Rocky Grass Song School and Festival with Paul Reisler

8/14/04
I just returned from the Rocky Grass Song School and Festival in beautiful Lyons, CO. I taught a class called “Musicianship” to singer/songwriters. The staff was made up of many fine artists. Many of the students are professionals with careers who come there to learn more about songwriting, the business, to have their minds stretched, to hang out with their fellow artists, and just to be in the beautiful Colorado setting. It was a beehive of creativity, intelligence, and musicality. I was asked to teach there through my friend Paul Reisler, with whom I just recorded a cd “At Night the Roses Tango”. I have to digress a little and tell anyone reading this what an important person Paul has been in my musical life.

For years he was the leader of the acoustic folk group Trapezoid. I met Paul and the other ‘Zoids at The Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1982 (I was playing with bassist Brian Torff). After our meeting, Paul hired me to play on several recordings that he produced, and then recommended me to teach harmonica at The Augusta Heritage Arts Workshop in Elkins, WV, which I ended up doing for 7 summers. So many fine harp players passed through there- Carlos del Junco, Sandy Weltman, Mike Green, to name a few- as well as Hank Bahnson, whose important research into the diatonic harmonica started in my class.

Paul also hired me to teach at a World Music Week at The Omega Institute in 1984, which is where I met percussionist Glen Velez. This led to many projects, culminating in the formation of Trio Globo. In 1987, while playing with Trapezoid at Winnipeg again, I met Bela Fleck. Trapezoid member Lorraine Duisit (whose beautiful Paul Reisler-produced “Hawks and Herons” album I played on in 1983) kept insisting that Bela and I had to play together. She physically dragged me over to where Bela was sitting in the hotel lobby one night and said, “Howard, Bela- Play!” We ended up jamming till 7 am. As a result of that night, Bela called me to do The Lonesome Pine Special TV show in Louisville in 1988 with the Victor and Roy Wooten, and The Flecktones were born.

So now Paul has introduced me to a new circle of brilliant and soulful musicians. Steve Seskin, Angela Kaset, Peter Himmelman, Arthur Lee, among others, not to mention a reunion for me with the Planet Bluegrass people who run Telluride and other great festivals in Colorado- Steve Symanski, Craig Ferguson, all the other wonderful staff people who made me feel like a member of a big extended family. Not to mention all the good vibes I got from so many of the students.

After I finished teaching Mon-Thurs, Paul, Angela, and I played a set on the festival stage. Before that, I sat in on 3 tunes with Steve Seskin. Thurs night there was a big student/teacher concert, and I sat in with a bunch of folks and had a great time.

The Planet Bluegrass people really know how to run a festival, and Lyons is a great little town with nice cafés, restaurants, and shops. For more info go to www.planetbluegrass.com.

 

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