In addition to my work with Cultural Programs and interns, I teach adult education classes at the Museum in the fall. This year I am teaching a four part series on how to document family artifacts and ephemera through memoir. As a folklorist I always want people to not only label pictures and objects with dates and names of people but to add descriptions of the contexts or stories behind them. I had been thinking about this class for the past few months but had not had time to sit down and plot out how the sessions would work. I decided to work at home for the day where there would be fewer distractions (except for my cat who thinks she can type with me at the computer). I spent the day reading up on memoirs and puzzled for a bit about how to run the first class. I didn’t know who would be in the class and knew that an email, requesting folks to bring in object to the class the first day was not a good idea. I called a colleague of mine in the city and we talked strategy and she suggested having people write about their names on the first day! We talked about what kinds of writing prompts I could give everyone that day. After I hung up, I decided to use the prompts and write my own name memoir. I knew there were stories about my name, but these prompts were golden and I found myself digressing a bit (digression in folklore is not only accepted it is encouraged to give stories and traditions more depth) and wrote for over an hour about my first name! As much as I wanted to continue writing about the rest of my name, I turned to other work items that needed attention.
Our spring brochure goes to print in mid-December (yikes) and although I had been working on spring, summer and fall 2015 events, there were many things to confirm and work on. Some one had approached our development director about potentially funding our spring concert series and I need more information from musicians. My favorite programs we present are our Lost and Found Music Series, which extends our preservation mission and presents Jewish musical forms that are at risk of disappearing. We present new takes on old music, which embraces all genres, folk, jazz, classical, even “heavy shtetl” (a nod to my husband who named this genre after seeing a concert of younger musicians performing their take on klezmer).
One of the musicians I want to present in the spring is a violinist and is on tour in Eastern Europe and he doesn’t have much access to the internet. He wants to perform a series of duets with another violinist who has been and is often in Europe and even when she is in the City is not good at returning phone calls or emails. I have been faithfully emailing them both and awaiting descriptions and bios. The music will be beautiful and I am very loyal to the younger of the musicians as I have known him for about 8 years and have seen him progress from an amazing violinist to an ultra amazing performer and scholar and want to get a date set with him. Scheduling performances and lectures is a particular science at Eldridge Street as our busiest tour days are Sundays and Sunday afternoon concerts are big with our audience. We have Jewish holidays (which are plenty) to figure in to the equation and school and staff vacations to think about as well. The music also should fit the sensibility/mission of the Museum—to educate visitors about the history of the lower East Side immigrant experience from 1887 to present times. I work with musicians, artists, and scholars to make sure their programs are relevant. There is research I must do and discussion that goes into everything we present (which is one of my favorite perks of the job).
We are considering having an outside person organize a symposium on The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in March. I am particularly dedicated to commemorating this horrible event, which took place on March 27, 1911. Although none of our original congregants died in this tragedy, many of the young girls and women who died were from the neighborhood and even lived on Eldridge Street. For the past few years I have presented concerts that memorialize these women—there is a core of immigrant poetry and music especially written after this event, about the plight of immigrant life and their work in the sweatshops as well as newer music composed lamenting these same issues in the 21sst- century. This year, I working with a wind ensemble that has access to music composed by women of that era and a symposium a few days before the concert would be a great pairing. I spoke with the outside scholar about the details of the symposium and told him to get back to me with more details by early December. 5:30 PM came so soon after 9:30 AM–hard to believe it was the end of the day. I made final plans for a fieldwork expedition the next day and ended a busy day.