We are proud to announce that Mary Alice Amidon, Peter Amidon, Mary Cay Brass, and Andy Davis are the 2023 recipients of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award.

Collectively known as the New England Dancing Masters, for the past four decades they have spread the joy of traditional music and dance across North America.

Starting with The Chimes of Dunkirk in 1991, the New England Dancing Masters produced a treasure trove of books, CDs, and DVDs with crystal clear instructions for dances and singing games. Their live performances, workshops, school residencies, and leadership at family dance camps have encouraged and trained countless teachers to bring traditional dance, music, song, and storytelling into schools and communities.

In recent years, the Dancing Masters’ teaching blog and YouTube channel brought resources and inspiration to everyone at home during the pandemic.

Thank you Mary Alice, Peter, Mary Cay, and Andy!

  • “I just experienced some of the dances in your books Listen to the Mockingbird and Chimes of Dunkirk at a workshop. It was an incredible experience…My students will really enjoy these dances. The movement instructions are the clearest I’ve seen in a resource like this! Thank you!”

  • “This is hands-down one of the best resources for American folk dances for children. Dances are carefully selected, instructions are easy to follow, and the recordings are delightfully authentic.”

The Country Dance & Song Society is proud to announce that Ed Stern of Minneapolis, MN, is the 2022 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award.

Ed’s passionate involvement with dance stretches back to the 1960s with international folk dance and morris dance in Chicago. Ed has lived in the Twin Cities since 1971, and several generations of Midwestern dancers have experienced the joy of dance that Ed infuses into his skilled teaching. He has taught numerous styles of dance, including morris, English country, contra, Scottish, international, ballroom, Scandinavian, Irish ceilidh, and more. Ed is a founder of Minnesota Traditional Morris, and morris dancers from many communities have learned the massed dances for Midwest Morris Ale from Ed.

Ed founded the Saltari Folk Dance Emporium in the late ‘70s and has taught at the Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis since its early days in the ‘80s. Ed actively recruits and mentors new callers. He happily admits that he became addicted to dance early on and is driven to ensure that dance continues to brighten the lives of future generations. Thank you, Ed!

  • “Over the past 40 years, Ed has been a steadfast and active member of the teaching leadership for the folk dancing population in the Twin Cities. People of all ages, from the youngest participants in our family folk dance program to those retirees dancing in the English country dance program, have been touched by Ed’s influence. In the morris community, Ed’s teaching of teachers and involvement in Minnesota Traditional Morris and so many programs at Tapestry shows his dedication to the art of folk dance and its continuation in upcoming generations.”

  • “Besides the fact that Ed has been involved in varied dance and song communities for more than 50 years, he continues to joyfully impart his knowledge to those of us of all ages involved in these communities. He is also a patient, yet deliberate and exacting, teacher who has a vast base of knowledge to impart.”

  • “From my perspective, Ed’s involvement in folk dancing could never be separated from his desire for the traditions he is teaching to continue. Actively seeking out and encouraging new dancers and musicians is part of his fabric as a person who deeply loves and enjoys the traditions he teaches.”

  • “One of Ed’s greatest attributes is his ability to introduce and teach the joy of dance to any generation. I have witnessed this many times and in many ways, including at my wedding. Ed is the reason I am involved in the dance community. His knowledge and passion for dance is unlimited and has influenced literally thousands of people and I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award.”

  • “Ed continues to inspire individuals across many demographics, and his legacy will continue for decades to come. I find it hard to think of anyone who has had such a profound impact on traditional dancing as Ed Stern has, and I cannot think of anyone else who is more deserving of a lifetime contribution award than he.”

  • “My community, my dear friends, and many of my joyous experiences in life would not exist without Ed Stern’s founding of Minnesota Traditional Morris. He really is the impetus of the Twin Cities Folk Dance community. When I think about all the things Ed has done for our community, it is the most selfless and admirable gift anyone can bestow upon others. I have danced in the street, I have danced at pubs, I have danced down Nicollet Mall in the heart of Minneapolis. I have sung around campfires with Ed and the rest of my Folk Dance Brothers. I have been to England and again danced in the street and danced in pubs. I am very grateful for Ed Stern’s presence and commitment to Folk Dance in the Twin Cities.”

Most Recent LCA Recipient:

New England Dancing Masters: Andy Davis, Mary Alice Amidon, Mary Cay Brass, and Peter Amidon 2023: New England Dancing Masters

We are proud to announce that Mary Alice Amidon, Peter Amidon, Mary Cay Brass, and Andy Davis are the 2023 recipients of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award.

Collectively known as the New England Dancing Masters, for the past four decades they have spread the joy of traditional music and dance across North America.

Starting with The Chimes of Dunkirk in 1991, the New England Dancing Masters produced a treasure trove of books, CDs, and DVDs with crystal clear instructions for dances and singing games. Their live performances, workshops, school residencies, and leadership at family dance camps have encouraged and trained countless teachers to bring traditional dance, music, song, and storytelling into schools and communities.

In recent years, the Dancing Masters’ teaching blog and YouTube channel brought resources and inspiration to everyone at home during the pandemic.

Thank you Mary Alice, Peter, Mary Cay, and Andy!

  • “I just experienced some of the dances in your books Listen to the Mockingbird and Chimes of Dunkirk at a workshop. It was an incredible experience…My students will really enjoy these dances. The movement instructions are the clearest I’ve seen in a resource like this! Thank you!”

  • “This is hands-down one of the best resources for American folk dances for children. Dances are carefully selected, instructions are easy to follow, and the recordings are delightfully authentic.”

Nominations for Future Lifetime Contribution Awards

Do you know someone who has made a long-term and exceptional contribution to the mission of CDSS? Has this contribution benefited more than one geographical area and/or generation? Has the person worked in conjunction with CDSS for more than 20 years?

If the answer is “yes” to all of these, then you may know a future recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award (LCA).

Examples of a significant contribution include:

  • increasing the quality of what we do by inspiration, instruction, or excellent example
  • bringing what we do to new communities
  • expanding the repertoire of dance, music and/or song through scholarship or original composition;
  • working behind the scenes or enabling others to make these contributions

Nominations for the 2025 Lifetime Contribution Award will open in early 2024. Nominations for the 2024 award are closed. The recipient will be announced in late 2023.

If you would like to nominate someone who has recently passed away, please use this form for the Posthumous Lifetime Contribution Award. Nominations for the Posthumous LCA are accepted anytime.

Past Recipients:

Honorary CDSS Members

The following people were made an Honorary CDSS Member before the origination of the Lifetime Contribution Awards:

  • 1996: Sue Salmons
  • 1992: Kate Van Winkle Keller
  • 1990: Marshall Barron

The Country Dance & Song Society is proud to announce that David Kaynor of Montague Center, MA, is the 2021 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award.

David was selected in recognition of more than 50 years of performing and teaching at camps and festivals across the U.S., humbly mentoring an entire generation of contra dance musicians, tirelessly serving as a leader in dance and music communities of Western Massachusetts, generously sharing tune compositions and writings about dance calling, and supporting generations of musicians and dancers in creating warm, inviting, and welcoming communities though music and dance.

David’s award was celebrated at an online event on his birthday, April 17, 2021. Watch the recording:

David’s Acceptance Remarks

I’m delighted and humbled to receive the Lifetime Contribution Award.

I think about the colossal contributions of past recipients, and I ask myself, Why me? Although I enjoyed and believed in what I was doing as a dance caller, fiddle teacher, session host, musician, and graphic artist, I considered myself irrelevant to the lofty circles and activities of the Country Dance and Song Society.

A low point in my musical life came in the spring of 1981, when the president of NEFFA told me that, in their opinion, what we … my cousins, uncle, other Fourgone Conclusions band mates, and I … were doing had nothing to do with New England contra dancing.

My response to numerous real or perceived organizational snubs was to submerge myself in the pleasures of the moment in my core interests and pursuits: Long distance running, cross country skiing, dancing, calling dances, teaching basic Swedish dances, teaching basic fiddling, and playing music. I also became something of a calligrapher and graphic artist.

Eventually, I found a niche as a teacher and caller. This led to countless gigs in which I enjoyed a happy integration of my artistic, spiritual, and political ideals and having to earn enough money to get by.

All these facets of my life came together when I became Music Director of the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra and the Fiddle Orchestra of Western Massachusetts. These groups welcomed all musicians of all skill and experience levels. My tasks included including all. Our practices blended learning and arranging tunes with in-the-moment adventure and fun. I wrote out many harmonies while on AMTRAK’S Vermonter, where the conductors knew me by name and the scenery was sweetly familiar.

I’m grateful to Jay Ungar and Molly Mason at Ashokan, Bob Dalsemer and Annie Fain Liden Barallon at the John C. Campbell Folk School, the Reiner family of Fiddle Hell, Paul Rosenberg and Peter Davis at the Dance Flurry, my colleagues at Northeast Heritage Music Camp, Mike Reddig in Flagstaff, Arizona, Fred Karsch in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Sue Songer and Betsy Branch in Portland and Mark Lewis and Carla Arnold in La Grand, Oregon, Sherry Nevins and Tom and Amy Wimmer in Seattle, Lindon Toney in Olympia, Washington, and numerous other organizers and bandmates in the Pacific Northwest. These folks gave me opportunities to share my developing skills and deep love of music and dancing, not just once, but over and over.

Thanks to all these people, I was able to cultivate relationships with and within their communities. This, in turn, enabled me to not just share tons of fun, but also share experiences of growth and development in many ways. Our skills and repertoire evolved and so did our senses of self, possibility, and purpose.

We didn’t just perform music and dance. We SHARED it. This became a fundamental personal philosophy: There are times and places for performing, but sharing can happen so much more often, and it’s good for us all. Maybe it’s even good for the world.

I’ve struggled to matter for as long as I can remember. This showed itself in a number of ways, including sports and music and dance. I was always dogged by the weight of self doubt. This finally dissipated in the final years of my career, thanks to all of the above who provided opportunities for us to explore mattering together.

David Allen Kaynor passed away on June 1, 2021. We’re so grateful for everything he brought to our world, and for the opportunity we had to honor him with this award.

The Country Dance and Song Society is pleased to announce that Kate Barnes of Greenfield, MA, is the 2020 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award. Kate was selected in recognition of many years of performance and teaching at CDSS programs, the international importance of her publications, her generosity of spirit when running music workshops, and her contributions to current and future communities.

The Lifetime Contribution Award Celebration for Kate Barnes was held on September 26, 2021. The award ceremony we originally planned for September 2020 was sadly cancelled due to the pandemic, so we created an online celebration to include as many people as possible, and to make it easy to attend for Kate’s friends, family, and well-wishers from across the continent.

The event included the award presentation, several group musical contributions, photos, videos, personal reminiscences, tributes and much more. We also invited participants to record some pieces of music to share at the event. 

See a video of the celebration: 

  • “As a contra dance piano player, Kate pioneered an improvisatory style that brings joy to dancers, and influences musicians directly and through countless workshops. Her decades-long work with Bare Necessities created fresh interpretations of English country dance music to lift our feet, and the three volumes of the Barnes books are the standard reference collections of tunes used by musicians throughout the dance community.”

  • “Kate has contributed consistently to the scene for more decades than I know. She’s inspired dancers with her music —exquisitely played, full of forward motion and joyful variety, sensitive to the period, tune type and occasion, and in tight teamwork with other musicians. She’s a reason many people like English dancing.”

  • “I’ve had the great fortune to travel the US, Canada and even as far as Denmark with The Latter Day Lizards. Everywhere we go Kate is universally known and respected and admired for her musicianship, warmth and quick-witted humor. I can’t think of a better recipient for next year’s CDSS Lifetime Contribution award!”

  • “Since I first heard and started playing with her in the 1970’s, her passionate, creative, traditionally spirited-but-not-stifled playing and composing have been a bottomless wellspring. Kate’s ink-stained (and later electronic) publishing labors of love have saved many musicians from hauling libraries around in order to play for a dances and have encouraged many to learn the underappreciated craft of playing for dancing. I’m grateful for Kate’s strong, courageous commitment to self-expression, and her deep commitment to the much-needed-in-today’s-world, affirming values of our dance community.”

Kate Barnes Biography

September, 2021

Kate Barnes has been playing piano, flute, whistles and guitar (along with other assorted instruments: banjo, harmonica, bass (acoustic and electric), oboe, English horn, sousaphone, mandolin, fiddle and alto saxophone for traditional dancing since 1971.

She’s been invited to most major contra, square, British Isles, and vintage dance events throughout the United States, performing for dances and concerts, leading ensemble workshops, and generally acting in a crazy and often undignified manner. Averaging over 250 engagements per year since 1980, she is arguably one of New England’s busiest and most sought-after musicians.

She has played for festivals and tours in Canada, England, Ireland, France, Denmark, Shetland, Scotland, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Africa, Peru, Ecuador, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Hawaii, Alaska, Egypt and St. Croix.

She has been a member of the bands The Latter-Day Lizards, Bare Necessities, Yankee Ingenuity, Les Z Boys, Kestral, Big Bandemonium, Cilantrio, Dark Carnival, Childsplay, BLT, Panel of Experts, Crazy Quilt, The Dactyls, Tulluchgorum, Airplang, Trio Picante, Culchullan, Third String Trio, Trio Con Brio, Foregone Conclusions, The Fitzwilliam Dance Band, The Cathie Ryan Band, The Old Found Country Stay At Homes (not the New Lost Country City Ramblers), Corporal Rockies Mystery, Richard Power’s Vintage Orchestra and has played with countless musicians in pick up bands. She has performed with many traditional greats including Seamus Connolly, Joe Derrane, Cathie Ryan, Chris Norman, Alasdair Fraser, Rodney Miller, Joe Cormier and yes, Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block.

Her recordings include Sleeping on a Rock and Rainy Night in Montague with the Latter-Day Lizards; Kitchen Junket and Heatin’ Up the Hall with Yankee Ingenuity; Bare Necessities, Take a Dance, Nightcap and 15 CDs in the CDS Boston Centre Dance Series with Bare Necessities; Airplang and Airplang II with Rodney Miller; BLT (Barnes, Lea & Tomczak); Soir et Matin with Kerry Elkin, Yankee Dreams and Moxie with Frank Ferrell; Shape Shifting and Impulse of the Heart with Jeanne Morrill; Cascata de Lagrimas, Between Two Worlds, and Gypsy Wine with Mary Lea; Twelve-Gated City, The Great Waltz, and Childsplay with Childsplay; At Rainbows End (The Corona Sessions) solely with Kate Barnes; Gary Roodman’s Calculated Figures; several CD’s with various musicians; Sous le Ciel de Paris and Al Fresco with Third String Trio; and 2 CDs with the Scottish band Tullochgorum. She has made guest appearances on recordings with Anisa Angarola, Bob Abrams, Bob Dalsemer, Dave Nieman & Beverly Woods, Donna Hebert, Frank Ferrell, Jan Maier, The Keltic Kids, Kim Wallach, Leo Kretzner, Larry Unger, Mary Lea, Matt Glaser, Ruthie Dornfeld, The Boston Christmas Revels, Timothy Abell, “Waltzing for the Grange,” Nat Hewitt, The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society of Boston and many others.

Books: She has done the dance world a great service by compiling three volumes of English Country Dance Tunes which are widely used by English country dance musicians and many others throughout the US and in Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Belgium, and Germany. She has also compiled a book of couple dance music called A Little Couple Dance Musik and has written a tutorial for playing contra dance music called Interview with a Vamper.

Below is a small sampling of concerts, dance festivals, special events and overseas engagements.

Concerts: The Ark (MI), The Bread & Roses Heritage Festival (MA), Caffe Lena (NY), Club Passim (MA), The Colonial Inn Concert Series (MA), The Crosscurrents Fold & Classical Concert (MA), El Tremedal Coffeehouse (MA), The Fiddle and Bow Society (NC), Gaelic Roots (Boston College, MA), The Hallockville Folklife Center (NY), The Iron Horse (Northampton, MA), The Irish-American Heritage Society (GA), The Irish Cultural Center (NY), Johnny D’s Uptown (MA), The New Hampshire Highland Games, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors (NY), The Lowell Folk Festival (MA), Massasoit College Concerts (MA), The New England Conservatory Select Series (MA), Music of the Americas Festival (NY), The Pittsburgh Irish Festival (PA), The Provincetown Muse Series (MA), The Smithsonian Institute (DC), The Stonehill College Irish Festival (MA), The University of Vermont Lane Series (VT), The WGBH Acoustic Music Festival (MA), The Wolftrap Folk Masters Series (MD)

Dance Festivals & Special Events: Alta Sierra Dance Weekend (CA), Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camp (NY), Augusta Folk Heritage Camp (WV), Black Mountain Folk Festival (NC), Boxwood Wooden Flute Week (Nova Scotia, CANADA), Bay Area Country Dance Society Events (CA), Brandywine Old Time Music Festival (PA), Berea Dance Camp (KY), Buffalo Gap Dance Camp (WV), California Traditional Music Society Summer Solstice Festival (CA), Chesapeake Spring Dance Weekend (MD), Cream of the Crop Dance Series (NY), Commonwealth Vintage Dancers Events (MA), Dancing Bears Events (AL), Down East Folk Festival (ME), Eisteddfod Festival (MA), First Night (Boston, Worcester, Quincy, MA), The Feet Retreat (NC), Flying Cloud Academy Vintage Dance (OH), Folk Arts Center of Boston (MA), Folklore Village Farm (WI), Fox Hollow Folk Festival (NY), Harvest Moon Dance Festival (CA), Gaelic Roots Festival (Boston College, Boston, MA), Hands-Four Spring and Fall Weekend (NH), Hudson Guild Dance Camp (NJ), John C. Campbell Folk School (NC), Lady of the Lake Dance Events (ID), Lavender Country & Folk Dancers (MA), Long Island Traditional Music Association (LITMA) Events (NY), Lost Pines Dance Weekend (TX), Louisville, KY Dance Weekend (KY), The Lowell Banjo and Fiddle Contests (Staff, MA), Mariposa Folk Festival (Toronto, Canada), Mendocino Dance Camp (CA), Hay Days (CA), Mohonk Mountain House Dance Weekend (NY), Muskeg Festival (NH), New England Folk Festival (NEFFA, MA), Old Songs Folk Festival & Old Songs Winter Dance Festival (NY), Pigtown Fling (OH), Pinewoods Dance Camp (1976 – 2021, MA), Playford Balls (Boston MA, Providence RI, Pittsburgh PA, Philadelphia PA, New York (NY), Cleveland OH, Nashville TN, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Alaska, Vermont), Port Townsend Fiddle Tunes Festival (WA), Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (MA), Slugs at Sunrise (WA), Spring Dance Romance (NC), Spring Dance Weekend at Circle Lodge (NY), Summer Soiree (NC), Seattle Lake (OR), Tapestry Folk Dance Center (MN), Toronto Dance Weekend (CN), Vernal’s All-Night Equinox (FL) Victoria’s Revenge Dancefest (Cape May, NJ), Vintage Dance Society Events (CN), Wild Weekend (NY), Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp (CO), Ogontz CDSS Family Weeks (NH), Across the Lake Weekend (VT).

Overseas Engagements: Shetland Folk Festival (Shetland Isles -1985,1987), Festival du Maurienne, St. Jean du Maurienne, France (1980), The Tonder Folk & Jazz Festival, Denmark (1986), Tour of Scotland with Tulluchgorum, 1992 & 94, Tour of England with Bare Necessities (6x), on George Marshall trips to Hawaii with Bare Necessities (9x) and St. Croix with Bare Necessities (12x), on tour with Cathie Ryan to Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy & Switzerland, and on Ken McFarland trips to Hawaii, Ecuador, Peru, Egypt, Scotland, England, Greece, Africa, France, Australia and Ireland.

Her musical compositions include Fair Jenny’s Jig, A Solstice Snow, The Invitation, Mendocino Morning, Middle of Night, Intrigas, Cappricio, Findeborgin, Sleeping on a Rock, March for Warren (for Warren Argo), The Dogs of North Dunans, and countless commissions and other tunes.

When Sue Songer started learning contra dance tunes in 1989, she had no idea of the forces she would set in motion in Portland—and beyond. She only knew that she found it personally useful to transcribe tunes that she had learned in order to keep them in her head. Before long, others started asking her for her transcriptions. As word spread of her growing collection of tunes, she was approached frequently by strangers asking for copies of her collection. From this, the Portland Collection music products were born, with Clyde Curley as her collaborator.  The three books and four CDs have become staple resources for contra dance musicians around the world. Sue never would have imagined in 1989 that her transcriptions would travel as far as Australia!

In 1996, Sue—inspired by the large contra dance band Rum and Onions—decided to try leading a large contra dance band in Portland. She thought that maybe it would last a year or two.  25 people signed up the first year, and they liked it so much they asked to do it again.  The Portland Megaband now has about 75 members, a wide variety of levels and instrumentation, and plays for an annual dance for 500 dancers. The dance raises money for a scholarship fund for community members to continue their music and dance education. Sue’s positive leadership has made the Megaband a community favorite. Furthermore, the Megaband dance in March gave rise to a 5-day long event known as the Cascade Promenade, capped by an all-day contra dance featuring regional bands and callers on the Sunday after the Megaband dance. People come from far and wide for this annual celebration of music and dance—all sparked by Sue’s idea in 1996.

Clyde Curley and Sue SongerSue is also active as a dance musician and teacher. She currently plays with two contra dance bands, Joyride and The Stage Crew, plus she collaborates with many other musicians for contra and English dances. She has led large contra dance bands in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Coos Bay, Oregon, and was a teacher and musician in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for CDSS’s Centennial Tour. She has tutored piano numerous times at the American Festival of Fiddle Tunes, and she teaches every July for Contra Dance Musicians Week at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina.  

Furthermore, Sue has been active on boards and committees of many organizations, including Northwest Folklife Festival, Portland Country Dance Community, CDSS, and Northwest Passage Dance Weekend.  

Sue approaches all of her work with dedication, passion and—most of all—kindness. She is always supportive of musicians, no matter what their playing ability is. She has inspired so many, more than she could ever imagine. She graciously thanks the members of the Megaband every year for their hard work and dedication, and tells them how proud she is of them. In return, everyone who has worked with Sue is proud of her achievements and appreciative of her invaluable contributions to music and dance.

The Country Dance and Song Society is pleased to announce that Bill Alkire of Wooster, Ohio is the 2018 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award. Bill has positively impacted the world of American traditional dance for over 70 years as a dance leader, organizer, choreographer, and mentor.

The following letter was written by Susan English, who organized Bill’s award celebration on February 25, 2018. Read on to learn more about Bill’s remarkable contributions to traditional dance throughout his life. 

At age 15, Bill was leading play party dances for his Methodist Youth Fellowship in central Ohio. When they danced in the barn of Lynn Rorbaugh, Bill learned more about dance leadership. He called his first public square dances while still in high school and worked his way through Ohio State University by teaching dance throughout the Columbus area. He served on the committee of the Ohio Folk Festival for several years, serving as General Chairman in 1950, when over 3,000 people participated.

Bill Alkire calling a danceAttending Berea Christmas Dance School for the first time in 1948, Bill discovered new dance forms, including contra dance, English country dance, and Appalachian clogging, which he subsequently introduced to dance communities across Northeast Ohio and beyond. Bill returned to Berea Christmas Dance School multiple years on staff, teaching traditional squares, Appalachian clogging, beginning English, and dance leadership.

After a 1979 visit to Black Mountain, North Carolina, he founded the Cedar Valley Cloggers of Wooster, Ohio, a black-shoe traditional performance group that continues today. As artistic director, Bill adapted a broad range of traditional figure dances to clogging performances.

Bill has served on staff at Pinewoods, Mendocino, Dancing Bears of Alaska, Michigan Dance Heritage, Kentucky Summer Dance School, Cumberland Lakes, and, in 1994, the Silkeborg Festival in Denmark. From Kentucky Summer Dance School he received an appreciation award for his service from 1982-1986. Bill was the American dance leader for many years at Oglebay and Maine Folk Dance Camps, Folklore Village, and at various Recreation Leaders’ Labs–Great Lakes, Chatco, Black Hills, Northland, Laurel Highlands, and Buckeye. For his lifetime service to Buckeye Leadership Workshop, he received an Emeritus Award in 1998.

Bill AlkireAt home in Wooster, Ohio, Bill prepared a generation of youth for square dance and square dance calling competitions at the Ohio State Fair. He called contra dances starting in the 1950s, and his monthly old-time square dance ran continuously for 50 years. After 2000, Bill co-founded the intergenerational program at Terpsichore’s Holiday and performed “Minuet to Macarena,” a revue of couple dance 1800 to present, from the Wheatland Music Festival to the Atlanta Waltz Society.

As a former mental health professional, Bill sees cooperative group dance as a key to healthy relationships and vibrant communities. Over the years, aspiring dance leaders have turned to him not only for his expertise but also for his philosophy of dance. Though currently not in good health at near 90 years old, he was still passing it on to the next generation well into his 80s.

Postscript: Sadly, Bill passed away on September 12th, 2018. He was a true treasure and will be missed by all whose lives he touched.

Note: Photos on this page courtesy of Susan English.

Sandy Bradley of Raymond, WA, was the 2017 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award.

Sandy exemplifies the power of inclusion and collaboration in developing and nurturing dance communities and high-quality musical talent. She, along with stellar old time musicians, brought about Seattle’s trad square dance revival, and she developed a welcoming, supportive and appreciative dance culture that still characterizes the Northwest scene today. A superb caller of squares and a superb old time musician, she greatly influenced many callers across the U.S. through her tours, teaching at camps, and her weekly live radio program. 

She was honored at the Award celebration on Saturday, September 16, 2017 in Seattle, WA.

Read more about Sandy in the Summer issue of the CDSS News. And check out Stickerville, the web home for the recording, graphics, MP3s, liner, notes and all the calls for Sandy’s calling recording: Potluck and Dance Tonite. Also of interest is an interview with Sandy conducted by Bob Dalsemer at the 2009 Dare to Be Square event in Seattle. 

The Country Dance and Song Society presented the 2016 CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award to Jeff Warner of Portsmouth, NH. Jeff is one of the nation’s foremost performers and interpreters of traditional music and an advocate for bringing folk music to people of all ages, through his deep knowledge and love of American and English folk songs. His warmth and encouragement of singers, both experienced and new, young and old, has enriched many lives.

Jeff grew up in New York City, listening to the songs and stories of his father, Frank Warner, and the traditional singers his parents met during folksong collecting trips through rural America. When traveling with his parents, he listened while they recorded the locals who remembered the old songs of their region and community. (These recordings are preserved in the Library of Congress.)

In the 1960s, after receiving a BA in English at Duke University, and after a two-year stint in the Navy, Jeff was editor-in-training at Doubleday Bookclubs, heading, it seemed, toward a literary career until a friend asked if he would help run a nonprofit music school, the Guitar Workshop, in Roslyn, Long Island. He stayed with the school for nine years, working as administrator, guitar teacher, grant writer, and community program coordinator, and learning music theory and arrangement by teaching. His position also helped put him in touch with the significant people involved in the post-WW II folk revival movement that was embraced by both the commercial and academic worlds. In the ’70s, he left to carve out a career for himself in historical music. Because of the US Bicentennial there was an increased demand for American songs in schools and Jeff filled that need with outreach programs into the schools.

He says that he is not a traditional singer in the academic sense-someone who has acquired the traditions either through ethnicity or family ties-but refers to himself as a singer of traditional songs taking an historical approach to the music.

“I teach American history and culture through traditional song and” (borrowing a phrase from historian David McCullough) “making history as interesting as it really was.” For Jeff, old songs are like archaeological objects which teach about history — “they’re living historical artifacts that serve as evidence about the people who used them and the times they lived in.”

In 1997, he moved to Portsmouth and began performing in New Hampshire schools as a Roster Artist through the State Arts Council. He has recorded for Flying Fish/Rounder, WildGoose (UK), and other labels. His first solo compact disc, recorded in 2005, is Jolly Tinker on Gumstump Records. His 1995 recording (with Jeff Davis), Two Little Boys, received a Parents’ Choice Award. He is the editor of his mother’s book, Traditional American Folksongs from the Frank and Anne Warner Collection (Syracuse University Press, 1984), and producer of the CD set Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still: The Warner Collection (Appleseed Recordings, 2000), which is comprised of his parents’ field recordings. He appears on the NH State Arts Council’s 2003 compact disc Songs of the Seasons, for which he also co-wrote the liner notes.

From 1979 to 1993, Jeff toured nationally for the Smithsonian Institution. He continues to travel extensively in the US, Canada, and the UK, performing at museums and historical societies, folk clubs and folk festivals. In addition to singing and storytelling, he plays concertina, banjo, guitar, and several “pocket” instruments, including bones, spoons, and the jig doll/limberjack.

He is past president of the Country Dance and Song Society, and a past officer and founding member of the North American Folk Alliance (now Folk Alliance International). He has been an artist for Virginia and Ohio Arts Councils, is a speaker for New Hampshire Humanities, and is a producer of the Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival. In 2007, he was named a NH State Arts Council Fellow.

Listen to him sing Baldheaded End of the Broom from Jolly Tinker.

The award was presented in Ashland, OR, on Saturday, October 22, 2016. 

We’re thrilled to honor the many accomplishments of Jeff Warner. 


The following videos are from the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award ceremony for Brad Foster held on October 24, 2015, at the Orange Town Hall, Orange, MA.

David Millstone speaks at LCA Ceremony for Brad Foster:

Ellen Judson speaks at LCA Ceremony for Brad Foster:

Tom Kruskal speaks at LCA Ceremony for Brad Foster:

Robin Hayden speaks at LCA Ceremony for Brad Foster:

Laurie Anders & Andy Davis perform a musical tribute to Brad:

Gene Murrow speaks at LCA Ceremony for Brad Foster:

Sharon Green speaks at LCA Ceremony for Brad Foster:

Presentation of the LCA to Brad Foster:

Brad Foster accepts the LCA from CDSS:

Andy Davis leads a song at the LCA ceremony for Brad Foster:

Brad Foster: A Calling Career—Interview by Tom Kruskal

Brad Foster, CDSS’s Executive and Artistic Director Emeritus, is a 2015 recipient of the CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award. He was interviewed by musician, dance teacher and longtime friend Tom Kruskal who himself was a recipient in 2010. Their conversation was held on June 27, 2015, at Brad’s home in Shutesbury, Massachusetts.

Getting Started in Dance—The Mary Judson Years

TK: Why don’t we go through your dance career chronologically. I know remarkably little about your time in Southern California with Mary Judson1, before Berkeley, so I would just love to hear how you got connected with her, and with your peers who were around, like Lydee Scudder2, and Mary’s kids Molly and Ellen. How did that happen?

BF: When I was in middle school, just before I went into high school, I was in a high school play, and at the end of the play some of the cast invited me to go to “The Museum.” I thought they were crazy because I thought they were talking about going to an art museum, and it was already after 9:00 PM when a museum would have been closed. The Museum turned out to be a folk dance café, and I fell in love with that.

The Museum also was where Mary Judson taught. Through folk dancing I met Lydee and then her sister Alice, and Mary’s daughter Ellen, all of whom were in my high school. Through Ellen and The Museum, I then met Mary, who taught English country dancing there and around town. I started dancing regularly, rode my bike to all the events that I could go to. And I did a little bit of dancing in school too. I remember Ellen teaching me some morris dance figures out in the courtyard of our high school. I even got assigned the role of calling a dance for a school performance. It wasn’t really calling because everybody knew the dance; calling was just part of the performance. But I think that assignment set the stage for my calling later on. So through the four years of high school I did English country and international folk dance, and a group of us always went to the Southern California Renaissance Faire and performed. Sometime during those years I met you, Tom, but I can’t remember where or when. I know I was up in Berkeley once or twice, but you also came down to do a workshop at one time. Then in 1971, just before my senior year in high school, I wandered across the country and ended up at Pinewoods3 on visiting day! I came as a visitor, but somebody (I assume it was Mary Judson) had made arrangements for me to stay, and so I stayed the rest of the week.

TK: But you’d heard about Pinewoods. Mary had been coming with her kids.

BF: Yeah, Mary had been coming with her kids. Ellen had told me all sorts of stories about Pinewoods, about May Gadd 4, and the bush patrol. [Here Brad puts on a high pitched “May Gadd” voice:] “Rumpety tump!” 5 I’d been visiting Alice and Lydee Scudder at their grandparents’ house in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, where I first ran across Duke Miller6 and that style of contra dancing. Alice was heading down to the Cape to visit relatives so she drove me to Pinewoods and dropped me off. That was an unusual summer—there I was from this private high school in Pasadena, with three of my school friends—Ellen, Patty [Haymond], and Pam [McGrill]—also there.

College Years in Santa Cruz and Berkeley

TK: So then, what about college?

BF: Like most of my friends in Pasadena, when I finished high school I wanted to escape and go somewhere else. I looked at Prescott College in Arizona and some other places but ended up choosing U. C. Santa Cruz. I wanted to study natural history, but they also had an international dance program. I saw you in that period, too, because Santa Cruz was close enough for me to occasionally get to your dance in San Francisco.

In Santa Cruz I took dance classes and I also, rather quickly, got a job teaching folk dancing. The regular folk dance teacher, Marcel Vinokur7, who came over the hill from Palo Alto to teach, took a sabbatical soon after I arrived—so in his absence I stepped in and taught. My first class was in international folk dance, but it quickly got turned into an English country dance class. I would come up to San Francisco to go to your dances and record the music and bring it back. There was also a square dance caller who I knew as “John the bass player.” I never learned his last name. He had learned his square dances from the pastor of a church in Oakland, who had learned them somewhere in the Midwest. John called squares with a bluegrass band, but then he graduated and left, and so I filled his gap too. That was the beginning of my square dance calling.

TK: So did you have any contact at all with CDSS National during that time?

BF: Well, I certainly knew about CDSS. I’d been to Pinewoods already, and they were the source of dance books and records. I also remember getting big scholarships—this was later on, when I was coming as a camper in 1975—to come to camp, and I ended up spending about as much as I would have on the camp fees buying books because I had no dance library. I may have first met Jim Morrison8 at Pinewoods; I know that I saw him there in 1971, because that was the summer he and Marney got together. Jim was from Oakland; I can’t remember if I met him in California before I went to Pinewoods, but by the time I knew him, he was working in the CDSS office. In 1974, I wrote to him at the office, hoping to come to camp. That was the year Pat Shaw9 came, but my letter to Jim got lost, and by the time I figured out what had happened, camp was full and there was no way for me to get in, so I went to Stockton Folk Dance Camp 10 instead. You had been to Stockton.

TK: Yes. I left California in 1974; I’d taught at Stockton maybe in 1972, and Nibs Matthews11 had been there the year before me.

BF: And Nibs was supposed to come back in 1974, but he cancelled, and Bob Parker12 came and basically took all of Nibs’s notes and tried to figure out what Nibs meant so he could teach from Nibs’s material. (Laughs)

TK: Yeah, I came the year after Nibs, sort of as a follow up to Nibs. Not a particularly successful gig for me.

BF: That’s when you were using Chuck Ward’s13 double-tracked harpsichord recordings, the 45s?

TK: Yes, right. Chuck set all that up for me.

BF: He said he’d been supposed to record the tunes with Lea Brilmayer14, but right when the recording was supposed to happen she went off to Mexico. So the recording was double tracked with harpsichord and harpsichord.

TK: At Stockton we had to provide a set curriculum with recorded music and printed sheet music, and we had to have discs to sell. When I left California in 1974, Chuck and I decided you should teach, and we asked you. Where were you at that point?

BF: Well, I started at U. C. Santa Cruz in 1972, and I lasted about a year and a half, and then started a long process of transferring to U. C. Berkeley. I stayed in Santa Cruz and taught dance and did carpentry and gardening, and then in 1975 I transferred up to Berkeley, just after you left. I finished Santa Cruz, moved to Berkeley, and took over your dance. A couple of years later Nick Harris, who had been running the Stanford contra, graduated and left, so I took over his contra dance too.

TK: Tell me something about the Bay Area Country Dance Society. It’s gotten all built up now, but what was it like then? How much of that growth were you there for?

BF: When I came on the scene, you had your dance. The story I tell is—this is one of those stories that I’m not sure is true—but what I remember hearing is that you met every week on Sunday, with a very tiny crowd, and the dance stayed like that until the crowd finally got big enough, and then you switched to once a month.

TK: Is that right? I don’t remember that.

BF: And then you moved it from San Francisco across the Bay to Berkeley because Chuck found a different hall. Then I came in and switched the dance to twice a month, and it has stayed pretty much like that ever since. Your dance, which later became my dance, was the only English dance for a while. At some point before 1975 Nick Harris started the contra dance at Stanford, and a few people did traditional style squares as well. At some point I met a fellow whose grandmother was connected to the dance department at Stanford University. He told me that May Gadd used to come out once in a while to teach at Stanford . But as far as I can tell, her visits had no lasting impact; nothing grew out of them.

So, in 1975 I took over your English dance, and I started a short-lived contra in Berkeley; I later started another contra in Berkeley and an English dance at Ashkenaz15 that didn’t last very long. I started something in an art center on a pier in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Bruce Hamilton16 moved to Palo Alto and started an English dance in San Jose. Bob Fraley moved to the Bay Area and started the first English dance in Palo Alto. So, things started cropping up. Kirston Koths moved in and started a Berkeley contra that kept going, unlike mine. When my contra in San Francisco failed to keep going, Charlie Fenton started another one in California Hall—that dance moved out to St. Paul’s on the West End and has been going for a long time. It just felt as if a couple years after you left everything exploded, and suddenly there were all sorts of new people. The same thing happened when I left—as soon as the vacuum was there, all these people filled it, and lots more stuff happened.

Founding the Mendocino Country Dance Camp and the Bay Area Country Dance Society

TK: I assume the Bay Area group now has a board of directors and an organizational structure that wasn’t there when you left, or had that started?

BF: I feel like I created that. You had a single English country dance in San Francisco, run by you, Chuck Ward, and Nora Hughes, and that was the English Folk Dance Society of San Francisco (or some similar title).

TK: Yeah, we had some official structure. We might have even been a CDSS Center.

BF: Yes, you were a Center17, and you were very early in getting onto the nonprofit group exemption. I learned all that later when I became CDSS Director. But I think you had no appreciable organization, no bank account then.

Then, in 1979, I was hired to teach English country dancing at the Mendocino Folklore Camp, an international folk dance camp held at the Woodlands in Mendocino. I loved it so much that, with my first wife Jenny, in 1980 we created the English dance camp at Mendocino. In 1981 we added the American week. After the first year began, we started thinking that there should be an organization. That’s when we created BACDS, and we merged the earlier organization, the English Folkdance Society of San Francisco, into it, and also brought in any of the contra and English dances that wanted to join us.

Some people thought I was crazy to create BACDS. They said, “You created this camp. Why are you giving it to BACDS?” Even though at that time I had no intention of leaving California, I thought the camps and dances should have permanence, should be more than me, and so I created the board and all that.

I remember very early on talking the board into hiring me as the part-time paid administrator of BACDS. It was about a one-tenth time job. My first task was to learn how to do accounting, then to create an accounting system, and finally to figure out how we stood financially. A couple of months later, I came to a board meeting and said, “Well, I have two things to report. The first one is that I finished that task of putting a financial system in place, and I can tell you your financial standing. The second one is, ‘I quit,’ because I can show you that you can’t afford to hire me.” And it went back to being a volunteer organization. Even that little bit of time was more than BACDS could afford back in those days.

TK: Before we move on and launch into CDSS, is there anything else about your early career that you wanted to get in?

BF: I had learned morris dancing in high school before getting to Pinewoods, and learned more at Pinewoods. I think you taught some morris or sword at the dance weekends, too. When I moved to Berkeley, I started a morris team, the Berkeley Morris. We first met in what was then the Ho Chi Minh Park. I wanted to be the Ho Chi Morris Men but no one else would agree to that.

Then, starting around 1977, I began doing some small calling tours, and by 1980 I was doing bigger tours. In those days it was primarily contras and squares—English groups couldn’t afford to pay enough to cover travel costs. My first tours were on the East Coast, in New England, and then I started touring in northern California, plus a little bit of Oregon and Washington.

Moving East — Joining the Country Dance and Song Society

[media-credit name=”Photo by Grace Feldman” align=”right” width=”400″]Brad Foster in the '80s[/media-credit]

TK: So tell me about moving east, and how that happened. Jim Morrison had stopped working for CDSS and moved [to Virginia]. CDSS was struggling with a series of short-term Executive Directors.

BF: Gay [May Gadd] had been National Director for decades; I don’t remember exactly when she stopped. 1974-ish? Then Genny Shimer18 came in; she wanted to do it for only a year, but stayed maybe a year and a half. Next Jim Morrison stepped in for a couple of years, at which point he moved from New York City to Virginia but stayed on as Artistic Director, and Nancy White-Kurzman served as Executive Director for a couple of years. After Nancy, Bertha Hatvary came in as Interim Director and then was hired as Executive Director for a while. Bertha’s biggest strength was the newsletter and publicity. At some point they started looking for somebody new, and approached me. By then I had already been organizing lots of weekends, and had started and run Mendocino for a few years.

Then someone asked me if I’d like to work for CDSS. At first, I didn’t take it seriously. Meanwhile Jenny received a job offer from a school in Greenwich, Connecticut. I had graduated a few years earlier with a BA in Architecture from U. C. Berkeley, and was working as a draftsman in an architect’s office. In late 1982 a recession hit, and my architecture boss kept telling me he was going to lay me off. With the job at CDSS as a possibility, and Jenny’s solid job offer, we moved east. After we moved, I interviewed with CDSS, was offered the job, and began as the National Director on February 1, 1983. The job title was later changed to Executive and Artistic Director.

TK: Tell me about the scene at CDSS when you came into it, what your reaction was, who the mentors were there. I know Sue Salmons and Genny Shimer were there. John Hodgkin was Treasurer, right?

BF: Yes, John was Treasurer, Sue was Chair of the Executive Committee 19.

Sue worked so hard. In later years I realized she quietly had served as interim Executive Director in the many months between when Bertha Hatvary left and I came in. Sue never had the title, she never asked for recognition, but she came in every week and just made the office run. She was always there, working the phone all the time. I had a lot of respect for her energy and for what she wanted to do, even if I didn’t agree with all of her decisions or the methods.

So Sue was there, and Kit Campbell was office manager. Genny Shimer was also around; she was the quiet person on the artistic side. I had such reverence for Genny, for her teaching, and for her sense of where CDSS ought to go artistically. If I had a question on artistic matters I would go to Genny or possibly to Jim. I knew Jim better, but he lived a lot farther away.

[And] John was Treasurer. I learned an awful lot of nonprofit accounting from John. He also had a philosophy. When he was a young man getting into accounting, one of his bosses gave him a financial leg up and said don’t pay me back, just pass it on—give a similar gift to someone else when you can. That became a model for us at CDSS, one we couldn’t always follow. The idea was that we would support you now in the hopes that you would support someone else later, and we would just keep lifting people up.

TK: So by the time you’d been there three years or so, you were developing your own opinions about what things were working and weren’t, what the vision was or wasn’t, and what your vision might be. Tell more about that.

BF: I remember very early on, I told somebody that I was the director of CDSS, and he said, “Oh, you’re the New York Society.” That was this CDSS member’s image of what CDSS National did—it focused on New York City. And there was some truth to that. There was also Pinewoods, and some others might have said, “You’re the Pinewoods organization.” So there was Pinewoods, and then there were NYDAC (New York Dance Activities Committee20) and the Folk Music Club21, and also weekends at Hudson Guild in New Jersey, but the main focus was on New York City activities as a showcase for the nation. In my interview before I got the job, someone asked me what I thought of NYDAC and the Folk Music Club. I had already heard some mutterings and disagreements about what was going on with them, and I said, “Well, we’re a national organization. The local organizations should make their own decisions.” And I heard back “You can’t say that.” And I took that literally—I stopped saying it, but I didn’t stop thinking it.

When I came into the job, some people expected me to revitalize the English dance in New York City because I was a teacher as well as an administrator. But my focus for CDSS was national, and in my first ten years I used my contra touring, which I was doing quite extensively then, to get myself all over the country and to build up CDSS’s visibility and membership. The membership of CDSS grew rapidly, and perhaps doubled, in those years. CDSS went from an organization that had been largely English dance based, with some folk music and some contra dance, to one that grew particularly on the contra dance side, partly because I was all over the country calling contras but also because we were riding the wave of contra dancing that was sweeping the country.

Then our rent in New York doubled—our rent in this grungy top floor space in the garment district. So we looked all over New York City and found that, even at double the old cost, it was still the most reasonable place we could rent in NYC. Bertha Hatvary, who was still involved, said, “You should move Sales to New Jersey to save money because it’s cheaper.” She didn’t mean move the whole office out of New York City, just the sales department. Then, someone at our Leadership Conference in the South said, “This is crazy. Your rent is so high, come to where we are.” That started the whole brouhaha about whether we should move or not, which lasted a while. Eventually we did move [to Massachusetts]. I looked at it as a question of where we could find something we could afford that was close enough to serve Pinewoods, our major program. It was a big political hassle, moving.

TK: So it was an economic decision at its core. I remember you were interested in living somewhere else, and I know that Jim Morrison wanted to live somewhere else when he worked for CDSS. Back when he wanted to move, he had suggested moving the Society, but there was no question then that a move was going to happen. How much of the Society’s move from New York do you think was prompted by your wanting to move it out?

BF: I’m not sure what would have happened if Jim had not already tried to get CDSS to move [in the 1970s]. Jim tried and failed, but his attempt set the stage for another try. I wanted to move because my salary was so low compared to New York City costs. I had gone looking for a place around New York where I could afford to buy a house, and the closest was an hour and a half drive from the city. Everything was very expensive. So I wanted the move in a personal sense. I remember saying to Sue Salmons and Mary Judson that I couldn’t afford to keep being Executive and Artistic Director in New York and would happily help them find a new ED if CDSS preferred to stay in the city. So I was looking both for a cheaper place for CDSS and a cheaper place for me and for the staff, a place where the current salaries wouldn’t be so far out of line. They would be low instead of abysmal.

TK: The other aspect, of course, was that to make CDSS more of a national organization—a move from New York City to almost anywhere would potentially help.

BF: That’s true. Even though that wasn’t the main thing on my mind, I thought it wasn’t a bad idea either. CDSS had become ingrown and it needed to grow and change. Moving was one of the biggest ways to grow and change. We lost a number of members in New York City, but we gained many more new members elsewhere after the move.

CDSS Leaves New York City

TK: So let’s talk about the move to Northampton [in 1987], and the early years there.

BF: One funny story about the move. Steve Howe wasn’t working in the office yet. He’d started working for me at camp part-time, and he had been doing stage management for the Theater for the Deaf and knew a lot about packing trucks from his tours with them. When it came time to move, we offered to help move the office staff who were going with us by putting their personal belongings in the same truck with the office gear. So we had this tour where we went to various people’s houses. Steve walked into the first one, looked at the pile of stuff, and said, “Two feet.” I didn’t know what that meant. Then we went to someone else’s house with more stuff, and Steve said, “Four feet,” and I still didn’t know what that meant. Then he looked at the office and he figured out the size of truck we needed. “Two feet” meant two feet of floor depth in the truck from floor to ceiling and wall-to-wall. And he was right! He knew how to estimate from his job as stage manager.

TK: So Steve was quite involved in the move, then, getting the truck?

BF: He was involved in the move; he didn’t join our year-round office staff until about a year after we moved up there. He was just summer help before that. Caroline Batson and Aithne Bialo-Padin moved with the office; they and I were the only ones who moved with the office to Northampton. Steve joined us a little later. Aithne stayed a couple of years, and then moved on to other things.

BF: Several years after the move we wrote new bylaws—Genny [Shimer] felt the Society needed a clearer structure—and we incorporated in Massachusetts, merged that organization with the New York corporation, and went through all sorts of legal this-and-that.

Around that time, we started [our programs at] Buffalo Gap. People down in West Virginia were saying. “There’s this great camp. Why don’t you come down here?” We did it partly because Pinewoods was so full. The English and American Week and the Family Week that started then still go on, because Timber Ridge is really the continuation of the Buffalo Gap programs. But just about when we started Buffalo Gap, we suddenly hit a downturn at Pinewoods. I remember when we started the Finance Committee meetings at your place, we had a couple of years of losing what seemed a lot of money in our terms.

TK: In my first meeting [as Treasurer ] there was a big blowup about our losing money and our need for financial controls. That’s why we created the Finance Committee.

BF: We did lose money for a couple of years and then we essentially regained everything we’d lost within a few years after that. It’s funny looking back at that, because we worked really hard at our finances, but it’s hard to say whether the improvement was due to our work or simply due to other factors bringing the campers back.

TK: Well, maybe the financial controls helped; they at least let us know what was going on.

Major Achievements at CDSS

TK: I wanted to get your sense of what you feel your major achievements have been, from moving the Society out of New York and making it more national. I think that clearly happened, to some extent.

BF: I agree; I think it happened as well. Later on, people had a different idea of what they wanted “national” to mean, but considering that I started with an organization that was focused on New York City and Pinewoods, I feel that we were very successful in becoming visible in a larger part of the country. A lot of what I did was to push support for groups—grants, liability insurance—to groups all over the country to help them grow. Encouraging the Family Week in California to get started, supporting it financially for several years to get it off the ground. Growing membership, becoming less ingrown. Those were the things I worked on. Also expanding camps. At its peak, we went from seven weeks at Pinewoods, when I started, to nine with the addition of two weeks at Buffalo Gap, plus three more at Ogontz, including a storytelling week. Then we went back to two at Ogontz, then one at Ogontz, and then [a combined] one at Timber Ridge. And now six at Pinewoods—that happened after my time.

TK: When you first started in Northampton you had a small staff, essentially no committees. So how did things change?

BF: In the move from New York, the old committees disbanded and only some were reformed immediately. The first committee that came up was Bylaws. The next was Finance, because we had the short term financial loss. Staff slowly grew. The office work grew. In New York we had one computer. Gene and Susan Murrow brought in the first CDSS computer, and we used that for a long time. It was a CPM Vector Graphics machine. Then, around the time we moved to Northampton, we migrated to a single DOS based PC. But it was just one computer. A board member from Michigan asked, “How can you get by with only one computer?” I hadn’t thought about it, we all just struggled to get computer time. But soon after we added one more, and one more….

TK: From the outside, it seemed like a slow, steady building. It’s interesting to me how organizations grow. In some ways it’s easy to grow, and it’s harder to shrink, or stop growing, because it feels like failure. But things can end up changing in ways that actually don’t work.

BF: There were times when I thought my role was to be a “brake.” Ideas would come through that were often good ideas, but their timing was wrong, or the speed at which people wanted to carry them out was wrong.

Berea Christmas Country Dance School

TK: I want you to talk about [the Christmas Country Dance School in] Berea [Kentucky] a little bit. You’ve been going there for a long time, and it’s an important part of your connection to the dance world. And it’s a different world.

BF: Yes, it’s a different world. So, Berea. In 1977 I got a ride across country with Stan Kramer22. My trip to Pinewoods that summer took me from California to Port Townsend, Washington for the first Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, then wandering back toward California and heading with Stan to Brasstown, North Carolina. Stan took me to the John C. Campbell Folk School and then up to Berea.

I got to Berea just in time to help tear down the Dodge Gym, which I never saw in operation. I don’t think I got back there again until I was Executive and Artistic Director. Berea had a tradition of having CDSS’s Director come on staff if he or she was a teacher. I think Jim had been there on staff, but the directors between Jim and me, who weren’t teachers, hadn’t. Genny had been teaching there, but she said that it was time for me to take over, and then she kept going anyway. In those early years, the ‘80s, I tended to do Berea for one or two years, then Brasstown’s Winter Week one or two years. Sometimes I’d do neither, so I wasn’t constant. Now things have changed—for the last ten years, or longer, I’ve been to Berea almost every year.

Berea reminds me of the [CDSS] dance weeks back in the ‘70s. It’s old home week: it’s a part of your family life and tradition to do it. Ogontz has turned into that for [my family] too; we go to CDSS’s Ogontz Family Week because it’s our family vacation.

TK: It’s interesting. CDSS has a lot of groups that are very different from each other. It’s not as if there’s a single model for anything. In a way, that makes it hard for the national organization to have a clear focus, because there are all these different groups doing all these very different things, and with very different needs.

BF: This is partly based on the stories I’ve heard about Gay (May Gadd), but I felt like she had an iron hand and made people do things the “right way,” her “right way.” There was an advantage to this in consistency, but its existence also meant it was harder for the groups that were different. When I came in as Director, one of my goals was not to have that iron fist. It wasn’t what the Society needed at that time; we needed to help all the different groups in their different ways, rather than to apply a single model.

Calling Career

TK: Let’s go back to your non-CDSS calling career. How did you get your gigs? Did you go out and seek them actively, or did people get your name through the grapevine?

BF: When I first started calling, I taught at community colleges, and I went looking for community groups that wanted dances. I also taught the class at U. C. Santa Cruz mentioned earlier. There weren’t many dance groups around hiring callers. I got involved in the international scene early on, and then, by the ‘80s, more dance groups existed, and I was able to start putting tours together. By the time I did my first tours of the Northwest, Penn Fix had moved back to Spokane, and had created this great newsletter in which he kept track of all the old-timey little dances up North. This gave me a list of contacts that I could use to set up a string of gigs. So I would put together a tour that would take me from Seattle to Spokane and out to Idaho and back again.

TK: You would write the organizers and say, “I’m going to be in the area. If you’re interested, I would love to put a tour together?”

BF: Yes. And I also started getting hired for weeks and weekends. Creating Mendocino English Week made me much more visible. First I started the Mendocino Camp and taught there. Soon thereafter, I got hired to teach at Family Week and English & American Week at Pinewoods. Just before I became CDSS Director I was asked to be Program Director for Family Week. Once I started with CDSS, I programmed about one week a summer, sometimes two. But programming was a big part of my job. When Buffalo Gap started, I was already scheduled to run a week at Pinewoods, and I also ran the first English & American Week at Buffalo Gap.

TK: One unusual aspect of your success with this career is your ability to handle both the artistic and the administrative sides of the job.

BF: Sometimes it was hard to juggle the two.

TK: And of course, doing Pinewoods was part of the job. That was Gay’s model.

BF: It was Jim’s model too. Back then the [NYC] office would shut down [during the summer]. Gloria Berchielli and some others would come by to pick up the mail, but no sales took place unless they were handled from Pinewoods. In my early days it was easy for me to leave my administrative tasks and go off on tour without having to think about CDSS while I was gone. Ten years later, CDSS work came with me on the tours.

TK: So, about your parallel career as a caller…

BF: Oh, yes. I feel like the things that brought CDSS to hire me were a mixture of my camp administration experience and my teaching ability. I’m not sure we all agreed on what I was supposed to do with that teaching ability. One board member said that being director would be a big boost for my teaching career. I thought that my teaching career was a big boost to CDSS.

TK: What about your English dance teaching? Presumably there was more of that when you became CDSS Director. And as you said, the number of groups grew, so that there were more groups wanting somebody to come in and teach.

BF: By the time I became CDSS Director I was a fairly accomplished English caller and contra caller, good enough to teach the advanced dance in NYC and to be on staff at CDSS adult dance weeks, but there were fewer places that would hire someone calling English. So I did more contra dance calling than English calling, but often did it with people who played English, like Laurie Andres and Cathy Whitesides. Of all the people I toured with, I toured with Laurie and Cathy more than with anybody else. Sometimes we’d be booked for an English dance and sometimes it would be a contra. As time went on, I got hired more for English. There had been an explosion of contra dance callers, and there weren’t nearly as many English callers available.

TK: That’s still true.

BF: Now I do primarily English country calling and the odd, rare, contra. It feels like the whole thing is just totally the opposite of what it was when I started. And when I call contras, it tends to be at community events with both English and contra.

TK: In the early years, did you ever consider that calling might be a way to make a living?

BF: Yes, I called for my living for a while in Santa Cruz. What that meant was that I lived really cheaply. I lived incredibly cheaply, and I earned very little from teaching. That’s when I had my international class and my English class on the UC campus and I taught at a community college and did the odd dance, but it’s hard to call that a living. By the time I was up in the Bay Area, I was teaching a lot all over the place. I would call at Berkeley and Stanford twice a month each, and I would do these private parties. I realized that I could have turned that into a livelihood, but it would have meant being on the road constantly. Even then I didn’t want to do that.

TK: When I started in the dance world, I did notice the big explosion in the ‘70s, and the increased number of people who were trying to make a living from both calling and music. I think the musicians were a bit more successful, perhaps, with that than the callers were. There were more venues for the musicians, and they could do concerts as well as dances.

You’re famous for your stories, and I’m wondering if you have some favorite ones you could tell. Does anything come to mind?

BF: We were talking about May Gadd. I had this image, possibly from something Ellen said, of this woman doodling while she taught, and ever since my impression of May Gadd has been “a rumpety tump, a rumpety tump.” Years later I was out canoeing with [my wife] Barbara [Russell] on Long Pond at Pinewoods, and we ran into some middle-school age kids. It turned out they were relatives of Steve Howe’s from across the pond. They asked where we were from and we replied Pinewoods Camp. Their reaction was, “Oh, you’re the “tiddely pommers!” [Both laugh.] The way camp is situated, C# [pavilion] is fairly well sound-isolated from the lake, but there’s a low spot that goes right through to the Point on the Conants’ property, heading right straight toward Ashanti [the Howe family cottage across the pond]. That’s what they’d hear at night, the “rumpety tumps,” but they called them “tiddely poms.”

TK: What about those early square dance days you were talking about?

BF: I learned squares—my western patterns called squares—from that fellow “John the bass player.” He’d call a full night of squares—the Virginia Reel plus four or five squares, a lot of polkas and a lot of gaps in between. People mostly bounced around and didn’t pay much attention to the caller. One of the first calling skills I developed was “patience.” It was the only way to survive that.

Then I went out and visited Duke Miller and fell in love with his sing-songy style of calling contras and singing squares, so I taped them and came home. But in my early days I couldn’t find any bands that would play the music for me. So I started doing just patter-call squares. Later on I shifted, so by the time I became Executive and Artistic Director I was pretty much doing New England squares and very little patter-call anymore. And I would do some singing contras too. Duke Miller sang Petronella and Money Musk and others.

I found out that Kate Barnes23 had also gone to the same dances I did, and had in her head the same Duke Miller sound, and we would set it up to do a duet. It was fun to do. I’d start at the microphone and would teach it and then sing it. A little while later I would still be there standing in front of the microphone, but Kate would start singing and people would think it was still me. Then suddenly we’d shift into harmony. Kate always did the harmony; I couldn’t sing harmony when I was also trying to call. The people were really confused. “Where did that second voice come from?” We did that for a while, especially with Money Musk.

The Present and Future

TK: Tell me what you are doing now.

BF: I’m still quite connected to CDSS—I was in the office just two days ago. In my new work as Executive Director of 1794 Meetinghouse, I organize summer concerts, and CDSS is helping sponsor three of our folk concerts amidst a whole summer of all kinds of music. I recently went to a Centennial fundraising party at Sukey and Rhett Krause’s house—it was really an Ogontz reunion. Because I like what CDSS is doing, and because I wanted to be a good role model, I publically got out my checkbook: I wanted people to know that we give too.

I also run a new dance program called New London Assembly. It’s somewhat ironic. For years CDSS has been putting on an Early Music Week, even though early music is not directly connected to CDSS’s mission. Meanwhile, Amherst Early Music Festival, which is an early music program, now is putting on an English Country Dance Week, even though English country isn’t directly connected to their mission. That’s in part because people on both boards, like Pat Petersen, suggested I lead an English program at their summer festival.

So I’m leading it now, and watching the dancers at New London reminds me of the old days. Back in the ‘70’s at the CDSS dance weeks at Pinewoods, I felt there was a culture of respectful learning, of coming to a dance and being quiet and listening to what the teacher had to say. And people had a fairly long attention span. As time has gone on, there’s been more chatter, less attention paid to the teacher, and it’s become harder to teach style. I realize I’ve contributed to that change, doing things like learning to teach quickly and trying to make English country dance more welcoming to newcomers, but that has also played into the modern culture of short attention spans. New London is different. When I started New London Assembly, it was outside the norm—it just wasn’t a place anyone normally went for English country. By chance, we attracted dancers who were all respectful listeners, and so we have been able to work on style in a way that is often hard to do at other camps. At New London, people come to learn. It’s not just recreation. So I go to New London, and it’s like a blast from the past, and I can teach differently there than I do elsewhere.

And that is my life now. I continue to run New London Assembly, to direct the 1794 Meetinghouse, and I’m doing nonprofit accounting locally for a number of small nonprofits. I also travel to teach, when I can, while also trying not to be gone too much from home—I love being home with my family. We still go to CDSS’s Ogontz Family Week whenever we can, and I’m often on staff. And the same is true with Berea’s Christmas Country Dance School. And we try to get to something at Pinewoods—I’ve been going there almost every summer for the last forty-four years, only missing two so far. All of this is a big part of my past, and a big part of my present and future too.

TK: Okay, this is good. I have my work cut out for me writing this out.

BF: Thank you, Tom.

CDSS thanks Tom Kruskal for interviewing Brad, Nancy Boyd for transcribing, and Sharon Green, Pat MacPherson and Caroline Batson for editing. Also thanks to Deborah Kruskal et al. for creating the Award party for Brad on October 24, 2015, in Athol, Massachusetts.


1 Mary Judson brought English country dancing to Los Angeles in 1967. Her group, The Carol Dancers, became the center for English country dance in Southern California, and fostered the growth of future dance leaders Brad Foster, Bruce Hamilton, Gene Murrow, and Lydee Scudder, among others.

2 Lydee Scudder began dancing at age five at Duke Miller’s Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, square dance. In her Pasadena high school, she persuaded the administration to let her teach folk dance as an alternative to PE, and introduced folk dancing to her fellow student Brad Foster. Lydee, her sister Alice, and Brad danced with teacher Mary Judson and performed at Southern California’s Renaissance Faire.

3 Home to CDSS summer programs since 1933; near Plymouth, Massachusetts.

4 Longtime director of CDSS and before that of the NYC chapter of the English Folk Dance Society which became CDSS; May Gadd died in 1979.

5 See explanation later in the interview.

6 Duke Miller was a high school football coach from upstate New York who called summer dances in southern New Hampshire from the 1950s until the late 1970s. Well known for his singing calls, Miller influenced many callers, including Brad.

7 Marcel Vinokur (1929-2014) was an international folk dancing teacher for over sixty years. A pioneering aeronautical engineer, he contributed to the manned space program, working at NASA Ames Research Center.

8 National Director of CDSS from 1975-1977 and Artistic Director for three years after that, Jim Morrison is a musician, caller, and display dancer. In 2014 he received CDSS’s Lifetime Contribution Award; he lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

9 Choreographer, composer, musician, singer, and caller, Patrick Shuldham-Shaw (1917-1977) started English folk dancing in London at the age of six. In 1971 he was awarded the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s highest honor, its Gold Badge.

10 Founded in 1948, Stockton Folk Dance Camp is located at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and specializes in international folk music and dance.

11 Sidney “Nibs” Matthews (1920-2006) was a morris dancer, caller, and director of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

12 Bob Parker (1929-2012) was a member of London Folk and a teacher of English traditional dance at the Royal Ballet School at White Lodge.

13 Charles “Chuck” Ward, organist and pianist; in the 1970s, he, Tom Kruskal, and Brad Foster laid the foundations for the Bay Area Country Dance Society. Chuck is a 2009 CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award recipient.

14 Lea Brilmayer is the Howard M. Holtzmann Professor of International Law at Yale Law School. While a student at U. C. Berkeley, she frequently played for English country dances.

15 An international folk dance café in Berkeley.

16 Bruce Hamilton is an internationally known English and Scottish country dance teacher. A former president of the CDSS Governing Board, he is programmer of BACDS’s Peninsula English country dance.

17 In the 1970s and ‘80s, there were two levels of group membership in CDSS: Centers, for the larger and more formally organized groups, and Affiliates for the smaller groups. It caused some confusion and the designation was later simplified to the single “Group Affiliate.”

18 Longtime and much loved English country dance teacher who taught in NYC and at workshops and programs around the country; she died in 1990.

19 Jeff Warner was President, Genny Shimer was Vice President, and David Chandler was Secretary; the four officers had comprised the Search Committee for the position of Director. Brad was officially hired after the January 1983 Exec meeting; he was in his second CDSS National Council term, and had programed CDSS’s Family Week the previous summer. His goals for CDSS, stated in his application for the job, were: “increased outreach to and communication with center/associates and members, as well as greater exposure among non-CDSS groups; increasing the membership of the Society by developing new ways to show its value and effectiveness for members; and quality programs at reasonable costs to participants as well as to the Society.” (Source: minutes of the CDSS Executive Committee meeting, January 17, 1983)

20 Now called Country Dance*New York (CDNY)

21 Now called Folk Music Society of New York, a.k.a. New York Pinewoods Folk Music Club

22 An original member of the Bay Area’s Claremont Country Dance Band (which worked closely with Brad Foster in the late 1970s), Stanley Kramer still plays violin with the Nonesuch Country Dance Players, Bangers and Mash, and other bands.

23 Contra and English country dance musician Kate Barnes currently plays in the Latter Day Lizards, Bare Necessities, Big Bandemonium, Dark Carnival and Yankee Ingenuity; she also teaches, records, publishes music books, composes and crafts wooden whistles. She lives in Massachusetts.