Ryan Davis shares his personal perspective: It was Saturday night and I was watching The Banner Days perform at the Vera Project stage after having spent the entire day soaking in all the fantastic music and performances of the 2016 Folklife Festival. In between songs singer Beth Whitney took a moment to thank the audience for “coming out to Folklife instead of staying home and watching Netflix.” The comment got a bit of a laugh and The Banner Days continued their fantastic set.
For whatever reason that simple statement about not staying home stuck with me. As I was enjoying the festival on Sunday it occurred to me that Beth was tapping into something bigger than Folklife or even Netflix. She was making a comment and thanking the audience for being present and celebrating The Banner Days’ music as a part of the larger celebration known as The Northwest Folklife Festival. It’s something I’ve thought about a bit lately. Before mass media, human beings entertained and celebrated each other with intimate performances to small audiences for thousands of years. They were called tribes, and all human needs had to be met within them including entertainment. Those thousands of years of conditioning created a yearning to be recognized by our peers and to celebrate them in a much more intimate manner than we tend to do these days. Rather than celebrate each other, we have celebrities: people we are highly unlikely to ever meet let alone actually have a relationship with, but there we are watching Netflix and other media and celebrating people we can’t know. This is detrimental to our relationships and how we view each other. Certainly we enjoy very high quality entertainment from incredibly talented individuals, but that’s not the same as cheering for your neighbor as they perform a song, poem, dance, etc. for your entertainment. Something has been lost in that change over the past 100 years or so after radio became common in most American homes.
The Northwest Folklife Festival is one of only a few opportunities our regional community has to really celebrate one another. It gives me hope that there is a tremendous amount of people who are interested in seeing and celebrating their neighbors. The more we celebrate each other the greater the sense of connection and community. A virtuous cycle is started when we take the time to go out and support our friends and neighbors in their artistic and cultural pursuits. We are celebrating one another in a powerful way that lifts all of us and leaves us with a sense of community and connectedness that is very difficult to create in our fast paced always logged-in lives. These celebrations create opportunities for different groups in our community to collaborate and lift each other up, and hopefully in the process the relationships that get developed allow all of us to feel like celebrating–I know I do.
Northwest Folklife Board Member
Ryan Davis joined the Northwest Folklife Board of Directors last year. He is the Director of Business & Operations at Pratt Fine Arts Center. As a local musician, Ryan has performed at venues large and small all over the Puget Sound with a number of different groups.