Saturday, January 14, 2012

Music Traditions in the Ozarks

by Teresa Powell Coltrin
I love music. Music lives in my soul and often determines my mindset for the day. I must admit, my music preferences are eclectic. I listen to everything from classical to country from rock to hymns. I love Reggae and Christian contemporary. I like it all—nearly.  Right now, two of my favorite artists are Adele and Francesca Battistelli.  
When I was a child, this country girl had a desire to play an instrument and more than one, if I could. I started teaching myself to play the guitar around the age of 16 and learned to play a little snare drum at school.  I still can’t read music.
Because I enjoy music, it was important to me that my children learn to play an instrument. I don’t know if I gave them a choice or not. (I may have bullied them into playing an instrument.) My son played the guitar and the alto saxophone. My daughter played the flute and the tenor saxophone. THEY learned to read music.
My family gatherings weren't laced with musical performances, but all around my rural culture families and community focused on music. The Ozarks tradition, like many cultures, has its assortment of music to enjoy and to pass on to their children.  During my childhood, music brought people together in many ways in our community.
Growing up, my parents played Country Music on their stereo and radio. I remember the soulful sound of Hank Williams and many others. When I hit high school, I thought the music my parents listened to would kill my very soul.  It’s very typical of a teenager to disagree with their parents’ choice of music. I mean, how could they like Country {Western} Music (that was the label then) over 70’s Rock? But, Country Music is now on my list of favorites, too.
Community Gatherings
Often people got together on a Friday or Saturday evenings to play their instruments, sing, dance or just listen.  For the non-players, this was a way to socialize and be entertained.  Admission was nominal or free and there was always food available.  For the musicians, it was a venue in which to show their talent by playing their instruments and/or singing to express their love of music. People still get together in this area to play their banjos, guitars, and sing. Even today, our local musicians will often put on concerts to raise money for good causes.
I was no stranger to going to church. My mama made sure of that. And, I grew up following my grandma to church revivals. I don’t’ know why I frequently went with her, since it’s hard for me to sit still for long periods of time, but I did. I’m not sure there is anything more beautiful than church hymns. Hymns are imprinted on my brain.  I may have trouble remembering names, but I’ll always remember the words and music to Amazing Grace.
Churches also had their monthly “singings”.  Once a month, communities would come together in a church and take turns singing. This would go on for hours. The adults would show their love for the music by clapping their hands to the rhythm or singing along.
The Ozarks Traditions
Ozarks Traditions- Our Heritage is a web site dedicated to music of the past in our area. One area that interested me was Shape Note Singing where “four-shape and seven-shape notation systems were used by people in social settings, in “singing schools,” and in church congregations(Ozarks Traditions-Our Heritage, 2010).
Recently, OPTV (PBS) aired a show Ozarks Musical Traditions that talked about preserving music traditions of the Ozarks.  In the past, people didn’t just play instruments and sing; it was a part of who they were and how they were recognized.  Music tradition often outlines a culture. You can watch it here.

Music has always been a part of me. As a teenager, I sang in a group of girls at “church singings”. When I learned the guitar, for a couple of years, I was in a rock band. As an adult, I’ve sang many solos in church and with my children. One man in my church compared the tone of my voice to my maternal grandfather. He died when I was six months old, but his musical voice and love for singing might be living through me. I feel honored.
I’ve only known one person who didn’t like music. But, for the rest of the world, music is a huge part of the culture we live in.  

Our music traditions might just be the tempo that drives our journey.

Images: My guitar.


Kelly said...

I love most any type of music, my favorites these days being Classic Rock, Contemporary Christian, and Smooth Jazz. (and naturally I have favorites within each of those genres)

I've always found Shape Note Singing to be an interesting concept.

Mason Canyon said...

I think we are related on some level. I grew up listening to country and gave it up for rock n roll in my teens. But now, I love it all. I listen mostly to classical because it tends to calm me a bit more. I tried my hand at the guitar and the trumpet. Never did well with either. We all need a little music in our lives.

Thoughts in Progress

Judy SheldonWalker said...

I absolutely love music but I draw the line at music that is vulgar and offensive in language. In fact I do not even consider that as music, because music soothes and uplifts me, but this has the opposite effect.

Love your new background! My security string is "humship". How appropriate is that?

Gail said...

I loved this. Music does shape our life.

I need to find that old Boston or Eagles album to play was always my get things done music.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Teresa .. great post - and I'd love to listen to the Ozarks show - I'm sure I'll be able to tap in one day.

We sometimes had music .. and I was always listening to it once we were old enough to turn on the radio, or the gramophone ... we'd sing - my father had a good voice - of the family I'm probably the one with the least amount of music in me. But I do love it - just the memory bank has never hung around -

I love learning about it though - that's one of the advantages of the blog and the connections we make - we keep learning.

There's groups here who play in pubs etc .. and I'll get to go along when I have more time.

Cheers - have a good week .. Hilary

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

I need to check out that shape note singing. It was referenced in "Walk the Line," but I thought it meant reading music. I believe that music, your instrument or your voice, are a part of who you are, how people know you, and how you express yourself. I would need medication and serious therapy if I didn't have my piano.

Teresa Cypher aka T K CypherBuss said...

I totally enjoyed this blog, Teresa! I think we are related. :-) Your grandmother's influence,the rural beginnings we never, ever (thankfully) leave behind us. All, so beautiful. We lived on the family farm with my paternal grandma when I was born--along with my 7 siblings. I never met my grandfather--either of them, but wish I could sneak back just one evening and hear the guitar and the violin being played on their front porch in the summer. There was an organ in the "front room" and in the winter my grandma played that--and people would come to dance. It probably was loads of fun. The room was not very big, but I think that the hearts involved were. :-)

Nicole said...

I can relate to so much in this post. The music you currently like, not liking country music b/c your parents did, liking it now, etc.

So... I own two guitars, an electric and an acoustic and I don't know how to play! I want to learn. Have you ever taught anyone how to play?

Craig Edwards said...

I haven't even read this post in depth - and this comment doesn't need to be added to the list - I just wanted to let you know I popped over from your comment and follow at my blog - and found this really amazing blog that seemed to really touch on my life growing up in a small rural community - from the posts I skimmed - I will be back if time allows during this April blogfest - and I will DEFINITELY be back in May!

Munir said...

If you get a chance please stop by at Sarah Pearson's blog. She writes amazing blogs about music.

Cynthia said...

That's awesome you could teach yourself to play a musical instrument. I too love music-- in fact, I like to have some music playing in the background when I write.

David Macaulay said...

This is a really intersting blog, there's a real sense of community and heritage - thanks for dropping by

David Macaulay said...

This is a really nice blog with a great sense of community and tradition - thanks for dropping by the blog


Brenda Kay Ledford said...

This is a wonderful posting on the tradition of music in your family and your home. As you grew up, it's very interesting how music played an important role in your life. I love music, too. I play the piano and grew up going to church and listening to the wonderful old hymns such as "Amazing Grace," too.