Update, 1:30 p.m.: This is a huge moment for the Folk School -- in addition to the merger with KDHX, the organzation is making plans to move into a new facility in Grand Center. We've asked executive director Kelly Wells about the changes, and her thoughts have been added below.
Don't call it a recital. Recitals hoist reluctant kids on stage with itchy sweaters, clarinets and lame concertos to play...concertos, man. The Folk School of St. Louis Showcase this Wednesday is a concert. The performers just happen to be students. Approximately 125 of them, ranging from uncalloused first-timers to blistering-fast old hands, will take the stage at Off Broadway on Oct. 17 (tonight!) for the Folk School's biannual folk and roots music review. This particular showcase marks the first since the School officially became a service of KDHX (88.1 FM) -- in doing so it follows such institutions as Twangfest.
Founded in 2001, the Folk School of St. Louis offers instrumental lessons in an array of folk traditions, from bluegrass and blues to jazz and jug band, for all experience levels and age levels -- 16 to 75-years old for this showcase.
You're bound to hear more than a few familiar tunes, zero concertos and get an up-close look at the St. Louis's folk-scene farm system. We talked to executive director Kelly Wells about the communal aspect of folk music and shoving about 75 newbies onstage for the first time.
Brian Heffernan: Can you tell us how and why the recent merger with KDHX happened and what you think about it?
Kelly Wells: Well I think it's a wonderful thing. I can easily start by saying that. I think the reason it happened is because as non-for-profits go on more and more they realize that partnerships are important. And at the Folk School we've really been looking for partnerships in St. Louis that could really support out mission, and KDHX obviously does that. Their mission is to build community through media, and our mission is to build community through traditional music.
So we basically were working toward the same thing. And we had been making a concentrated effort as the Folk School, and from the Folk School board to really reach out to some local organizations and KDHX has made up a lot of that. The more we partnering with them, the more we realized how likeminded organizations were and how we had a lot of things to offer eachother. KDHX provides great support for the Folk School. We were a one-staff folk school. I was the only salaried employee, and our instructors were there to teach the classes, so it provides a lot of support for me. And then, we provide education for KDHX, which is something that they were really interested in and expanding. So it was like this perfect, perfect step that made a lot of sense. So, it's exciting.
Can you tell me anything about the new facility you're moving into in Grand Center?
Well, we are looking a new facility in Grand Center, and we are making plans to move that direction on the first of the year.
Who do you think benefits more from this recital? The students or the audience?
Kelly Wells: That's a great question. I definitely think there's a mutual benefit. One thing I like about this is that it gives a lot of them their first opportunity to get on a stage--a professsional stage--and see what its like to get up and perform. And for some musicians that's not what they're planning on doing with their music, but I often think its a great way to develop what you're doing and to learn to hone your skills. So, while I do think the audience gets a lot of enjoyment out of it, the development of the students is really a great benefit.
How many students would you say that this is their first time on stage?
Some of the students would have done our showcases before, so they have had that experience, but this session we have probably about 50 brand new students to the Folk School, and I would wager that most of them have probably not had stage experience. They're all new players. So, I would say that maybe about half of our student base, which would be about 75 students, I guess.
Wow. There seems to be a firm since of community within the Folk School. How much do you attribute that to the communal nature of folk music itself?
Well, I think that's a huge, huge part of it. And in my opinion, that's what folk music is all about. It's a community music. It's music that can be passed from one person to the next. It's a kind of music that doesn't require reading music in the traditional style. It's definitely an accessible form of music. And traditionally, folk music was there for dances and for people to enjoy it. So, I think it's kind of a nautral community builder on its own. We do a lot to kind of build community through events and offerings, but I think it makes it awfully easy because the music just kind of lends itself to it.