I read Ben Joravsky's article last week [May 19] about the Old Town School of Folk Music and thought it pure hogwash. Although I know Ben's trying to make the story of Jim Hirsch's departure more dramatic (and I don't know the details), the idea that the school has lost its soul or spirit or whatever is bunk. If you want to say it is being run more like a business than in days past, I think that is valid. It has to be with all the class offerings that must be coordinated and performances scheduled and promoted. They've even tightened up the rules for volunteers. Now we can't have free beer, but it is still the best volunteer gig around.
As far as I am concerned, the atmosphere is still incredibly loose, friendly, inspiring, and open to all modes of musical expression. I've enjoyed every class I've taken from jazz singing to flamenco dance. I consider the volunteering to be some of my best-spent free time, for the opportunity to hear music that is not featured elsewhere, in one of the best small venues in Chicago, in an environment where the staff, volunteers, and patrons love music and are in a great state of mind. As far as the technology of the school--it is still suffering from a lack of state-of-the-art equipment with which I have first-hand experience. The notion that loss of the 3" x 5" cards and the "Gridiron Review"-type sing-alongs has dampened its spirit is ridiculous.
I really have to wonder what the motive is in writing such an article about a local nonprofit just because it has learned how to fund-raise and market its unique offerings. As a business volunteer for the Arts & Business Council, it seems counterproductive. The Chicago Reader has become more technically savvy too in recent years, I might add.