Dear Music Family,
In an interview last week, a reporter asked me a question that I am often called to answer. “How do you describe who you are? Do people know you as a folk musician? As singer-songwriter? An educator? Or what?” It’s a question that I’ve been forced to answer many times over these 40+ years, and as a close friend recently pointed out, “I’m not sure your fans really know all that you do.”
To that end, I thought that I would share in these next few email visits the range of my various passions that have come to define what I call a career.
Most of you know me as a folk performer and singer-songwriter, and that is the lens through which I entered this world of art and expression. I learned to play guitar when I was 20 years old when a girlfriend challenged me to learn two chords. I had already been singing since I was three years old in the living room with my mom and sister, at church, and at school choirs. The seeds of my love of folk songs began in 2ndgrade when Charlotte Churn, my teacher, introduced us to the music of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and a young singer named Bob Dylan. How was I to know then that years later I would become friends with Pete and Toshi Seeger, Tom Paxton, and inspired by the work of Bernice Johnson Reagon, Harry Belafonte, and James TaylorI would be traveling the world over singing songs and telling stories in concert halls, at festivals, and to audiences of every background imaginable?
One of my favorite memories happened two years ago in Cologne, Germany. I stood on stage in a beautiful theater leading an audience of 1,000 Germans in singing Pete Seeger’s song Rainbow Race. If this journey has taught me anything, it is that music transcends barriers and unites people, and makes change and trust possible. Listening to their voices rise up, I knew that the choice of making music my life was important not only for me, but for the world.
It’s the same feeling that I had this week when I led 200 children in song at a school in Maryland. But that’s a story for the next installment. Until then, think about a special moment that music has created in your life and share that thought with a friend on your way to a music event in your area. Music will only heal the world if we share it with each other.
In peace, joy, and song,