The Alabama Folk School: Where Friends Gather

by Lisa Marie Ryder, Director of The Alabama Folk School

Last month at the Bluegrass & Gee’s Bend Workshop, many people came together to dedicate Chris’s Studio, the visual arts studio named in memory of Arnold Petri Christenson. It was a joyous and beautiful occasion. Several people shared their memories of Chris playing banjo and encouraging others at Alabama Folk School workshops. In some cases, Chris inspired other students to learn new instruments or have the confidence to expand on an instrument they’ve played for a long time.

Students gather for an impromptu jam session on the porch during the Bluegrass & Gee's Bend workshop.

Students gather for an impromptu jam session on the porch during the Bluegrass & Gee's Bend workshop.

Hearing so many heartfelt memories of the friendship and camaraderie Chris exemplified made me realize that there were others in the room carrying on his legacy. Just during Bluegrass & Gee’s Bend alone, I witnessed students support one another to take a solo in a jam session or play onstage during the final showcase. Others shared sewing machines and fabric in the quilting workshop. I saw for the first time, as the new Director of the Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell, how folk school workshops are so much more than world class instruction in folk art and music; they are a place we people come together in community and build deep and genuine friendships.

The Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell has opportunities this summer for youth, adults, and families to make new friends and catch up with old friends:

Youth Folk Camp, June 14-17, is open to rising 5th to 12th graders and features a unique combination of summer camp community and folk school instruction in fiddle, guitar, pottery, indigo dying and painting, and farming.

C.A.M.P. Camp, June 17-19, is an opened-ended folk school experience where people are invited to bring along their instruments, works in progress, and be prepared to relax and have a good time. We will create the schedule together as the weekend continues. Individuals and families are welcome.

Learn more and register by clicking on the workshop titles above.