The Magic of the Musician


 

I recently watched the PBS Special on Muscle Shoals. It reminded me of the diamonds we have here in Alabama, in terrain, beautiful cities, country lanes, beaches and mountains, and then there is the music. Watching acts like Bono, The Almann Brothers and the Stones talk about the “magic” in Alabama almost brought tears to my eyes.

I got the same feeling recently when I got to hear Chuck Leavell speak his heart about music and forestry in the South.

Chuck was guest speaker at the Savannah Book Festival, which I was able to read at during the Ossabaw Island Writer’s Retreat. His love for forestry won my heart. He and his wife share a special bond of love for nature and forest landowner as a profession as well as stewardship for the US.allisonpadams.com.

By Allison Adams

Chuck Leavell is no stranger to America. World tour keyboardist for he Rolling Stones, a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award winner for work with the Almann Brother’s Band and in recent years, Chuck has been pianist on John Mayer albums, with Eric Clapton and even Miranda Lambert. He is also no stranger to Tuscaloosa, where he grew up after moving here at the age of nine. Many remember his band, the Misfitz, who performed on Friday nights at the YMCA just blocks away from The Bama Theatre when Chuck was back in town on November 8 with the Randall Bramblett Band to play a benefit concert for the Bama Theatre Restoration Fund.

The vibe was electric as Chuck sang a few Rolling Stones favorites and his originals. From the balcony to the stage, fans sang along. His fingers were in overdrive on songs like “Jessica” and the communication between him and fans in the audience resembled that of “coming home.”

Chuck and his wife, Rose Lane, who have been married more than 40 years, greeted guests, old friends and chatted with some new fans after the show while he showcased his newest passion, writing. 

His latest, “Growing A Better America,” was showcased at the Savannah Book Festival. Songwriters such as John Denver, Jackson Browne and bands like U2 have been singing to the world about global issues, and like these, Chuck and his wife live out their message. They live on Charlane Plantation, 2,500 acres outside of Macon, Georgia, that were left to his wife by her parents. After years paying inheritance taxes to “buy back what was theirs,” they vowed to have it as a self-sustaining property. They have won numerous awards through the state of Georgia for their research and stewardship, and Chuck has been made an honorary Ranger.

“Growing A Better America” highlights his research and ideas to make more productive in developing our greatest asset, land, with examples of projects that “do it right”. As a Georgia resident, it concerns him that the state is losing 19,000 acres of natural land a year. He has co-founded Mother Nature Network with 222,000 followers on Facebook. 

In recent months in Alabama, a “secret” private investor acquired 73,000 acres of prime timberland mainly used now for hunting and timber surrounding Birmingham. Perhaps that will remain green but who is to say? Unless we all take heart, we too may find ourselves without green places to roam.

Alabama has the third most timberland acreage (22.9 million acres/ nearly 68% of the total land area) behind only Georgia and Oregon, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission. Being one of the only states with navigable waters that flow to the Gulf, there are also logistical advantages.

Alabama is in the forefront for reforestation (begun in Alabama by pioneer E.F. Allison with Allison Lumber Company in Bellamy) as well as game management tactics he devised to assure that dwindling populations would turn into the boom of deer populations we see today. Timber expansion in Alabama is ahead of removal by 23 percent with 1.1 million acres since 1978 when numbers were at 650,000 acres according to amazingalabama.com.

In Alabama, everyone has the opportunity to experience the woods, aspire to own land and cultivate the green space that God has given us. If we each, according to Chuck, just consider our individual carbon footprint we can make great strides in the right direction. To learn more about Chuck’s book or his endeavors, find him at chuckleavell.com or charlane.com.

Author Allison Adams is a forest landowner, photographer/writer and Realtor with Duckworth Morris in Tuscaloosa. http://www.allisonpadams.com

Photo credit: Allison Adams

Ed and Fred designed the guitar straps for the Rolling Stones.

Ed and Fred designed the guitar straps for the Rolling Stones.

My son, Brent, is a music major in the New College at Bama with an emphasis in Production.

My son, Brent, is a music major in the New College at Bama with an emphasis in Production.

 

Alabama Blues Project~ Helping Kids Discover their Link to the Blues 


As a mother to a boy who learned to play music by ear, this was dear to my heart. At the age of four, my son picked out the tune to Star Wars on a plastic piano. That was the beginning. Groups like these bring music to kids of all backgrounds. My son performs with one of the volunteers for this program and hopefully will help in the future. Music is the common language in the world.

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During after school hours on Monday and Tuesday afternoons you can hear the pounding of drums, rhythm of guitar, magical vocals and the occasional harmonica trailing down the halls of Martin Luther King Elementary School. Each week The Alabama Blues Project shares the rhythm and magic of music with students who apply for the program, conducted in the schools by Anna Jenks, headed by Paula Demonbreun and made possible with talented local volunteers.
“We are lucky to have talented local musicians with unique teaching styles. We can always use more help though, as we would love to see this expand,” Anna explained. The program currently runs for ten weeks in the Spring.

The program begins with a class where the kids learn blues history, particularly Alabama blues.

Music theory is introduced before they begin on instruments.

Not only do they learn history of music all the way from the Blues to the current styles they hear and sing today, but they implement math concepts through beats and measure. The kids bond together through their common interests and grow in confidence as they learn to perform.

There is emphasis on stage presence, which helps with confidence that they can carry throughout their lives. When they complete the first section of the course, they are then able to select their instrument of choice as the focus of the program.

“We allow them to change instruments during the middle of camp if they request. Better to keep their interest in the musical arts than to lose interest and a valuable musical skill,” Anna explained. “The biggest value the kids walk away from Blues camp is a love for and better appreciation of blues music.”

BJ Reed tells the kids, “The Blues are the ROOTS!”

The program provides the instruments, and welcome donations. The website makes it easy for you to make monetary donations!
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In the drumming area, the kids used drumsticks on white paint drums to practice their rhythm. Dave Crenshaw, the percussion instructor, turns 10 gallon buckets over and the students create uniform poundings of sounds. The students learn to count complex rhythms but also to improvise early in his sessions.

“One of the children, Mykian, who is ten, has really taken to the drums. He is a natural,” Anna explained.

Mykian beams as he practices on volunteer Dave Crenshaw’s full set of drums. He is in the Advanced Band, and attends the camp through another school. To see him play is motivating to anyone witnessing the magic of music.

The Camp has had visiting musicians such as Willie King, Little Jimmy Reed, Eddie Kirkland and Carroline Shines.

Mike Battito is in charge of the Advanced Band which practices simultaneously with the camp.

B.J. Reed, who also volunteers in area schools, leads the kids in vocals and cheers them on, encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone.

Dave Crenshaw teaches drums. College students also get involved in the program. Dana, a college volunteer has been working with the current group.

At the end of the Spring After-School Blues Camp the budding musicians perform in front of family and friends to share their new discovered talents.


The Advanced Band participated in a performance at the Transportation Museum March 15th and will be performing in Tuscaloosa’s Got Talent in April.

Go to alabamablues.org to see how you can get involved or donate to this incredible cause with

local roots. You may call 205-752-6263 or email at paula@alabamablues.org for more

information.

Photos and Story By Allison Adams