Summertime in Port Townsend brings a host of festivals celebrating a variety of music: fiddle, jazz, blues, and more. Recently, as donors to Centrum, the host venue, we were invited to attend a behind the scenes look at their summer programs. We chose Acoustic Blues, our favorite.
Centrum’s events are held at Fort Worden, a former military fort best known for serving as a backdrop for An Officer and a Gentleman starting Richard Gere and Debra Winger. The fort is a twenty-minute walk from our house on wooded paths, and along the way we stopped from time to time to gather some fresh blackberries.
Upon our arrival we met with Karen Gose Clemens (Director of Development), Mary Hilts (Program Manager, Acoustic Blues Festival), and Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton (Artistic Director), our hosts for the tour.
As we waited for our hosts to wrap up some business, we chatted with Jerron. Turns out, when Jerron isn’t working as artistic director of the festival or performing all over the country and world (he’s headed to Israel soon), he lives in Ridgewood, Queens, a few thousand miles away…where our daughter lives. The two of them know each other. It is, indeed, a small world.
Throughout the week, participants attend classes. We observed several, including guitar, bass, piano, voice, and accordion. A group of students sat in a hallway, diligently practicing their skills on a washboard.
Jerron, at 26 years of age, is an old soul. Warm and cheerful, with a laugh that could make the saddest sack smile, Jerron happily interacted with the teachers and students of each class we observed. He started teaching at Centrum seven years ago (remarkably, only seven years after picking up his first instrument, the violin!), and we watched as he coaxed deeper listening skills from bass players, bringing out their absolute best.
After a fine lunch with our hosts, we departed, happy to be a tiny piece of this amazing festival. On Saturday we attended the showcase, a 3.5 hour celebration of blues.
If you ever have a chance to visit the Acoustic Blues Festival, or any of the other many festivals Port Townsend has to offer, head on over! And, if you donate to Centrum, you, too, can get a glimpse behind the scenes.