Meet The Fellows...
Stories of Jubilation: Caroline Oakley
Musician-Square Dance Caller
"I have the best job in the world," says Caroline, who has been teaching and calling old-time square dances for more than a decade. She also plays fiddle, guitar, and sings old country songs. "I feel so lucky to share one of the great joys of my life on a daily basis: the sense of connectedness and feeling of solace that results when I move with others through music."
Three mornings a week she facilitates parent/child music classes with kids up to five years old. "It is pure joy for me," she says. "One of my favorite aspects of the program is working with parents who don't 'feel musical.' They sign up because they don't want their children to feel the same way. I believe that one is never too old to begin to ‘feel musical.'"
With patience and an easy manner, Caroline emphasizes critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and active learning with her students. She is engaging and clear, with a knack for improvising. One fan calls her "a little bit of music magic."
"Another of the great joys of my musical life comes from facilitating family square dances," she says. These are different from other community square dances, "mainly because of the vast quantities of children present. The dances I choose to call lean more toward the ridiculous, and we all have a grand time."
Caroline has called at many of the West Coast's old-time and bluegrass music events, including Seattle's Folklife Festival, San Francisco's Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival, and Centrum's Festival of American Fiddle Tunes.
"People fall in love, make new friends, and dance their rain-induced blues away," she says. "Traditional dance needs to be kept alive in the same way a language does, and our twenty-first century, West Coast edition of the tunes and dances that have been handed down for generations keeps this heritage healthy. Everyone has a chance to connect to a completely participatory, non-commercial, and welcoming community event. Each individual feels part of something bigger, and this expansive sense of belonging carries over into the rest of the world, making it just a little bit better all around."
"I am particularly inspired by the festivals I attend and the musicians I get to play with. I kick off the spring/summer season at the Alaska Folk Festival in Juneau. In June, I travel with my family to the national old-time fiddle contest in Weiser, Idaho. Then I spend the first week of July in Port Townsend, Washington, teaching at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. I'm also inspired by the dance community in my little town. We have a monthly dance at the grange where various members of the community come out, age 0-100, to dance, socialize, and enjoy live music provided by my family band -- the Old-Time Highway -- featuring my young son on fiddle."
Caroline is Reading:
Mostly novels, but currently on her bedside table:
1. Twenty Years a Growing by Maurice O'Sullivan
2. Zen Ties by Jon Muth
3. Most recent New Yorker Magazine
4. The Alexander Technique by Pedro de Alcantara
5. Cowboy Dances by Lloyd Shaw (dance callers' bible)
Caroline is Listening to:
"Loads of dead fiddlers, Delia Bell, Hazel Dickens, George Jones."
Caroline is Watching:
"I don't watch much."