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NGI Recipient: Anna Alter

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - Harmony of Song and Dance (2019)

This summer, I was awarded an NGI scholarship, as well as further scholarship assistance through CDSS from both the Michele Godbout Fund and the Youth Scholarship Fund, so that I could attend Harmony of Song and Dance Week at Pinewoods Camp this past July.

I grew up going to Pinewoods with my parents and sister, but hadn’t been able to make it back for about five years. I’ve always considered it to be a place of excitement and inspiration.  There’s music in the trees. It was a place of magic. I knew this to be true, as fairies would often leave me gifts in the little houses I built for them (Thanks Mom!). So when I received the email awarding me a NGI scholarship to Harmony of Song and Dance Week at Pinewoods, I immediately felt that I was receiving a huge and meaningful gift.

My week at camp was full of new discoveries and connections.  Two of my favorite classes were the Art of Listening course offered by Corey DiMario and the Dance Musician’s Workshop, led by Julie Vallimont. In Corey’s class, we practiced listening to different elements of recorded music, and then followed this with a discussion full of our thoughts, questions, and observations. In Julie’s class, we spent our time learning how to stay open to other musicians’ ideas, arrange dance tunes in groups, and practice listening and responding to each other through music. Having these two classes back to back ended up being incredibly impactful to me as a musician.

I also called a contra during the camper led evening dance, which is a new skill that I began working on in June. Additionally, I had one of my new top favorite dance experiences– During one of the evening dances, there was a particularly loud thunderstorm and the power went out. But the musicians kept playing, we kept dancing, and then we started gleefully singing along to the tune to help ourselves stay on beat until the power came back on. It was a moment of unity, excitement, and spontaneous joy.

Over the last year, I moved to Portland, ME and started actively pursuing new skills in the contra/traditional music world. I began learning how to do sound engineering for dances, I’ve been investing more and more time into practicing my instruments and learning new tunes, I started dancing more frequently than I had in about a decade, and I called my first contra at the Portland Intown Contra Dance only a week before Harmony Week. I couldn’t have learned so much in just one year without such a talented, open-hearted, and inspirational local dance and music community. And without them, I would not have been recommended for an NGI scholarship this summer.

I want to thank CDSS, Pinewoods Camp, and all of the staff members at Harmony of Song and Dance Week. I received a week full of music, dancing, new friends, and opportunities to step beyond my comfort level and keep learning more of what I’m most passionate about! I also want to thank my hometown folk dance community based in and around Philadelphia, PA. There are so many wonderful musicians, dancers, and organizers who have had a huge impact on me, including Bill Quern, who was willing to write a recommendation on my behalf for the NGI scholarship. I will be forever grateful and I look forward to sharing as much, if not even more, as I have received.