Jehile Kirkhuff - My Music Mentor

by Ed Berbaum

(Please refer to the February issue of this magazine for another view of this wonderful, but undeservedly obscure, artist. - the editor)

Meeting Jehile Kirkhuff was the best experience of my life. He was a master fiddler, counselor, a living example of rural economics, and contentment with few material possession, such as living without electricity. His humor, intelligence, passion for life and old-time fiddle tunes he loved and played so well, set me and my wife Geraldine on a new course in our lives, and with his imparted musical skills. Our life's work became learning this way of life and the tunes and fiddle skills; offering presentations to audiences we would find through good marketing skills developed in our former careers.

Alan Jabbour, former head of the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress and a very powerful fiddler, became strongly attached to the person and music of Henry Reed of Virginia (near the West Virginia border) and now represents the style and tunes played by Henry with passion and skill. Jabbour obviously found something in Henry that compelled him to visit often. It must have been, what some of us might say was a "calling"; a desire to visit a world not available to us in this life except by multiple visits with the mind and music of someone who has lived in this other world much or all of their lives. Then you see the true power and excitement of music and fiddle tunes as never before.

I, too, felt this calling, the desire to visit Jehile; to talk and play and appreciate him as an insight into the history of the old tunes. Melodies from the countries from which the settlers to his area in Pennsylvania emigrated. He also gave me a window through which I could see that life out of the fast lane, without electricity, which is still possible and honorable; a life which can be refreshing, rejuvenating and a fertile soil for learning how to find and develop the real YOU as a person and fiddler. A power failure might give many of us much more time and ambition to pick up the fiddle and call on one of our many "tune" friends, helping us progress on our road to being able to communicate to others through the unspoken power of the magical language of music. Power that comes from knowing a tune. Knowing in a sense like most of us know and can really say we love our wives, mothers and sisters as women; as opposed to knowing and loving the lady down the road who you say hello to in town now and then.

The more you play a tune the better a friend you have in this tune. I don't know for sure that these tunes have a life or spirit of their own but they can sure use our hardware and software (mind, skills and love of music) to create some very good times of social interaction and fun. This can and will make for a stronger more friendly community.

Jehile had this power and this deep friendship with many, many tunes. I knew it was really special from the first day I met him and it did not fade with repeated visits just as the old-time tunes do not fade when played over and over for years. They become more loved and allow our love and passion as fiddlers to be revealed to our audience.

I hope all who read this will find their own Jehile or Henry or Alan or Stacy. Your life will change in a very profound way.

For more information on Ed Berbaum, his Jehile projects and his own work, contact any of the following:

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