David Kaynor's Web Page



Staffan Wrange and I with guitar and fiddle at his across-the-street neighbors’ in Vansbro, Sweden
Photo by Anita Wrange, I think.

 

Autobiography

My involvement with music probably began before birth. People always sang at my parents' friends' social gatherings. Their crowd included numerous excellent part-singers and men and women with great voices and ranges, and several good piano players around whom everyone would gather for hours at a time. Parties, family reunions, birthday celebrations, weddings, and funerals all involved wonderful group singing replete with jokes, both ritualized and spontaneous, and wonderful harmonies.

My parents signed me up for piano lessons when I was six. I played the trumpet in school bands and orchestras for six years in grade school and sang in choirs and ensembles. My parents took me to my first square dance in Wilbraham around 1956 or 57 when I was 8 or 9 years old. During our summer vacations in Harpswell, Maine, I attended the local "square dances" (I think I remember more longways set dances and couples' dances than squares; we even danced some contras).

I began playing guitar and singing "folk" songs in 1966 as a college freshman. After graduating in 1970, I became increasingly active in music, singing in bars and coffeehouses in duets and trios around the southern Maine coast and northern Vermont in the early and mid1970s. I began flatpicking melodies on the guitar and, increasingly, on an old Fairbanks Vega "Tu-ba-phone" banjo-mandolin which a neighbor had given me back in the early 1960s. In 1973, at a party near Burlington, Vermont, I met the charter members of the Arm and Hammer String Band, who induced me to come to their contra dances to both dance and sit in.

Thus, the beginning of my involvement with the music and dances of what we now refer to as Contra Dancing. That formative experience...being encouraged to sit in, feel myself part of the music, and get "on-the-job" training in dance musicianship...is often on my mind when I encourage other musicians to sit in with me and to welcome others to sit in with them.

I began playing fiddle in 1974. Since then, I have played in country-rock bar bands, string bands, and contra dance bands, mostly around the Connecticut River Valley, and have taught many fiddle students. I began calling contra dances in 1980, taking over a little dance at the Guiding Star Grange Hall in Greenfield, Massachusetts which then struggled along for three years before becoming the first really established public dance there in decades. I also called and/or played at numerous small, out-of-the-way dances and other events around New England.

Seeking both a place in the older local communities and increased input into decisions regarding our dance halls, I joined the Montague Center and Guiding Star Granges. I became involved in a gradual increase in the organizations' memberships and a clarifying of their intention to improve the halls' availability and accessibility for more participatory arts (of which contra dancing is only one!), concerts, theater, classes, and more.

Gradually, I became involved in the larger regional and, eventually, national contra dance scenes. This summer, I will be on staff at Northern Week at Ashokan for the 16th time and at Contra Dance Musicians' Week at the John C. Campbell Folk School for the fourth consecutive year. I have also worked at New Year's events at these locations and elsewhere, and have taught, played, and called at camps, weekends, workshops, and other events all over the country.

My 8th visit to Sweden took place in February, 2000. There, as usual, I visited, skiied, ran, drank coffee, deepened friendships, took part in music and dance events there, learned as much as I could, and presented New England music and dancing in schools, public places, and private homes.