Passing Traditional Music And Culture On To A New Generation

Jul 28, 2016

During singer/songwriter Dana Robinson's travels across the country and beyond, he says a single trait stood out about certain communities: Places that play music together function better.

Robinson is the executive director of Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture in Montpelier and through the work the school does with musicians of all abilities and ages, he wants to nurture that trait in communities throughout the state.

He and his wife, musician Susan Robinson, perform traditional, folk and Americana music and they recently returned to live in Vermont.

Robinson says the mission of Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture, now entering its 10th year in Montpelier, comes from the simple act of playing music together.

“It’s really about engaging the community to play music. Simply put," says Robinson. "I found that Vermont’s attitude is about inclusivity and everybody being able to pitch in and do something. As far as Summit School goes, it’s all about music. And Summit likes to be inclusive and welcoming. And in terms of their jam sessions … there are jam sessions for beginners and intermediates and everybody … and workshops that anybody can attend. It kind of helps spread the musical love around."

Dana Robinson and his wife Susan run the Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture in Montpelier.
Credit Dana Robinson

Robinson says being a traveling musician has been rewarding, but now he has a new focus. "What's been creeping on me as the years have gone by is how much I have admired communities who have really supported music," he says, "and how inspiring and functional those communities are because of the collaboration, because of the audience's devotion to their organizations. And as time has gone by, I've watched these examples and thought, 'I'd like to do something like that.'"

Robinson adds, "Part of my involvement with Summit School comes from a place of wanting to bring along the next generation."

Summit School and its faculty of local musicians focuses on traditional stringed instruments like fiddle and mandolin. It holds several jam sessions as well as workshops, classes and camps for all ages and musical abilities.

Robinson and his wife recently purchased an old schoolhouse in Cabot and hold community events and concerts there. Summit School will begin a series of free bimonthly fiddle jam sessions for young people in the fall.