My name is David Guillaume; I am a junior at the Berklee College of Music. I was recently invited to take part in what would become the single most rewarding vacation of my life. The premise was simple enough: head down to North Carolina, soak up some good music and eat some good barbeque. Don’t get me wrong, my colleagues and I got an abundance of both, but it was the unsung gestures of hospitality and warmth that I will carry with me always.
My initial understanding of what the Music Makers Relief Foundation actually did was fairly shallow. I had only heard that they helped to preserve acoustic blues music, so I was pleased to hear that we would begin our alternative spring break at Music Maker’s headquarters. We were welcomed like distant relatives instead of the nervous, wide-eyed strangers who showed up at their door. After introductions we got together and discussed the history of Music Maker; as well as the past, present and future of blues music. It was not long before I got a sense of how deeply they cared about the music, the culture and the artists themselves. It isn’t all about booking gigs and taking pictures, they do whatever it takes to keep the musicians on their feet. Whether it’s giving rides, or helping to make sure that bills are being paid, Music Maker has set a clear precedence of family and community.
That evening, we were fortunate enough to sit down with Ben Payton, Ironing Board Sam, and John Dee Holeman to hear about their own personal histories and perspectives on music. This was especially impactful for me because I knew that we were experiencing a side of the blues you won’t find in any textbook. After a lively jam session we were able to pull these great players aside and ask whatever was on our minds at the time, or simply make small talk over a cold beer. We weren’t being rushed out the door after the event; in fact, all of the artists stuck around and made us feel right at home until we decided that we would have to get back to our hotel if we wanted to get up early the next day. We had a meeting with the great Boo Hanks in the morning to get to.
Boo was great, always warm and inviting. He must’ve played a half dozen songs off the top of his head before passing his guitar around for all of us to play. He received all of our songs graciously; Boo had a way of making every person he spoke to feel special. This friendly culture was one thing all members of the Music Maker family had in common. Whether it was playing gospel tunes in Big Ron Hunter’s living room, or accompanying Algia Mae Hinton’s son as he “buck-danced” (in the same way that so many acoustic blues legends before us learned their craft) I never once felt out of place. This helped me to understand the importance of non-profit organizations like the Music Maker Relief Foundation. Above all, the organization is a community staple that allow people from different backgrounds, with different experiences to pour all of their passions into a common goal. I speak on behalf of the other seven students who shared these incredible moments when I say, that our short time in North Carolina has made a lasting impact in every way imaginable.