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NGI Recipient: Molly Wexler-Romig

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - Harmony of Song & Dance (2015)

Wow! I am beyond grateful to have been a recipient of the extraordinarily generous NGI scholarship for the Harmony of Song and Dance CDSS session this year at Pinewoods! I had heard the rumors, but my own experience confirmed them: Pinewoods is a truly magical place bubbling with joy and reverence for traditions, bursting with creativity and dedication to crafts of beauty. I felt very welcomed into this warm and inviting community filled with people of talent who are willing to stretch themselves and reach out to each other. I was simultaneously able to relish in the pure delights of the pond, the incredible food, and the transcendent music, and also encouraged to dig deeper, challenge myself, and ask difficult questions. Harmony of Song and Dance at Pinewoods exceeded my expectations and turned out to be an amazing, immersive adventure that I am so lucky to have been a part of.

Although there were many precious moments at camp, some seemingly quite mundane, one outstanding highlight was that I took a leap of faith, and performed a song with someone I met just that week at the Roadhouse night! Given that I hadn’t performed in years and I hardly knew anyone at camp, my ability to do this is a testimony to how easy it is to make friends at Pinewoods and to get up the courage to perform. Everyone was so encouraging! And we were absolutely fabulous if I do say so myself.

Of course, with such an intense experience, there are going to be some lows as well as highs. As someone who is accustomed to working hard and having a lot of responsibilities, my personal challenge was making peace with the prospect of a whole week devoted to fun, relaxation, and learning. On the flip side, having a schedule, chores, and classes to go to comforted that anxiety, and in fact I often felt overwhelmed with options! Part of me wishes that there were nine hours without anything scheduled so I wouldn’t “miss out” by getting much-needed rest instead of attending late-night activities or breakfast, or both.

I have two small constructive comments to make as well. First, this really isn’t a big deal, but I noticed that the session was heavily tilted toward older participants. I am so appreciative of the opportunity to learn from and share with older generations, but I do think a better age balance would have added to my enjoyment. Second, I suspect that the NGI opportunity primarily attracts people already heavily involved in the wider dance community Pinewoods caters to. I get this sense from the fact that it is not publicly advertised, and that applicants need a references from a previous camper. I think it would be great to make Pinewoods accessible to those who otherwise wouldn’t even consider it a possibility enough to apply, by spreading the word about the NGI beyond the social circles of current Pinewoods participants.

But enough nit-picking! All in all, I am overjoyed I was able to benefit from the NGI scholarship program. Beyond the hours of gratifying musical experiences, exhilarating dancing, and newfound friends, one concrete takeaway was the valuable repertoire I collected – songs that I can teach people, often with stories attached, passing along the traditions! Without the NGI scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of the extensive knowledge brought by the staff, would not have necessarily set aside time to developing musical skills, and would have missed out on connecting with the like-minded and incredibly kind people at camp. I enthusiastically hope the NGI lives on to support future campers in having the time of their lives at CDSS sessions and beyond at Pinewoods!

Thank you, thank you!