Music has always played a major role in creating and archiving memories in my mind, and certain songs seem to be inextricably tied to “places.” A prime example stems from a memory I had when my family moved to West Germany in 1980. A child full of wonder and curiosity at this foreign experience, my first sightings of castles, the Black Forest, and the English Channel all held magic and mystique. I remember when we rode a train from Frankfurt to Wiesbaden on a house-hunting excursion and wound up at Wiesbaden AFB (also known at Amelia Earhart AFB). There was a plane displayed on a pedestal and a memorial to her. I asked my dad who she was, and the story he told stuck in my mind of this ill-fated heroine of flight. The following year I studied and did a report on her for a school project.
Years later in high school, in the height of my idolization of Joni Mitchell, I purchased the album “Heijira” and fell in love with track 2 titled “Amelia:”
The drone of flying engines
Is a sound so wild and blue
It scrambles time and seasons
If it gets through to you
Then your life becomes a travelogue
Of picture postcard charms
Amelia, it was just a false alarm
I can’t convey properly in words how much that song touched my heart, inspired me, brought back memories of planes flying overhead in the German village we settled in just miles from Rhein-Main AFB. The sound was so deafening at times that our child’s play was interrupted to cover our ears. That song evokes memories of the journey to Wiesbaden, my discovery of who Amelia Earhart was, the “travelogue” of my own life. Each time I hear it, my mind flies to that “place” of enchantment.
I think almost anyone who has allowed music to be a part of their life can relate to this in some way or other, being in that zone where music, memory, and place are intertwined. And I believe that music, especially for the musician, has the ability to create a “place” of belonging, whether it be a locale, a community, or even a state of mind. I’ve always pursued music through learning instruments, singing, and writing songs, and at times had outlets to share with others in high school, college, church. But I found myself at a certain point in my life where I felt like I was pursuing this dream alone. I was singing at open mics and getting local gigs while trying to get advice online amid a sea of differing voices. Then one day I discovered that a conference would be held in Murfreesboro, TN for an organization called SERFA. Little did I know how this organization would affect my life in a positive way, give me a community of like-minded souls to be a part of, give me support in how to achieve goals, and spark ideas for things I’d never even dreamed of doing. SERFA created a “place” for me in the world of music; it made me a part of a wonderfully diverse and inspiring “tribe.”
Another memory I have, one created courtesy of FAI when it was planted in Memphis, was a private showcase where I first heard Mary Gauthier. I’d heard her name, but not her music. I remember an atmosphere in the room of hushed respect as she sat down and performed with a fiddler to her right. I remember that feeling of being in close proximity to what I perceived to be greatness. And now, years later, I’ll get the pleasure of hearing her live again, along with many other SERFA members at our 2020 conference, where Mary Gauthier will be our keynote speaker. We are so excited and honored to have her grace our stage and share with us from her wealth of talent and wisdom.
As I said earlier, “place” can represent a state of mind, and Mary Gauthier’s lyrics from her well-known song “Mercy Now” are a prime example of how expert songwriting can convey something larger than oneself, and even promote unity in the face of such great division as our nation is facing. She dreams of us finding a place where mercy is freely granted and received:
My father could use a little mercy now
The fruits of his labor fall and rot slowly on the ground
His work is almost over it won't be long, he won't be around
I love my father, he could use some mercy now
My brother could use a little mercy now
He's a stranger to freedom, he's shackled to his fear and his doubt
The pain that he lives in it's almost more than living will allow
I love my brother, he could use some mercy now
My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit it's going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful who follow them down
I love my church and country, they could use some mercy now
Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race towards another mushroom cloud
People in power, they'll do anything to keep their crown
I love life and life itself could use some mercy now
Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don't deserve it but we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance dangle 'tween hell and hallowed ground
And every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Are you seeking a place in the vast world of music to belong, to gain inspiration? If so, I hope you’ll join us for SERFA 2020 in Chattanooga next May.
Our beloved former president Don Baker is relocating out of the Southeast, and so has resigned from the Board of Directors. His contribution to SERFA is greatly appreciated, and we wish him a smooth and blessed transition. I’d like to announce that Karyn Oliver will be replacing him in the vacated seat, and we are thrilled to have her on board. Congratulations, Karyn!
We are accepting proposals for workshops for our next conference. Please complete the online form if you’d like to be on a panel, have something you’d like to bring, or would like to see a certain subject covered next year. We want your ideas and feedback.
Regards from my “Sweet Home” Alabama,
President of the Board