If you come to one of my shows, chances are, you might first hear the delicate nuance of fingerstyle folk guitar. You might see me throw back my head as I wail out a blues tune, or dragging a brass slide across the strings of my lapsteel guitar. And in between songs, you might hear a ghost story or three, spoken over the sounds of soft conversation.
From an early age, I started performing in coffeehouses and restaurants. Playing traditional music gave me the grounding to start writing my own material. My love of folklore and literature has led me to study the stories behind the songs, from ghost stories of the British Isles to trickster spirits and legends of the idealized American past. Music has an incredible power for myth-making – think of the songs you learned to sing as a child, lullabies and nursery rhymes. The characters in those songs likely live on in your memory for many years after you last sang them.
Over the years, I’ve done original compositions for local filmmakers and videographers, recorded medieval music for a traveling exhibit, played house concerts and alumni dinners and my own songs in the corners of neighborhood bars. Still, it’s the stories that bring meaning to the music, whether with words or without.
In 2016, I was selected as a participant for the Silkroad Ensemble’s Global Musician Workshop, a project initiated by Yo-Yo Ma bringing together musicians from around the world to perform traditional music in innovative ways. During the weeklong workshop, both in 2016 and 2017, I had the opportunity to perform alongside Abigail Washburn, Aoife O’Donovan, Bruce Molsky, and many more artists who continue to inspire me.
My experience at the workshop inspired me to write about folk music from a new perspective. I was invited to speak and perform at TEDxUNO. There, I made a case for folk music as a medium through which contemporary stories can be told: turning back to our history to express the voice of our global community. There’s something that a song can tell us about the human condition, and about ourselves, in a way that no other artistic mediums can. I believe that we have the power to create new myths through song.
At the core of my talk is this. “Telling the story of our modern global community through the stories of our ancestors, we can juxtapose past and present, traditional songs and modern instruments, myths and realities.”
In terms of community involvement, I have been teaching for the Omaha Girls Rock After-School Program since October 2017. My sessions have focused on Musical Experimentation and Women in American Traditional Music, with a special emphasis on female musicians who were instrumental in defining the archetypal American sounds. Outside of music, I have served on the the leadership team of TEDxOmaha since August 2015 and now curate Audience Experience, a responsibility that has informed my performance style and audience engagement strategies. My work here in Omaha culminated in 2017 with a nomination from the Omaha Arts and Entertainment Awards committee for Best Blues Artist.
One of my greatest joys when performing is seeing the way that songs can touch people from a distance of decades or centuries, returning through my own contemporary musical voice. In my original songs, I try to capture moments in time, and the brilliant, fleeting emotions that can accompany even the most seemingly insignificant events. Music, for me, has been a bridge – between performer and audience, between adolescence and adulthood, between my culture and the international community.