Bob Brundage – Well hi again, this is Bob Brundage and today is October 2, 2008. We’re talking today with John Marshall back in Sterling, Virginia. John is currently the Chairman of Callerlab and we’re interested in finding out about Callerlab’s current activities and would like to start by finding out a little more about John’s personal life before square dancing. So, tell us where you were brought up John.
John Marshall – I was raised in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland and my girl friend and I were dating and we graduated from high school in 1968, and in that fall her parents, who were square dancers, avid square dancers, and fans of Als by the way, encouraged us to go ahead and get involved and take lessons and, being kids, basically it was easier to do that than it was to argue with the parents. (both laugh) And that was the beginning of it all.
BB – Yes, OK. So how long before you got into calling?
JM – Well, being a youngster at the time you couldn’t tell me too much. I took lessons in 19 … the fall of 1968 into the spring of 1969 and went to my club caller Ed East and said “I want to do this, I want to call, how do I start?” And he handed me two singing calls and sent me home and said “go learn these”. And that was kind of the beginning of it, and basically I’ve been at it consistently ever since.
BB – I see. Who did you say that was?
JM – Eddie East, he was a caller in the Baltimore suburb area.
BB – Oh, yes. So what were some of your early experiences then getting into calling?
JM – Well of course I had the opportunity for Eddie to help teach me … coach me a little bit and give me an opportunity to call guest tips which so many of us used to do to get started. The following year I did a little study time and I went and took a class with Mac Parker who was in Arlington, Virginia. I rode down with two other gentlemen who were learning to call and we took his course where he was teaching us about symmetry and choreography, and I then started a beginner’s class which turned into a club. Shortly thereafter, probably the following year, I went to Promenade Hall in Indiana with Dick and Ardy Jones and Johnny Davis, Covington,Kentucky and Rich Shaver, and took their week long school. And that was a definite turning point in my calling.
BB – OK. So you would probably consider Dick one of your mentors?
JM – Dick was one of my mentors and there were a few others along the way, I was very fortunate. A gentleman named Jack or Joko Manning helped me quite a bit as did Lee Kopman and Chuck Stinchcomb, Keith Gulley, these are all people that had definite influence on helping to train me and bring me along in the things that I was particularly weak in, which at the time was choreography, which is so often the bane of the new caller.
BB – Yes, well, so did you go to any other caller’s schools?
JM – I went to primarily local seminars that our local caller’s association would sponsor and bring in some of the top talent of the day. I would attend those. That was the longest school that I attended as far as that went. I went to a couple of other schools that were weekend type schools, they were just local to here. They weren’t particularly notable historically, but they were very helpful.
BB – Was yours a musical family John?
JM – The family was not particularly musical, no. I was raised by my mom and she basically didn’t relate to that. She enjoyed music but she didn’t play or sing.
BB – I see.
JM – I had gotten involved in singing very early and particularly in high school and had done some drama and stage work and had some vocal coaching. So singing calls were, of course, where I felt most comfortable in the beginning.
BB – Yes, well. Tell us about your singing experiences. Have you gotten into barbershop or anything like that?
JM – I’m … not really… the high school stuff as I say, there were some musicals that we did stage work with. I did just a little vocal singing while I was in college, not in an organized group but they would do variety shows and the like and I would do some singing back then. Mostly though my singing from that point on was all involved around square dancing, and singing calls. As I said, I had a little training and at one point there was some consideration of pursuing a singing career, and I was, again, was very fortunate I had some people who had professional singing careers who sat down and talked with me and pointed out that as nice as my voice might be the real world was an agent in New York would pick up a telephone and in a hour have 150 people in the room who had better repertoire, and better talent, and deeper, and …. and I better be careful about how I committed my time. And I was very fortunate that they dissuaded me, being a young guy, you know, sometimes that doesn’t happen.
BB – Yeah, it’s a tough business that’s for sure. Well, OK, you mentioned your local caller’s association, have you been active in that?
JM – I was very active in … when I was in Baltimore I was in the SDLBA, Square Dance Leaders of the Baltimore Area. And then when I moved to Northern Virginia I became involved in the National Capitol Area Square Dance Leaders Association, NCASDLA. And was a member there for a long time. I have not functioned (in) more than one office for them; I was Vice President one year. I also have done panels and presentations for them over the years as I’ve become a little bit more talented and gotten a little more depth and the ability to share some of that.
BB – Yes. The National Capitol Area, don’t they put on a big festival every year?
JM – The local dancers association does, that’s WASCA, Washington Area Square Dancers Cooperative Association. They do a very large festival and still do. It’s been quite popular and in fact they always run a beginners afternoon on the Saturday of the festival and the callers would bring in their new grads or about to be grads and the staff that had been hired for the festival would call to them. I remember going there and thinking this is just terrific. It was a great experience.
BB – Yeah. They … that’s been going for some time if I remember.
JM – That’s correct. They’ve celebrated their 50th.
BB – Did they really, well….
JM – Yeah, they just did. I believe that’s last year and they’re getting a two-fer out of that one Bob. They celebrated their 50th convention last year … or 50th anniversary last year and this year their 50th convention. (laughs)
BB – Yes.
JM – So it’s a little slight of hand there. (Bob laughs) But it helps to promote it, and they’re still doing well. I think they get about 1,100 or 1,200 dancers.
BB – Yes, OK. Well ,I guess the activity is not as booming as it once was. I mean that Washington area had a myriad of clubs around.
JM – They did. And sadly the festival used to run as many as 4,500, with a waiting list. That’s been a long, long time ago, back in the early ‘70s and it’s faded. The activity has changed and society has changed of course. We’re looking for ways to rejuvenate the activity more and more and looking for ways to reach people because there’s so many changes in society that are different that take people’s interests in other ways.
BB – Have you got any secrets that the rest of us need to know about?
JM – I’m not sure anybody has the one answer Bob, but I do believe this, I believe that as we get … for a long time we got smarter and smarter choreographically and we got too smart for our own good and that includes me. And we’re beginning to realize that we do need to look back to the social values, the underlying core values that the activity brought beyond the mental puzzle stimulation type of approach. To where we got into (the) human nature of trying to climb and go further and faster. We’re more and more examining that and trying to step back and make it easier to get into the activity and making it more achievable by more and more people rather than just the top people, the cream if you will, who were able to take no matter what you threw at them and cast away the rest. We were careless, I think, in that we had so many people dancing back then we weren’t as careful about that and as aware as we should have been, and we’re now paying the price for it.
BB – Right, right. Well, what is your take on the ABC program?
JM – I think that depending on how it’s used it can have a place. I look at things in this vein. I’m not even worried about ABC, I’m happy with A, if we have that portion of it. If we normally run an interest group or a beginners group or a party night and perhaps 2% of those people are interested in doing more, and that’s fine but if you only have 10 squares a year that do that and you only get 2% then that’s not very good. If a program like ABC made itself successful and known where people could just do it on a drop-in type basis much as they do at contra, around the country, then we would have a much broader exposure. I’d rather have 2% of a thousand than 2% of 10. I think that’s just a simple arithmetic thing and I don’t mean to oversimplify it. But people do have to go and have a good time and enjoy it but be able to not worry about being good enough.
BB – Yes, well. I had a thought a moment ago as you were talking but now it has slipped my mind. OK, well, I know you’ve done a lot with caller’s schools yourself. As a matter of fact I was looking through your bio and I see you’ve had a kind of a busy summer. (laughs)
JM – Indeed.
BB – I noticed one thing I picked out was you were over in Australia ...
JM – That’s correct.
BB - … for their National Convention in June.
JM – That’s right Bob.
BB – And in that I think you put on a mini-lab, is that …?
JM – That’s also correct. They’ve sponsored mini-labs a couple of times, which, of course, as you know, is an opportunity to make becoming a part of Callerlab easier and more affordable for folks that live far away. And they sponsor it, and then basically organize it and run it and several of us from Callerlab go to represent the organization, answer questions and talk with folks, and we do some panel presentations and education presentations. It was a very positive experience for myself and my wife and Tim Marriner who went with us and Jerry Reed. And we actually got a number of people to either renew a membership or to join for the first time in the organization as a result of that mini-lab, and made some good friends in the process.
BB – Sure. How extensive has that been over the years? I know it started out rather slowly but it’s been some time now since Callerlab instituted that program. In how many countries have mini-labs actually taken place?
JM – I don’t want to misspeak. I know we’ve had mini-labs in Germany, we’ve had mini-labs in England, and of course, we’ve had mini-labs in Australia, we’ve had a mini-lab in Canada. Of those I am certain. We’ve discussed Japan. They were interested, we were too, but basically we all agreed that the language barrier would be just so difficult, that they really wouldn’t gain much value and would end up having to have every other word translated for the bulk of the people who might attend. So that one was a wish but it seemed not to be realistic and we we’re all agreed with that. We were disappointed but we thought we did the right thing. But, you know, we can go years and not have a mini-lab as you know and then I was blessed or cursed, however you want to look at it, when I became Chairman, we had two mini-labs for the first time in the same year, within a month of each other. The other one being in Canada which for me was great. I love the travel and I love the opportunity to be with people and let them see that we’re all just regular guys and gals. We’re just regular callers. As I pointed out to some of them, we’re all local callers at home.
BB – Yeah, who are some of the people that go with you on these mini-labs?
JM – The structure requires that either the Chairman of Callerlab or the Vice Chairman must go, and one member of the Board must go, and the Executive Director or the Assistant Executive Director. That is a requirement there for the mini-lab to actually count, if you will, for attendance and membership. And they certainly are free to invite others, but again they have to … basically they foot the bill for the travel expense and lodging, nothing more. That puts … that much they do need to do. If they can afford it they’ll have others and we’ve also had members of the organization and Board that have gone on their own hook just because they wanted to be there. And they lent a lot to it as well.
BB – Ah ha. Who were some of the people who have gone along with you?
JM – With me? The ones that I mentioned and Dana Schirmer who is our Assistant Executive Director was with us in Canada. Clark Baker came up on his own. He is on the Executive Committee and he wasn’t too terribly far away to drive, from the Boston area. So Clark came in and was part of that. And we … in the past I know that Jon and Deborah Carroll-Jones have gone to Germany on their own to be a part of a mini-lab and they have a nice following there so they lent their services and skills. Those types of things are great when they can happen. We can’t always dig into the pocket book, of course, individually, to do that all the time, but when we can we do.
BB – Well it’s certainly a worth while project, that’s for sure. So, well … tell us a little about some of the festivals and National Conventions that you’ve attended.
JM – Of course, as you’ve pointed out, this year I was invited to participate in the Australia National Convention which was excellent. A lot of work went into that. That was their 49th National Convention for them. I was also invited to participate in the Canadian National Convention, I think theirs is something like their 30th or 35th but we have to remember that they do theirs every two years rather than once a year. But it was great. There was a lot of people there that I know, having called in that area over the years. And, of course, our own National that we do every year. I try to make all of those, or at least as many as I can. And, of course, I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked to staff a number of festivals over the years and that’s always exciting as well.
BB – Well you probably do a lot of week long things and weekends and so forth?
JM – I do a lot of weekends. I don’t do many week long items, a few. More often than not those might be a caller’s school that runs for a week. But as far as going to the resorts, I haven’t done much of that. I do have an opportunity to go to Kirkwood. I’m going to be out there next year for a week and a weekend. I’ve been asked for several but it just wouldn’t fit my schedule. Not lots of week long things. And I’ve never been a touring caller where you … I go out for weekends and do multiple groups for festivals and so on but I’ve never gone ‘on the road’ as some of the folks used to do. It never really appealed to me.
BB – Well, I think that’s sort of the trend anyway, isn’t it? With most of the people we call traveling callers.
JM – It truly is any more. The ones that do do a little bit of touring are the folks that have the opportunity to work in the winter parks, in Florida, or in South Texas, Arizona, out in Mesa. For them part of that traveling and touring is to help promote their winter programs and people come in and snow bird with them. But beyond that there is not a lot of callers that, you know, get a bus, or get up and get on the road and go from town to town. You know there is a few that have enough long term history to still do a surprising number of places … including Marshall Flippo who gets out and about quite well and it’s pretty remarkable.
BB – Yeah, well. I remember those days I used to … I used to be considered a traveling caller at one time. I took six weeks and traveled around. I got a chance to visit every state except the far North West. That was a long, long time ago. But I noticed you get into New England too. I see you are going to be at the Falling Leaves festival.
JM – Yeah, Tumbling Leaves, that is coming up in a couple of weeks and that’s one that I’ve done at the college there in Bennington. It’s been a lot of fun. Red Bates has been one of the primary drivers behind that for a long, long time and I’ve been on the Festival for quite a few years and it’s a great time. There are some people I only get to see there. I don’t get to see them other times of the year so it’s why I always look forward to doing it, as does my wife.
BB – Right, well you’ll get to see the fall foliage then. (Laughs)
JM – Yup, some years we’re lucky and there’s still color by the time we get there. Other years ummm, not so much because you’re getting up a little higher.
BB – That’s one of the things I miss about New England, but we don’t … all the trees here in Albuquerque, they turn one color, a bright gold and that’s it. But getting back to … do you do any contra dancing at all?
JM – I have not. I got some exposure at Callerlab when generally we will have one or two contra dances in the evening available to folks who want to try it or are avid about it. I’ve done that but sadly I’ve had some physical issues with back surgery and a titanium plate in my neck and whatever and it’s kind of a little more physical than my body likes anymore. I feel I’m like, you know, it’s after fifty its patch, patch, patch. (Bob chuckles) That’s kind of what it feels like. I’m lucky to be married to a younger wife, a beautiful lady and dancer, and she loves to dance the contras as well as the squares and when I met her she was a caller.
BB – There you go.
JM – But her own work doesn’t allow her to be too active now because she has to travel without pre-planning. You can’t book dances and still have to turn around every time and say, “Oh, I’m sorry I can’t be there”, so …. so they let me … she let’s me do most of the calling now.
BB – Yes, and what was her maiden name?
JM – Her maiden name is Hutchinson. Mary Hutchinson.
BB – OK, and she was calling where?
JM – She was calling down in the Charlottesville area, Charlottesville, Virginia, and had herself come along. She was really enjoying that. She was one of the few women callers in that region and she called for a number of years, probably ten. And then, of course, life kind of got in the way and changed a few things.
BB – Right. How about round dancing, do you cue any rounds?
JM – I don’t cue rounds and it’s interesting you ask. I enjoy rounds, I have a good feel for rounds. I took a few lessons back in my early days when I mentioned Ed and Ester East and Ester was the cuer. And she was a pretty straight forward lady, and if you were dancing in the club for squares you were going to come take round dance lessons, which we did, my first wife and I, and it was interesting. We learned some of the classics. Back then they weren’t teaching steps, they were teaching the whole dance. You would learn Dancing Shadows, or you would learn Frenchy Brown. But that was about the extent of the rounds that I did. I’ve always said, however, that if I were to ever give up calling that I would not become necessarily a square dancer, but that I would definitely attempt to become a round dancer.
BB – Ah ha.
JM – And I would like to do that. And that’s all … of course assuming that the back and all that stuff will let me.
BB – That’s true. Yeah, you get up into the higher phases and it gets pretty aerobic every once …
JM – Yeah, yeah, it does. It’s pretty precise in some of those upper phases that they do.
BB – Yes, but that’s personally more than I like to do. Let me see … before I get into Callerlab per se, do you have any other hobbies?
JM – Actually I’ve not had much time for hobbies. We do try to walk when we can; we bicycle a little bit, nothing new or long cross country stuff. Other than that, a more sedentary thing, we do enjoy movies quite a bit, I’m a bit of a film buff. And I guess that counts for something anyway. You know, those are quite often now where I end up. I played tennis in college and I love that sport and when I have the opportunity to watch the big matches I do that, you know. the grand slam events whenever possible. When I’m not calling I try to record them and view them later. Not lots of time for that especially with all the extra activities now with Callerlab.
BB – Yeah, right. Well, I’ll tell you this tape is running down a little bit, why don’t I take a second and turn it over, just hold on.
JM – OK.
(End of Side A for John Marshall tape)
BB – OK, I’ve turned the tape over and we’re ready to go again so … we’re talking about Callerlab which is one of your pride and joys, I’m sure. You’ve spent many years as a member and worked your way up through the ranks and I know you’ve been associated with many different committees along the way. What’s new and exciting with Callerlab?
JM – I think Callerlab is new and exciting in that … you know the old story about everything that is old is new again. I think we’re seeing a turning within the organization, as a whole, not just what the organization itself does but how its membership is leaning. And we’re starting to look, as I mentioned earlier, more and more towards the social aspects, the values that we have in the activity above and beyond just choreography. We’re seeing people try different things; we’ve encouraged a lot of people to experiment. Some of our members felt constrained by our suggested teaching order and our programs and they felt that if they went outside the barriers of that, that they would be in violation and we’ve assured them and set up a program … the Program Policy Initiative to encourage people to try different things, to experiment and let us know what they are and what works and what doesn’t work because we’re all looking for an answer to help rejuvenate the activity. I’ve talked to people about the renaissance I think … as I like to think of it in square dancing, because we’ve changed from the very old image which is not a bad thing, history and heritage is valuable, but we’re leaning away a little bit from that, and trying to let people see we … we’ve come a long … people don’t have to memorize dances in order to dance with us. It’s not quite as physical as some of the early Eastern style dancing used to be.
We’re embracing this idea of easier entry and, you know, not trying to amaze people with choreography. We’re … some of us are looking at some non-traditional square dance music that we’re hoping might draw some of the youth and we are … we’ve got a program going now to try to re-establish square dance lessons in clubs in colleges and universities around the country and we’re starting to do some work with some land grant colleges there to start. And a brand new thing Bob, and I mean brand new, as within this past month we’ve set up an ad-hoc committee with a bit of a fireball caller for youth out in California who’s come to us with a proposal that we think is very healthy … it’s going to be a little radical for some folks, and it’s going to involve the possibility of establishing square dance groups in high schools for purposes of competing. I know that’s heresy to some folks, but if you sadly turn on the television today, everything is reality shows, and competition, and that sort of thing. But the North West, as I’m sure you’re aware, has had a program for a very long time for competition and they’ve turned out some really good callers out of that as well.
And in the East, in Pennsylvania, there’s a program going that a lot of the young people are involved in, either home school or 4-H. They have a competition … theirs is set up on a different approach. Their approach is based on the Danish model, everybody wins, everybody gets a ribbon. They’ve had as many as 60 squares out for that once a year at the state fair. And most of them are youth. And that’s encouraging and exciting and we’re going to be looking into maybe having the Foundation sponsor some of those types of things in other states. So try to plant seeds for the long term future. One of the ideas on the competition came from the upper mid-west where bowling used to be such a tremendously popular activity and died out quite a bit. And now it’s actually reviving in the form of bowling leagues in high schools where they’re competing against one another for school letters like other sports. While we know that square dancing has a lot more involved values than just sports, you know, in terms of … the team aspect is certainly true but the social interactions with people is also an added element of what we have to offer in square dancing. And so we’re gonna … we’re looking into that. We’re thinking that we might try that on a trial basis and see what kind of reaction we get and if it has a value. So that’s kind of exciting stuff and I do know that, as I said, some people will not be excited about it we so classically said, “No, no, no, we don’t compete, it’s purely recreation, it’s purely recreation”.
BB – Right.
JM – And if the tape isn’t the place for this then separately I’m going to ask you a question about why you think that is. Where did that come from? You know, who handed down from on high that we don’t compete? I have a personal theory that I’ll share with you when it’s the appropriate time.
BB – Well it came primarily from Bob Osgood.
JM – OK.
BB – He and I used to argue about that all the time. (John chuckles) I had a competition that I called for out in New YorkState. It ended at the New York State Fair every year in the fall and I thought it was very, very beneficial. I’ve been interested in that North West competition for some time. But, of course, Pappy Shaw felt the same way …
JM – Really?
BB - … that you can’t … I mean, how do you score points? But …
JM – But he did have competition though, even within his … you know, his own school.
BB – That’s true.
JM – You know where they would compete to see who got to be on the exhibition team.
BB – Yes, that’s true.
JM – So I thought again, if it’s handled well, I think it has some values.
BB – Yes.
JM – In brief, if you care, I have a question in my mind as to … I have no way to evidence this … I’m wondering that when our activity really started to blossom to very large numbers, it seems to me that really started to happen in the early ‘50s not terribly long after World War II and Korea. I just was curious, if societaly, culturally, we had had enough strife, enough stress and competition and all the terrible wars that we we’re dealing with, that here was something that didn’t require that type of approach at all, it was just simply go and play and have fun. And I was just curious if that might have had anything to do with the attitudes of the time?
BB – Well I’m sure it probably did. Yeah, it’s funny that you’d mention this at the moment. I … just a couple of days ago, I had a long, long talk with brother Al down in Florida, and you may or may not realize that he and Lee Kopman at one time got very hot about competition in square dancing. They even made up a syllabus type of thing about how to score and things like that and at the time Lee Kopman was talking quite positively with one of his dancers who was a wealthy business man of some kind, and they were really hot about this idea and were going to have a sponsor and the whole thing. Unfortunately the guy suddenly stopped dancing and that took care of that. But you might just get a hold of my brother and talk with him about it. He said he got a little bit excited about it himself when we were talking about this being something that might be of interest.
JM – Well that’s fascinating. No, I will do that and I will also, if it’s OK, put the gentleman who’s going to chair that ad-hoc committee … I may have him call your brother as well and possibly Lee still has something around. I suspect you remember that Lee was and is an instructor … he is a Phys. Ed. instructor and he is now actually teaching some classes at a University for fun.
BB – Yes. Well, of course, dancing for young people in schools, you’re talking about Jack Murtha.
JM – Yes.
BB – His whole program.
JM – The Diamond Program wasn’t it?
BB – Yes the Diamond Program and so forth. The other interesting thing, I don’t mean to take the lead in this conversation, but I had a recent conversation with a lady in Massachusetts who’s primarily a contra caller but also dances challenge …
JM – I know who you are talking about.
BB – … and she was saying the solution is to get a young hot caller, a handsome guy, and make a movie based upon this north west competition program. Put a romantic switch to it and … . She made the point that when they made a movie about Salsa dancing all of a sudden Salsa dancing took a big jump, and the same with Swing dancing, and so that’s her solution. You’ll have to get a hold of your Hollywood friends … (both laugh) Unfortunately Osgood of course, was familiar in that area and had much to do with some of the movies in the old days.
JM – Well, writing it is going to be … would be the real trick. It wouldn’t be the square dancing aspect that would be tricky. It would be the part of writing a script around it I think because I’ve contended … we’ve had folks come to us and say, “Oh, we need to do a TV show like Dancing with the Stars” and so on.
BB – Yes.
JM – My problem with that, and I could be wrong, it won’t be the first time today, but my problem is that I don’t think of square dancing … I just don’t think we’re a spectator sport. I do think of us as a language, in great part … set to music. People can only sit and watch a language that they don’t understand without responding for so long and then after a while, other than the music, the activity itself I think tends to become a little less important to them because they just … it doesn’t relate. It’s something you have to get up and do. And I think that’s my … I guess my answer when people want to do a TV show or something of that sort. I think there is a limit on how long people will watch. I never felt that He Haw and those things did us any good because they’d always say, “Bring on the square dancers” and it was cloggers.
BB – Yes, well.
JM – Those are things we can’t control.
BB – Yes, well, that was Lloyd Shaw’s attitude to it. Square dancing is not a spectator sport and … but well, that is interesting, I hope you have a chance to follow up on some of that.
JM – Oh, we will.
BB – OK. What do you find … what do you find appealing about calling squares?
JM – Well, I discovered to my surprise, with my very first beginners class that I loved to teach. I was not necessarily noted for being terribly patient until I stepped into my very first class, and then somehow, whatever that patience gene was, kicked in. And I find that I really, really enjoy teaching dancers and callers. It’s…. it’s important to me to find ways to help people and let them function successfully, make them feel competent and joyful at the same time. One of the things I’ve been doing … I’ve been calling 39 years this year … I’ve also found that sometimes we all get tired. You know…. you know that it’s the travel and so on that can get to us after awhile and then I remember how many people have come to me over the years and said, “Oh, if it hadn’t have been for square dancing we never would have gotten through … this difficult time or this tragic occurrence in our lives” and everything because it’s become such a family and it’s great to be a part of that. And that’s one of those things that I think keeps me involved in the activity. As we both know it’s not certainly making large amounts of money. But it is a joy and, of course, any of us that do this have to have somewhat of an ego. It’s nice to have people applauding, and I said to somebody once, “Think of an activity where people applaud you every 15 minutes and every two or three hours give you money”.
BB – Right.
JM – That’s quite a motivator actually.
BB – Yes.
JM – But being an entertainer is important to me and it’s just how I’ve been actually since I was little. So it seemed to be a natural fit for me. I knew within two weeks of beginners lessons that I wanted to be on the other side of the microphone. Which probably makes me a little different, I mean, I set out with the full intent of becoming a professional caller. That was my design and I’ve never looked back. It’s always been great.
BB – Well, I see you have a positive attitude about the future of square dancing. Do you have any comments along that line?
JM – Yeah. I think that … one of the things I say in caller’s schools is, “Number 1, if you can teach well you will always have somebody to call to”. I really believe that. And I also believe that there are fundamental aspects of what this activity does that reaches people in certain levels and it will always be available and I think people will always … there will always be a certain number of people that will be drawn to it and we just have to make them aware that it’s there and it’s more than just learning how to dance, that there’s more behind it including the music and including the social relationships. That has gone a little out of style. An awful lot of people want to sit by themselves in a room with a computer. It’s not enough, and I think we’re seeing that, and as I’m sure you’ve seen on the news right now our country is in a major financial crisis and I fully believe that … it’s a sad thing to say but it may well be an opportunity for square dancing, because we’re generally an affordable activity and it’s a no stress situation and the callers that make themselves available encourage people to come out just to play and get away from their worries. I think it’s maybe a time when we actually step up and bring something special back to the community.
BB – Right. Well that’s …. that’s good and it’s certainly been an interesting conversation. Anything else you think about you’d like to put on ….
JM – Basically, if someone was listening to this down the road, caller or dancer, my attitude would be that even if you get tired, you get discouraged to go back and remember that what we do is important. What callers do is difficult and they work hard at it, and they should be proud of what they do. And they should also continue to reach out as much as possible, not live in the past of ‘the good old days’, and try to stay open to newer ideas or new ways of approaching things to see if we can’t find a better way of coming forward. Again, not abandoning our heritage, but looking for ways to expand it. I think that would be an important thing for people to keep in mind, it is sometimes hard to not stay positive.
BB – What do you see for the future of Callerlab?
JM – Well, my number one goal for Callerlab actually, when I set out on this, that I expressed to the Executive Committee and the Board and in the Directions magazine, is to increase our membership, to reach more callers, to bring more callers together. We’ve had people that have left and come back .. we have other people who haven’t decided what to do about this and I’m trying to show them and have the organization as a whole impress upon the callers, and the dance community, that continuing education is an important aspect of their groups continuing to be successful. And Callerlab helps to provide that in a very big way. Not everybody can go to week long caller’s schools or get exposure to that many different callers at our convention plus all the materials that we make available whether it be on the internet or through the home office. Those are valuable …. valuable instruments and tools that reflect a lot of work. I think the more people that see that, they’ll start to give back. At one of our recent mini-labs in Canada one of the callers came to me and said, “All of the things I need I can get for free at the Callerlab website”. And I looked at him and I said, “That may well be, and if that works for you that’s fine, but I think you’ll find that there is more to the organization. There’s more to the activity than just documents and lists and teaching hints, and see how you feel at the end of the mini-lab, see if you have any different attitude”. And this gentleman came up to us at the end and said, “Where do I get my membership application”.
BB – (Laughs) There you go.
JM – And that’s when people begin to see that it really is a very unique organization and a unique opportunity for experiences that are good. Every time I … I’ve always said that our convention is the heart and sole of the organization. I can’t go to a convention and not come away energized.
BB – Right.
JM – And we all need that. We’re going to do a little campaign about ‘send your caller to camp’. We’re gonna get that out to the clubs and let them know that that might be a nice Christmas present for example.
BB – Right. Well OK. Unless you can think of anything that you would like to put on the record for posterity … I can thank you very much for your time today. I understand you’re probably on your way out the door pretty quick to do some more business and thank you again for talking with me and I’ll be in touch with you by email.
JM – Well Bob thank you very much and I really appreciate the opportunity. I was quite honored that you would include me in your collection and it’s great talking with you and I really appreciate that opportunity.
BB – Good. Thank you very much.
JM – Thank you Bob.
BB – All right John, bye bye.
JM – Bye.
(End of Bob Brundage interview with John Marshall)