Jeff Warner, Folk Singer / Musician, Portsmouth
Jeff Warner attributes his interest in both scholarship and musicianship to the work of his parents, the well known music historians Frank and Anne Warner. At ages 3, 8 and 16 Warner accompanied his parents on a few of their trips throughout the Eastern US and Canada and sat and listened while they recorded the locals who remembered the old songs of their region and community. These significant recordings are preserved for posterity in the Library of Congress.
In his early years Warner lived in Greenwich Village with his family and later attended Duke University where he earned a BA in English. After a two-year stint in the Navy, he continued his studies at New York University under the G.I. Bill.
In the 60s Warner was editor-in-training at Doubleday Bookclubs. He seemed headed toward a literary career, until a friend asked if he would help out with a non-profit music school, called the Guitar Workshop, in Roslyn, Long Island in NY. Warner stayed with the school for nine years as the only paid staff person, and worked as administrator, guitar teacher, grant writer, and community program coordinator. He says he learned music theory and arrangement by teaching. His position also helped put him in touch with the significant people involved in the post-WWII folk revival movement that was embraced by both the commercial and academic worlds.
In the 70s Warner left to carve out a career for himself in historical music. Because of the US Bicentennial there was an increased demand for American songs in schools and Jeff filled that need with outreach programs into the schools.
In explaining his work, Warner points out that he is not a traditional singer in the academic sense. A traditional singer is one who has acquired the traditions, either through ethnicity or family ties. Warner prefers to refer to himself as a singer of traditional songs. He takes an historical approach to the music and has become known as a “folklorist/historian and community scholar.” In describing his work, he says: “I teach American history and culture through traditional song.” He borrows a phrase from historian David McCullough, who said, “my mission is to make history as interesting as it really was.” For Warner, old songs are like archaeological objects which teach a lot about history, “…they’re living historical artifacts that serve as evidence about the people who used them and the times they lived in.”
In 1997, he moved to Portsmouth and began doing outreach to NH schools as a Roster Artist through the State Arts Council. He has recorded for Flying Fish/Rounder and other labels. His first solo compact disk, recorded in 2005, is Jolly Tinker onGumstump Records. His 1995 recording, Two Little Boys, received a Parents' Choice Award. He is the editor of Traditional American Folksongsfrom the Frank and Anne Warner Collection (Syracuse University Press, 1984), and producer of the set Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still: The Warner Collection (Appleseed Recordings, 2000), which is comprised of his parents’ recordings. He appears on the State Arts Council’s 2003 compact disk Songs of the Seasons, for which he also co-wrote the liner notes.
From 1979 to 1993 Jeff Warner toured nationally with the Smithsonian Associates and is past president of the Country Dance and Song Society, and a past officer of the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance. He has been an artist for Virginia, Ohio and Utah Arts Councils and is past producer of the Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival. He has been the recipient of numerous grants from the NH Humanities Council.
This is Jeff Warner’s first Fellowship from the State Arts Council.
Click here to visit Jeff Warner's website
to 2007 Fellows page
July 26, 2006