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Dreams coming true, building an Americana Music School

Posted by fiddlerdi on Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I am way overdue for a blog post and honestly haven't been on the Hangout much these days.  I have had some wonderful opportunities come my way lately.  Most recently attending the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival, in Winfield Kansas and getting to play on stage at 5 different times...when I first attended this festival in 1984,  I had just graduated from High School and was just getting aquainted with Fiddle Music.  I loved it SO much that I knew that it was the music that was in my heart to play.  I still remember hearing Norman  Blake playing "Hand me Down my Walking Cane".  Those seeds were planted in fertile ground and it wouldn't be long before I hooked up with a group of players that gave me my first opportunities to play the fiddle without reading music.  My Dad and Mom both played piano, and my Grandpa, who I only met once was a professional musician.  Playing the kind of music I liked was not highly regarded in our family. In fact it was too close to the poor family lifestyle that my Dad had growing up.  My mom told me that her grandfather played the fiddle but I never knew him and she only brought it up a couple of times. So no family influence or fiddler to learn at his or her knee the old time tunes. So I searched it out and taught myself over the years and met lots of helpful, interesting players that really liked the same styles that I did.

Well that brings me to the next dream coming true which is to start a "roots" music school here in Topeka, Ks.  I have been an instructor at the Americana Music Academy in Lawrence for the past eight years.  I also had my own private studio here in Topeka.  I have taught a lot of people of all ages to play fiddle, mando, and guitar.  It has been the most rewarding experience of my life and now I would like to extend the opportunites to give the gift of music on a larger scale. I will say that if you want to really learn what you do, try teaching it to someone else.  So a couple of months ago I ran into a gal who was the Pastor of the Potwin Presbyterian Church, who also played the Banjo and guitar...we got together to play music, since she is a songwriter and she told me that the church was having a hard time staying in their building with their small congregation and they were considering having to leave to join with another church.  They owned their building but were having trouble with the expenses of the building.  I was telling her about wanting to open a music school and she said the one thing they had was space. So I went downtown to look around the church and there in the Lower level of this 1920's church was a small performance hall.  That was something we had never had at the other location in Lawrence and something we badly needed.  There were several large rooms for teaching and jamming in the old daycare center and they even had a large kitchen adjacent to the performance hall. Perfect in my eyes for what I had in mind and only $300.00 a month plus 10 percent of the utilities....So this Saturday we have our first community jam.  We have about 10 students starting there next week  and many more to come I hope and pray. God's had his hand in this too.  So far I've had to pay the first couple of months rent out of my pocket but I know that will change with more students and donations. It's going to be such a good thing for our town, our current musicians and future musicians because we are going to finally have a gathering place and performance place for the styles of music we love.  We will have an instrument bank and hopefully scholarships for people who cannot afford lessons in the near future. One thing for sure is a whole lot more people are going to have a local place to come to learn to play the music they love.  Kids will have a place to jam and play their music too.  Retired people can come to learn an instrument now that they have time to learn.  We are also going to have a concert series and I am lining up musicians to come and play and give workshops. If you are ever in the area be sure to stop by for coffee and a tune or too.

As if this wasn't enough to keep me out of trouble and busier than ever, I have one more amazing thing that is coming up.  A couple of years ago I co-produced a CD with a good artisit friend of mine, Cally Krallman.  We wrote (Cally=lyrics + Diane=music) 15 songs about Kansas people, places and historical events, recorded them in Kansas with all Kansas artists and created Prairie Glimpses, The Kansas Song Project.  This January for the Kansas 150th birthday, the Topeka Symphony will perform a medley of 7 of these pieces that has been scored for Orchestra and Acoustic Band with Several of the CD artists and a Slideshow of Kansas images behind the orchestra. The performance is January 15th, 2011.  The performance will also be repeated for hundreds of northeast Kansas school children ages 5th through 8th grade with ciriculum on the project.  I just cannot even imagine how it will be to hear my music played by the Orchestra I grew up playing in as a young woman.  It has come full circle to bring what I experienced as young musician to combine with the best of both music worlds of then and now.  I am just amazed at how this has all come about.  I am also very humbled by the experience and thankful for the guidance of all who have made these dreams a reality.


5 comments on “Dreams coming true, building an Americana Music School”

Cyndy Says:
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @9:06:54 PM

I'm excited for you, but I'm also excited for the students you'll reach. I'm having the time of my life because a group of people got together in 1957 and opened a folk music school in Chicago. What a wonderful thing for you and your community.

harwilli55 Says:
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @3:36:43 AM

Congratulations Di !!! What a wonderful idea and I hope that it will enjoy the success you wish. And the icing on the cake ....having your own music featured and performed throughout the whole state.....what a fantastic recognition !!!

FiddleJammer Says:
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @6:41:31 AM

You go, girl !!! What an inspiration.

bj Says:
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @10:13:09 AM

WOWOWOW!!! I'm so happy for you! It all sounds GREAT!

brya31 Says:
Friday, October 1, 2010 @3:10:39 PM

Way to go Di!!!!!!

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