Wednesday, May 30, 2012

John McCutcheon to Appear in Greensboro and Winston-Salem in September


Children’s book author, storyteller, and musical artist John McCutcheon will appear at UNCG on Monday, September 10, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. in the Elliott University Center Auditorium on the UNCG campus.  The program is free and open to the public.  NOTE: John will also appear at the BOOKMARKS Festival in Winston-Salem’s downtown arts district on Saturday, September 8, 2012.  His Triad appearances are being sponsored by the University Libraries at UNCG through the generosity of the Pam and David Sprinkle Children’s Book Author and Storyteller Series Fund, with additional support from the  O. Henry Hotel and the Green Valley Grill. 
“He has an uncanny ability to breathe new life into the familiar. His storytelling has the richness of fine literature.”
Washington Post

No one remembers when their neighbors started calling the McCutcheons to complain about the loud singing from young John’s bedroom. It didn’t seem to do much good, though, because after a shaky, lopsided battle between piano lessons and baseball (he was a mediocre pianist and an all-star catcher), he had “found his voice” thanks to a cheap mail-order guitar and a used book of chords.

From such inauspicious beginnings, John McCutcheon has emerged as one of our most respected and loved folksingers and storytellers. As an instrumentalist, he is a master of a dozen different traditional instruments, most notably the hammer dulcimer. His songwriting has been hailed by critics and singers around the globe. His thirty recordings have garnered numerous honors including seven Grammy nominations. He has produced over twenty albums of other artists, from traditional fiddlers to contemporary singer-songwriters to educational and documentary works. His books and instructional materials have introduced budding players to the joys of their own musicality, and children to tales of adoption and respite from battle in World War I. And his commitment to grassroots political organizations has put him on the front lines of many of the issues important to communities and workers.

Even before graduating summa cum laude from Minnesota’s St. John’s University, this Wisconsin native literally “headed for the hills,” foregoing a college lecture hall for the classroom of the eastern Kentucky coal camps, union halls, country churches, and square dance halls. His apprenticeship to many of the legendary figures of Appalachian music imbedded a love of not only home-made music, but a sense of community and rootedness. The result is music...whether traditional or from his huge catalog of original songs...with the profound mark of place, family, and strength. It also created a storytelling style that has been compared to Will Rogers and Garrison Keillor.

The Washington Post described John as folk music’s “Rustic Renaissance Man.  Besides his usual circuit of major concert halls and theaters, John is equally at home in an elementary school auditorium, a festival stage or at a farm rally. In the past few years alone he has headlined over a dozen different festivals in North America (including repeated performances at the National Storytelling Festival), recorded an original composition for Virginia Public Television involving over 500 musicians, toured Australia for the sixth time, toured Chile in support of a women's health initiative, appeared in a Woody Guthrie tribute concert in New York City, given a featured concert at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, taught performance art skills at a North Carolina college, given symphony pops concerts across America, served as President of the fastest-growing Local in the Musicians Union and performed a special concert at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This is all in his “spare time.” His “real job,” he's quick to point out, is father to two grown sons and husband to fellow storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy.

But it is in live performance that John feels most at home. It is what has brought his music and stories into the lives and homes of a broad audience. People of every generation and background seem to feel at home when John McCutcheon takes the stage, with what critics describe as “little feats of magic,” “breathtaking in their ease and grace...,” and “like a conversation with an illuminating old friend.”"I was raised on the straightforward folk music of Woody Guthrie and the plain-spoken stories of my midwestern family,” John says. “These have led me to a career (if that's what I can call it) in composing songs and stories about real people for real people. It is nothing fancy. Some people call my work political. That's okay, I guess.  I just keep writing and singing and talking--and learning, as I did from Woody, not to forget what you stand for or who you stand with. That can happen in a children's song or a fiddle tune or a song from the day's headlines. It is like a little slice of life."

Whether in print, on record, or on stage, few people communicate with the versatility, charm, wit or pure talent of John McCutcheon.

For more information, contact Barry Miller at the University Libraries at 256-0112 or barry_miller@uncg.edu