300 to share in Common Ground

Students of all ages to spend week at college exploring art, music

July 02, 1999|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The annual gathering of Common Ground on the Hill will bring more than 300 students to Western Maryland College for a week of multicultural music and art classes and concerts, culminating July 10 and 11 in the American Music & Arts Festival at Carroll County Farm Museum.

"It's going to be jam-packed," said Walt Michael, founder and artistic director of the event. "But we will take stragglers."

The students will begin checking into dormitories Sunday, he said, hauling not only fiddles, banjos, dulcimers and guitars, but didgeridoos, bagpipes and drums -- African and Irish.

Among them for the fifth year will be all five members of the Martin family of Boyds, Montgomery County, said Jeanean Martin, 49, a professional artist who will be teaching drawing and taking music and story classes.

Her husband, Carl Martin Sr., 52, will bring his mandolin, she said. Daughter Lydia, 17, plays piano and the Irish button accordion with Erinhead, which performed St. Patrick's Day at the White House. Emily, 14, is enamored of dulcimer and drums -- while son Claude, 11, is a fiddler. His expertise helped the family band -- The Martin Family String -- win third place at the recent Deer Creek Fiddlers Convention at the farm museum.

The family's years at Common Ground have deepened and broadened its musical interests, said Martin.

"It's amazing to me when I sit back and think about where they were just five years ago and where they are now," she said. "I think all three developed a keen ear because of the music.

"Where else could you go and learn Irish drum, African drumming and Appalachian lap dulcimer -- all in the same day?" said Martin. "It's fun and it's exciting, and you really cannot believe you can learn that much in a week -- but you do."

Students will be going to the college from Carroll County and as far as Alabama, Montana, California and England, said Michael, a musician and artist-in-residence at the college.

In addition to music, Common Ground offers art classes, including painting, metalworking, photography, baskets, beadwork, caning, calligraphy, origami and carving -- this year featuring ceremonial wooden spoons. "Songs and Stories from the American South" is generating interest, with Guy and Candie Carawan, Michael said. Guy Carawan brought the song "We Shall Overcome" to the Civil Rights movement.

Martin said it's important to her that children feel welcome at the event.

"That really to me is the key to Common Ground," Martin said. "It does not exclude anyone. It's multigenerational, so a young child can be in the same room with an 80-year-old man and really learn from him, share the same love of music. The young child isn't excluded because of his age and the older person is not excluded because he's `not important anymore.' "

Michael said yesterday that all classes have openings and "plenty of tickets" remain for nightly performances. The full-time cost, including room and board, is $525 per person.

Public events are scheduled throughout the week at 8 p.m., including Afro-lachian dance and clogging Monday, an open-mike performance by students Tuesday, Blues Night -- including the Native American group Blues Nation -- Wednesday, and a grand concert Thursday featuring bluegrass veterans Peter Rowan and Bill Keith, Walt Michael & Co. with Nery Arevalo, the Sankofa Dance Theater and more. Friday will offer class concerts and a swing dance. Nightly admissions ranges from $5 to $15.

"It's our fifth anniversary year, and I think its our best programming yet," said Michael. "I think our numbers are showing it. It's our biggest yet."

Pub Date: 7/02/99

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