Category Archives: music

Ready, Set, Summer!

Borrowing from my charming, talented and articulate pal Jeffrey C. Capps because it all applies to me too (and why reinvent the wheel?):

Dear Friends,

It’ll be a busy musical weekend for me, and I hope to see many of you!
On Friday, I am honored to join Tara in opening for John Rapson’s must-see Hot Tamale Louie benefit for IC Compassion at The Mill. We’ll be performing a couple of tunes during the 8 o’clock hour and the show will follow at 9. This is a really incredible show and a great cause! More info here.

 

On Saturday, I’ll be performing twice as part of the Longfellow Front Porch Music Festival. Family Folk Machine will kick off the afternoon with a 2 p.m. set at 604 Grant Street, and Jeffrey C. Capps and His Almost All-Girl Band will immediately follow on the very same porch. Grab your lawn chair, and come on out! More info here.

And if you’re one to plan ahead, please mark your calendar for Saturday, July 1 when Tara and I will make our annual appearance at the Iowa City Farmers Market. We’ll play from 9 until 11 a.m. on the temporary stage right outside of City Hall!

Thanks so much!

Sound as ever,

JCC

I also have two other related events this weekend: at 4 pm on Saturday, I am honored to accompany on guitar some of my fiddle students as part of the Longfellow Front Porch Music Festival. At 9 pm on Saturday, the Hot Tamale Louie ensemble will be playing at the Motley Cow. This is a ticketed event and it will sell out so look sharp.

Happy summer!!

Congratulations to Ambrose!

Introducing Ambrose, my featured musician for May and June!

Ambrose’s talent for composition has been emerging alongside his pianistic abilities beginning very early on in our musical adventures together.

Ambrose has the unique and precious ability of finding and revealing stories in his music. I feel so grateful for the gift of witnessing him discover himself as an artist.

May 2017 Featured Musician (1)-page-001

Hot Tamale Louie

I don’t know how I got lucky enough to be a part of this project but I am surely grateful.

HTL_Poster_print-page-001

“Over and over, we forget what being American means. The radical premise of our nation is that one people can be made from many, yet in each new generation we find reasons to limit who those “many” can be—to wall off access to America, literally or figuratively. That impulse usually finds its roots in claims about who we used to be, but nativist nostalgia is a fantasy. We have always been a pluralist nation, with a past far richer and stranger than we choose to recall.”

Schulz, Kathryn. “Citizen Khan” The New Yorker. June 6 & 13, 2016.

17990668_10158527592675453_9164810119306617296_o

Left to right: Paul Kalina, Dan Padley, Tara McGovern, Justin LeDuc, Ryan Smith, Steve Locher, Daniel Gaglione, John Rapson and Dave Moore.

 

 

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day 2017

17103636_10210165902078216_3920952315772784414_nSt. Patrick’s Day as it is observed in most American cities is a consumerist sham. Sure, it started in the early 17th century as a religious feast day honoring the death day of St. Patrick in 462 AD, but it has devolved to a level of kitsch that deters many from any desire to observe the day at all.

The arguments against the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day are sound. Patrick, or Maewyn Succat according to some sources, wasn’t even Irish, for one. According to The Confession of Saint Patrick, he was a British teenager who was captured by Irish pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland where he lived for six years before escaping. He later became a cleric and then a bishop who returned to northern and western Ireland to spend the rest of his life evangelizing, ordaining clergy, and organizing a new religious order.

The most famous legend attached to St. Patrick also doesn’t hold up well in the light of modern interpretation. All scientific evidence suggests that the post-glacial  island of Ireland never had snakes in the first place so this notion of St. Patrick banishing them can only be a symbolic representation of what he actually did destroy, the Druidry of the native Irish people.

Leaving history aside, there’s also the problems with how St. Patrick’s Day is most commonly celebrated now. Namely, with lots of green beer and t-shirts emblazoned with tasteless stereotypes. Google ‘Irish yoga’ if you’re confused.

That’s the bathwater. Now let me describe the baby.

The music of Ireland, of which I have been both scholar and devotee for more than three decades, is compellingly, heartrendingly beautiful. The same can be said of the dance traditions with the additional observation that Irish dancers are also dedicated and capable athletes. Irish food has never gotten the respect given to other European cuisines but if you’re ever actually had good Irish food, you know as I do how hearty and tasty it can be.

The place to be in eastern Iowa on this coming St. Patrick’s Day (Friday, March 17) is Uptown Bill’s Coffee House in Iowa City beginning at 6 pm. Bring a dish to pass in the potluck and an instrument to join in the open session that follows dinner. Maybe you’ll go on after the festivities and find yourself some green beer. Whatever floats your boat. There’s no wrong way to celebrate but there is more than one way.

Congratulations to Anna!

Introducing Anna, my featured musician for March and April!

Anna and I both have April birthdays, we both love to play fiddle and we are both devoted fans of Hamilton so we have plenty in common.

Anna is an enthusiastic and creative musician who takes risks and reaps the rewards of her courage. She has so much joy to share and is truly a gift to all who know her.

march-april-2017-featured-musician-2-page-001

 

Image

But, it isn’t.

A is for Accordion

When I was twenty, I worked in the preschool classroom of a child care center and got to know the children and families really well. Since I was known to be studying music in school, I was often asked by parents to give some early music lessons to their children or to assist with music practicing for the older siblings who were already in lessons.

I was practically a baby myself and an inexperienced teacher but my advantage was that I knew the children so well.  I was taking a year off from being a full-time student to establish residency in Iowa and so I was at the child care center all morning and most of every afternoon. We ate our snack together at those squat little tables. I watched them squabble on the playground. I observed them making discoveries about words during story time. They were all bridging that magical time between being a baby and becoming a kid and it was fascinating to see the possibilities of the world bloom before their eyes.

There is one piano lesson that I will never forget. We’ll call him Jacob (not his real name) and he was about four years old. Jacob was a cheerful and comical little boy, very well liked by his friends. He was unusually proficient on the playground for his age, always the fastest kid to get to the slide and the first to tackle a new piece of playground equipment. No fear, no hesitation, just all energy and determination. I had already been working at the child care center part time for a year or so before that and I remembered him in the toddler room, always zooming around with a big smile.

I can’t remember what exactly we were doing that day at the lesson but I remember how his little fingers stumbled on the keys and how much grouchier he was than usual.

Jacob was a really smart and charming little boy and he was adept at steering conversations and situations to suit his purposes so I was never surprised when he became rather chatty. “I have a question”, he would say, and he would ask something vaguely relevant to the situation: “why are there black keys?” or “could I fit inside the piano?”

His frustration waned as his questions became sillier until:

“Why do I play piano, Tara?”

“What do you mean?” I laughed, taken aback. “Because it’s fun! We play music because it’s fun.”

“But, it isn’t.”

Do you know that, until that moment, it had actually never occurred to me that a music lesson can be the first truly difficult task that a child has ever encountered? Learning to walk or to talk is no small feat either but the natural scaffolding of each of those skills makes their acquisition so gradual that the challenge can go largely unnoticed, except by the doting parents.

The good news is that learning to play an instrument becomes fun, more so over time, and that a positive relationship between a teacher and a student can carry both of them until then.

That conversation so long ago has informed my teaching so much through the years. I think back on it often to remind me of the enormity of what I’m asking of these amazing little people.

Beyond that, it has sustained me when my own creative work feels crushing and terrible and worthless. We tell ourselves that our work is hard because we’re lacking in some way. That’s not it. It’s hard because it’s hard.

 

ACLU Update

riii
Art Roche, Mary Denmead, William Dutcher, Zach Twardowski and Atticus Dutcher in Richard III. Photo by Andrea Wilson.

I am not the only American to have spent the past week alternately devastated and enraged but I am so grateful to have also experienced flashes of true hope and deep love for how my community has responded.

Between our event on Friday which raised $833.25, Writers Resist! last Sunday, and The Last Night in America organized by Megan Gogerty on Thursday, eastern Iowa artists have raised upwards of $3700 for the Iowa ACLU this week. Many people do not realize that the ACLU is a non-partisan organization that prides itself in upholding everyone’s civil liberties, no matter who they are or what they believe.

We are going to take care of each other. We are going to resist injustice. We are going to pay attention and participate in the democratic process. We are going to use our art to magnify what is going on around us because, as my friend and mentor Ron Clark said recently in a Press-Citizen interview: “It’s our artistic community that most effectively holds out a mirror and says, ‘Look at what we have become.'”

There are many petitions circling. I’d like to direct your attention to this one in particular asking that we preserve the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. When I signed it, it still needed almost 100,000 more signatures to get a response from the White House. This is quite literally the least you can do but is still so important.

Together we rise.