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* Alexis in Pennsylvania about "Harmonic Highways"

I’ve written several times about my musical heritage and how I wasn’t raised on classical music. I didn’t even really become immersed in classical music until the summer before my senior year of high school when I attended the Sewanee Summer Music Festival. Learning the musical language of an art form I didn’t really grow up with was the challenge and I worked incredibly hard to achieve competence and a feeling that I belonged.

I grew up listening to all kinds of music, but I started out singing in church and I sang a lot of gospel music. I still remember my favorites like Give Me that Old Time Religion and I’ll Fly Away (imagine my excitement to find a youtube channel devoted to the hymnal I vividly remember as having the most fun songs to sing). Eventually, I sang more contemporary music and then I began playing the flute in 6th grade. I eventually stopped singing and focused on the flute and classical music.

When I was younger, I never linked my own musical heritage with the flute. I always felt like the flute connected me to the larger world beyond the sheltered region of Southwest Virginia where bluegrass and old time music is the organic and dominant musical presence. Aside from school band programs, classical music was and is non-existent in my home county.


In reading Michael Abraham’s book, Harmonic Highways: Exploring Virginia’s Crooked Road, I’ve realized how much the region has changed in the 10 years since I’ve lived there. Abraham’s book reminded me that I have an innate need to somehow combine sound worlds and learn more about the music that is a part of my individual musical fabric, even if I wasn’t actively listening to it during my developmental musical years. I want to tap into the change, forge relationships and connect to the music that is present in everyone in that region. It may not be “art music” but it’s the kind of music that gets you moving, thinking and processing life.

I’m working on a special project that will be the first step in my process of actually combining worlds. It’s going to require some stepping out of my comfort zone but why not? I’m always going to feel a special connection to my tiny hometown and I want to honor those roots. The beauty of this music is that anytime I feel homesick, I can just listen and it takes me home.

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