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NGI Recipient: Andrew Kennedy

Session Attended: Folk Music Society of New York and others - TradMad (2019)

I am 23, and just one year ago, I had never heard of trad music. If you had said the word trad to me I might have thought you were having a stroke, but this is why the new generation initiative exists. TradMad has helped me get in touch with a world of music that I never knew before. TradMad wants to hear what my voice sounds like, wants people to get up and dance, wants the songs to be played slightly differently every time to highlight the idiosyncrasies of the folks playing them. It is a chance to live and embody a tradition as a means of carrying it on, and a chance to be part of the moving history of folk music. I’d like to share some of my specific experiences so that whoever reads this can build a picture of what camp is like.

I took a class with Reggie Harris on civil rights songs that really went beyond singing tunes. I saw that singing became the tool of communication and relief for people in the U.S. who had, and continue to have little freedom of self determination. I saw that the songs actually became instrumental in gluing the communities together through the trials of the civil rights battles of the 1950’s and 60’s. Reggie showed us that song can be code for ideas that are hard or even dangerous to speak about. I left the class understanding that this was not a study in history long past, so much as a way to understand what has been happening all around us to this very day. It was about breaking lies and delusions with songs.

I took a class with Mara , a Breton family band. We sang songs of the sea and danced to them, in what they described as un-sexy, un-frivolous, functional dances meant for doing such simple things as “flattening the earth”. Playing the fiddle with Yuna, and dancing to the dances gave me for the first time the epiphany that so much of fiddle music is meant to be danced to. By seeing the connections between the melodies, and the body movements, I have a deeper understanding of the instrumentation. I still listen to the recordings of class with Yuna (the scratchy iphone recordings that we all emailed around to each other), from my home in Providence, and I try to re-live the instruction she gave us.

Another great memory was walking in on a new friend Jules practicing, and starting an impromptu jam that drew people who heard to join. I didn’t plan it, we were just beginners having a good time together. The sound was enough to draw folks in and I think that is what the camp is all about. These memories are the ones I cherish the most, because I could never have planned for them or imagined them before; they just came and went. That is what makes me want to return all the more.

Thank you to the people who made my scholarship possible. If not for the scholarships, I think it would be quite hard for younger people like me to be able to come every year. TradMad really made a huge commitment to the new generation folkies there by creating a loving environment and a youthful energy! I have to give special thanks to my friends Ben Gagliardi and Armand Aromin who showed me that I am worth listening to, they have been responsible for bringing in many a youngster such as myself.