Parting Thoughts, with Folk Intern Sam Kendrick
We’re a bit sad to say farewell to our summer intern–Sam Kendrick of Vernon County, Mo. We’re also happy to know that he is heading back to do good work at Western Kentucky University’s Folk Studies and Anthropology and the Kentucky Folklife Program. Here’s Sam’s parting post with some advice and thoughts about music jams, the theater, and arts engagement.
Hey guys! I hope every one is staying cool these days, or at least staying hydrated while out in the heat. My family has been working on adding a new deck onto the house, so our days have been pretty full, as well as having been lasting into the late afternoon, when the sun has been at its hottest. But the good news is that it’s done! (Mostly.)
Apart from the deck, we’ve been playing some music, bouncing around to different places, playing with different people. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to Starvy Creek this year. We were up and ready to go on Saturday, but decided that trying to set up a tent in the pouring rain, while trying to take care of the instruments, would just be too much. The festival still happened though, and we were told that people sat through the rain and heard some pretty darn good pickin’!
About a couple of weeks ago, my Pa got a call from an old friend from Sheldon, Mo., saying there was going to be some pickin’ goin’ on down at Farlington Lake (Okay, so I know it’s across the line in Kansas and not in Missouri, but sometimes you have to take what you can get). So, my Pa and I loaded instruments and ourselves into the truck, and took off down the road to play some music. When we got there, we were immediately welcomed by, and introduced to, everyone, and the music started soon after that. Chatting was intermixed with the music (that’s how we originally learned about Starvy Creek), and we ended up playing for pretty close to four hours. Now, that may seem like a long time, but as I’m sure most of you know, jam sessions can (and often do) go long into the early hours of the morning. But we got our fix and headed home after being welcomed by a group of people we had never met before (except for one), and sitting down together for music, food, and a good time.
That’s one of the coolest things, though. We had never met most of these people before, but we were welcomed into the fold, fed without a second thought, shared in the creation of music, and I may have even gotten a beer or two out of it, too. But that’s beside the point. My point is that in these jam sessions, it doesn’t really matter where you come from, or even if people know you. All people really care about is sitting around, having a good time, and playing some music. When you join a jam session, even if no one has ever met any one else in the group before, you’re creating a community. Or you’re joining one. Or maybe there’s the concept of a community that everyone just kind of agrees to without actually having to say anything about it. Who actually knows? Regardless, it’s there, and it makes you feel good about life and, I dunno, things.
I know I’m supposed to be a connection to Southwest Missouri, but there is one thing that I would like to tell you about that happened in Kansas City. I went through college with someone who would turn out to be one of my best friends in the world. We both started in the Theater Department at Baker University, and although I ended up in the History Department, she stayed in theater and is one heck of a stage manager. She’s been working with a couple of playwrights for an amount of time that I have no clue of (sometimes I’m a bad friend, okay?). However, the musical/show that was written and developed was set in 1953 in Kansas City. It featured characters that actually existed in the 1950s in Kansas City, as well as a strong storyline that featured the Kansas City Philharmonic and the community that surrounded it. I won’t go into details because I’m not going to spoil anything for any of you, but let me put it into perspective for you. I have been in and around theaters for most of my life. I’ve been involved in painting, building, costuming, prop hunting, lighting. I’ve been back stage, on stage, and played pretty much every role you can think of in a theater crew (sorry about the pun). So you can understand what I mean when I say that I’m a terrible audience member because I’m always thinking about the tech side of things and ways that things could have been different, instead of just enjoying the show. That being said, I don’t remember the last time I watched a show and didn’t pick it apart–before watching “Overture: The Musical.” If you have a chance to see it, I can’t recommend a show more. Even if the show is in a church with no lighting or costume changes like I saw it. And I’ll never admit it, but there might have been a tear or two in my eye after the final blackout.
Now, back to what I’m supposed to be talking about! Since this is, sadly, my final post for the summer, I would like to talk a little about this internship and what I’ve learned through it. You know, I learned something through my master’s program, and I guess I’ve always kind of known this, but you really don’t know what people can do. Take me for example. I’m a big guy with hair that reaches half way down my back. If you saw me without knowing anything about me, you likely would never assume that I have played the violin/fiddle for nearly twenty years. And that’s what I have learned is so true during this internship. We never know what our neighbors are capable of. One of my favorite transcription projects from this summer was an interview with a man (Bernard Allen of Naylor) who made fiddles, and had been a master for several apprenticeships through the Missouri Folk Arts Program. I mean, to me, in his photo he just looked like another farmer type, like what I’ve grown up with and been around my entire life. Yet he essentially taught himself how to make fiddles with all their fiddly bits and other things that make my brain melt when trying to figure out how it all goes together and works.
That’s my point, though! We don’t know what people are capable of, and what they are capable of is amazing. What we are capable is amazing. Sometimes to find something and someone new; all we have to do is to take a left instead of a right. Go to that town festival you’ve been wondering about for so long; talk to the people in the booths peddling their wares. Go to the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, August 8 – 18, and talk to people. If you want fiddle music, the state championship fiddle contest is on Sunday, August 18th, where you’re sure to hear some darn good fiddlin’ from some of Missouri’s finest. You’ll even have a chance to stand around and talk or play after the contest, as jam sessions are part of the deal!
Well, I think I’ll leave you now, folks. I’ve had a great summer writing and transcribing, but this weekend I’m headed back to Kentucky to move into a new apartment and get ready for the school year. I’d like to say that I really appreciate you taking the time to read my scrambled thoughts, and I hope that I have given you food for thought, as well as directing you to events that spark your interest. I also need to thank Lisa Higgins for working to set up this internship with such short notice, after my other one fell through. For my final words, I’d just like to say this:
Take ‘er easy, folks. I’ll be around.