Stringalong – Changing the world one weekend at a time

November 2, 2012

Long, long ago back in 1998 my fiddle teacher suggested I go to the “Stringalong” at Camp Edwards where he was teaching a workshop and I could experience another side of music. My life has never been the same. I was new to music in 1998 having just started to learn the fiddle in 1996. I played “Book 1”, held my fiddle in “a war pose” (his words not mine), and couldn’t play anything without the music sitting in front of me. Memorize a piece –  impossible, learn by ear – not even in the realm of possibilities.

Stringalongs, started and maintained by Ann and Will Schmid from the UW Milwaukee Folk Center, were a whole new ballgame. These were family events although most attendees were like me, adult learners, musician wannabees. There was no written music at the workshops, everything was taught by ear. People sat around in the evenings and late into the night “jamming”. If you didn’t know the music, you played quietly in the background hoping to catch a few notes each time they went through the tune. If that wasn’t working you could sing along or sit back and just enjoy the strands wafting in air and hope by osmosis it would all sink in. Believe it or not, it does sink in. The tunes sink deep into your soul and although you don’t know the name or the key, you can hum the melody years later.

I met a whole new set of friends at the Stringalongs at Camp Edwards. When you eatfamily style and sleep in cabins with 12 strangers, and dance with whomever is standing alone, you bond and bond fast. I would be lying if I said I could remember all the names. I can’t. But I remember the faces and the stories and their words of encouragement.

That’s me in the blue shirt and black vest.

Stringalongs were set up in such a way that professional musicians would come in and teach a work shop or two for the weekend each one meeting 3 times between Saturday morning and Sunday at noon. As an attendee you could select up to three different workshops to attend or you could hang out and walk the trails or jam on the porch with your new best friend. Between Friday evening and Sunday at noon you also got to listen to a short concert by each of the presenters. There were people who never attended a workshop, they just came to hear the “professionals” play. I don’t know how Ann did it but she brought in big names – Pat Donohue, Mike Dowling, Joel Mabus, Pigs Eye Landing, Bill Staines, Second Opinion, Crystal Ploughman, Ken Kolodner, Randy Sabien.

A lot has changed since 1998. My life has changed. Music and my experiences at the Stringalongs introduced me to life long friends and gave me the confidence to not only join a band but to start NorthWoods Strings a non-profit organization to provide string instrument instruction to children in Hayward. Stringalongs let me see the world as it ought to be even if only for a weekend. They reminded me that any thing is possible. That although our world may rapidly change somethings stay the same – you can’t make music with someone and argue at the same time, that joy comes from peace deep within, that dreams are not foolish unless you forget to follow them.

Beginning tonight at Camp Edwards, the Stringalongs come to an end. For one last weekend the world will stop turning if only for two days. With any luck the first snow fall will come and the outside world will mirror what’s happening on the inside. I wish that I would be there but the outside world has different plans for me. In my own way,I suppose that I will be there. My heart will be there. Tonight I will think of my friends and the memories we made. On Sunday when the final songs are sung, I will be singing along  and I will imagine the notes floating all the way to East Troy and mingling with the voices there.

To Ann Schmid who dreamed up this wonderful experience and made it happen:

Ann Schmid

There are those in the world who never dream, those who dream but think them foolish, and those who dream and turn those dreams into reality. You, my friend, are obviously in that final group and the world is a better place because of it. Have a wonderful weekend. I will be thinking of you all and wishing with all my heart that I was there.

 

 

Dayle Quigley
Author: Pig and Toad Best Friends Forever
Exec. Director: NorthWoods Strings


Wisconsin’s Literary Landmarks: From “Our Town” to “Citizen Kane”

March 6, 2012

Wisconsin’s Literary Landmarks

By Brian D’Ambrosio

Joseph Webster House, Elkhorn, WI

As hard as it may seem at times to give reasons for, there is more to learn about and excite the sentiment in the Badger State above and beyond milk and cheese (regardless of how deliciously impressive) and the Green Bay Packers (notwithstanding stunning Super Bowl success). Wisconsin has produced many influential authors and dramatists and served as the source for many great fictional bodies of work. In this article you’ll take a winding journey, from Pepin to Kenosha, on the path to discover Wisconsin’s unique ancestry of literary landmarks, storybook attractions, and scholarly sites, and how the unstoppable spirit of a few of its residents came to heavily influence the tenor of mythical Americana.

Sterling North Boyhood Home, Edgerton

In Edgerton, Wisconsin, tourists with the most bookish of bents will enjoy  visiting the landmark boyhood home and museum of Sterling North (1906-1974), world-famous author of Rascal, So Dear to my Heart, The Wolfling, and 28 other works.  In 1963 North completed the book Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era. Set in 1917 when he was 11-years-old, the best-selling book chronicles a boy’s fondness for and friendship with a pet raccoon in the fictitious “Brailsford Junction.” The home, which is open from April 5 through December 20, Sunday afternoons 1:00 to 4:30 p.m., may be toured by appointment. Refurbished to its 1917 setting, furnished with period antiques, the museum showcases North’s desk, typewriter, photos, books and many family artifacts and memorabilia.

Lorine Niedecker, Fort Atkinson Poet

Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970) was a poet of eminent endowment whose life and work were long cloaked in anonymity. The introverted daughter of a carp fisherman, she spent most of her life on a flood-riven plain in southern Wisconsin. She was born and died on a marshy spit of land known as Blackhawk Island near Fort Atkinson. The Friends of Lorine Niedecker sponsors a monthly poetry reading in Fort Atkinson, which is rich with Niedecker-related sites, including W7309 Blackhawk Island Road, the location of Niedecker’s writer’s cottage and modest home. Both of which are private property, but access is allowed through an appointment with the Friends of Lorine Niedecker. Other notable markers include: Union Cemetery, County Road J north of Hwy 106, Cemetery Road, the burial place of Lorine Niedecker and her parents Henry and Daisy; 506 Riverside Drive, the home where Lorine stayed during the school year 1917-1918 with family friends; 1000 Riverside Drive , the home where the Niedeckers lived from 1910-1916; 209 Merchants Avenue, the Dwight Foster Library, home to Lorine’s personal library archive; 401 Whitewater Avenue, the Hoard Historical Museum, which operates a room with myriad artifacts related to the poet’s life.

Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm, North of Baraboo

Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac will be read and revered ad infinitum. This classic, featuring philosophical essays and natural observations established Leopold (1887-1948) as America’s preeminent environmental thinker. Published in 1949, shortly after Leopold’s death, A Sand County Almanac is a masterpiece of nature writing, widely referenced as one of the most seminal nature books ever penned. Writing from the vantage of his retreat shack along the shore of the Wisconsin River, Leopold mixed conservation and wildlife essays, polemics, and memoirs, in what has become a catalyst for the country – and world’s – evolving ecological awareness. “Outdoor prose writing at is best……A trenchant book, full of beauty and vigor and bite…All through it is (Leopold’s) deep love for a healthy land.” So raved the New York Times. The Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm is located near Baraboo, Wisconsin. Purchased by Leopold in the early 1930s, he converted a chicken coop, which he dubbed ‘the Shack’, for his family to spend weekends. Tours of the Shack are offered Saturdays, from Memorial Day through the end of October. Guided tours originating at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center are the only way to access and view the inside of the Leopold Shack.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Birthplace, Pepin 

It appears that every state wants to claim a piece of author Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957). Anyone who watched the Little House on the Prairie TV series knows that Walnut Grove is in Minnesota and there’s a bust of Laura on display in Missouri where she settled in her later years. Laura also lived in Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Florida, New York and South Dakota. Near the tiny village of Pepin, Wisconsin, Wilder’s birthplace is commemorated. The Ingalls family lived in a small cottage when Laura was born, in 1867. You’ll find a replica of her log cabin at the Little House Wayside and an historical marker in Pepin Park. Plan on visiting in mid-September to participate in Laura Ingalls Wilder Days.

Zona Gale Home, Portage 

Zona Gale Home, Portage, WI

Novelist and playwright Zona Gale (1874-1938) achieved nationwide popularity as a writer and won the first ever Pulitzer Prize awarded to a female for Drama. Once she gained a niche in the literary world, she returned to her place of origin – Portage, Wisconsin – where she lived and worked the rest of her life. Zona Gale was born in Portage on August 26, 1874, and, barring a brief time in Minnesota, lived there until she entered the University of Wisconsin. At the time of her birth, her father was a Milwaukee Road railroad engineer, working at the time out of Minneapolis. Zona’s mother chose to be prepared for the birth of their first and only child at the Portage home of her mother. Gale first garnered attention for her short stories set in the fictional town of Friendship Village. Published in 1908, Friendship Village proved very well-liked and she went on to write a similar series of stories. Miss Lulu Bett shared best seller honors in 1920 with Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street, and the adaptation of the novel brought her the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in 1921.

Hamlin Garland Homestead, West Salem 

Hamlin Garland was born in a West Salem log cabin on September 14, 1860. After spending his teenage years in rural Iowa, Garland (1860-1940) became a teacher in the Boston School of Oratory. Between the years of 1885 and 1889 he taught private classes in both English and American literature. Some time was also spent lecturing on land reform in and around Boston, where he made the acquaintance of Oliver Wendell Holmes, George Bernard Show, William Dean Howells, Edwin Booth and other worthies. It was in 1917 that A Son of the Middle Border was published. The next year, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. For the novel A Daughter of the Middle Border he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for best biography of 1921. In 1893, Hamlin Garland bought his parents their first home, called the Hays house, in West Salem, Wisconsin. The homestead, open weekends May through October, came to be known as “Maple Shade.”

Joseph Webster House, Elkhorn 

At 9 East Rockwell Street in the small town of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, stands the neat, modest, white Greek Revival style house where composer Joseph Philbrick Webster (1819-1875) lived. He lived here from 1857 until his death in 1875, at the age of 56. Most of Webster’s more than 1,000 songs were penned during this period. Some of his classics are still well-known today. “Lorena” was heard and immortalized in the classic movie Gone With the Wind. Webster’s compositions were eclectic, including music for ballads, religious hymns, nationalistic drama, and a cantata – a vocal composition intended for musical accompaniment and a choir. The house, which served as a stopping point and sanctuary as part of the Underground Railroad, is open year-round to the public.

Thornton Wilder Birthplace, Madison 

Thornton Niven Wilder (1897-1975) was born in Madison, Wisconsin (at that time a town of eighteen thousand inhabitants) at 140 Langdon Street on April 17, 1897, the son of Amos Parker Wilder, a Wisconsin State Journal editor, and Isabella Niven Wilder. His twin brother died at birth, and Wilder grew up with an older brother and three younger sisters. He took to writing as a youngster, eventually earning his undergraduate degree at Yale, and graduate degree at Princeton. By the time he died on December 7, 1975, at his home in Hamden, Connecticut, Wilder garnered international fame as a playwright and novelist. To this day, his works are translated, performed and prized by audiences worldwide. Wilder’s most famous work, Our Town, explores the lives of people living in the quintessentially American small town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. It was first produced in 1938 and received the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Madison was the first of three “our towns” in Wilder’s boyhood (he lived here until he was eight), and it is indicative of Wilder’s interests that each was academic – Madison, Berkeley, New Haven. Though primarily associated with Our Town, Wilder also earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1927 for the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. A small plaque commemorates the birth site.

John Muir Park and Boyhood Home

Father of our national park system, farmer, inventor, sheepherder, explorer, writer, founder and first president of the Sierra Club, and conservationist John Muir (1838-1914) was perhaps America’s most rugged and prominent naturalist. Raised near a little lake outside Portage, Wisconsin, Muir’s family immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1849. They build a home (long since eroded) and started a farm called Fountain Lake Farm; Muir’s formative years in the Badger State instilled a love of nature and land. Muir published six volumes of writings, all describing discoveries of natural environs. Additional books and compilations were published after his death in 1914. Perhaps what is most important about his writings was not their number, but their sagacious content, which continues to hold an influential effect on American ideas and the policies that help to nurture and preserve nature’s elegant habitats. The park is open year-round.

Orson Welles Birthplace, Kenosha

The son of a gifted concert pianist and wealthy inventor, Kenosha’s Orson Welles (1915-1985) proved a precocious child, excelling in music, art, and even magic. By age 16, Welles had set out to make his mark in the dramatic arts. Within three years, he’d entered stage, film, and radio, and by 1941, he’d co-written, directed and starred in Citizen Kane, considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time. Born George Orson Welles to Richard Head Welles and Beatrice Ives Welles, May 15, 1915, Welles once said: “I never blamed my folks for Kenosha. Kenosha has always blamed my folks for me.” Built in the 1880s, Welles’ birthplace is a private residence, the front of which holds a bronze plaque commemorating the home town mastermind.

August Derleth, Walden West Festival 

August Derleth (1909-1971) was a prolific writer, publisher, and anthologist. Though best remembered as the first publisher of the horror writings of H.P. Lovecraft, he wrote in several genres, including biography, detective fiction, science fiction, poetry, and historical fiction. Sauk City’s August Derleth Society sponsors a yearly event the second weekend in October, The Walden West Festival. The festival includes satires, musical performances, speakers, a drive to Derleth-relevant sites, and an evening poetry gathering at the writer’s grave. Permanent exhibits linked to Derleth are located at Leystra’s Restaurant and the Cedarberry Inn in Sauk City, the Sauk City Library, and at the Sauk County Historical Society, in Baraboo.

–Brian D’Ambrosio

 

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Age, Relevance, and the World of Music

February 23, 2012

Ten years ago I went to see two of my idols in concert, Billy Joel and Elton John. It was an amazing concert; live music for four hours straight. I grew up with these guys. Sang my heart out with them in my bedroom as a child and teenager and then forced my own children to endure my renditions in the car during their own childhood and teenage years. The joke in my family being that to join in you don’t have to sing well, just loud. I’m always the first to join in and I’m usually the loudest even when I don’t know all the words. My reason for going to see this duo was simply because I had never heard them in person. You can’t pass up on an opportunity when it crosses your doorstep.

But since that concert in St. Paul a decade ago, I have not waited for my idols from years gone by toImage cross my path. Instead, I find myself actively seeking them out. I managed tickets to Eric Clapton in the cheap seats/nosebleed section. I spent all my birthday money on seeing Cher in Las Vegas. I traveled to Chicago to hear James Taylor and Carole King and would have traveled around the US for their entire tour if I was independently wealthy. This past November I really scored with tickets to Paul Simon at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. Even though I called in one minute prior to the tickets going on sale all that was left was the next to last row in the balcony section. Didn’t matter, I was there. And then last night, I sat truly at the edge of the stage at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis and heard Doc Severinsen.

As I was driving down to the cities last night, I found myself wondering why. Why this obsession over the past several years with “older” musicians? Yes some of them were childhood idols. They got me Imagethrough difficult times. But not all of them were idols, some of them had just sprinkled my younger days. I am almost embarrassed to admit it but I was not a musical junkie in my youth. My sister had crates full of albums. The music played nonstop for what seemed like days on end. I on the other hand had just a few – Sony and Cher, Bobby Sherman, Barry Manilow, Supertramp, Bread and I think Jim Croce – oops I can’t forget Cat Stevens. I know, it’s a very sad list indeed. So I guess the question again is why? Why the time and effort? Easy, because it’s worth it. Because in addition to hearing great music I learn something new every time.

So here is the list of what I’ve learned.

1. From Cher: Cher might not be able to dance in 6 inch heels in her 60s but she can still strut. And she does it so well. Why then do so many of us stop? Stop strutting, stop being a little outrageous. Maturity should not have to equal boring.

2. From James Taylor and Carole King: Songs that brought us to tears three decades ago cause the same reaction now. Why? Because although the years have gone past and our bodies have matured, our souls are still the same. As a patient said to me one day in the ER, “My body is 70 years old but inside I’m 20 or 30. How come no one can see that?” Perhaps we need to spend more time looking at a person’s soul and less time looking at their body.

3. From Paul Simon:  My teacher, Randy Sabien, was right all those years ago when he tried to drum into my head that rhythm is where the magic lies. Paul Simon is the master, a genius when it comes to rhythm. He could have a melody that consisted of one note and the song would still rock. At 70 there isn’t anyone better, not the rappers, not the hip hop artists. If he continued to evolve and improve into his 70s, why do so many of us feel we have peaked in our 40s or 50s? There is so much more to do.

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The view from my seat

4. From Doc Severinsen: I grew up hearing Doc Severinsen on Johnny Carson. What a great duo that was. The concert last night was wonderful, Doc and a 15 piece band (5 saxophones, 3 trombones, 4 trumpets, 1 double bass, 1 drummer, and 1 pianist.) As my friend said, “What happened to that music? Why did it ever go away?” I had no answer for it. I would have thought that a brass band that large in a small club would have ruined my hearing for weeks but no the volume was perfect and the jazz sweet. I should also mention that Doc had a vocalist with him, Vanessa Smith, from Kansas and the amazing Ernie Watts on tenor saxophone. Here however are the interesting parts. 1) The concert started a little late. 2) After they finished the number “King Porter”, Doc Severinsen wasn’t happy with it so they played it all again. As he said, “You got to get back on that horse right away boys.” 3) There was no encore after the last number. The audience was hoping for it and working the final applause to insure it. The band stayed on stage expecting it to happen. But, Doc Severinsen wasn’t coming back out. Truth is age does have its privilege and at 84 you get to call the shots, all of them.

I suppose the truth is I go to these concerts to remind myself that despite the fact that the magical age of 50 is coming down the pike, my age should not dictate who I am, what I am capable of doing, or the height of my  newest pair of shoes. I am way too young to limit myself at this point.

Oh, if you are wondering. I still have Glen Campbell at the Big Top Chautauqua in June,  Neil Diamond in St. Paul this July and if Tom Jones ever comes this way, I am so there. I’m definitely not averse to a road trip.

–Dayle Quigley

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I Love This Town – Hartford, WI

January 10, 2012

It has started, my year of visiting small town Performing Art Centers to experience theater. If the remainder of the year is like this first trip, I’m going to have a wonderful time.

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‘Sharing the Spotlight’ at Campanile Center for the Arts

November 10, 2011

By Woody Woodruff, Executive Director, Campanile Center for the Arts

Woody Woodruff. Photo: Campanile Center for the Arts.

The Sharing the Spotlight program at the Campanile Center for the Arts in Minocqua celebrated its first birthday in September with a sense of accomplishment. That feeling, however, was also tempered with a feeling of how much more there is to do in our community.

The concept originated for us in December 2009 when musician George Winston performed at the Campanile and revealed that food pantries were his charity of choice. Mr. Winston generously agreed to donate the sales of his CDs to the local pantry. In addition, we incorporated a food and monetary drive in the Campanile lobby and held a post performance reception with all proceeds going to the pantry. For a small community we were thrilled to be able to generate approximately $3,000 right before the holidays, which meant a Christmas dinner for residents who otherwise might not have enjoyed one. It was incredible how the area pulled together for the cause while getting to see a great concert as well.

At that point we understood the power that a community has to help others. Every area has several worthy nonprofit organizations and charities that, like the arts centers, are all struggling for survival.  In this world it too often seems like it is “every man for themselves” to try to generate whatever funds they can, but it doesn’t have to be that way. As an arts center and community gathering place, we are fortunate to have the visibility and platform to be in the public’s eye, but this isn’t the case for many of the others. So many worthy organizations escape the public’s attention, even though their causes are vital to the communities in which they exist. Campanile set out to change that.

Our Sharing the Spotlight program has raised awareness, funds and volunteers for community non-profits. Photo: Campanile Center for the Arts.

Over the past year, Sharing the Spotlight recipients have included the Tri County Council on Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault, the Lakeland Pantry, Firebird Foundation, North Lakeland Education Foundation and the AVW Foundation, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Lakeland Sharing Foundation, Community Food Pantry, the Blood Center, Habitat for Humanity, the Northern Wisconsin Literacy Task Force, the Senior Center, Northwoods Wildlife Center and the Minocqua Museum. During that year the program has helped to raise several thousands of dollars for the partnering organizations, but the benefits don’t end there. Partners also added members, volunteers, sponsors, workers, donors, mentors and public awareness and publicity.

We like to think the Sharing the Spotlight program will have long-range impact, one that will ultimately lead to a higher quality of life in the Minocqua area–not only for the recipients, but for those who give as well. The feeling of community camaraderie and the networking opportunities we’ve built are the frosting on the cake. The program has helped create a bond among local non-profits, while diminishing the sense of competition for donors’ dollars. Through Sharing the Spotlight, we’ve learned that we are all in this together and we all need each other; no one is more important than anyone else.


Visiting Spirits

October 11, 2011

Michael Goc

Sandra Swisher-Pheiffer as "Yankee Mama" Jane Bonnell and Harriet Dehlinger as the "lonely" Sophronia Temple.

The ghost walk season is upon us and historical groups around Wisconsin are inviting the curious to visit local cemeteries and meet the spirits of the people who lie beneath the tombstones there. It’s a good idea, because history is story, and our graveyards are full of slumbering stories waiting to be roused.

Many cemetery tours focus on the famous and the infamous. Statesmen, captains of industry, theatrical performers and notorious criminals attract much of the attention. The Adams County Historical Society takes a more democratic approach. This is as it should be, for midst all the infinite varieties of human experience, the one we all share is death. So when we visit our country cemeteries, as we did on the sterling morning of October 1, we stop at the graves of just plain and ordinary folks.

There was Sophronia Temple, a Massachusetts native who moved with her husband Timothy to the sandy prairie about ten miles north of Wisconsin Dells in the 1850s. In a letter she wrote to friends back home, she expressed the loneliness of life on the frontier “We have but little to take our attention from our own fireside. No sewing circle, no prayer meeting, no social gatherings of any kind, but few neighbors…This is a fine country to get a living in but I never have been content. I should be if only I had society.”

Lonely Sophronia might have perked up had she visited her neighbor in life and death, Jane Bonnell. A New Jersey gal who also came west in the 1850s, Bonnell had a house full with nine sons and one daughter.  When the “rebellion” started in 1861,  Bonnell’s sons enlisted. It was not long before she had seven sons in the Union Army. We don’t know if that is a record for either side, but it is impressive. She saw six of her boys come home alive. The seventh, Aaron, who was shot dead at Atlanta, is buried at her side.

Bonnell’s other neighbor, Dana Billings, had a more pleasant war. He volunteered in the fall of 1864, collected a bounty of $315 and spent the final months of the war with an artillery unit defending Washington D.C. from an assault that never came. As he wrote home to his wife Annette, “the army is the best place to make a man lazy that I ever saw.”  Not all who served were heroes.

Take Daniel Ackerman. He was sixty-nine years old when he came west with his son Theron, also in the 1850s. They used a warrant good for forty acres of government land that Daniel earned for serving in the New York state militia in the War of 1812. Forty years later, the government’s promise to a veteran, even one who saw no combat, was still good.

Fritz the miller of White Creek as channelled by Don Hollman.

Fritz Witt, the jovial miller of White Creek, came to Adams County from Mecklenburg in northern Germany with his wife Katrina, a Holsteiner.  He could handle a steam-powered mill, but he preferred to work with water, and he ran mills at Mirror Lake, Delton, Arkdale and Easton before coming to White Creek. The thin soil in these parts had all but given out by the 1890s and farmers planted the crop of last resort, buckwheat. Witt then fine-tuned the stones on his mill to grind and sell “the finest buckwheat flour in Wisconsin.”  Lemons to lemonade for the farmers and himself. Flour was one thing, family was another.

Neither Fritz, nor Katrina, nor their son Chris could make life better for Chris’s wife Lucy. Orphaned as a child, Lucy married Chris in 1900. They had their first child, Harold, in November 1901, but he died the following January. Lucy never got over it, although she felt better after her second baby, Blanch, was born in the spring of 1903.

Rachel Kulack, the spirit of Lucy Witt.

Then her depression returned. In the summer she took Blanch to visit Fritz and Katrina who lived on the bank of the White Creek mill pond. Unable to sleep one night, she got out of bed, left the house and headed for the pond. Hearing the door of the house open and close, Katrina woke up. She found Blanch sleeping peacefully but Lucy’s bed was empty. She roused Fritz and the neighbors and they searched around and in the pond. No one knows if Lucy stepped into or slipped and fell into the water. But the pond was small, the current slow, and no one heard her cry out for help. Her body was found on the rocks at the foot of the dam. History is story and each stone in a cemetery marks a story waiting to be told.


India, Polio, and Itzhak Perlman

April 14, 2011

Dayle Quigley

Okay, it’s true that nothing in the above title fits into my goal of experiencing music in small town Wisconsin venues but life is never as neat as we would like. It has also been longer than I would have wanted since I lasted blogged but you will soon understand why.

Itzhak Perlman

The premier violinist of modern times, Perlman contracted polio at age four and overcame physical challenges to achieve international acclaim in classical music. He is the recipient of 15 Grammy Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence.

Sometimes when life calls you need to answer even when it is inconvenient and messy, even when it is unplanned and unexpected. Sometimes, you just have to say yes. Back in October I heard that Itzhak Perlman was playing a benefit concert in Chicago with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Polio Plus. Rotarians around the globe have been working for close to two decades to eradicate polio and as Mr. Perlman would tell you, we are this close. I have never seen Mr. Perlman play in person and as a violinist, I was not going to miss this opportunity. I reserved my tickets for the March 7th concert in October. It was so far in advance, I couldn’t remember in January where I had put the tickets (turned out they were in the will call office.) And then in late December I got an invitation to go to India to participate in the National Polio Immunization Day campaign. Twice a year in India, they vaccinate every child under the age of 5 years old against polio. They set up stations for in every city and town across the nation for the first day and then spend the next 2 to 4 days going house to house, tent to tent, making sure that every child is found. During this time, they vaccinate over 200 million children. The sheer enormity of it is overwhelming. And so when the invitation came, I considered it an aligning of the stars and I said yes. Go to India, vaccinate children against Polio and then return to the States just in time to hear Itzhak Perlman, a polio survivor, perform. It doesn’t get much more cosmic than that.

So, I got my VISA, rearranged my schedule and flew literally half way around the world. I went to India with 35 rotarians from across the United States and helped cover Ghaziabad a town of 16 million people outside of Delhi. The first day 446,000 children were vaccinated in our town utilizing 2800 vaccination centers and 943,00 vaccinated by home visits. That’s over 1.3 million children vaccinated in just Ghaziabad. Here are the statistics for the week of 27 February 2011. 709,000 immunization stations, 2.5 million vaccinators, 209 million homes visited, and 169 million children under the age of 5 vaccinated. It is hard to fathom the number of people necessary just to organize this endeavor let alone carry it out.Some people would ask if it is worth it. Can it possibly be successful? But just look at the numbers ….In Nigeria and India in 2008 there were 1357 cases, in 2010 just 63 cases, and to date in 2011 just 1 case. We are this close.

Staff Benda Bilili

A Congolese soukous band largely composed of polio survivors, Staff Benda Bilili describes the impact of the disease in the group’s signature song, “Polio.” The band received a 2009 WOMEX (World Music Expo) Artist Award for World Music.

You might ask what this has to do with art, what this has to do with Wisconsin. Ask these questions of Itzhak Perlman and James DePreist. Both are outstanding artists and both, although very successful in life, would rather I believe go through life standing up. The last indigenous case of polio in the United States was in 1979 but it is only one non-stop airplane trip away. Any child not currently immunized in the United States is at risk of being a statistic, at risk for multiple corrective surgeries, at risk for permanent disability. We are this close.

I will tell you that the End Polio Now concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James DePreist, and featuring Itzhak Perlman was a raging success as was the reception afterwards. The hall was packed and the performers at the top of their game. I’m glad I said yes. Yes, to going to India to help our counterparts in their daunting task. And yes, to the benefit concert where I was encouraged to see people who are willing to fight to help people who live 4000 miles away. You see, we are this close…but as a friend of mine points out, close only counts when you’re dancing. We have the ability by working together to end a devastating disease. To wipe it from the face of the earth. What a legacy we can leave our children and grandchildren and our great-grandchildren, but only if we work not as a single community, or state, or nation but only if we work as one world.

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