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For one week at the end of January, Reed students upend the traditional classroom hierarchy and teach

classes about any topic they love, academic or otherwise. This week is known as Paideia after the Greek
term signifying “education” – the complete education of mind, body and spirit. What would you teach that
would contribute to the Reed community? (200 words minimum, 500 words maximum)

I call out a tune and the old-time Appalachian symphony erupts: an entrancing and lively
sound from the circle people playing fiddles, guitars, spoons, lap harps, penny flutes, and
mandolins. This scene has been a part of my life since middle school, and has played a bigger
role than I could have ever imagined. I feel the world of old-time music is a hidden treasure, not
only for its strange musical technicalities, but also because of the beautiful community which
surrounds its unique sound. I hope to gift my peers at Reed an introduction to it at Paideia,
sharing my personal story and knowledge of this unique genre.
Old-time music is different than any other genre because of its traditional way of being
shared experientially. Our music is hardly ever written down, and sheet music at a jam, dance,
or performance is almost unheard of. Learning tunes by ear, passing them from person to
person, creates a deeply intimate genre, which might explain the tight-knit community that
enjoys it. This informal manner of learning the music creates fascinating nuances within each
person’s sound and versions of tunes. Varying between regions and among generations, in
every place we travel to play, new gems are discovered. For example, coming from Texas, I
have collected an obscure repertoire of largely unknown Texas tunes, which I try to preserve
both through recording and in-person sharing.
Coming from a classical background of weekly music theory classes for seven years of
my life, I was baffled by the manner in which this music hardly follows any conventional method
of mode, time, or stylization. Esteemed fiddlers oftentimes hold their violins in their laps or
against their chest, with a fist for a bow grip -- things that would be highly criticized in classical
music circles. Often composed in segments of A and B parts, the tunes are generally very
repetitive and can be played a few times through, or for twenty minutes, depending on the
mood. Some tunes are “crooked,” with an added or missing beat or measure at the end of a
part. We also “cross tune” our instruments frequently to achieve a different sound. While these
things may only be meaningful to someone who is musically inclined, for those who understand,
it paints a starkly different picture than that which comprises the vast majority of popular music.
The diverse, kind, quirky and welcoming community of people practicing cultural arts
related to old-time music ties the scene together. Dance is integral, primarily in the forms of
square, contra, and flatfoot dancing. Like illustrations for a narrative, crankies are long scrolls of
artwork that are performed with ballads. As the artist sings, the crank is turned so that an image
is illuminated on the scroll in tempo with the ballad’s story. During Paideia, I hope to give a
glimpse of this all through sharing about my experience in hand with a mini-fiddle and guitar
lesson, a crankie demo, and a bit of dance with everyone in attendance.