by Cory Marie Podielski
The Folk School is so happy to welcome Annie Fain Liden-Barralon to the position of Music and Dance Coordinator! I sat down with Annie Fain to find out about her experience growing up in the Folk School community and what it’s like to return as the Music and Dance Coordinator.
Cory Marie: What’s is like returning to the Folk School Community as a full time resident and employee?
Annie Fain: It feels good in a deep down way. Many things are the same as they were when I was young, from the student name tags to the feel of the wooden dance floor in the Community room to the warmth of the community that surrounds the school.
Cory Marie: So, this isn’t the first time you’ve worked for the Folk School?
Annie Fain: In 2002, I came back from studying abroad at a folk school in Denmark and was awarded an upcoming craftsperson scholarship through the Southern Highland Craft Guild to take a class at Penland in Book Arts and Papermaking. I worked in the office at the Folk School as an Administrative Assistant to save for the class. It was during that time that Karen asked me to be the coordinator for Little/Middle Folk School.
I was 22 at the time and had participated in Little/Middle myself from the ages of 7-17. I was honored and eager for the challenge. Folk School people have always been very supportive and have taught me much. Later, I developed an awareness of marketing through eight years of self-employment as an artist, musician, and dancer. I took business and accounting classes, and realized the importance of being organized, marketing and networking.
Cory Marie: Are you going to stick with Bob’s plan or are you going to shake things up?
Annie Fain: Maybe a little of both! Since classes are booked a year in advance, I have the luxury of observing how 2014 develops. It gives me time to get my feet on the ground, and to get to know our audience. I plan to introduce new things within the context of how things have traditionally been done at the Folk School.
I’ve taken many classes at the Folk School in the past such as Cape Breton step dancing. Enrollment for dance classes has been down these last few years. I want to reassess and think about, not only bringing classes like those back, but how to fill them. I would also like to start a Cajun music and dance weekend!
Cory Marie: When did you start teaching at the Folk School?
Annie Fain: In 2004, I taught my first Book Arts class and then Bob Dalsemer hired me to teach clawhammer banjo and then Appalachian Clogging with my sister, Emolyn Liden. My father, David Liden, also a local musician, was usually my assistant for the banjo classes and it was great fun. I taught at least one banjo and book arts class every year from that time on.
Cory Marie: I have been part of the Folk School community for only 2 years, so I’d like to hear about your story. Tell me about yourself.
Annie Fain: I was born in Charleston, West Virginia. Dad was there as part of a land study project for people who had sold their mineral rights to coal companies. The way my parents tell the story is that after my brother (Lindsey) was born, mom (Martha Owen) said “I’m going home to Murphy.” Dad said, “Well, she had the kids and she had the check book,” so he went with her!
Cory Marie: Did your family move to your current location?
Annie Fain: We moved into the Fain house in Murphy which was around 100 years old at the time. “Fain” is my grandmother’s maiden name, we (my brother, sister and I) are 7th generation in Murphy with that name. This is where my first name comes from; Annie Fain. A lot of folks think “Fain” is my middle name, but my mother assures me that she intended Annie Fain to be my first name. The Fain house burnt down the day after my 13th birthday, but by then we had moved.
Cory Marie: Where else did your family live?
Annie Fain: My parents have always had sheep, so that made staying in Murphy city limits a problem. They got away with it as long as they could and eventually they rented some land out in Tusquitee from Garnette Nelson who also had sheep. Soon after that we moved into the Garron Ghelly house on Harshaw Rd. near the Folk School. The house was designed in the same style as Rock House at the Folk School. It was during that time that my father started working as the Development Manager at the Folk School.
The land where our house in Martin’s Creek is located was previously owned by J. Roy Stalcup who was a banjo player. He used to sit in the Living Room at the Folk School, play his banjo and visit with folks on the weekends. Stories about J. Roy and Horace Stalcup (who lived at the end of our driveway) are still special to me.
Cory Marie: What are you first memories of the Folk School?
Annie Fain: I remember being little and going to big parties in Orchard House where people played tunes. Mom and Dad played and performed a lot at the Folk School. As children, we were always there, just hanging around. It was a normal part of life growing up. We would get big speeches from mom: “You’re at the Folk School. We want to stay welcome here, and so you need to be on your best behavior. We want to be able to keep coming back.” We got used to just hanging out while our parents played, or mom told stories. People say to me all the time that they remember me sleeping under the piano during dances. The hosts at the Folk School were Danish when I was growing up. There was an international Folk School community and also a local community of country people. Both the influences were a big part of making me who I am today.
Cory Marie: When did you start to become involved in playing/dancing?
Annie Fain: I was four when I wanted to join the contra/square dances. I did not smile. I was super-serious. I didn’t want anyone to tell me what to do because I knew that I knew what to do. They would want to pick me up and swing me. I was like “NO!” - I am not a child! I just wanted to dance.
Cory Marie: When did you join a dance team?
Annie Fain: I joined the Rural Felicity Garland dancers when I was 8. My mother went regularly to dance practices. I clearly remember being 7 and her leaving to dance practice and me bawling my eyes out for an hour on the front doorstep. I just wanted to do it so bad.
This group of adult women let me join the team at 8 and I danced with them until I graduated high school. I got used to the community, the socializing, and the politics behind community-based dance teams. Later, when I lived in Asheville, NC, I joined Loafer’s Glory, a North West Morris team and eventually the Green Grass Cloggers.
When I was a teenager I wanted to be a Folk School Clogger, but I was already so busy with doing piano, gymnastics, and all these other things. I had really good friends who were cloggers, and they taught me all the routines. When they performed at Fall Festival, I would dance all the routines by the side of the stage on the ground next to them. How pitiful is that? I just wanted to dance.
I learned to clog by watching old timers do it. It is common around here, if a community member needs help, folks get together at their local community center to raise some money by selling hot dogs, having a cake walk, playing music and dancing. The old folks would usually only do the buck step, but always with their own personal flare.
Folk School folks let me participate in this stuff at such a young age and I am so thankful that they did because I knew I wanted to do it and when they let me, I did fine.
Cory Marie: When did you start to play music?
Annie Fain: When I was in 6th grade I wanted to learn fiddle and had some lessons from dad, but it was from dad. If you are learning from a parent, it seems so annoying. It is easy to get mad at parents, because you blame them because learning an instrument is hard. I have always played a few tunes and played those tunes for years, and then, I’d have waves of learning more. I still consider myself a closet fiddle player.
Cory Marie: When did you pick up the banjo?
Annie Fain: When I was 15, I learned my first banjo tune, Old Joe Clark, from mom. We didn’t have actual lessons, but I slowly accumulated more and more tunes from her. When I went to college in Asheville, I tried to find people to play with, but I was shy about it. There was the jam at Jack of the Woods, but I wouldn’t play. Finally, I started to play with my friends Jamie Herrman and Jessica Johnson. It was the first time that I felt really supported by my band mates – this is when I started to blossom as a player. It was around this time in my early to mid- 20s that I started to play the banjo uke. My friends and I would come and play Fall Festival every year. I still perform with Blue-Eyed Girl. Pearl Shirley, Ellie Grace and I all grew up in musical families.
Cory Marie: What did you study at UNC Asheville?
Annie Fain: I created my own major in Appalachian Studies and Folklore in History. When I was doing senior research, the Danish Scholarship came up. During my time at UNCA, I also studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Cory Marie: Tell me about living at a Folk School in Denmark.
Annie Fain: When I was 22, I got a scholarship to a Folk School in Denmark. At the Danish Folk School, everyone sing songs before lunch and you even have your own little blue, hard cover songbook. Everything is about togetherness and coziness. The meals were family style. It was a sports and dance Folk School so classes were power sport, outdoor adventure, and rhythmic gymnastics. It was intense – I did things that I never would have imagined. I took my banjo with me and taught them Cripple Creek. They made up a table slap dance to it. They didn’t understand really what Appalachia was. They liked me, but I was strange to them.
Cory Marie: Besides hitting the floor as a 4 year old, what’s your experience with Contra and Community Dances?
Annie Fain: I was invited to be on the board at the Old Farmer’s Ball at Warren Wilson College. That was the beginning of learning more about the money, business, and politics that go into keeping a big dance going. I also learned how to deal with dance floor etiquette and concerns – everything from how to address inappropriate dancers (people who twirl you way too much and yank your arm off), to demonstrations to empower women to be defensive dancers. Board members would also take turns hosting the dance.
Cory Marie: What made you decide to go to France?
Annie Fain: I have always wanted to go to France to learn French. It was New Year’s Eve 2009 at the Folk School, and I knew it was time to go. I gave myself a year to plan, to prepare, and to complete my teaching commitments. I wanted to go for 6 months to a year to really be able to learn French and experience traditional French music and dance.
When I was staying with old-time musicians Polo and Nadine, I had a list of music festivals I had heard about. They happened to be on staff at all of them. They didn’t have a banjo player, so I was invited to perform with them. Géraud was their bass player. They also invited me to teach clogging and call squares and contras in French! ah! They wanted American dance. Géraud and I fell in love, got married, and had baby, Jules! After 3 years of dealing with visas and such, we moved back to Brasstown in January 2013.
Cory Marie: How does it feel to return after being abroad?
Annie Fain: Karen talked to me about this position when I was 23 and I wasn’t sure – I didn’t feel ready to settle down. I was traveling and living in Asheville, but every time I came back to Brasstown I felt peaceful. Now, it feels right to come back after living in different places and starting a family, a full-circle feeling. I am not a child anymore. I’ve spent so much time at the school as a kid, I feel like it is a second home, I feel very comfortable here.
Cory Marie: What are your duties?
Annie Fain: Coordinating all things music and dance for the Folk School. Keeping in touch with teachers, scheduling the classes and the Friday night concert series, engineering sound, Tuesday night dances, coordinating Fall Festival performers, finding bands and callers for the Saturday night dances, marketing, and more. My husband, Géraud, is a trained sound technician, he is very committed to helping out.
Cory Marie: Do you have a favorite place on campus?
Annie Fain: I love hiding places and I can’t give those away. I remember throwing balloons down from the trapdoor high up in the ceiling of the community room when I was 8 on New Year’s Eve. I relish the sun room in Orchard House and the porch-views looking towards Magic Mountain.
I have only missed 2 or 3 Fall Festivals in my entire life – I love it and the Festival Barn for nostalgic reasons. Some things don’t change. You see the same folks every year.
Cory Marie: What is your favorite food?
Annie Fain: Cheese and wine from France! (Especially Comté and the Picidon goat cheese from Ardeche where we were living. Sometimes they form the cheeses into little heart shapes.)
Cory Marie: Contra dance move?
Annie Fain: Definitely not a gypsy – too shy.
Balance and swing – I like the balance & making some noise.