Call of the Canyon

Call of the Canyon trail, near Sedona, Arizona

Joe and I recently traveled to Sedona, Arizona for a rejuvenating spring break filled with stunning desert hikes. West Fork Trail, a.k.a “The Call of the Canyon,” just a few miles north of Sedona, is a popular hike that meanders back and forth across a rippling creek and through a canyon maze of spectacular striated rock ledges, peaks, and walls. We also took in the Grand Canyon-the South Rim. I was delighted with the hiking trail that runs parallel to the canyon for several miles! The day was glorious, the canyon, well, grand!

I learned that among the many early Westerns filmed in Sedona, was a 1923 movie called The Call of the Canyon. In 1924, The Pullman Herald urged, “Better answer The Call of the Canyon and come along to the Western thrill-land. Where a son of toil teaches a daughter of jazz the a-b-c of living and loving.” Sign me up, I need to watch this old movie ASAP!  

Another movie, Rhythm on the Range, made in 1940, features the theme song, “The Call of the Canyon.” Here is Frank Sinatra’s recording: New York a https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSR5U5R7Ci4

The Monday after I arrived home, McFarland Publishers emailed with my page proofs for Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier, which means that I am currently working on the final task- creating the index! Hurray! Seeing the pdf of the book as it will print, complete with the images and sheet music (10 lead sheets in the back), is thrilling! The book will be published very soon-within the next couple of months! You can pre-order your copy on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, McFarland, or wherever you buy books.

To stay in the loop, subscribe to my blog here!

Music Is Radar for the Soul

“It’s like a song or an album is made and it’s almost like it has a radar to find the person when they need it the most.” -Jon Batiste acceptance speech at the 2022 Grammy Awards Ceremony

Jon Batiste, singer, composer, dancer, musician, and humanitarian extraordinaire recently received 11 Grammy nominations and 5 Grammy awards at the 2022 Grammy Awards Ceremony. His positive outlook on life and his music lifts us up as in the song “Freedom.” “It’s All Right” soothes the soul. “Cry” provides an honest commentary on life’s struggles. 

 In his acceptance speech for the album of the year, We Are, he spoke of the healing quality of music and how the perfect song has a way of finding us – like radar- just when we need it most. Do you have a song that found you just when you needed it most? I know I have- many times over! 

Listen to Jon Batiste’s acceptance speech for album of the year here: 

Watch the video of “Freedom” here:

Watch his touching and surprising interview on CBS Sunday Morning here: 

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/jon-batiste-and-suleika-jaouad-sharing-life-beyond-cancer/

Listen to his insightful interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, complete with musical explanations of his astounding piano arrangements. 

https://www.npr.org/2021/07/01/1012189203/bandleader-jon-batiste

Musical March Madness

March is a frenzied month for Washington music teachers! Many teachers and students across the state participate in the WSMTA (Washington State Music Teachers Association) Music Artistry Program, or MAP for short. This event takes place at multiple venues across the state and entails teachers registering their students to play for visiting artists who travel to chapters all over the state to hear performances from hundreds of students. The visiting artists provide written and verbal comments and also work at the piano for a few minutes with each student. I am a WSMTA visiting artist and recently spent six days adjudicating students from the Edmonds and Olympia chapters of WSMTA. In those six days, I put some miles on my Leaf, stayed in hotels, and worked with 15 teachers and over 125 students- around eight hours each day.

The days zoomed by with outstanding performances from piano students of all ages! Students performed music by the likes of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Amy Beach, Scott Joplin, and Chopin. Upon reflection, I am inspired by the dedication and high level of professionalism of the organizers and teachers, the hard work and polished performances of the students, and of course, the never ending parental support. It truly takes a village- a musically minded village. These types of events are not easy to pull off as there are many moving parts.

I barely caught my breath after the whirlwind of MAP events and headed back into my studio for my own practice and to resume lessons with my 23 private students. I also jumped right back in at the Academy for Precision Learning in the University District where I teach several weekly general music classes to grades K-12.

I eagerly await the page proofs of my forthcoming book (Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier), but am told that McFarland (the publisher) is working steadily behind the scenes and the book should be ready in the next few months. (Sigh….patience has never been one of my virtues). In the meantime, there are classes to teach, lessons to plan, and music to practice.

Please subscribe to my blog for the latest posts delivered to your inbox.

Welcome 2022 with an uplifting “Nocturne” composed by Clyde O. Andrews

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recorded music, stories, and narrative from my forthcoming book: Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier.

“Nocturne” (1907) by Clyde O. Andrews, played by Laura Dean

Clyde O. Andrews composed his award-winning “Nocturne” in 1907 while studying music at at Western University in Quindaro, Kansas. I found this musical gem (the sheet music) in the Kansas Historical Society digital archives while conducting research for my book. Playing this piece of music makes me feel calm, hopeful, and connected to a fellow musician from the past. Though this piece was written over a hundred years ago, it still resonates as a musical respite in challenging times.

Clyde Andrews wrote on the sheet music cover, “Those who do not reach up, cannot climb.” He also wrote that this particular piece was “dedicated to the uplift and inspiration of my fellow young men and women.” I cannot think of better sentiments for welcoming in a new year. Here’s to 2022-may it be a year bursting with inspiration, beauty, and tranquility.

Harvest Time

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recorded music, stories, and narrative from my forthcoming book: Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier.

Harvest. ca. 1869., artist unknown. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

William Van Orsdel, “Brother Van,” known as the best loved man in Montana. (ca. late 1800s)

Brother Van with friends and bear cub in Great Falls, Montana. Photo courtesy of the Brother Van Museum Archives. (ca. late 1800s)

“Harvest Time,” known as “Brother Van’s Song.” played by Laura Dean
Harvest Time 
The seed I have scattered in spring-time with weeping 
and watered with tears and with dews from on high;
Another may shout when the harvesters reaping 
shall gather my grain in the sweet by and by.

Over and over, yes-deeper and deeper 
my heart is pierced through with life's sorrowing cry,
but the tears of the sower and the songs of the reaper 
shall angle together in joy by and by. 

By and by, by and by 
by and by, by and by
But the tears of the sower and the songs fo the reaper shall
mingle together in joy by and by.

Then palms of victory, crowns of glory, 
palms of victory I shall wear. 

William Van Orsdel (1848-1919), known as Brother Van, was often referred to as “the best loved man in Montana.” Brother Van, an enthusiastic singer, often broke into song during his sermons. He was a 19th century Methodist minister and circuit rider – a preacher who rode from town to town conducting church services. He tirelessly preached the gospel to congregations both large and small – on a steamboat, in saloons, in churches, and on rustic homesteads throughout the state of Montana. As a young man, a riverboat captain asked why he was going to Montana, Brother Van replied, “To sing, to preach and to encourage people to be good.”

For more about Brother Van and how he once saved his life with music, you’ll have to read my forthcoming book! I just learned that my manuscript has moved into the paging or pagination phase-which means another step closer to the publication date-early 2022.

Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier at McFarland Publishers, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or ask about the book at your favorite book seller.

Honoring Chief Earl Old Person (1929-2021)

“Legend of the Plains” by Charles Wakefield Cadman, an early 20th century composer whose compositions were often inspired by Native American melodies. Played by Laura Dean.

Missoulian photo

Get up. Jump up. Try hard and don’t give up. – Chief Earl Old Person

Chief Earl Old Person died of cancer at the age of 92 on October 13th. Old Person was a national treasure who served as the chief of the Blackfeet Nation for more than 60 years. He was an expert of Blackfeet language and culture, an advocate for tribal land and water rights, an inspired political leader, and an international ambassador. In his lifetime he met every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. He also met Queen Elizabeth, the prime minister of Canada-Pierre Trudeau, and the shaw of Iran. In his later years, he created home recordings of traditional stories and songs for the benefit of future generations.

I grew up in Choteau, Montana, on the Eastern Rocky Mountain front, about 70 miles south of Browning, Montana-the headquarters of the Blackfeet Reservation-the last stop before Glacier Park. The Choteau Bulldogs and Browning Indians were in the same athletic conference. Throughout my elementary to high school years, I regularly traveled to Browning for swim meets and to watch basketball and football games.

Earl Old Person rarely missed a high school basketball game-Browning is legendary for champion basketball teams and enduring fans. For his last visit to the Browning high school gymnasium, his casket was placed in the middle of the basketball court where thousands of mourners came to honor his memory and to say their final goodbyes. The mourning period lasted for four days and included processions, dancing, songs, and stories celebrating the life of the beloved chief.

Earl Old Person singing the Badger Two Medicine Song

New York Times: “Earl Old Person, Chief of the Blackfeet Nation, Dies at 92”

For an unforgettable story of high school basketball on Montana’s southeastern reservations, read: Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn by Larry Colton

The Heart List

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recorded music, stories, and narrative from my forthcoming book:

Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier.

Red Boots (a gift from artist, Julie Andrews of California).
“What Wondrous Love Is This,” American Folk Hymn from the early 1800s, played by Laura Dean.

Indigenous people, explorers, pioneers on the Oregon Trail, missionaries, miners, cowboys, preachers, teachers, and frontier settlers all left behind a rich musical history. Each group that traveled west brought heart to the experience as they wove their unique threads into the musical tapestry that was as diverse as the people and experiences of the nineteenth century American West. Below you will find the “Heart List” which highlights the many roles that music played as people established a new sense of place.

Indeed, the “Heart List” applies to our modern world. For a contemporary story that illustrates the healing power of music in the face of Alzheimer’s disease, I encourage you to watch the 60 Minutes episode that aired last week,”The Final Act,” which features musical legends Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.

The Heart List: In the 19th Century American West, music provided…
• Celebration
• Comfort for people (and restless cattle)
• Community connection
• Creative outlet
• Diplomacy
• Diversion
• Entertainment
• Expression of cultural identity
• Expression of friendship
• Expression of joy
• Expression of love
• Expression of sorrow
• Historical records of events
• Memories of home
• Sense of place
• Solace
• Worship

For the latest Heart and Place posts delivered directly to your inbox, please subscribe to my email list!

Whiskey Before Breakfast

“Whiskey Before Breakfast,” arranged for solo piano and performed by Laura Dean.

I’m in the sweet spot on the author’s continuum. The manuscript for my book, Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier, is with my publisher-McFarland. The images have been approved, the permissions have been gathered, the cover has been finalized, and the book is up for presale on various platforms including McFarland and Amazon. While working through the final stages of the editing process with McFarland, I have been learning traditional tunes, songs, and instrumental pieces that are mentioned in the text of my book.

One of the songs mentioned in the book, “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” is a popular Métis fiddle tune that captures the adventurous and optimistic spirit of the Old West. The old time tune may have Irish roots, but it was made famous in the 1950s by Métis fiddler, Andy De Jarlis. The Métis people, of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, are known for a vibrant fiddling culture dating back to the 1800s.

For a fiddle version of “Whiskey Before Breakfast” check out: https://www.vithefiddler.com/whiskey-before-breakfast-fiddle-tune-a-day-day-21/

The inspiration for the solo piano arrangement came from Mickey Abraham who created a flatpicking arrangement of the piece : https://www.flatpick.com/category_s/1996.htm

Please enjoy “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” and stay tuned for more music and stories in the weeks to follow!

Leading up to the release date, I’ll be creating posts featuring narrative and music from the book. Please sign up here for uplifting recordings and musical posts sent directly to your inbox!

Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier

After months (really years) of work on the manuscript, I’m delighted to announce the book cover and title of my forthcoming book to be published by McFarland Publishers later this year. The book is 7 x 10 inches and contains 10 chapters along with 60 images, bibliography, index, and a selection of lead sheets.

As the publisher is hard at work on the editing process, I turn my attention to offering a sneak peek of the book. Over the next several weeks, I’ll post snippets of the narrative along with my own recordings of songs mentioned in the text.

The cover image features the Fort Shaw Mandolin Club circa 1905. The young ladies hold a variety of string instruments including mandolins, violins, and guitars. The image was likely taken at the Fort Shaw Indian School near Great Falls, Montana. (Image courtesy of Montana Historical Society.) 

The story………………….

Many people have heard of The Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Oregon Trail, and the Westward Expansion, but few are aware that music played a significant role in the movement. The diverse cultural landscape of the Old West included Northern Cheyenne courtship flute makers, fiddle-playing explorers, dancing fur trappers, hymn-singing missionaries, frontier flutists, girls with guitars, wagon driving balladeers, poetic cowboys, singing farmers, musical miners, and preaching songsters.

During the Westward Expansion, some 400,000 people uprooted their families in pursuit of a better life in the West. Taking only the bare essentials that would fit into simple wagons, the pioneers made room for musical instruments alongside their guns, food, and tools. Music often provided the only spark of light and happiness for these weary travelers during what seemed like an endless dusty journey fraught with hardships. Heart and Place offers a new look at an old story, an opportunity to drill down deeply into the experiences of our forefathers and foremothers, discovering again and again how music sustained them, provided joy, and often eased tensions between disparate groups along the trail.

Heart and Place- The Book!

A quick post to let you know the news that yesterday I signed a publishing contract with McFarland & Company, Inc. for my book: Heart and Place: Music and the Westward Expansion (this is the working title). The project is near and dear to my heart. I guess you say the book has been 51 years in the making, as both music and living in the West have played such a huge part in my life. There is still a long road ahead, but yesterday marks a big milestone along the way.

The book explores a variety of music traditions of the 19th Century American West including Northern Cheyenne courtship flutes, fiddle playing explorers, women composers, medicine songs, French tunes, dancing fur trappers, hymn-singing missionaries, piano playing nuns, frontier flutists, girls with guitars, wagon driving balladeers, opulent theaters, musical instrument showrooms, Chinese American Suona players, singing farmers, opera enthusiasts, musical miners, and preaching songsters. Stay tuned for updates on the book launch date!

Signing the Contract with McFarland & Company, Inc. 6/15/20