The Scripts: “On My Watch”
The story: Stage 3 Birth The Location: Kingston,Washington, Land of the S’Klallam Port Gamble Tribe The Time: Covid 2020 thru Now Main Character: Music Community Resources Welcome. I am Mary Anne Moorman, Curator of Music Community Resources. I am also a storyteller, radio host, and a sometimes-emcee known as Auntmama. One day a child blessed me with those two matriarchal mantles and since that time, an Aunt, by blood or choice, is my job. There comes a time in life when we know who we are and what must be done on our watch. I had hoped for peace and justice in my time. It will take longer. But on my watch, MCR will nurture an inclusive creative space where we break bread, absorb music, celebrate arts, and bear witness to the redemptive power of community. Act I. The Building Possibilities roared from the abandoned barn, saddle room drooping under a mossy roof, and wood rotted by years of rain. It was one of several poorly constructed structures on what locals call “white man’s road.” The new owner triaged what could be affordably saved, and in last place was the barn.
When the previous owner first moved into the place, it was home to mice and nesting birds. Bats hung in a dank, dark hayloft above sagging doors swinging on broken hinges. Still, the eastern windows framed sunrise, concrete floors made for a sturdy foundation with an intact infrastructure, all wired, plumbed, and heated for horses. When I first laid eyes on it, I knew this building was meant for something special. Should it be a horse ring for kids? A Yoga studio? It was the perfect building for ghost stories and maybe even music. I love music, I’ve been playing it on KBCS radio for over 15 years. But the owner did not have the means to make a silk purse from such a mess and I had Music Community Resources to run. I loved MCR. For 18 years the nonprofit cultivated the arts, launching the Bainbridge Bluegrass Festival, Coyle Concerts, music classes, and the long running Pegasus Coffee tunes-with-tales shows. Eventually I became president of this inclusive arts organization, hoping to continue a legacy of blending art with community, and adding forums to better understand culture, justice, and social needs. Act II. The Impetus In Feb 2020, I did what I did every February: First I worked with our Northwest jewel, the Wintergrass Music Festival, then hopped over to Auntmama’s Storytable for a Black History Month celebration, and then zipped into KBCS to host “Sunday Folks.” After that, I came to a full stop -- when COVID commandeered center stage and we all thundered to a halt as. Flummoxed, isolated, and, like many of us, bewildered, I walked around, staring into space. That barn came into view. It slumped, slumbered, beckoned. It could be useful to have a gathering space after COVID passed, I thought. Artists were all out of work, they’d need as many performance spaces as could be had, in order to continue their livelihoods. What if one day the old tool bench housed a soundboard? What if we built a stage with sleeping quarters in the hayloft for touring bands?? And best of all, what if this distressed building could shelter all those things for all types of artists? What if a wood-artists who knew what musicians needed arrived just in time to make it happen? The universe sent this musical wood-artist just in time, Jeremy James Meyer. He was unfazed by what-if’s. The faint echo of Judy Garland and Micky Rooney rang in my head: “Hey Kids, let’s put a show on Broadway.” Every fiber of my being longed for this dream, but for some reason my body hurt. I tried to find out why but no one knew. I slowed down. The musician/wood artist accelerated. So, did building costs. We recycled doors, found cedar seconds, envisioned an expandable stage, using hefty saddle shelves. He scooped up slightly chipped stain glass windows tossed into a free pile and inserted them into dark barn doors. (Rebuilding those heavy doors is still on the horizon, although they are good enough for now.) We made progress as my cough got worse. Was it smoke from the summer fires? A touch of undetected COVID? There was a growing inverse ratio between my slipping downward, while the price of wood continued to skyrocket. Plans for fir changed to plywood. Second-hand lighting fixtures started looking fine. Fifth-generation hinges worked on painted doors. Only a GoFundMe campaign kept us going. The wood-artist turned horse stalls into a bedroom, insulated so well, Jeremy recorded an album there. (Check out Taco Tapes) This jack-of-all-trades transformed the saddle tack room into a kitchen. Friends gifted pawn-shop amps, monitors, and speakers, and soon we had a full sound system. It took many hands and a lot of hearts to put lipstick on this pig’s mouth. We had a venue with multiple purposes, and, it turned out, a temporary victory over my stage three diagnosis received during the process. Act III. The Stage Though much remains undone, we held a soft opening. The wood-artists and The Go Janes performed, I held onto a staircase and told a story. Just like the old adage promised: “build it and they will come.” People showed up. We added another show, a potluck, figured out ferry pickups from Seattle, hosted musicians, an artist’s retreat. We invited a group needing lodging en route to the Olympic Mountains to be our first guests. Their donation shined lights on the stage. It was time to open the doors. Bluesman Seth Walker described Stage3 as “a surprise venue with perfect acoustics.” “Love this audience,” said England’s Black Feathers. Kristen Grainger of True North called it “Magical.” Chrys Matthews claimed, “It’s church,” and spit her anthems up to the rafters. Krista Detor’s beautiful keyboards made musical poetry then she helped shape our fledgling residency program. On New Year’s Eve 2022, MCR was awarded a small grant to launch a huge initiative: Using music and poetry to increase understanding and reduce fear in a bucolic area with new, conflicting concerns. That’s more difficult than transforming a barn. A huge “What if?” But a good idea. What if Kitsap County could progress on what America struggles to do and create a safe space for tribal people, farmers, incoming technology whiz kids, and new immigrants unfamiliar with this rich Norwegian history? Is harmony possible? I don’t know, but I’m sure the arts are key. On my watch, there will be art, a creative commons, hopefully a peaceful moment in a place that could only be called, Auntmama’s Stage 3. The schedule currently planned for 2023 is listed under events, and, if fate allows, this story will evolve into the “On My Watch” blog. Credit the title to a senior musician and a fifth-grader who listens to stories and music on his watch.