Search Results for "Ryan Spearman"

Ryan Spearman CD release

H and I tried to see the blogged Carolina Chocolate Drops a few Friday nights ago at the Saint Louis Art Museum, but it was too packed. The museum picked a small gallery rather than the auditorium, probably due to construction. Even after expanding to two shows, there was not enough space.

The plan had been to head to the Focal Point for blogged Ryan Spearman‘s CD release party after the Chocolate Drops. I have learned a lot from Ryan at the often blogged Folk School, and he has let me play the three times blogged Atomic Cowboy Open Mic, lauded by the Riverfront Times. Unable to see the Chocolate Drops, we went ahead. Ryan packed the place and put on a great show. The promoted CD is certainly worth your dollars. A studio album is in the pipeline.

My schedule is opening up a little for the next few weeks. I look forward to hearing a little more music and to playing more myself. I hope to revisit the Atomic Cowboy Open Mic to catch Ryan and other friends performing and to sing, pick and saw a little myself. Come out!

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Michael M. on March 23rd 2010 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

The Lulus’ Best

The Riverfront Times awarded the blogged Lulus, in which H fiddles, with Best Folk Band in Arts and Entertainment of the Best of St. Louis 2011. They knock off blogged friend Ryan Spearman who was Best Folk Artist 2010. Below is the video from their channel on YouTube of their performance of “Single Girl” at the Sheldon Ballroom opening for Ryan. It was a great night for them, Ryan and us in the audience. Check out their list of upcoming shows and see them where they are their best, live.

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Michael M. on September 27th 2011 in General, Live, Music

Indiana fiddling

The blogged Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering, also known as Battle Ground, was great again. H and I headed out to Battle Ground, Indiana late Friday morning. We had a few great days camping and playing with Ryan Spearman and many others at the Tippecanoe Battlefield. It was packed with fun. I hope I can go to another festival somehow before the season ends.


Michael M. on June 28th 2010 in General, Music

Dance May 3 and more

Every year, the staff and students of the favorite Folk School play a spring contra for the Childgrove Country Dancers. I have played in the huge Wall of Sound band for the last three years, and it has been terrific fun every time. This year’s dance falls on Sunday, May 3, 2009. It will be at the Monday Club 37 S Maple Ave, Webster Groves, MO 63119. A short workshop will start at 6:30 PM, and the dance will begin at 7 PM.

I also tried performing by myself. The Atomic Cowboy has an open mic night every Monday. Musician, teacher and friend Ryan Spearman hosts it. I got up last weekend and played “Spike Driver Blues,” “Fishing Blues,” “Buck Dancer’s Choice,” “I’m Satisfied,” my own guitar arrangement of “Magnolia One Step” from the twice blogged Nations Brothers and an original instrumental in D. My performance was rough, but I had a good time. I will play again April 27, 2009 at 9:45 PM with two friends.

Finally, old-time music is coming back to the Cabin Inn now that the Cabin has been back for a while. It located at the City Museum that I often mention here on the blog. When it was open the first time, various local old-time musicians were frequent performers. With the revival of the Cabin, some friends are trying to revive its old-time tradition. Wednesday old-time jams starting at 7 PM have been going for two weeks. I made the last one and had a good time. I hope to play with them more in the future.

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Michael M. on April 26th 2009 in General, Live, Music

Folk School Fiddle Contest 2012

The favorite Folk School held its second annual Fiddle Contest this past Sunday afternoon in Strauss Park at Grand Center. I never had entered a contest before. I did not expect to make this one. It fell on a work day last year, and this year, I had been on home call every other night for the two weeks prior. Work ended with plenty of time to go, though. I thought of a few favorite tunes to play, and H and I headed over.

The Root Diggers, a local old-time band, opened the afternoon. They played a good set to get everybody in the right frame of mind. I spent the time looking for an accompanist.  I asked blogged friend  Ryan Spearman to back me up. To my delight, he asked the same of me. We learned how to back up one another’s tunes just in time. Local musicians Geoff Seitz, Marc Rennard and Gary Hunt judged the contest, and banjoist Dave Landreth served as master of ceremonies.

I did not win, but I still had a good afternoon. I decided on a Mississippi themed program. I just could not play my first tune, “Possum on a Rail,” how I wanted. I felt bad while messing up the first tune because I knew that I had two more to go. My next one, “Tombigbee Waltz,” went a bit better. On the last tune, “Sullivan’s Hollow,” I tried to let it flow, and it was good fun. I backed up Ryan a few contestants later, and he won second place.

KDHX posted these photographs from the contest. The set is on Flickr, too. Here I am fiddling with Ryan on guitar, and here I am on guitar backing up Ryan. The Folk School has this album on Facebook. Friend Bob Clark posted this album on Facebook, too. It probably is only viewable if you have the right Facebook friendship. He is fond of the slogans, “Old-time music: More fun than it looks!” and “Old-time music: Better than it sounds!” I promise that I was having more fun that it appears.

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Michael M. on September 12th 2012 in General, Live, Music

Winning Earth Day Again

H and I teamed with Doug Foehner to form the Trash Tones for this year’s Green Strum Band Scramble at St. Louis Earth Day. The rain and wind were intermittent enough to let the event happen. I blogged last year about winning the band scramble. The blogged Green Strum Project, headed by blogged friend Ryan Spearman and Kelly Wells, had a tent again this year with JR Scott and a crew of others. Kelly promoted the event on local station KTVI in this segment. H built a bow for the fiddle that we made last year, and I built a cigar box instrument somewhere between a guitar and a mandolin. Doug played a bucket slide guitar. We won against the Chlorphyllians and the Trash Truck Revival with our song “Solar, Wind and Waves.” Our prize was tickets to LouFest!

“Solar, Wind and Waves” by the Trash Tones


Solar, wind and waves,
They'll be here all our days.
Renewable, reusable,
They don't make no waste.
Instrumental over chorus chords

Verse 1:
Nuclear, petroleum, natural gas and coal,
They're powering our cars and homes,
But crushing all our souls.


Instrumental over chorus chords

Verse 2:
We can't go through out lives just digging up the past.
We must make it better now
If this world's going to last.


Instrumental over chorus chords

Update April 23, 2012: This video on YouTube is up!

Update April 30, 2012: This message of thanks from St. Louis Earth Day links to the video above and to this post with the lyrics and chords.


Michael M. on April 22nd 2012 in General, Live, Mine, Music, Recorded

Folk School, Kinky and Prine

The first weekend of December provided a musical feast.

That Thursday featured blogged Betse Ellis opening by herself. She plays in the Wilders, but this time she filled the stage with her voice, her fiddle and a little stomping. She played to help the favorite Folk School celebrate its tenth anniversary. It was a great night. The duo of blogged Pokey LaFarge and blogged friend Ryan Spearman followed. They made Thursday night. I only wish they had filled the Sheldon. KDHX has these photographs, and the Riverfront Times published broader coverage of the anniversary.

Since the concert, I have joined the Folk School Board of Directors although my name is not on the page yet. I learned to fiddle there, and I took up the banjo with help from Folk School classes. I learned new guitar styles and even taught one class, Introduction to Fingerstyle Guitar. I continue as a student, and I hope to teach again someday. Serving the Folk School in a new capacity is an honor, and I hope to contribute to continued success and growth.

In the nights after the anniversary concert, H and I saw twice blogged Kinky Friedman again at Off Broadway. It was his Hanukkah Tour. The jokes do not change much from show to show, but I still enjoy them every time. We stayed for part of the 1st Annual Hanukkah Hullaballoo with the Brothers Lazaroff, but I tired out early.

The next night was twice blogged John Prine at the Touhill. The review on the KDHX blog covers the basics. Blogged Jason Isbell opened with a solo acoustic set. Some of his betters songs worked in the format, but his electric rock is better. Prine was terrific. He played his familiar greats, both accompanied by his band and alone. He performed without appearing tired or resentful of past successes. He seemed grateful and charming, and he gave more than straight reproductions. I have wanted to see him in person for a while, and doing so easily met expectations. I hope I can attend more of his concerts in the future.

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Michael M. on January 31st 2012 in General, Live, Music

Musical weekend

The first weekend of October was a terrific one for music. I intended to blog about it then, but here I am.

The weekend began, in a sense, Thursday night at the Wood. I hosted the jam session there. The favorite Folk School has started having a jam on every first Thursday. I filled in for usual host  blogged friend Ryan Spearman. The beginning was worrisome. I arrived right at 6 PM. Nobody joined me for over half an hour. We eventually got going and had a nice session. I would love to do it again. I got paid, too!

The next evening, H and I returned to the Folk School for Fiddle Fest, part of Maplewood’s Arts and Eats Walk. H, Kelly Wells and I set up in a small alcove off the sidewalk along Manchester Road the street from Shop and Save. We had enormous fun. I fiddled. Kelly played guitar, and H played mandolin. We put out an open case, and we got tips. Folks from toddlers to the elderly stopped to listen. Then we got free Jimmy John’s.

Sam Bush played the Sheldon that night. We had planned on skipping it, but we got free tickets. H had seen him earlier that day at the Old Post Office Plaza. She registered for a drawing. On our drive to the Folk School, she got a call that the original winner passed on the tickets. It was a high energy show. I particularly enjoyed his fiddling. He has a strong down bow style. The Cardinals were in the playoffs that night. The action stopped periodically to announce the scores. When they won, the sound man threw up his arms. Everyone cheered. The guitarist must have thought he played the best solo of his life.

The Folk School held a jam at the Kirkwood Farmers’ Market. Jams there have become semi-regular events. It was chilly for that time of year, but I had a good time.

At Off Broadway, H and I caught another show featuring the three times blogged Rum Drum RamblersMonads and the Wilders. I have enjoyed the Ramblers every time, going back to running into them at Meshuggah years back. All acts were high energy. The Wilders, unfortunately, are nearing the end as a band. I have been fortunate enough to see them another time recently. Their fiddler Betse Ellis needs to spend more time in Saint Louis.

The weekend was memorable. I made more money playing than I did watching. I think that is a first. Up to this point, it remains an only.

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Michael M. on December 29th 2011 in General, Live, Music

Banjo in 2011

The KDHX blog has this post regarding 2011 banjo events. Several of the links are great. In particular, H and I watched Give Me the Banjo. The program is available streaming. Local PBS affiliate KETC paired it with this segment on blogged friend Ryan Spearman.

Along the same lines, Waxy Links pointed to You shall Hear things, Wonderful to tell on Metafilter. It provides background on the mentioned O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. The movie, mostly through its music, made a great difference to me. It got me playing more, and I added fiddle, mandolin and banjo in the years since. It got enough others playing that I found a community.

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Michael M. on December 27th 2011 in General, Music, Recorded

Upcycling music

I was idly listening to To the Best of Our Knowledge on KWMU while eating a sandwich when it seized my attention. The episode was Upcycling, something I certainly support, but I was not listening closely. Then the segment Mark Frauenfelder on “Made by Hand” began. Frauenfelder is the co-founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of Make magazine. I found this older video from his appearance on the Colbert Report. Several of his projects are musical instruments, including a cigar box guitar he played on the Colbert show. TTBOOK also pointed me to Cigar Box Nation, an amazing web site dedicated to homemade musical instruments.

The segment also brought several local friends to mind. The blogged Green Strum Project, by friends Kelly Wells, director of the favorite Folk School and member of the the blogged Lulus, and blogged Ryan Spearman, have many of the same goals. Back in the spring, my band scramble group the Dumpster Divers won at Earth Day. Teammate Jr and I played two of his cigar box guitars for the win. He has this page on Cigar Box Nation for his Crooked Box Guitars.

Because upcycling is local by its nature, I am happy to know local folks in an endeavor gaining the national attention of public radio. At the same time, their projects extend beyond the local. I  hope that my local friends gain wider attention, too.

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Michael M. on October 9th 2011 in General, Music

The Tillers

The Tillers played the favorite Folk School . H and I went on a whim. See this video by blogged friend Ryan Spearman and this one by John Hotze. They are a three man folk group from Cincinnati. They switched around on classic string band instruments. The vocal harmonies were the best, though. I got too sleepy to make it the whole way through the show, but I am glad to have caught what I did.

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Michael M. on August 19th 2011 in General, Live, Music

Folk School on Cityscape

KWMU local arts program Cityscape featured the beloved Folk School on today’s program. The last Folk School segment, as far as I know, was on the blogged May 27, 2005 program. Friends director Kelly Wells and blogged instructor Ryan Spearman were interviewed today. They also performed two jug band numbers, “Yes She Do, No She Don’t” and “Take It Slow and Easy.” Their blogged Green Strum Project got some well deserved promotion. Listen to enjoy the songs at to learn more.

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Michael M. on August 12th 2011 in General, Music

Green Strum album

Blogged friend Ryan Spearman started his twice blogged Green Strum Project with wife Kelly Wells. They promised of an album dedicated to sustainability. Get Along Home was released June 18, 2011. You can find my name among the sponsors inside the cover. So far, my favorite song is “Willie McGee” about former Cardinals great Willie McGee. The Riverfront Times ran this fittingly flattering review.

Ryan will play the Sheldon Friday, August 26, 2011. The blogged Lulus, featuring H on fiddle along with Kelly and some twin harmonizing, will open. The Sheldon is one of Saint Louis’ great concert spaces. It should be a great night.

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Michael M. on July 16th 2011 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

Kinky and Big Smith

I realized that I never posted about  Kinky Friedman‘s concert at Off Broadway nearly two months ago after mentioning it. It was a great part of a whirlwind day. I slept in and checked Facebook to find one high school friend’s post about encountering another common friend in the coffee shop in his downtown office building. She happened to be killing time while visiting someone else. I had a good time catching up at Bridge and then Over/Under. H came out after work and got to meet one of my old friends.

Then H and I headed down to Off Broadway. The show was great even with its imperfections. He stumbled on a few songs, but the overall effect was hilarity. He has abundant biting satire for politicians past and contemporary with little held back. He also has some of the best jokes I know and would not repeat in writing. I would reflect for hours after the show and laugh some more.

This past Friday night, favorite Big Smith played the Old Rock House. Openers Brad and Auset Sarno played a good set of about an hour. The steel guitar was especially good. Mark Bilyeu joined them for a few at the end. Then Mark came back out with Big Smith, and they played their kind of raucous show. I have seen enough Big Smith that I do not need to hear their biggest songs, but they have a relationship with the audience of delivering the ones they have played hundreds of times. A new addition was “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Watch its classic music video on YouTube. It was one of those unexpected bluegrass/rock adaptations that works well. I got to visit with their road manager, another high school friend, as well as friends from work, blogged Ryan Spearman and the blogged Lulus. I am on nights for the great majority of June. Fridays are my nights off, and it was a good break.

Unfortunately, work made me miss a favorite. This weekend is the blogged Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering, better known as Battle Ground. A good contingent from Saint Louis always goes, and many small groups must be playing late into the night right now. Other friends are camping locally and picking. They must be having a fine time, too. Maybe next year will work out better.

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Michael M. on June 26th 2011 in General, Live, Music

Map Room gig May 6, 2011

I will play at the Map Room on May 6, 2011 for the second set of a 7-10 PM concert as twice blogged. Blogged Ryan Spearman and I will substitute for some missing Lulus. Our set list is in the air. We will play somewhat off the cuff, but we have spent plenty of time playing together in the past.

My only hope is that it works out. Les Filles du Jazz had been scheduled then. The nights were supposed to be swapped because the Lulus will participate May 7, 2011 in the trivia night for the beloved Folk School. I hope both groups do not show up planning to play!

In other Folk School news, the blogged Wall of Sound played last night’s Childgrove Country Dancers contra dance. H and I participated in the massive fiddle section. It was great fun as always.


Michael M. on May 2nd 2011 in General, Live, Music

Winning Earth Day

As planned, I entered the Green Strum Project Band Scramble at St. Louis Earth Day with H. The weather was perfect. Blogged friend Ryan Spearman is behind the Green Strum Project with his wife Kelly Wells. As luck had it, H and I ended up on the same team with two other friends. We brought our own fiddles, but we did not need them. We played two cigar box guitars, an olive oil can slide banjo and a salt canister fiddle. H and I constructed the salt canister fiddle using a board for the neck, a salt canister for the resonator, an orange juice cap for the bridge and screws for the nut and tuning pegs. It was quiet, but effective. As the Dumpster Divers, we composed “Dumpster Diving” and performed it for a first place finish! We won tickets to LouFest. Watch the shaky camera video on Facebook. It was a great day.

“Dumpster Diving” by the Dumpster Divers


Verse 1:
D                Dsus4 D
Your trash is my treasure.
G               Gadd2 G
Your junk is my art.
D            Dsus4 D
You throw it away.
I take it apart.

D               Dsus4 D
Roaming through alleys,
G               Gadd2  G
Looking through bins,
I see something.
A7              D-Db-D
I dive right in!

Dumpster diving!
It's surprising
What we're finding
Dumpster diving!

Instrumental over verse chords

Verse 2:
Old cigar boxes,
Futon frames,
Add some strings, and
Now we're playing.

Put it together.
Make something new.
Where there was nothing,
A green song grew.


Instrumental over verse chords

Verse 3:
Diving in the city,
Diving in the county,
Head to St. Charles,
To check out the bounty.

It used to be theirs, and
Now it's ours.
My guitar's made of
Cuban cigars.


Instrumental over verse chords


Put it together.
Make something new.
Where there was nothing,
A green song grew.


Update April 24, 2011: Local blog Book of MY has this post about the festival that includes pictures of the Dumpster Divers as we practiced.


Michael M. on April 17th 2011 in General, Live, Music

Spring 2011 gigs

I have found a few holes in my schedule for attention to my musical hobbies. Some have happened through the beloved Folk School. I am a repeated student of the Old-Time Ensemble, and this session is a good one. A new addition has been Jazz Guitar with Dave Black. I have given some attention to my curiosity about jazz arrangements and the closed chord voicings. I only wish I did not have to miss so many of the classes.

The best outing was a trip to Phoenix. My sister married at the Phoenix Zoo, and H accompanied me. She negotiated with the United Airlines crew to get my guitar in the coat compartment on the trip out, but I had to check it on the way back. I played an instrumental “You Are My Sunshine” as the recessional. Otherwise, I just operated the iPod. After the ceremony, we had fun wandering around the zoo. Along with seeing family I have been missing for a while, I got to reunite with my twice blogged canine pal Ralph. H and I also climbed around Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park. Best wishes to Lib!

Last night, H and I visited Ellen the Felon and Lang-a-Tang Langen Wednesday Open Mic at Foam Coffee and Beer. I had heard about it some time ago, and I have been wanting to go. I knew our friends Kate and Joeboy of the Spot Ons had played there, and I thought they might be there. Indeed, they were. They played a great set.

We saw a few more acts and were ready to go home. By that time, we were next on the list, though, so we stayed and played. We have a band name, the twice blogged Bootstrappers, but I forgot to use it when I signed us up. Ellen saw H’s fiddle and my guitar and told us her sound system was breaking up and unable to accommodate us. We played in front of the stage with no amplification. We opened with “Sleepy Desert” and then played blogged “Louis Collins” and favorite “Stagger Lee.” “Sleepy Desert” is one we had played before at the often blogged Atomic Cowboy Open Mic, and it went well. The others were new for us. We managed well enough.

The neighborhood and social scene were a change. The crowd inside was younger and had a different senses of style than what I usually encounter. The surrounding neighborhood has become a vibrant mix of African-Americans, Latino immigrants and young white adults. Many people zipped by on bicycles as we sat. Antique Row is close by on the same street. I was happy to see a store for beloved Popeyes just south on Jefferson.

We were welcomed. After we played, host Ellen invited us to a musical parade set for next Monday. I, unfortunately, will be working. The parade will happen somewhere around the Lemp Brewery as part of the Venice Cafe Open Mic. She also co-hosts that one. I have not been, but I hope to go.

These gigs have not been real gigs, but open mics and my own sister’s wedding. I lack time to pursue music as more than a hobby, but I am going to hitchhike my way to something better. As mentioned recently, blogged Ryan Spearman and I will fill in for some missing Lulus. Come out to see us May 6, 2011 at the Map Room.


Michael M. on April 14th 2011 in General, Live, Music

Late to show

Mark Neilsen tells how he became a professional singer and guitarist in “Watching the Bluegrass Grow” in the St. Louis Beacon. He plays in three times blogged local bluegrass band  River Bound with H. They formed through the Bluegrass Ensemble class at the beloved Folk School. As covered in the article, River Bound has upcoming gigs Saturday, April 16 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm for an show at the Wine Press and Friday, June 17 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm at Third Degree Glass Factory for the June Third Friday Open House. Performances in the past year or so have included Oceano Bistro, the Clayton Farmer’s Market, Six Row Brewery, Schlafly Bottleworks for a Folk School benefit, Cafe Ventana for the Moun Pou Moun Haiti benefit and the Wine Press.

H also has been active with the Lulus, the premiere St. Louis all female country and roots band. They have played the Map Room, the often blogged Atomic Cowboy Open Mic, Cafe Ventana for the same benefit as above, Foam Coffee and Beer for the I Went to a Show‘s First Show, BB’s for Guitars for Vets and Black Bear Bakery. See their list of gigs to catch a show soon. Upcoming farmers markets include Webster Groves, Clayton and Kirkwood along with less agriculturally based shows at Pop’s Blue Moon, Black Bear Bakery and the Map Room. Lulus fans include such luminaries as a third to a half of Uncle Tupelo and blogged friend Ryan Spearman. Ryan and I will play with half of the Lulus to fill in for the other half of the band for the second half of the May 6, 2011 show at the Map Room.

H bought us Street Performers Permits from the City of St. Louis Department of Streets. We now are in compliance with St. Louis City Revised Code Chapter 20.55. Not all of the city is open to busking. I made this map to show the prohibited areas. We have not used the permits yet. The weather has not been good enough, but that problem is ending. Look for the blogged Bootstrappers on a nearby sidewalk soon.

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Michael M. on April 11th 2011 in General, Live, Music


Twice blogged Pokey LaFarge took the Off Broadway stage Friday night with his South City Three to great enthusiasm. I had been ready for the show since reading Jack White ‘s mention of him in this New York Times ArtsBeat Blog post. The crowd was as excited and appreciative as possible.

Blogged friend Ryan Spearman opened the night. Ryan and Pokey both draw from America’s musical traditions, but the styles are different. Pokey’s is slick suits and polish while Ryan’s is straight and rootsy. They crowd was still very appreciative. Ryan played his mix of fingerstyle guitar, banjo and fiddle tunes to a great reception. Friends Doug and Sharon Foehner joined him and added a bluesy style.

Two Swingin’ Picks follwed Ryan. They play a jazzy guitars backed by upright bass. They have a smooth style. The crowd greeted them with another warm reception.

Then the South City Three took the stage. Johnny Vegas briefly replaced Pokey LaFarge. Everybody seemed to enjoy the April Fool’s joke. Finally, Pokey LaFarge took the stage and played for a good long time. I had tried to catch his show before, but obstacles had always intervened. I am happy to have been there. The group is tight polished. The show featured stop time bits, snatched of harmony singing and crowd banter with precision. I think they have a few more shows in town this year, and I highly recommend them.


Michael M. on April 5th 2011 in General, Live, Music

Green Strum Band Scramble

H and I were listening to KDHX this afternoon when we heard an announcement for St. Louis Earth Day. The festivities will include the Green Strum Project Band Scramble on April 17, 2011. Friends Kelly Wells, new director of the favorite Folk School, and blogged Ryan Spearman are behind the Green Strum Project. Participants will be assigned randomly to bands with the challenge of creating a band, a new instrument from old materials and a short performance. H and I just signed up and look forward to the fun!

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Michael M. on April 2nd 2011 in General, Live, Music

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.