How I Got Into Folk Music

I was honoured to be part of an exhibit organized by Borealis Records at the recent Folk Music Ontario Conference. The theme was "how I got into folk music," and I was asked to write a response to that idea and supply a photo. Here is what my panel looked like (readable text is below). Thanks to Bill Garrett for inviting me to reflect on how important folk music has been to me.

 Song Circle/Woods Gathering

And in case you can't read it, here is what I wrote:


My mom, Sue Goldberg, loved folk music. She played guitar, piano, and banjo, and she was a great collector and spreader of songs. We did a lot of singing in our house— when I was very young she would often sing me to sleep. She brought me to folk music concerts by musicians like The Watersons, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Gordon Bok, Doc Watson, and many more. At the time I worried it was uncool, since most of my classmates were listening to pop, hard rock, and heavy metal, but now I realize how lucky I was. She also bought me a guitar and signed me up for guitar lessons.

When we moved to Toronto from the Boston area in 1981, she immediately connected with the folk music community here. At the same time, I was attending an alternative high school where a lot of my friends were into old folk, blues, and soul music. Ken Whiteley taught music in my school for two years and introduced us to lots of rich musical traditions. My mom was meeting musicians like Ken, Grit Laskin, and others through The Woods Music and Dance Camp (formerly Mariposa in the Woods). She began bringing me to The Woods every summer and through that I developed my own friendships with folk musicians from all over who came to teach there. I also became part of the community around the camp, attending regular song circles and other folk events around town, and eventually ended up helping organize The Woods for over twenty years.

I can honestly say without the folk community I don’t think I would have ever dreamed of becoming a performer or music teacher. At every step in my musical and career development, I was encouraged by the people around me, whether they were music enthusiasts or professional musicians. I feel grateful to have grown up in the folk community and to still be so closely connected to it. It is my home, and no matter how far I roam, it is the bedrock that anchors me, and the wellspring that nurtures me through the good times and the bad.


photo: Mike Bourgeault

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