Thursday, February 12, 2015

Folk You Very Much

An Owensboro native, Dave Howard has been a leader in Louisville’s folk-and-more music scene for over a decade now, having played mandolin in The 23 String Band and Relic, worked at Music Go Round and now, in his latest and boldest undertaking, founding the Louisville Folk School, which hold classes inside Shine studio in NuLu. He schooled me on the project.

Q: How did you get this idea? Are you financing it all yourself?

A: The St. Louis Folk School hosted The 23 String Band for a concert and a workshop a couple of years ago, and my bandmates and I were all impressed by the way their Folk School engaged their community with education and performances in a wide variety of traditional American music. We later played at a Folk School in Brooklyn that was the epicenter of old-time and folk music for the area. Louisville didn’t have a home for this music, and it’s something I wanted the community to have.

My motivation for starting a Folk School here was primarily as a service for the community. This project can only thrive if it is done for the community – it must be supported by the people it is intended to serve. We are making something out of nothing. To say that anyone financed this project would be an exaggeration. I have invested many hours traveling to music conferences and folk schools around the country over the last year-and-a-half to study how this project might get off the ground, and what could make it successful, but I hesitate to say that I financed this.

When I started getting into bluegrass music, it was a bit of a challenge at first because I didn’t grow up listening to that type of music. There are dozens of tunes that are standards – many people that play bluegrass music appear to instinctively know all of these songs, and the non-verbal language that goes along with playing the music. If you have not had years of exposure to the music, it’s a challenge to learn to play in that style. The Folk School helps interested musicians jump that hurdle by letting people immerse themselves in different disciplines related to bluegrass, old-time, jug band and other folk genres.

Q: What are some classes you’re offering?

A: Each of our eight-week sessions will offer beginner classes in banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and guitar, as well as classes for non-beginners. I’m excited about the beginner classes because they will be bringing new people into our music community. Our ensemble classes are also proving to be incredibly fun! We have a jug band ensemble and a bluegrass band ensemble this session – both of which are having a blast learning to play tunes just as a band would. The bluegrass ensemble class is also learning how to jam in informal groups, which is a huge part of the bluegrass music community worldwide.

Many of the best traditional music instructors in Louisville are teaching at Louisville Folk School. We are really lucky to have such a solid group of instructors with many years of performance and instruction experience, almost all of whom I have studied under, and performed with, myself.

Q: How many bands are you in today? How many need schooling?

A: Zing! Ha ha! Relic is a bluegrass band that I’ve played in for the last 10 years. We perform a free show every Wednesday night at the Monkey Wrench. I’ve recently been playing bass guitar with Scott Carney and Heavy Friends, which has been a fun departure from my other projects. I have a progressive bluegrass band called Esteemed Colleagues that plays weddings, dances and private events. There are a couple other contra/square dance bands that I play with when they call me, and that’s always fun for me.

I am currently taking fiddle lessons as part of a Kentucky Arts Council Masters Apprenticeship Grant with Scott Moore, who is also the fiddle teacher at Louisville Folk School. Taking lessons is fun for me. We are all on a path toward improving ourselves as musicians, performers, writers and teachers. I wouldn’t tell anyone they need schooling in that respect, but I hope we will never stop learning.

c. 2015 The Voice-Tribune

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