I just got back from my eighth Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College just outside Asheville, NC. The Gathering consists of five week-long events devoted to different forms/genres of acoustic music. I attend the Contemporary Folk & Guitar Week in late July.
For one week, student writers and players of all ages and levels of accomplishment get to rub elbows and take classes from world-class singer-songwriters and acoustic virtuosos. If that’s your thing, it just doesn’t get any better than this anywhere. And at the student open mics that conclude the week, many get to share the stage supported by these same performers.
It’s Brigadoon—at least the closest thing to it. Once a year, a community of artists assembles and magic, inspiration, service and love are fully palpable for five long days and nights. People flower in its light; we bear witness to each other’s incredible capacity for growth, forge lasting friendships, and experience just how fine things can be here on earth. And everyone is welcome…everyone.
The glow from a Gathering can last a year or more. For many, it’s come to mark the ending of the old creative year and the beginning of the new one. And, while the students and teachers might disagree about who gets the most from the week, all seem to leave inspired, grateful, strengthened, and resolved to the road that’s always before us.
As I head home, inevitably, I wonder how I could possibly make my day-to-day a little more like these and why it should be so.