NOTES TO LIVE BY
In Conversation with Allen Church
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however, measured or far away.”
Henry David Thoreau
By Nan Carle Beauregard
Allen’s passion for living in Morrisville is captivating! He states that “for the last 44 years every time I cross Route 12 from Montpelier - I just get wowed by the beauty of the Worchester Range to the left and the Sterling Mountains straight ahead.” From that very first sight, he knew that he and his wife Nina, would make Morrisville their home. And home it is. The people, the place, the whole surround sound have enabled him to live and create the space to do what he loves. Make music. With others.
From a very early age, his mother told him that he marched to a “different drummer” – and that he always would. He has spent a lifetime proving her right. He hears the music of the world in his own unique way and is eager to support others to hear their own drummer - and to step out in their own way – not a standard way set by others – but their own way. Unique. Bold. Beautiful.
After earning his degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, Allen started his career teaching music in Vermont at the Brandon Training School. He honed a special talent for working with a group of students with of a vast range of abilities. There was no question for him that each student enjoyed the sound of music – their own and others. During those early years he came to know that it was the little kids that made the making of music a whole lot of fun. From Brandon he moved to Morrisville to take up the position of Music Teacher at Stowe Elementary School. After 18 years teaching music in the Stowe school system he lost his voice. Literally, lost his voice. Allen had to choose – teaching or performing. He could no longer do both. He describes it as a moment of clarity. He chose performing and started the Different Drummers String School.
Throughout his life as a musician, teacher, singer and songwriter he has grown to believe that people do the best they can – all the time. People being their best is his starting point for teaching music – helping students to be more of who they already are – hearing their own drummer and stepping out to their own music.
He considers Morrisville to be a wonderfully diverse community – one that exposes all of us to the full range of successes and struggles and encourages our community to develop a greater sense of empathy for each other. Allen has grown this understanding of each other through his Vaudeville style performances as Alfred “Crazy” Chase, a legendary cross-dressing fiddler from Central Vermont. Telling the story of The Return of “Crazy” Chase has been an example of his hearing a very ‘different drummer’ and has offered him a way to enable audiences to embrace difference where ever they find it. Himself included.
A most challenging test for Allen to hear – and listen to - his own drummer was presented to him two years ago when he was given a diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer. It was Bad. Very Bad. There was still so much to do. After the shock accompanied by fear and grief he decided he had two choices. He could either look at his life and move forward with fear and confusion or he could look at his life and appreciate all that had gone before and is now. He chose appreciation. Allen considers himself to be a lucky man. He has been lucky in love, in family and in his chosen life of music. He is deeply grateful to the students who came through the door, to the parents who trusted him with their children, to the bands that he has played with and the audiences that come to hear him play.
Allen does not consider himself to be a religious man but he does believe in God’s love as shown through people of faith. To date, his cancer has been pushed back by treatment and a few miracles along the way. He can no longer take life for granted so he lives each day doing what he loves moment by moment.
Run don’t walk to one of his upcoming performances:
Allen hosts Open Mic at Moog’s Place in Morrisville on the first Thursday of the month. He particularly enjoys theses opportunities to support each other’s music.
Allen plays at Moog’s Place every other week.
March 2, Allen will play with Cow Tao at Tap 25 in Stowe
Allen’s new CD is now available: Allen Lee and the Church Restoration Project: Letting Go While Hanging On