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As you may have heard, Jan Davidson, our director, recently took a trip to Los Angeles for A Celebration of the Life & Work of David Rakoff at the New Beverly Cinema. David Rakoff was known for his humor writing which was often featured on the NPR program “This American Life.” He was also a Folk School enthusiast.

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David Rakoff weaving baskets at the John C. Campbell Folk School

Jan and David Rakoff became friends when David came to the Folk School for a visit, where he took a basket-weaving class. He later wrote an article about his experience at the Folk School “A Basket Case in North Carolina” which was featured in the New York Times in 2007. Like many of us, David fell in love with the school and spoke about it often to his friends back home. 

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 Last year, David Rakoff completed his last novel, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, just before his death in August 2012. Normally David would have done a tour to promote his book, but because he wasn’t around, his friends got together and did one for him. Ira Glass, Sarah Thyre, Sarah Vowell and others organized a reading of Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish in New York with lots of David’s friends including Jan. After hearing about the Folk School, Sarah Thyre brought her son to Little Middle Folk School in June this year.

Here's a photo of Jan with (left to right) Amy Poehler, Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney and Laura Krafft. Cynthia is a writer (among her credits, Country Living Easy Kitchen Makeovers, and humor) Laura won an Emmy writing the Colbert Report.

Here’s a photo of Jan with (left to right) Amy Poehler, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and Laura Krafft. Cynthia is a writer (among her credits, Country Living Easy Kitchen Makeovers, and humor) Laura won an Emmy writing the Colbert Report.

Next, Sarah wanted to organize a west coast tour. At the New Beverly Cinema in LA, Sarah hosted about a dozen of David’s friends including actress, comedian, voice artist, producer and writer Amy Poehler, actor, writer, comedian, and late night talk show announcer Andy Richter and television host, comedian, writer, producer, and voice actor Conan O’Brien. The group was practically bursting with talent and comedy and included writers from Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, and the David Letterman Show. 

Although David had told all of his friends about The John C. Campbell Folk School, not very many audience members knew about it. So they opened up the evening show by treating 300 unsuspecting audience members to Lord Daniel, Folk School Morningsong murder ballad. Lord Daniel was one of the ballads collected by our founder, Olive Campbell in Appalachia, and is one of Jan’s favorite songs to sing at Monday Morningsong. 

Jan and Conan O'Brien at the New Beverly Cinema

Jan and Conan O’Brien at the New Beverly Cinema

The next Los Angeles adventure was a premier, concert and question & answer session with Jan Davidson at the Craft in America Study Center run by Carol Sauvion. Craft in America is noted for its television PBS series whose episode, “Holiday” will highlight John C. Campbell Folk School. This episode will air nationwide on December 20th. The program will feature Scandinavian woodcarving instructor Harley Refsal and Folk School student John Balzar. It will also have music by local Brasstown band, The Dog Branch Cats. Click here for a list of other preview screenings of Craft in America’s “Holiday” episode. 

Jan’s also going to be on a radio show called “What Matters” hosted by Mary Beth Lodge on Voice America,  on Wednesday, November 13 at 9:00am. Tune in to the station from anywhere in the world via online streaming.