“Songsters were entertainers, providing music for every kind of social occasion in the decades before phonographs and radio. They were receptive to a wide variety of songs and music; priding themselves on their range, versatility, and capacity to pick up a tune.” (Songsters and Saints, Paul Oliver, p221)
Here’s What I Do
You’ve heard of the Deep South. Well, I play mandolin, sing, and tell stories about the Deep North, past and present.
I’m a historian with a passion for Minnesota history and local stories. I’m also a professional musician with over twenty years of experience, steeped in the traditions of Irish, Early American, blues, Tin Pan Alley and ragtime music. I’ve played all over the Upper Midwest and Saskatchewan; you can check out my bio here. I also belong to The Minnesota Field Trip Library and you can find me on their website here.
Combine these two passions and you get a performer who loves writing songs about history. You get a performer who soaks up local stories—interviews, museums, books—and connects you to a Minnesota long past but not entirely lost. You get a performer who guides you through the Deep North: The old pineries, the trading posts, the portages, the camps and the settlements.
My travels enabled me to learn a wide variety of traditional music. I get into the stories behind the songs, the roots of the roots music. So much old lore lies embedded in America’s old songs and before I play them, I love to tell you why “Leather Breeches” isn’t about pants or that “Shove The Pig’s Foot A Little Further Into The Fire” has nothing to do with pork.
Oh, and let’s not forget that music was not traditionally a spectator sport. At my show, no matter the theme, you might just be dancing or participating in a Play Party song, clapping to provide the rhythm or playing the mouth trumpet. We turn the way-back machine to a time when you cleared the cabin out, put the rug outside, and got all the guests kicking up the dust.
Traveling the Deep North via music and stories: Check out this short clip to see what it looks like!
Here Are The Programs!
Over the past two years I developed a series of programs aimed at different venues, age groups, or preferences. Each one may be tailored to meet your specific desires or needs.
Thrills And Wonders
I play solo or with my duet “The Skally Line.” You get an unparalleled mix of song and storytelling. It’s like curling up with your favorite album while you sit back and read all the liner notes…only in a group. Perfect for libraries, history centers, corporate events, Music In The Park, Art Centers, and everything in between.
The Past Is A Very Big Place To Roam
This program aims to make history live in the classroom. I conform to all Minnesota Educational Standards and teach units on everything from Native American issues, exploration, the fur trade, the logging era, pioneer struggles, The Civil War, and Prohibition. I use both broad historical context as well as first-person accounts to make these stories immediate and engaging. Then I cement it home with the music. My school history programs incorporate story, song, and participation. Your class will dance, sing a voyageur paddling song, or write their own blues. I have new material all the time!
Passing The Tradition
I can teach music to individuals or groups. Want to the teach the long history of American popular music but haven’t had time to learn all of it? I have you covered! From immigrant and ethnic music to the blues and jazz, I can not only talk about these forms, I can play and teach them!
Bounces & Wiggles
Children energize me! I offer a large and growing group of programs for youngsters, everything from sing-a-longs to play party dances. I’m in the process of learning Orff Schulwerk curricula which will broaden my services even more!
Who Is This For?
Everyone! As one of my best friends mentioned recently, “I never thought I liked history until I heard you play and talk about it.”
I perform for pre-K, to senior groups, and everyone in between. Some shows need to be more hands-on and participatory, some need to be more conversational. I respond to your group’s needs.
Recently I received an Art In The Schools Grant through the East Central Regional Art Council to do an Artist In Residency at East Central Schools north of Sandstone. I spent a week teaching kids in grades K-6 (over 450 by the end of the week) about old Minnesota by singing and telling stories. We sang together, rowed an imaginary voyageur canoe together, wrote our own blues songs, and danced together.
Check out this clip of one of my classes during that week to see how I work with young folk.
What Does It Cost?
Fees for this kind of work vary depending on circumstance. Please contact me for a firm quote that encapsulates precisely what you want and works with your budget. For example, I can often bundle shows up (i.e., do 2-3 in your neighborhood in one day) to create a savings. Nevertheless, for those who want a rough estimation of what to expect, I typically start with charges based on length of show:
$400 for a 1-hour program
$500 for a 2-hour program
$600 for a 3-hour program
Should your show—due to distance or lateness—require me to make overnight accommodations I will require either a $100 fee (for meals and hotel) or we can negotiate other lodging as appropriate.