Regina and I just returned from a week at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. We have been there five times. Obviously, we like it a lot. If you have not had the opportunity to hear us go on and on about this place, here is your chance.
The school was established in 1925, and has been going strong ever since. It is a beautiful campus located in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, very close to the Georgia and the Tennessee borders. There are new structures and old, restored structures that make up the studios, housing and public areas. For more information about the school you can click on the link under “People I Believe In.”
There are many reasons why we love this school. One has to do with the wide variety of classes that are offered during any given week. For example, last week while we were there, the offerings included Blacksmithing, Clay, Cooking (Regina’s class), Dyeing, Enameling, Kaleidoscopes, Marbling, Music, Painting, Photography (my class), Quilting, Mosaics, Woodcarving, Woodturning, and Woodworking. Each class is taught in a state of the art studio. For five days, six hours a day, you are immersed in your choice.
Would you believe that before this week I was just a “point and shoot” kind of photographer?
Of course, the instructors are top-notch and highly regarded in their own field. The instruction is all about the process, and is non-competitive. You will find a woodcarving instructor who plays a wide variety of music all day and serves tea every afternoon at 3 o’clock; or a cheese making instructor who will wear a “cheese head hat” (like those worn by Green Bay Packer fans), which was given to him by his students, at the closing ceremony; or a photography instructor who is not shy about singing the entire “Mercedes Benz” song of Janis Joplin; or a kaleidoscope instructor who brings a costume a day for each of his students to wear that matches his own costume; all while still maintaining a high level of professionalism.
Then there are the extracurricular activities, such as concerts on Friday night, contra-dancing on Tuesday night, and morning song each morning, which features a different folklorist singing and telling tales. Meal times give us the opportunity to meet different people, and discuss what each of us does at home, as well as what we are doing and learning at the school.
But maybe the most compelling thing about John C. Campbell Folk School, is that it gives us a chance to either learn a new skill or refine and expand a previously learned skill. It allows us to push our limits and move out of our comfort zone. We believe this is important. If we stop learning, our mind begins to atrophy. I like what Sarah Caldwell, a notable opera conductor, had to say: “Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can, there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.”