The 2010 Cowan Creek Mountain Music School: a letter


Dear everyone,

If you were at the 2010 music school this year, you probably know me – I was the college student walking around with a camera pressed up against my eye, the “Official Cowan Creek Photographer.” If you were bothered by my borderline-compulsive need to snap a picture of anything and everything that moved, I offer my sincerest apologies and deepest assurances that I am not a stalker. If you weren’t, then I’m happy to tell you that the pictures have been posted on the website underneath “Photo Gallery” – please look at them; there are an awful lot of photos, and I need them to serve some sort of public-relations purpose to justify how many I took.

To a first-time fiddler and a first-time intern at the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School, however, those five days were about so much more than what I could capture through the lens of a camera. All I can really say was that I was absolutely blown away – by the people, the music, the joy, and the pure energy of all of these elements pulsing through the community that is Cowan Creek. I hail from a Midwest city where a tater is only a tot and a square dance is something you see in movies. The sight of a banjo was a novelty to me, let alone the sound of a whole classroom full of them.

Needless to say, then, Cowan Creek was quite the experience. I played a dulcimer for the first time. I learned that an “old-timer” isn’t just another word for “senior-citizen.” And I found out that mountain folk throw darn good potlucks. Most of all, though, I witnessed the sort of community that grows only when good people get together to play good music. I’m sitting in the Cowan Community Center as I write this, staring out the window into the trees that line the walking path. When you were here – you with your banjos and your guitars and your beat-up fiddles – these trees swam in the sounds of “Bile Them Cabbage Down” and “Chicken Reel.” They formed a canopy above six-year-old musicians and sixty-year-old musicians teaching each other exactly what these old tunes mean. And now, staring at the trees, I can almost hear it: the music that grows in this mountain soil just like Autumn Olive and string beans.

So thank you. Thank you to Stacy Dollarhide, who somehow managed to remain not only sane but also saintly as she poured her energy into organizing this year’s school. Thank you to Rich Kirby, the sound-technician extraordinaire.  Thank you to the faculty who taught me that anyone (even a college-aged, classically-trained violinist from the city) can jam, and most of all, thank you to the students, beginners and masters. You showed me that mountain music isn’t really about the notes so much as it is about the place those notes come from:  the human-to-human connection that is larger than this music, larger than this school, larger than these mountains themselves.  

May you break bow-hairs only on the best of licks and may your banjo go out of tune only when you want it to.


Jocelyn Streid

Cowan Creek Mountain Music School 2010





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