«Back to all NGI Letters

NGI Recipient: Max Newman

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - American Dance & Music Week (2009)

I am writing to submit my experience at the 2009 American Dance & Music Week at Pinewoods as a recipient of a New Generation Initiative (NGI) Scholarship. It was a great honor and privilege to receive this award which allowed me to attend Pinewoods for the first time.

I must enthusiastically report it was a fantastic, unique experience of which I believe I could not have taken fuller advantage. There were remarkably few hours during the week when I was not engaged in some dancing or musical endeavor. Remarkably few.

I danced a great deal, of course, and with a variety of people, including to my surprise a group of Danes who I felt added an unexpected flair to the week.

Aside from participating in a great deal of dancing, I was lucky enough to be included in a number of musical camp activities. Program Director Lisa Greenleaf was responsible for several of these. I organized the “Northern tunes jam” which produced wonderful music, as well as sneaking out for some of the old-timey next door. I was honored to be asked, with Ms. Vallimont, to be asked to perform for rendezvous, which we did with Rebecca McCallum who graciously joined us unrehearsed at the last minute for one string-breaking note on her fiddle and many non-string-breaking ones on Ethan Hazzard-Watkins’. (That same rendezvous I also had the thrill of joining the Canote Brothers, Mark Hellenberg, Jane Knoeck, and Anna Patton for a rousing song on five ukuleles. This experience clearly touched a special nerve, as I have continued playing the ukulele after this encounter, somewhat obsessively.) And at the kind request of my bandmate Julie Vallimont, I conducted the megaband medley, perhaps with a slight excess of goofy gusto, given the observations of the flute section afterwards that it is difficult to produce a proper embouchure when holding back a laugh.

I am deeply obliged to the staff, who were all wonderful folks to hang out with and, beyond that, very encouraging of me. This last to the point where my morning became happily filled with helping provide music for Kathy Anderson’s Square Dance Callers Course (with CW Abbott and Rebecca McCallum) and Owen Morrison’s Kerry Sets (with Ethan Hazzard-Watkins and Jane Knoeck), and my afternoon with being a supportive presence in Ethan’s Band Ensemble class. Evenings continued this trend. Being provided an opportunity to play with the Groovemongers on percussion and guitar one night was memorable, as was organizing a Cajun dance band for campers’ night with fellow camper Heather Cole-Mullen (and Mark Hellenberg on triangle). I happily report I played until a very late hour each night with campers and staff, including a night of thrown together bands I played in, from honky-tonk (under Jon and Kathy Gersh) to more Cajun to jazz jamming (with Anna Patton and Josh Von Vliet, among others). This is hardly a complete list of the notable events and individuals of the week, but I must give a particular tip of the hat to the Groovemongers, who were a singularly friendly and enthusiastic presence at camp.

One rare non-music or dance venture was during games night when, after being bested in a round of vegetable charades, I spent a satisfying few hours teaching one antiquarian word game, Anagrams, and learning another, RSVP. Of course there were many valuable conversations, as well.

Pinewoods was a wonderful, valuable personal experience. I feel grateful for the many personal connections—large and small—I made with other attendees, including the staff, those I danced with, those I played with, and those I was lucky enough to be placed in Pinecones cabin with.