A Long Lasting Impact on Communities and People
“When senior members of a community go into schools and talk about their lives and work, and children write songs with Larry Long about what they have learned, they create a remarkable celebration of humanity and hard work.”
Dr. Anthony Seeger
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
“Larry Long is a living musical legend. And his compilation of oral histories will be the centerpiece of a life well-lived helping others.”
Co-Founder and Chief Trial Counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center
Community Celebration of Place/Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song has provided and continues to provide a serious (often children and young people listening as part of their education), living (audience), effective (i.e. the entire process conducive to story telling and recollection and to locating elders representative of diverse groups), and replicable context for collecting elders’ life stories. Because Larry Long has used the EWCS process in very diverse sites (ethnic, economic, geographic, urban and rural, etc.), his collection of songs, art, and writings is uniquely comprehensive and representative of the United States.
Dr. Jack Shelton, Board of Directors
Educator and Author of Consequential Learning: A Public Approach to Better Schools
“Larry Long is one-of-a-kind. His work for the Southern Poverty Law Center helping incarcerated youth find their voices was simply extraordinary.”
President of the Southern Poverty Law Center
“For the first 30,000 years of human history, stories and songs were what we today would call ‘social media’. They were the way history was passed down through countless generations, as most of all that time reading and writing were unheard of for most everyone. But through the stories they told and the songs they sang, people came to know where they came from, who they were and often where they hoped future generations would find themselves. The technologies that have evolved should never be looked at as a replacement for the oral traditions, but rather as an extension through which we can access the old traditions faithfully and easily.
“When I was very young I had 50 years of recorded material which I could learn from and emulate as a way of discovering what was possible as a story teller and musician. Recording was actually fairly new. Nowadays there is over a hundred years worth of recorded history, which is why so many young people have developed skills so young. And these skills are not limited to technique, but extent far into social responsibilities and awareness as well. My heartfelt thanks to Larry Long and all the voices from which our history continues to generate encouragement, enthusiasm and wisdom.”
“I have followed your work for many years now, Larry, and have admired that as your visibility has grown, your philosophy of serving communities through the power of song and story continues. In our contemporary world some think of these so-called "old fashioned methods" as outdated. I and others don't agree.
“Your ability to deliver a message of personal inspiration and the connection of community continues to be invaluable. You and your work are a gift to all you touch. Please keep providing your songs and stories that embrace and excite both elders and young people. Your work brings sunshine and smiles with every presentation.”
Connie Goldman, Board of Directors
Author, Public Radio Producer
In 1999 Larry Long came to Spearfish, South Dakota where he led our school in honoring four elders from the community. Since that time, with Larry’s blessings and guidance we have grown to include the community of Custer as well, and over the last 15 years have honored over 100 elders in these two communities. It has been a transformative experience, where students have the opportunity to give back to their community, elders have the chance to reflect on their lives and speak to students about this process of living, and the community learns what a rich and diverse place we live. These events have become an important part of what it means to live where we do.
Hank Fridell, Board of Directors
Educator, Principal, South Dakota
“Your unique voice and perspective gives this work the legitimate ‘ring of truth’ and authenticity that few could bring to this task. I’m honored to be a contributor ($500) and I’m hoping that others will come to the fore so that the amazing, groundbreaking, work you’ve done as an activist-historian will be preserved.
“It’s imperative that your archives be made available to inspire others who might study what you’ve recorded and some, becoming inspired by what you’ve done, might well decide to follow your path. No one in the world of folk music and advocacy has dug as deeply and humbly into the lives and communities of people who are poor, often forgotten and certainly neglected in many, many ways—and no one has inspired grass roots communities with as broad reach as yours, using music to create community and telling stories to honor the elders and the legacy of so many unsung, albeit heroic, ‘ordinary people’.
You have my greatest love and respect and it’s an honor to support you in this endeavor, my friend.”
Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul & Mary)
Elizabeth Hall International School - Minneapolis, MN, 2012
Yesterday's event at Hall School was one for the books! I felt not only honored, but treasured. I spent a long time imagining the imprint of the day - as well as the preceding months of the project - on the children. They are our treasure and each of you helped them to learn that again. With deepest gratitude,
Honored Elder, Elizabeth Hall International
It was an amazing morning for all of us and by far the most meaningful performance I have been a part of. I too am excited about what it meant for the children. They were wonderful, and I know how much it meant to them by the looks on their faces when they finished.
Music Specialist, Elizabeth Hall International
Hiawatha Community School - Minneapolis, MN, 2012
Once again we had the privilege of working with Larry Long on the Elder’s Wisdom Celebration Song and once again it was magnificent! Our students get so much out of this program and our parents love it!
Principal, Hiawatha Community School
Spearfish, SD 1999
There is little to no chance that you remember me, as I was all of 9 years old when we met (I was the rowdy kid who played the piano). That year marked the inaugural year of EWCS in Spearfish, and you worked with my 4th grade class to pen a song in tribute to an effervescent and unforgettable Ms. Louise Smock. Now twelve years afterward, I remember that experience as one of incredible joy and significance, not only for the kids involved but for the entire community.
I am so happy to see that this program not only continues to be a part of my old school, but has also expanded to other Black Hills communities. As reports of recalcitrant youth across the globe fill the nightly news, it's reassuring to know that we in the Black Hills are still teaching our kids to be good people, to appreciate the value of hard work, and perhaps most importantly, to afford our elders the adoration and respect they so deserve. Although I may not have understood the significance at the time, those few weeks we spent hearing stories from Ms. Smock and the subsequent songwriting we did with you were exceptionally memorable and will stay with me throughout my life. In short, as an alumnus of your first year program, I wanted to reach out and say thank you for doing this and for continuing to invest in our community. It means more than you could ever know.
[...] Music remains a huge part of my life and have picked up a number of new instruments and playing styles. Should you find yourself in Boston this year, or China/Singapore next year, bring a guitar and let's play some music! I hope that someday, I can help carry on the EWCS tradition. Until then, hope all is well. Keep up the great work!
St. Louis Park, MN - 2008
Each and every one of us searches for meaning and purpose in our lives. All too often we are so busy with our own fast paced daily existence that we fail to see the beautiful journey we are actually on. It is through these stories that we can understand and put into perspective our shortcomings, our detours and our frustrations. It is through these stories that we can see more clearly our own developing stories of accomplishment, survival and hope.
Larry Long’s Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song program has resurrected a culturally lost art. Our elders have always taught us important lessons about life and our purpose in this world. Somehow modern society has forgotten how to take the time to listen.
Richard A. Erickson, Ph.D.
School Social Worker
St. Louis Park
Birchview Elementary 2011
What a marvelous evening you gave us at Birchview last week! We felt privileged to be there and have shared with many others the wonderful things you did and set in motion for students, teachers and families. Our Nate was SO excited to be part of it and to have the opportunity to read from the histories and to sing with the other students.
You are teaching students many valuable things—respect for elders and their stories; how to use the gifts of writing, memory and music; the sheer JOY it is to celebrate life...and so much more.
Good for you! We'll hope to see you again in another performance somewhere else and have given your information to our daughter whose children are in the St. Louis Park school district.
I hope you can go on and on with your valuable work.
Mr. Sykes Fourth Grade Class,
It was an absolute pleasure to be involved with your program, ELDERS’ WISDOM Children’s Song, at Birchview Elementary School. I was impressed with your ability to translate my life story into song.
As a long time school teacher myself, I was especially impressed with how every one of you in the room participated in the program. Not only were you amazingly well behaved but I could tell by the smiles on your face you were really enjoying it.
You were all given an opportunity to ask me questions as you listened to my story. Each one of you looked me in the eye, shook my hand and thanked me. I appreciated that.
Both you and I were taught important lessons through your special program. I am so happy to see you plant the seeds of respect and diversity in our community.
I am grateful and honored by Sara & Stephanie’s invitation to participate in this delightful program.
We had a fabulous performance at Birchview last Thursday, a real celebration of each elder’s unique journey and contributions to our community. The Elders were touched, our students learned a lot from them (and the process!), and parents were very impressed with the program. Larry is obviously passionate about the work, and very talented, and he has brought that passion to our 4th grade team to continue the work. I am excited about next year! It is a unique and special program.
Jason Wenschlag, Principal
Gibraltar School - 2010
“I would like to thank you again for such a fantastic program.
Many community members, school faculty and parents have let me know that they really loved the community celebration. I have had comments such as "This blew me away I was not sure what to expect but this was wonderful." "The show was so professionally done, so touching and powerful." "This was by far the best show I have ever been to, I really enjoyed it."
... By taking the time to really listen, read and create songs from the interview transcripts students experienced elder's wisdom. This experience and the songs will be forever in the minds of these students. The songs were fun to sing and are the kind of songs you feel great knowing are stuck in your children's head.”
Valley View - 2010
Thank you so much for creating a song about my life. I have been sharing it with my family and friends and we have all had a good laugh with it.
Thanks for the memory that I can enjoy for a long time.
Community Celebration of Place: Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song gives students a chance to study genuine, lived history and link it with the life they now experience inside and outside school.
Dr. John E. Shelton
Director of PACERS Small Schools Cooperative, Alabama
Dear Larry Long,
I am a former student of Rollingstone Elementary school, a place that much appreciated your work! Recently I was remembering the fabulous times we had when you were there ... I'm now a sophomore in college and I am still singing those songs you wrote way back in the day. The time you spent with us really touched our hearts. I am from the 2nd grade class that went with you to sing at the teachers conference in Brainerd. I am still very close with many of my classmates from that class and these songs we sang are always a happy reminder of where we came from. So I guess I just wanted to say thank you! Every time someone asks me where I am from I can't help but think "Rollingstone my Home".