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Veeder: ND musicians gather to celebrate what they do

Chuck Suchy stood on the stage of the historic Belle Mehus Theater in our state's capital city, behind his guitar, behind a single microphone and in front of a room full of area musicians and entertainers who had come together for the first attem...

Chuck Suchy stood on the stage of the historic Belle Mehus Theater in our state’s capital city, behind his guitar, behind a single microphone and in front of a room full of area musicians and entertainers who had come together for the first attempt at celebrating the state’s music industry.
He let his callused fingers expertly run along the strings, pulling out sweet sounds from that instrument that felt like a private celebration of what those capable hands have done on his farm and on stages around the world.
And then his voice rang out clear above that crowd under that spotlight, his guitar ceased and he asked us for silence.
Quiet.
He asked us to give it a thought, to consider the abundance of it we’re allowed out here on the prairie under the big sky and the stars that say nothing so that people like us have a chance to think about what it is we might say.
It was just a moment I’ve pulled out of the beginning of a weekend I spent on stages, singing my songs and then, most importantly I think, listening to others sing theirs.
And while I’ve often thought about what it is that inspires me to be a writer and a musician, lately I’ve been more interested in what value this type of work might carry for the community.
Why has it taken us so long to attempt to gather North Dakota musicians in a room in the name of awards and accolades, but more importantly, in the name of celebrating what we do?
I don’t believe it’s because this area doesn’t place value on the music and the arts. Walk into any bar or event venue across the state on a Saturday night and you will likely see the celebration occurring on the dance floors from Crosby to Grand Forks.
Take a moment to get to know any town here and you will likely see they’ve carved out a space somewhere, no matter how small, to display works of art.
We drive miles and save money for the chance to see Bruce Springsteen or Carrie Underwood in concert. We arrange schedules to catch a friend starring in a local production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. We let our son take over the basement in an effort to foster his passion for the drums. We turn the walls of our homes into galleries of art that reminds us of a person we miss or a place we love.
And while we judge the success of an athlete based on how many career points he’s responsible for, there is no point system when it comes to art.
And so how do we measure its successes? How do we place on it a tangible value for a population of people who seek it and create it and live amongst it every day?
Because even if there isn’t a soul around to hear a young girl on the floor of her bedroom filling the night air with a long and agonizingly beautiful note, doesn’t the art still exist? Does it not mean everything to her to sing it?
There were dozens of musicians sitting in that theater in front of Chuck Suchy the night he asked for silence, but then there were hundreds more spread out on this prairie in smoky bars, behind pianos, on smaller stages or living room couches in houses under those quiet stars, doing what they love and looking for a connection.
And perhaps that’s as simple as it is. The value of art is not in the popularity, not in the amount of YouTube hits or the awards or how far away your craft has taken you from home, but in the coming together or taking a moment to create something in an attempt to understand the human condition. Because without the expression of art, without stories and songs and holding on tight to one another as we move to the beat of the drum on the dance floor of the Legion Club on Friday night, who would reassure us that we’re not alone?
No, we’re not alone. Not in the joy, not in the heartbreak, not on the dirt of our home and certainly not in the silence.

Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com .

Related Topics: MUSIC
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