for their wonderful work organizing such an awesome five days of music and dance and their efforts to make TradMaD accessible to as many people as possible. I am extremely grateful for the New Generation Initiative scholarship which covered the bulk of my camp fees. I could not have attended without the funds from NGI. Thanks to Armand and Benedict for alerting me to TradMaD’s existence and for recommending me for the scholarship.

I am a musician in my early twenties. I’ve played clawhammer banjo, sung traditional Appalachian, Irish and British ballads, and played the Irish Harp since I was a preteen/teen, experiencing what my locale has to offer on those fronts and making use of the interweb to access recordings. I had never been to TradMaD before, but after learning that two fine musicians whose work I was aware of and respected would be there—Appalachian ballad-singer and banjo player Elizabeth Laprelle and Irish Harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh—I was all in. I thought that TradMaD would be a great way to learn from masters in the musical areas that I had been studying, as well as to explore new music and dance, and of course to network with fellow-campers; it turned out to be that and so much more! All of the camp’s components: instructor concerts, workshops, dances, camper concerts, beautiful locale, and amazing meals, came together to form a memorable week.

All of the workshops that I attended were top notch! I attended six workshops, some for just one session, others multiple times and I appreciated the variety in workshop topics. I’ll share some of my highlights:

  • I really enjoyed Dave Weber and Anni Fentiman’s When the Factory Whistle Blows , where they sang workers’ songs and shared fascinating historical context for each song sung. The campers would join in on the choruses, and we all listened raptly to the historical details. I appreciate the work that Anni and Dave did bringing workers’ history to light.
  • Each day I took Advanced Harp with Máire Ní Chathasaigh where Maire helped me straighten out my technique, taught melody and chords for a couple of tunes, and gave me insightful perspective on Irish harping. I now have some solid technique and principles to help bring my harp playing to the next level.
  • I stopped in on Elizabeth Laprelle and Aubrey Atwater’s Appalachian, Celtic, and Ozark Ballads for one day where there were mighty ballads shared and great conversations had. Elizabeth and Aubrey alternately sang ballads and we all analyzed the content.
  • Reggie’s Storytelling Made Simple was a masterpiece—there’s nothing that can compare to stepping into the world of an experienced storyteller.

The instructor concerts were remarkable and the instructors all had such a variety of material to offer and would play off of each other’s energy. Not only were the instructors phenomenal musicians, but the campers were as well and I was blown away by the camper concerts. After the evening concerts I enjoyed sauntering off to the dances which were so fun and I got to learn some new Breton steps! Pub Night was a big hit—what tremendous quality of songs and almost everybody in the room shared one or two.

Through the workshops and concerts and jams I sharpened my ear and mind as I learned from the different instructors and campers— their methods of research, musical techniques, and why the music mattered to them. After coming away from camp, I felt that I had connected a lot of dots in my brain by being there—historical context behind music, a variety of song themes, people’s individual stories of music-connection—I gained new thought patterns and ways to appreciate and delve deeper within the music that I already play, and considerable knowledge of musical styles that were new to me.