Sunday, December 22, 2013

Seventh Anniversary Post

Today is the seventh anniversary of the first publication of my blog, which occurred on December 22, 2006, when I posted my first two entries, one on why I chose to write about bluegrass music and the other reviewing Doris Kearns Goodwinn's book about Lincoln called Team of Rivals. Over the next couple of days I posted about two football books and a radio program discussing Daniel Levitin's wonderful book This is Your Brain on Music, which continues to inform my understanding about how we choose the music we do, and why certain music becomes and remains in our heads.  A few weeks ago, I posted the 1000th entry to my blog. This year appears at this writing, a few days before the actual anniversary, to be a record year in terms of number of posts, number of days we spent on the road, and variety of experiences we've had.

During the past year we spent 227 days on the road, most of them living in our twenty-six foot travel trailer. Over the past few years we've reduced the number of miles we travel per day, seeking to spend no longer than about six hours on the road in any day and driving somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 miles. Age is taking something of a toll, and we both find a greater need do less pushing and find time to just kick back. Nevertheless, we attended twenty-three festivals, more than any other year. Some of these were one or two day events with fewer events seeming to schedule a full four days.  We added new events including HoustonFest in Galax, VA, the Sweet Grass Music Festival in Mt. Pleasant, SC, Pemi Valley in Thornton, NH, and the Rockahock Bluegrass Festival in Lanexa,  VA. We returned to the Willow Oak Bluegrass Festival in Roxboro, NC after several years' absence.We dropped Merlefest from our rotation after attending for ten years because it had become too crowded and strenuous an event for us. We wrote previews for each event as well as reports on our experiences there, always accompanied by pictures. A highlight of our year was IBMA's decision to move it's World of Bluegrass to Raleigh, NC this year. This year signaled a revival of energy and commitment within the organization and to it from the outside. We can't wait for the 2014 event to be held from Sept. 30 - October 4, 2014.

In addition to going to bluegrass festivals, we also attended eight concerts, five of them featuring the Gibson Brothers in concert.  We like to seek out other kinds of bluegrass related experiences. We visited Judith Burnette in the studios of WBRF-FM, Bluegrass Country Radio 98.1 to interview her and ended up being interviewed by her.  Over the years, we've taken time to visit luthiers at work. This year we spent several hours with Caleb Smith, guitarist and singer with Balsam Range, who has developed a busy business building fine guitars. We recorded an extensive interview, which is still in process. Finally, we spent a part of a day at Wayne Henderson's shop where we watched this delightful sprite work on guitars, were treated to a visit to his vault, and met some of his many friends. Try to find a Henderson guitar on the after market. When I started writing this blog, I thought I'd run out of material. What seems to happen, however, is that writing about bluegrass and its surrounding areas has constantly opened new opportunities and introduced us to new and exciting people. We try to remain open to new opportunities as they emerge, even as we find our time and energy stretched to the limit. We can't possibly go all the places we're invited to attend.

At the end of last year there were 561 videos on our YouTube channel. At present, that number has increased to 988 with a few more to be added before the end of the year. That means we have uploaded 427 videos taken at the events we attended during this year. Along the way, we added new software for video production, giving our videos a more professional look and feel. Irene has played a major role as both videographer and photographer, adding range and a different eye to our visual work. I'm always surprised when someone approaches me and comments on my blog. This year, at World of Bluegrass, a young man came up to me to tell me he enjoyed my videos. I asked him whether he read the blog, too. "Do you have a blog?" Knocked me over.  In the past year our videos have been viewed a little over 706,000 times, perhaps as much as eight times as many views as the blog has. The total is approaching three million views, with the Josh Williams bird video still generating significant plays. The changing media environment suggests this trend can only continue, but I'm a pretty old dog, and I like to take photographs, write, read books, and write some more, so I'll continue writing a long-form blog because it's the best forum I know to give my creative and communicative urges an outlet.

We continue to each have a personal FaceBook page and post to a FaceBook Fan Page we call "Ted and Irene's Most Excellent Bluegrass Adventure." Interestingly, only about 800 of my FaceBook friends have also "Liked" our Adventure, so the different approaches actually have quite different audiences. Because of the algorithms Facebook uses to decide how many of our "friends" or people who "Like" our page, there is really no way of knowing whether any message posted on a Facebook page of any sort actually gets through to people who have expressed an interest in seeing it. There seems to be a campaign afoot to end this manipulation of subscribers, but I'm not at all sure it will succeed. Meanwhile, I've increased my participation in Google + even though I'm not sure I know how to use it very well...yet. Regardless, I like to try to make connections between all our online selves and us as people at events who connect with real people who make and love to listen to bluegrass music.

Reading has always been a central part of my life, and I've written book reviews since the first day of this blog. Actually, I also posted book reviews in an earlier travel and books oriented web site I maintained, which is now lost somewhere in the clouds before the Cloud was a place to preserve things. I think the hosting web service provider took it down, and I can't seem to resurrect it.  This year I posted forty-six book reviews. My interests are eclectic and so are my book reviews. An interesting thing about them is that although they don't contribute hugely to my daily hit count, they have a cumulative effect on people coming to my blog over a period of years. Included in my book reviews is a sprinkling of books devoted to music (Fred Bartenstein's Award winning biography of Josh Graves, Murphy Henry's ground breaking book Pretty Good for a Girl, and a wonderful country music book on the Outlaws during the seventies among others), foreign affairs, a variety of novels, history, and science. I know my reading is not everyone's cup of tea, but I love to read and continue to believe, as I did during my teaching career, that you don't know what you think unless you either say it or write it.

Regardless of how they're counted, and my hit counters disagree to such an extent I don't feel comfortable trying to make sense of the numbers, it's clear that thousands of people from all over the world come to this site to read about bluegrass, books, or both. They're the backbone of the blog and our focus in presenting the material we do. We're grateful to all the people who visit here and urge you to stop one or both of us when you see us at festivals or other places to say "Hey," and take some time to chat. If I'm in a hurry to get someplace, I'll let you know. I can't say enough about the people who have, only half jokingly, become known as members of my Editorial Board. These are the people who see mistakes and let me know about it, and, believe me, they do. If this blog is accurate and helpful, it's because people from all over help to keep it so, without ever trying to convince me that positions I take are wrong, although there are plenty of people who like to engage me in discussion, here, on FaceBook, and around the various forums I contribute to.

We look forward to heading out for our winter/spring tour in mid-January and to continuing to share our adventures with you. Do join us regularly - Meanwhile:

 Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays 


 All Our Friends and Readers


Ted & Irene Lehmann