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NGI Recipient: Heather Spence

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

Dear CDSS and Pinewoods,

As a gambist for about 15 years, and a member of the board of the Viola da Gamba Society of America for about 5, I was thrilled about the idea of the Viol Intensive at Early Music Week. I had heard a lot about Pinewoods from people I know who are involved and love it, and the opportunity to participate in this particular program there sounded ideal to me, to work through music and musical challenges of special interest to viol players, at a high level, in groups, with extraordinary teachers. I was also excited about the chance to be a part of the culture of Pinewoods that I had heard so much about. My interests are diverse and integrative (for instance, I’m currently researching and working on a program that explores/compares the rhythms of historical European martial arts and music from the same regions and time periods), and I looked forward to fully participating in not just my own program, but interacting with people in other programs of early music week, and dancing.

My high expectations were exceeded. The Viol Intensive classes were extremely informative, interactive and innovative. I honed my technique and ensemble skills, often going outside my comfort zone but with the security of being in a supportive group. Expert teachers Sarah Mead and Lisa Terry brought together good players and helped us find cohesion as a group and explore both our individual and group strengths and weaknesses, and grow as musicians and performers.

Yet while our specific Viol Intensive classes were certainly intense, they were not our only activity and formed part of an integrative, immersive and fun experience, from the communal activities and dining to the whole-camp dances. What better way to get inside music than to dance to it? What better way to bond with other musicians, than to dance with them? As I danced with each new person, I experienced the music in new ways, and I found that I brought the energy from dancing at night into the music I would play the next day. I felt devastated half way through the week when I twisted my ankle (just one of those things – I was just walking, not even dancing!). Despite the attentive ministrations of camp staff, it became clear that I would have to face the fact that I wouldn’t be able to participate in the dancing any more – or so I thought. I was welcomed into the dance bands and was thrilled to spend the rest of the week exploring making music for dance. Every aspect of the week was inclusive and everyone was kind, talented and welcoming.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to feel a part of the Pinewoods family and participate in such an inspiring week. I am finding many application for the new approaches, skills and strategies I learned during this week, in all my projects and especially my work exploring the intersection of music and movement.