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10 May 2015

Essay from Deb Flanders

My childhood memories are patchy, but I do remember trying to harmonize with my sister sitting in a sandbox when I was around six. I was fortunate to have grown up in a musical household. My grandfather and great-uncle loved to sing and passed their passion on to my dad. My mother loved to sing as well, but she always regretted quitting her piano lessons. My dad was accomplished at the piano, so between the two of them they insisted that all nine of their children take piano lessons. We were not allowed to quit until we graduated from high school! I enjoyed playing piano, and I am very thankful my mother insisted we stick with it, but my first love was singing. It was the one place where I felt completely at home.

Growing up in rural Vermont the opportunities for singing came in high school. I joined the choir, the small madrigal ensemble and participated in Allstate Festivals.

Since then I’ve continued to make singing a part of my life. The choirs are my communities. In them I have met many interesting people. Among them was Rose Diamond, who helped me discover my great aunt, Helen Hartness Flanders’, folk music legacy. And Rose introduced me to Pete Sutherland and with him we formed a new tradition of performing the songs from the Flanders Ballad Collection. I fell in love with the melodies of these beautiful ballads that were passed down from generation to generation. This discovery brought to a new life to my voice as a balladeer and in this process I began to educate people about this music. Sharing my great aunt’s collection has become one of my passions.

My musical life would have never happened without the strong influence of my parents as a young child. It is very exciting for me to see Young Tradition Vermont continue to provide a platform for young people, who may not have had this same opportunity. The workshops, concert series and Trad Camp allow our folk traditions to thrive and inspire future generations.