About the Project

Student Contributors

Devon Geary is a junior at Amherst College. She is majoring in English and has recently become interested in ethnomusicology. Next semester, she plans to study Aboriginal Music at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia to figure out why one local contra dance band includes a didgeridoo. Please feel free to email her with any comments or questions at dgeary13@amherst.edu

Ian Stahl is a freshman at Amherst College. He sings with Route 9, one of the College’s a cappella groups, plays guitar and sings in a band. He will likely double major in English and Music. Please feel free to contact him at istahl14@amherst.edu

Special Thanks

To the Musicians

Thank you to Wild Asparagus, Donna Hébert and Max Cohen (with Matt and Stuart Kenny), the Greenfield Dance Band, and Swallowtail for allowing us to include their wonderful music in our film. We have thoroughly enjoyed working with these bands’ musics, both live and recorded, because each selection is so distinctive and unique.

To Our Interviewees

To Ralph Sturgen, who has been more than willing to help us find whatever information we have needed, we extend our sincerest thanks. Ralph, we appreciate your help more than we can say, and we are thankful to have met you so early in our research.

To Ralph Sweet, who agreed to meet with us for an interview and who was friendly, patient, and helpful despite the fact that we interviewed him in what one musician called “the inside of a snare drum” (a large room with a metal ceiling, a tile floor, and bare walls that happens to be directly below the Guiding Star Grange’s dance floor), we extend our sincerest thanks. Mr. Sweet, we enjoyed speaking with you and learning about your involvement during the evolution of contradance.

To David Cantieni, who invited us into his home for an interview and presented us with a wealth of knowledge, thank you. Thank you, too, for being a patient and friendly first interviewee and for bombarding our ears with music from the bombard!

To Peter Siegel, who volunteered to be interviewed after having known us for all of three minutes, thank you. Your knowledge and unique perspective helped us narrow down our focus, and your kind and helpful attitude confirmed all of our beliefs about the friendly and welcoming contra dance community.

To Mariah Servos, who introduced Ian to contra dance and started this whole project, thank you! We wouldn’t have known about contra dance without your influence, and we certainly would not have researched the community for four months. Thank you for welcoming us into this family.

To the Other Important People

To the dancers at the Guiding Star Grange, the Downtown Amherst Contra Dance, and the Red Barn, thank you for allowing us to poke around with cameras and film you while you were dancing. We quite literally could not have made this film without you.

To Will Loving at the Downtown Amherst Contra Dance, thank you for providing invaluable background information and for helping us share this film with the contra community.

To Mary Shonk, thank you for telling us your story about growing up in the contra dance halls. Your personal history helped us understand a few things that had previously left us confused.

To David Kaynor, thank you for sitting with us and telling us the fascinating story of your involvement in the multi-generational aspects of contra dance.

To Matt and Alice Kenney, thank you for letting us interview Matt and film him during a performance. We have been very impressed by Matt’s talent and professionalism, and we are thrilled to be able to include audio of him in our film.

To our fellow classmates, Josh, Olivia, and Spencer, thank you for your feedback, advice, and opinions. They have helped us see our film more objectively.

Special thanks to Professor Engelhardt for designing the Pioneer Valley Soundscapes course, for being a patient and encouraging referee of our ethnographic experiment, and for giving us a detailed road map to help us manage this sometimes-stressful experience.

Another special thanks to John, Terri, and Dave for helping us get and use the proper equipment.

One final special thanks to Marcus for teaching us how to use the A/V equipment and for helping us tweak our final project.