After a year of sponsorship, Atlanta Area Friends of Folk Music has successfully completed its role in helping launch the Frank Hamilton School. The folk music school now has its own non-profit status and is thriving independently from AAFFM. The organizations dissolved their official connection at AAFFM’s annual formal board meeting November 2.
“We’re proud of our part in nurturing this fledgling until she was ready to fly on her own,” says AAFFM President Chris Moser. “The Frank Hamilton School is now in a position to be an enduring and steadily growing institution sharing AAFFM’s mission to promote and educate about folk music in our community.”
But AAFFM’s support of the school will still be ongoing. The board elected to fund scholarships for deserving youth to take music classes there. AAFFM membership dues will pay tuition for a young student selected by the school for a class each term, assuming those revenues remain adequate to sustain that level of support.
The Frank Hamilton School began classes in October 2015 at Epworth United Methodist Church in Candler Park. It has since moved to Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, where it holds classes Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Guitar (three levels) Banjo (two levels), Fiddle (multiple levels), Mandolin, Ukulele, Playing in a Group and Songwriting. Co-founder Frank Hamilton leads the faculty.
“It’s been thrilling to watch the school grow from a collection of strangers wondering if they could learn to play to the happy bunch of blossoming musicians we have in our Level 2 and 3 classes now,” says Shelley Satonin-Hershkovits, the school’s director. “We were so lucky to have the support of AAFFM to get this venture off the ground!”
The Atlanta school is striving to develop an institution and program similar to Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. The Old Town School, which Hamilton and fellow folk musician Win Stracke founded in 1957, is a teaching and performing institution that launched the careers of many notable folk music artists, such as Steve Goodman, Roger McGuinn, Bob Gibson, and John Prine. Currently the school has an enrollment of about 6,000 students per week, 2,700 of them children.
Together Hamilton and Stracke developed a classroom technique based upon traditional oral and folk teaching methods: listening, watching, trial and error, and playing by ear. “We wanted to make music accessible to everyone. We wanted to emphasize the social aspects of music,” says Frank. “We wanted to see involvement by people who wouldn’t normally think they had musical talent, and bring out whatever they had.” Atlanta’s Frank Hamilton Folk School follows the same approach.
In other actions at the AAFFM board meeting: Frank and Shelley resigned from the board. Gayle Rauschenberg joined the board as Treasurer, and Andy Weiskoff joined representing First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta, the venue for AAFFM’s monthly coffeehouse Fiddler’s Green. Chris Moser was re-elected President, and Carol Moser Secretary.