My passion for folklore, and, in particular, folksong, dates back to when I was twelve. Educational radio programs featured recordings of traditional music and song, especially those made by the Lomaxes. I was enthralled, and I began to attend meetings of the New York Folklore Society when they were held in Manhattan.
I determined to become a folklorist, and, in 1973, I entered Indiana University’s folklore program. I completed my Ph.D. in 1988. My dissertation was an ethnography of singing of Newtownbutler, Co, Fermanagh, Northern Ireland in which I wrote about how both Catholics and Protestants used singing as a means of conflict management. Findings from that early work have been published in edited volumes, and updated material, based on subsequent fieldwork, will result in a monograph.
In 1986, I began long-term fieldwork in Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada, inspired by my late friend and mentor Edward D. Ives. I focused on the Miramichi Folksong Festival, put on by locals for locals. I have been particularly intrigued by singers who were bilingual and bicultural, and how they juggled their biculturalism musically, particularly within the context of the Festival. From 1986 until his death in 2008, I documented the life history and songs of Allan Kelly, who was known as “The French Irishman” in the lumberwoods. Some 400 hours of field tapes are housed at the Canadian Museum of National History.
In 1994, I started Ballad-L, an online forum for ballad and folksong scholars, and that list, with an international membership, continues to thrive.
I attended my first American Folklore Society meeting in 1975. Some twenty years later, I began to serve as co-convener of the Music and Song Section. Our section sponsors the Bertrand H. Bronson Student Paper Prize, and hosts the Phillips Barry Lecture most years. I have enjoyed serving as section co-convener, and will gladly serve on the Society’s Executive Board, if elected.