Sower of Seeds: Pete Seeger | Music | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Sower of Seeds: Pete Seeger 

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Backed by a school chorus, Seeger and Springsteen sang Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" at President Obama's inauguration. Two years on, how does Seeger view the administration? He thinks a few seconds. "Compromise is part of life," he says. "But there's a slight difference between compromise and selling out." The recipient of such awards as the National Medal of the Arts and a Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Honor, Seeger was recently nominated for his fourth Grammy for last year's Tomorrow's Children (Appleseed Records), a collaboration with Beacon youth chorus the Riverfront Kids. "The kids love listening to his stories, asking him about what his songs mean," says Tery Udell, a fourth-grade teacher at J. V. Forrestal Elementary School, whose students co-founded the group in 2009. "He makes them feel so empowered, like they really can change the world one song at a time."

Seeger's propensity for history is legendary, and it's impossible not to be swept up by the animated way he reels off the accounts of local settlers and the ancients. His eyes light up when talk turns to chopping wood ("I love to go whack!") and about how humanity will be preserved through music, as well as the two other communal arts he says most bring people together: cooking and sports. When he cites humor as another saving grace, the words of one of his heroes, musician and unionist Joe Hill, come to mind: "If a person can put a few common-sense facts into a song and dress them up in a cloak of humor, he will succeed in reaching a great number of workers who are too unintelligent or too indifferent to read."

"If the human race is still here in 100 years, it will be because of lots of people doing lots of little things," Seeger says. "Bigger things can get co-opted or bought off by the powers that be. But if there are many, many little things going on it will be too hard for them to keep up with all of them." What would he call his role in history? "A sower of seeds," he says, referencing one of the Bible's parables. "Some seeds fall on stones and don't even sprout, but some seeds fall on fallow ground and multiply a hundredfold."

Pete and Peggy Seeger will perform a benefit concert for the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild at the Kleinert/James Art Center in Woodstock on March 19. www.woodstockguild.org.

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