Homegrown in the Midwest

Director's Column | Minnesota Scandinavian Ensemble and Becky Weis | Nadeem Dlaikan |
Mary Louise Defender Wilson and Keith Bear | Irish Music and Dance From Missouri | Liz Carroll |
Karl and the Country Dutchmen | The River Boys | Natasinh Dancers and Musicians

Homegrown in the Midwest

by Ruth Olson

This edition of the CSUMC Friends’ newsletter could be considered a special issue—all the articles here concern Midwestern musicians and artists who have been featured in the American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series in Washington, D.C.

The Homegrown Concert Series began in 2002, following in the tradition of other folklife concert series sponsored by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. (To read more about folklife concerts at the Library of Congress, go to http://memory.loc.gov/cocoon/ihas/html/concerts/concerts-folklife.html). As American Folklife Center director Peggy Bulger explains, the Homegrown concerts are meant to feature the very best of traditional music and dance throughout the United States. "In order to do that effectively, we collaborate with state folklorists in each state, and take their recommendations on the best folk performers to represent the cultural heritage of that state. We make sure to document each concert thoroughly, so that it can be added to the permanent collections of the American Folklife Center. We have featured artists from all 50 states in this multicultural musical collection. This collection will live on as a snapshot of the diversity of American folk music thriving at the turn of the twenty-first century."

In this newsletter, we offer articles by Midwestern folklorists Troyd Geist, Lisa Higgins, Tamara Kubacki, Yvonne Lockwood, Richard March, Gwendolyn Meister, Philip Nusbaum and Riki Saltzman, about traditional musicians and performers in North Dakota, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa. If these articles rouse your interest, you can visit the American Folklife Center’s Online Archives of the concerts, and view webcasts of the performances: http://www.loc.gov/folklife/events/HomegrownArchives/HomegrownArchives.html.

These concerts have had a great impact for these musicians and artists, both personally and in their communities. Rick March of the Wisconsin Arts Board recalls that when Karl Hartwig and the Country Dutchmen performed back in 2003, “It was a validating life experience for him and the other band members.” Karl was touched that the American Folklife Center’s staff recorded an interview with him for their archives. Karl’s mother flew out to Washington, D.C. for the event. “The live streaming webcast from the Lincoln Center was still a novelty then. The folks back home in Trempealeau dug it,” Rick remembers.

Yvonne Lockwood of the Michigan State University Museum remembers Nadeem Dlaikan's appreciation for being able to play at the Library of Congress in such an acoustically wonderful concert hall. Nadeem and the entire group of Arab musicians from Michigan also were very pleased to find such a welcoming audience in Washington, D.C. “Did this experience change or make an impact on these musicians? Yes, it did on a personal level,” says Lockwood. Nonetheless, Lockwood feels that such talented musicians always deserve more attention, in their own communities and elsewhere.

“One of the strongest benefits of such opportunities is that it gives state and national organizations a chance to get to know what each is doing and, thus, how to dovetail similar projects and activities,” says Troyd Geist of the North Dakota Arts Council. Performing in Washington, D.C. not only gave North Dakota folk artists Mary Louise Defender Wilson and Keith Bear increased visibility and respect at home, it also gave them additional opportunities for shows at other institutions, such as the National Museum of the American Indian.

The Homegrown concerts are held once a month from April through December in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, and all the concerts are free of charge. Homegrown concerts are produced by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in cooperation with the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

We sincerely thank the American Folklife Center, as well as the featured authors, for permission to reprint these articles, originally produced for the concert programs. Part of CSUMC’s mission is disseminating information about the many rich cultures in our region. Featuring the work of these fine musicians (and fine folklorists too!) will help our constituents experience new resources and pleasure—proof once again of the diversity and talent within the Midwest.




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