Folk Singer John Gorka Visits Perkins


Singer/songwriter John Gorka gave a detailed “tour” of his rare fretless banjo to music therapist Lisa Martino and students Maggie and Cammy, who were in the audience.

On his way to perform at the Newport Folk Festival, Minnesota-based folk singer/songwriter John Gorka made time to drop by a Perkins School for the Blind music class for a song swap, on July 28, 2011.

His song "Branching Out," which contains the lyric When I grow up I want to be a tree, is a regular part of the Lower School chorus' repertoire and was a highlight of the Lower School new building dedication ceremony last spring.

To welcome him to their own stage, the students treated the troubadour to their rendition of “Branching Out.” Gorka said it was “the best version of my song I’ve ever heard.” Then the songwriter returned the favor so that the students could hear the song in the voice of the writer, but, Gorka said, “I sing it in a different key. The key of D is too fast for me.”

Gorka’s detailed explanation of the chording and playing of both his guitar and his hand-made fretless banjo expressed his obvious respect for the students’ knowledge of music. He ended by teaching them a Mississippi John Hurt song, "My Creole Belle," in a sing-a-long.

During the Q&A a student asked when and how he became a songwriter. Gorka answered, "I knew I wanted to be a writer before I knew that music would be the way. I find I can say things in music that I cannot say in words."

Perkins music therapists Michael Bertolami and Lisa Martino thanked Gorka for sharing time with their students, but Gorka said he wouldn’t have missed the opportunity.

Danzel playfully connected with Gorka as the chorus serenaded the songwriter with the Earth Wind & Fire classic, “Shining Star.”

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