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NGI Recipient: Maggie Jo Saylor

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - American Week (2013)

Dear CDSS and Pinewoods-

Over a week after my return to civilization, my head and heart are still brimming with the joy and light that Pinewoods brought to my life.  It is thanks to you that I was able to experience an unforgettable time at American week.

Pinewoods was unlike any other dance or music week I have ever attended, largely because of the majestic environment of the camp itself.  It’s easy to be motivated to wake up early every morning when you can walk a few feet from your cabin and slip into a crisp pond to start your day.  It’s easy to sit through a class period when your class takes place in an outdoor pavilion surrounded by greenery.  It’s easy to connect with new friends when you share an intense love of music and dance, and are able to discuss that love on a raft, or walking hand in hand along a wooded trail.

Pinewoods brought together all of my passions into one fabulous week.  I juggle so many personas in life.  I am a caller, a dancer, a student, a teacher, a gamer, a lover, a hostess, and an improv comic.  My day-to-day life does not generally embrace all of these; I often have to pick and choose which to be at any given time.  Pinewoods gave me outlets for all.  I spent the nights dancing and calling to incredible musicians.  I spent the days learning new skills in challenging classes, with breaks for board games in between.  I was given the opportunity to share improv games with my dance community, and to emcee our very successful “camper’s night.”  I met a number of incredible people with whom I feel lifelong friendships have formed.

Coming in to American week, I set myself one concrete goal: to leave Pinewoods having successfully called one square dance.  Thanks to a wonderfully supportive calling class led by Sue Rosen, I accomplished that early on, and have since been exploring more chances to expand my square calling in my local community.  My favorite course was one completely out of my wheelhouse: Emily Miller’s duet and trio harmony singing.  I’ve always loved to sing, but I’ve certainly never been confident in my vocal abilities.  In attending this class every morning, I faced one of my greatest fears, and sang a harmony part in a trio in front of the camp on honky-tonk night.  This class put me out of my comfort zone, and I left much more confident in my singing than I was previously.

Outside of the classes, I have an endless montage of beautiful moments that will continue to play over and over in my mind: swinging in a hammock on the Pinecones porch, dancing in costume with Nils Fredland and laughing until we were in tears, getting incredible massages from Annie Winkler, laying in the sunshine on a dock singing with beautiful ladies, striking up a romance over numerous games of Banagrams, walking into the Pinecones living room to find Guillaume Turcotte playing piano in the dark, dancing a cross-genre-marathon dance with Ethan Hazzard-Watkins until we could barely move from exhaustion, watching  the beautiful Katrina Gerhard begin what will definitely be a very successful calling career, sipping espresso with Ethan and Anna Patton, bartending and hosting an outdoor cocktail-yacht-club-regatta party while Elixir got pied in the face… And that list just scratches the surface.

I am immensely honored to have received the NGI scholarship, and am eager to continue to support Pinewoods and CDSS in its endeavors to bring more youth to this incredible camp.  I am a proud lover of traditional music and dance, and hope to be a part of inspiring the next generation of folks to appreciate and expand upon these traditions.  I will be making every effort to return to Pinewoods in future years in whatever capacity I can.