As our mission statement proclaims, AAFFM’s purpose is “to preserve and promote traditional and other folk music and arts in the Atlanta area” though activities at which “such music and arts can be performed, taught, mutually appreciated, and enjoyed.” Now we’re embarking on an exciting new adventure, fulfilling our mission with what we hope will be the most significant project in our history. Under AAFFM’s sponsorship the musician who co-founded one of America’s most successful folk music institutions nearly six decades ago in Chicago is spearheading an effort to do it all again – this time in Atlanta.
The Frank Hamilton Folk School opened in October with great success. Some 30 students are attending our first six-week session of classes. We welcome anyone who wants to join a participatory community of people experiencing music as social bonding. Your AAFFM membership dues will help support this momentous new project.
You may well know, or know of, Frank Hamilton. But in case you don’t, Frank was a seminal figure in the American Folk Revival. He collected traditional songs in the field with Guy Carawan; joined the house band for the first American folk music nightclub, Gate of Horn; co-founded Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music; was a member of the Weavers in 1963; and performed with such folk legends as Pete Seeger, Odetta, and the Clancy Brothers. He even shares the copyright for We Shall Overcome. Frank has been an Atlanta resident for more than three decades.
The Frank Hamilton Folk School (Frank was too modest to choose the name – the founding committee talked him into it!) seeks to replicate in Atlanta an institution and program similar to the Old Town School of Folk Music. The Old Town School, which Frank and fellow folk musician Win Stracke founded in Chicago 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. It began modestly by offering guitar and banjo lessons in a communal teaching style and hosting performances by well-known folk musicians. Currently the school has an enrollment of about 6,000 students per week, 2,700 of them children.
Together Frank and Win developed a classroom technique based upon traditional oral and folk teaching methods: listening, watching, trial and error, and playing by ear. Where other music schools taught sight reading and performance, Win and Frank wanted the Old Town School “method” to retain its emphasis on participation and development of aural skills.
“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. And like its Chicago model, it will start modestly and aspire to steady, gradual growth. Frank and his fellow founding leaders, Bob Bakert and Fritz Rauschenberg, have put together an organizing team including some outstanding local musicians and teachers, a CPA, a grant writer, an attorney, and a retired Coca-Cola marketing executive.
The school is located at Epworth at Candler Park, a historic United Methodist church near Little Five Points. A six-week session of Tuesday evening music classes began in early October in banjo, fiddle, and beginning and intermediate guitar. We’ll hold a mini-session of three more classes evening beginning December 1 and then start another full six-week session Tuesday, January 5.
The school is a function of AAFFM and enjoys the benefits of our non-profit 501-C3 status, including the tax deductibility of all contributions.
In the coming weeks and months we’ll be focusing strongly on gaining new and renewed AAFFM memberships. When you contribute to AAFFM, you’ll be supporting the Frank Hamilton Folk School — a vital new way to teach and inspire young people to embrace folk music and foster a stronger folk music community in Atlanta.
The school offers discounts on the cost of future classes for current students and AAFFM members.
You can join AAFFM now by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the school and the first classes, see the details at www.frankhamiltonfolkschool.org and/or contact email@example.com.