In just 2 weeks, I’ll be uprooting my life to perform 9 shows across the East Coast about why I’m committed to Better Angels and how others can support their work. The closer it gets, the more I keep asking myself why I’m doing this.
After I graduated from college in 2012, I ran a program on Civil War music at the Smithsonian of American History. I performed songs that showed how 150 years before, Americans had become so divided that they killed each other. I used my fiddle to tell stories of soldiers, generals, slaves, and musicians in a way contemporary Americans would want to hear.
6 years later, I still love learning old songs and the stories that go with them. But I’m no longer satisfied just playing songs from my country’s past. I’m too worried about my country’s future to only study history and not take action myself. So, I’ve also started sharing my own songs in the hopes I can thereby support things I care about.
One of the issues I care most about is polarization. I recognize that music might not be the best solution to that problem. In fact, during the Civil War, music was often used to exacerbate social divisions. As in the Confederate anthem Maryland My Maryland—set to the Christmas classic “Oh Tannenbaum”–even beautiful music can be used to demonize opponents. To call for violence. To gloss over the injustices of our own side.
But back then, music could be used to unite divided citizens. Soldiers on both sides liked drinking and dancing to fiddle tunes (e.g., “Soldier’s Joy”). Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln both loved the same melodies (e.g., “Dixie”). And citizens on both sides shared a longing for “Home Sweet Home.”
Likewise, even today, I believe music can be a tool for unity. It can help us listen without judgement, share personal experiences, and reflect on relationships. Music can offer healing and hope. And in these divided times, “the mystic chords of memory” can also remind us of our shared history.
So why a music tour? To bring out the “Better Angels” of my music; to use it as a tool of unity rather than division. I’m hoping that through music and organizations like Better Angels, we can find better ways to deal with our differences than through Civil War.
I’ve put years of work into making this show happen, and I’d love to share the results with you. Click here to reserve a ticket. We’ll be in Severna Park, MD; Philadelphia, PA; Harrisburg, PA; Summit, NJ; New York, NY; Bethany, CT; Providence, RI; Wellesley, MA; and Winooski, VT.