Tell us about yourself?
My name is Adam Braunschweig, I grew up in Holyoke and went to school here. Later I moved to Boston to go to Berklee College of Music and then Ireland for grad school to study ethnomusicology (basically studying music through culture not notation). I lived in Kansas City for about 8 years teaching music in a couple different schools and playing in a band called Three Dollar Band, where we created original music that blended world music with American styles. I’ve taught all grades Pre K through 12th at some point. I’ve been writing songs since high school but with more focus since 2006.
What does being “rooted” in Holyoke mean to you?
Well, I think everyone who grew up in Holyoke feels a connection to this area but has a different definition of it. For me, I’ve always loved the important contributions this city has made over the years. The first instrument that could be called a “synthesizer”, the Telharmonium was built in Holyoke around 1901 on Cabot St., its technology was later reimagined in the 1930s in Chicago to make the Hammond organ, an instrument I love and feature heavily in my music. The canal system, the renewable energy, the architecture, and the multicultural aspects of our community make it a special area to me. Living in the midwest for 10 years, all the new construction felt fake and soul-less compared to what I grew up around.
What’s it like to be a teacher in Holyoke during the time of COVID, and what grade do you teach?
I’m teaching Pre-K to 8th grade Music in the Holyoke Public Schools. The first few weeks were a little challenging, and some issues come up every now and then, but overall I’m really proud of the kids and the teachers for making this work. Learning is definitely happening, but yes it is different and difficult at times!
How do the kids feel about the pandemic?
Kids are very resilient and flexible, I think they’d rather be in school but they’re also doing a fantastic job dealing with the changes. Some kids seem to actually be thriving more so than in person, maybe they are more shy and feel less so at home and behind a screen, I’m not sure.
For you, explain the differences of being a teacher and being a local singer/songwriter?
There’s obviously a different set of responsibilities when being a teacher than the skill set it takes to build one’s career as a musician. The part I hate most about being a musician is having to convince people to listen or constantly trying to sell yourself and your material. I create music because the creative process and coming up with something new is what makes me feel alive. When someone else likes the song or piece I’ve created that’s a win-win situation, but I’m pretty terrible at self-promotion so I’m glad teaching pays the bills… My goal in being a music teacher is to create a love of music that a kid can take with them for the rest of their lives like I did. Not every kid likes everything we do in class but I try to touch on a variety of activities, genres of music, and links to other subject areas in hopes that something sticks!
What do your students think about your music?
I’ve only played some of my Irish music for younger kids, around St. Patrick’s Day. We sing and play all day long in class and I try to keep learning focused on them rather than about showing what I can do. I try to keep the two identities separate, for better or worse.
What is the name of your band?
From the Woods has always been more of a collaboration with different members depending on where I was living or who I was playing with at the time, than an actual band. The songs stay more or less the same, but the members are sometimes fluid. I’ve been lucky to play with some fantastic musicians over the years.
There has got to be an interesting story behind the name of your band, care to share?
I wrote a song “In the Woods” back in 2007 or so, which we still play, and wanted to use that name for this project in 2012. I realized then that it was also the name of a popular book and movie so I just changed it to From the Woods. A lot of the songs I write have a subtle link to nature in a line somewhere in them. I always liked how Townes Van Zandt did that.We would love to hear more about your music, tell us what you want us to know! If you look through my catalog, From the Woods has always been a vehicle to try out ideas that inspired me at the time. My first album “Lost and Found” were $3 band outtakes that had a lot of pedal steel and upright bass on it, the next record featured more electric guitar (something I picked up again after playing acoustic instruments for ten years). Since I’ve moved back to Holyoke, records have featured a lot of Hammond organ after I got obsessed with restoring them, working with Tyler Drabick at Boss Organ in Boston. This new record is going to be a back to basics, stripped down, acoustic record of songs inspired by old New England folk songs from the 1800s.
What inspired you to write a song about Holyoke History?
I’ve written a few songs inspired by things in Holyoke’s history. The first one was a tune called “The Ballad of the Millworker” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SEjoI40FJQ ) that is set just around the time of the mills moving south and industry in the city on the decline. I have a new album coming out that features two new songs about Holyoke. One is called “Canal Digger’s Lament” from the perspective of those who dug the canals by hand over their 50 year construction, and one called “Billy’s Blunder” about the Eyrie House ruins on the top of Mt Tom. My childhood friend Dan Bevan (also originally from Holyoke) and I, seem to have a knack for writing material that sounds old and these songs were co-written with him.
How and where can we find your band info?
My music website is www.fromthewoodsband.com and my instagram is @From_the_Woods – You can find my music on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, and Youtube or maybe catch a show when this is all over!