Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Merlefest and Home Grown Music

Twenty-five years ago music icon Doc Watson created Merlefest, a bluegrass festival that memorializes his beloved son Merle who was killed in a tractor accident not all that far from my house.

Every year for four days, music lovers by the tens of thousands share with each other the love Merle Watson had for bluegrass, country, and just plain old mountain music. They flock from all corners of North Carolina, all states of the union, and countless countries across the seas.

Can you pick me out in this picture? I was there, listening. Somewhere. And this was only one stage among fourteen possibilities.

One afternoon I sat in the traditional tent listening to Pete Wernick tell about the many jam sessions he had participated in during the festival and how that alone is worth the experience. After all this is not just a listening event. It's also a BYOB festival, Bring Your Own Bass (or guitar or fiddle) and part of the joy is making music with each other.

Just like what I heard doing this project.

Making music and jamming was a part of growing up at Pilot Mountain School. I caught story after story from former students who learned to play guitar or fiddle or bass just being present during jam sessions at the school. One principal who lived there, in the building (that's worth yet another blog post) opened the doors in the evening to men of the community to join him making music. They came in from the fields or the furniture factories or the state hospital, off work, ready to connect. Of course, they didn't label it as that, didn't even consider that what they were doing was powerful.

But it was.

It was so powerful that fifty, sixty years later they remember and speak in hushed, reverent tones, tears in their eyes. Music was in their soul. Music stretches through ages so that in a schoolhouse with a dozen or on a hill with thousands, there is a connection.

We should all seek out the music.

Catch of the day,