Common Ground to explore `what we have in common'

June 16, 2000

Common Ground on the Hill's summer workshops might provide the shortest route between Africa and Appalachia.

Classes take participants from the banjo to the tribal drum, from the Native American flute to Scottish bagpipes.

Although the cultures seem worlds apart, they have much in common.

"As we are pitted against each other, usually we lose touch of the fact that our traditions have the same roots," said Walt Michael, founder and director of Common Ground on the Hill. "We could not have bluegrass without the influence of African-American music and we could not have black gospel without Western sacred music. It all fits together. What we have in common far outweighs our differences."

That's the theme behind Common Ground on the Hill, which will hold its sixth summer program of workshops at Western Maryland College from July 2 to 7. The program in residence at WMC promotes diversity, bringing together people of all backgrounds to learn other cultures through music, art and philosophy.

Participants can take classes ranging from the music of Africa to the sounds of Appalachia to how to build a dulcimer. Other classes include: banjo, bass, bluegrass, dance and percussion, dulcimer, fiddle, gospel, guitar, harmonica, harp, jazz, mandolin, piano and songwriting.

The program offers workshops on Native American philosophy, and Native American crafts such as sweet grass basketry, bead work and shell carving. Art and craft classes include Celtic printmaking, metalsmithing, origami and chair caning.

The structured children's program includes learning through the arts. Nightly concerts feature instructors and students, wrapping up with the Grand Concert on July 6, and a weeklong exhibit featuring the work of all program's artisans.

Again this season, Common Ground has added a two-day American Music & Arts Festival at Carroll County Farm Museum on July 8 and 9 featuring workshop instructors. Concertgoers can camp on the grounds. Weekend passes and single-day tickets will be available at the gate.

For tuition fees, a catalog or information, log on to the program's Web site at www.commonground or contact Walt Michael at or call 410-857-2771.

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