NGI Recipient: Lindsay Straw
Session Attended: Folk Music Society of New York and others - TradMad (2017)
Thank you so much to Joy and Heather for organizing such an amazing camp and selecting me to be one of 2017’s NGI Scholarship recipients, and thank you Pinewoods for setting up the NGI program so that folks like me could have the opportunity to attend. What an incredible experience!
I’ve been into folk music since I was a teenager, but I grew up outside the world of camps, immersive music events, and the kind of social music scene TradMaD fosters. So despite my friends’ excited descriptions, I had no idea what to expect on my drive down to Pinewoods. I figured that TradMaD would be a good chance to pick up a few new songs for my repertoire, take a couple days off from emailing clients, and do some summertime activities before returning to normal life. I had no idea what was in store.
Joy and Heather have done an amazing job of finding folks who are not only wonderful performers but also fantastic teachers. Everyone’s style of teaching was unique, but all had the same ability to make their specialty accessible and engaging. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the class schedule and wanted to take every class. Talk about FOMO (fear of missing out)! Fortunately, the format is flexible and informal, so you have plenty of opportunities to explore everything on offer, trying new things and deepening your experience of what you already love.
Some highlights for me: I’ve been wrestling with my voice for a while, trying to find more colors and the ability to project and belt. Erica Weiss’s Balkan singing class was the perfect way to get around my hurdles and sing songs I’d never have heard or learned otherwise. I’ve been enamored with the singing and stories of Scottish Travellers like Belle Stewart and Jeannie Robertson for years, so it was such a special treat to get to attend Margaret Bennett and Ian MacGregor’s classes and hear their stories firsthand. As could probably be expected from a ballad-obsessed person, Brian Peters’ Child Ballads class and his & Jeff Davis’ Cecil Sharp class were some of my favorites. Hearing their interpretations, arrangements, opinions and reflections really resonated with me. Plus, I discovered how little I actually knew about both Child and Sharp themselves, despite singing material that they were instrumental in preserving.
The staff and the subjects they teach would be great on their own, but a huge part of the experience is of course the other campers. TradMaD attracts such an enthusiastic, immersed crowd. You end up learning a lot from each other in the sidebars that come up within a class, or in conversations over meals. Plus, there’s just something about the spirit of the scene that is so uniquely open-minded and welcoming. It promotes tradition while also encouraging exploration and experimentation. Everyone is so approachable whether they know you or not, and there’s a refreshing lack of clique-y-ness.
Doing music for a living can be a blessing and a curse, and I don’t think it’s uncommon to experience burn-out. When I arrived, I was stressed out about this gig and that gig, had for months felt musically adrift, and was overall feeling pretty “meh”. I didn’t feel burnt out yet, but I could see myself getting there in pretty short order. TradMaD couldn’t have come at a better time. Somewhere in the middle of the week, I started to unwind and be disarmed by everything – the setting, the harmonies, the awesome people, the food, the non-stop opportunities to nerd out over niche topics. I left with a renewed interest in the ballads I’ve long loved, a spark lit for the songs and styles I’d considered out of my range, a collection of notes and recordings I still haven’t worked all the way through, and a wonderful feeling of connectedness I’m trying to continue cultivating.
So again, thank you Joy, Heather, and Pinewoods for an amazing experience and opportunity. I really hope I’ll be able to come back again in the future!