For folk’s sake
Mountain Music Parlor
Built in 1906, the house at 735 Center St. is being transformed into a hub for folk music. Like creating traditional acoustic music, the process of renovating the house is all about removing, rather than adding. In stripping old layers of paint, misguided patchwork, and other modifications, Renee Lauderback is restoring the original look and feel to the building.
Steve Maytan purchased the property in the 1950s, establishing it as the original location of Maytan’s Music Center. That business moved next door, but the music returned to the house when Lauderback and Cindy Gray recently opened the doors of the Mountain Music Parlor.
“We’re the only folk music academy besides Swallow Hill that’s west of the Mississippi,” claimed Lauderback.
“I think ’folk school’ sounds better,” countered Gray. “'Music academy’ sounds too highfalutin.”
Mountain Music Parlor offers a variety of classes including Irish music, gypsy jazz, clogging, cowboy poetry and more. At this early stage, attendance is intimate, with classes consisting of only about three or four people.
“Our goal is to become self-sustaining,” said Gray. “Once people come, they keep coming back.” She has been writing grants since 2005, but the money can only be used for performance artists. The money is usually spent to arrange the Bluegrass & String Band Concert series.
Annie Pinkerton, who plays stand-up bass alongside Gray and Lauderback in the Americana group Center St. feels that a silent majority may be missing out on something that the Mountain Music Parlor can provide.
“I’ve been thinking about what’s available to middle-aged women," she said. "Where would you go if you have a modicum of musical talent? If the symphony isn’t for you, or if you don’t want to do rock 'n' roll, this place is a good start.”
The members of Center St. tried to find a home in a public space where musicians could jam freely on bluegrass and folk music. At first, restaurants jumped at the chance for musicians to bring people through the door. As the nights progressed, however, the musicians found themselves backed into the corner.
“We’re all about the music,” said Lauderback. “Finding an elusive group of people who play bluegrass has been so difficult.”
Lauderback is an optimist, however, and the hardship doesn’t appear to phase her. She can usually be found with a tool in hand, in dusty overalls, working on building her dream.
“I dream about it night and day,” she said. “I’m obsessed with it.”
The grassroots ethos of Mountain Music Parlor is more than just aesthetic. The effort to restore the building, to provide music for entertainment and to decorate has been a community project. Volunteers Cyril Fitzharris, Kirk Peterson and Don Lauderback can usually be found working on the building. Building materials, such as old barnwood and aluminum siding, have either been donated or bought secondhand. The goal is to create a space that feels lived-in and welcoming.
“We want to welcome anyone who wants to come by and volunteer, play some music, and hang out,” said Gray.
They’re looking for donations of musical equipment and building supplies. For those who’d like to donate money, Gray has made a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of $17,000 to help get a quality music venue, retail space, rooms for lessons, and a songwriting room up and running.
“Our passion is in keeping this culture alive,” said Lauderback.