When I was a child and my parent’s friends celebrated a 25th wedding anniversary, that amount of time was simply unfathomable. It was often three times my own age.
Now, 25 years ago was the birth of my eldest child, and it was the beginning of Owl Mountain Music.
At the time I was working as an innercity pastor of a cross-cultural, store-front ministry on the eastside of Kansas City. As we gathered and nurtured a community of faith and hope, music was a prime organizing tool.
Each year I would re-read my journaled writings of the previous year and each year a single theme always arose.
“What am I going to do about this music thing?”
I had been called to serve as pastor of this community. It was an amazing community! And… I kept being drawn deeper into music. I was composing music for use in our worship, to support our educational programs. I was composing and arranging music for synod-wide youth events, and tapping the cultural power of music to help envision a church that did not abide racism, and nurtured resistance to everything that would bring death to the most vulnerable members of our society.
I was co-coordinator of the Religion and Labor Dialogue in Kansas City, which brought and interfaith group of religious and labor leaders together to bring deeper understanding and mutual support on a monthly basis.
Our congregation was involved in church-based community organizing, actively meeting our neighbors, forging relationships of trust with those in other faith communities as well as those with no faith community, to bring pressure on municipal structures to provide basic services for our under-served and over-looked neighborhood, which I later learned was red-lined (few real estate loans, or at exorbitant rates), and our zip code was considered the most violent in the whole metropolitan area.
This was the crucible in which my young children and our young family was being nurtured, in the midst of some pretty amazing (and eccentric!) neighbors. This was the battlefield of the War on the Poor, the field of frustration after the acquittal of the officers who so publicly brutalized Rodney King, it was the vineyard in which music found ways to help neighbors grieve the loss of children to drive-by shootings, to hold hands in hope as city officials closed and boarded up drug houses. These were the porches on which people gaped in amazement as city street sweepers appeared for the first time in long-memory to clean our avenues, just like in the rich part of town!
It was here that, while working on a project for the church my knee was damaged and I learned of the wonders of Workers Compensation and the strange award of money for the partial loss of mobility.
That money is what I used to start Owl Mountain Music and produce my first recording on this freshly hatched Indie Label, not even knowing what an indie label was.
Nor could I envision that in 25 years I would produce, co-produce and record 17 recordings, publish 12 books, another dozen Dulcimer Orchestra Arrangments, compose 5 different liturgical settings for worship, in addition to several choral and instrumental arrangements.
It has been a fantastic ride, and I am eager to see what the next 25 years bring!
If you’d like to be a part of that adventure, check out my Patreon Campaign here.
(And, if you want to check back, I’ll be offering some retrospectives here as well throughout the coming year.)