A couple of weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of attending Musician’s Haven’s five year anniversary celebration. If you weren’t aware, Musician’s Haven is a Claremore nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for people to experience music in many different ways. For the past five years, Musician’s Haven has been active in the community, helping musicians find paying gigs, making sure they have the necessary sound equipment and mixing, providing space for them to give lessons, among many other things. They are an incredible organization.
Melton’s graciously hosted the “Five Year Bash” in the old Melton Gallery along historic Route 66, and it was hard not to be nostalgic. I have spent my entire life in Claremore. Well, everything in conscious memory, anyway. My birth certificate says I was born in Bartlesville, but Claremore is all I’ve ever known. As I sat on a couch inside the Gallery, listening to live music spill out of those big, open garage doors and onto that old sixty-six asphalt, almost all I could think about was the past. I thought of how many times that old highway had heard music skip across its surface from impromptu music venues all across the route. I thought about jazz, old country, rock and roll, and punk rock from the 1980s. All the ghostly sounds from music come and gone seemed to radiate from that highway like a mirage in the summer sun. It felt good to add something new back in to that highway.
As I sat enjoying the music, I felt the warm late-summer breeze float through the doors. I thought about Claremore, too. For people like me, who have always been here, it’s easy to see Claremore as it always has been, much like that old highway that was a stone’s throw away from where I sat. But, taking a mental step backwards, it occurred to me that Claremore has come a long way in a short amount of time. Since Musician’s Haven’s Five Year Bash was the catalyst, and I began thinking of what Claremore was like just five short years ago. So much has changed. And, I don’t just mean the different brick and mortar buildings, but more importantly, the many different threads and fibers that make up the tapestry of our community.
The first one that came to mind, of course, was Musician’s Haven. Sarah and Andy Fiegener established the nonprofit five years ago, and they’ve brought music back to my home. And, I am eternally grateful to them for that. When I was growing up here in Claremore, music was always very important to me. There were always different music venues for me to go to as a teenager. Goodness, I was even younger than that when I went to my first concert. Whether they were impromptu music venues like a church sanctuary or gymnasium, or if they were more established venues like the Grounds, Mustard Tree, or King of Clubs, there always seemed to be music somewhere. Some of those venues certainly had their problems. But, what was great about those venues wasn’t necessarily the more well-known music groups that would play there. What was great was the “local” musicians that would play in those venues. Some were from Claremore, but some would come from the surrounding areas. Some of them, like John Moreland or Beau Jennings, would go on to gain notoriety on a national level. And, it was always fun to say I saw them play Claremore when they were teenagers to a crowd of about five or six. But, sometime in the mid-2000s, everything dried up. Nevermind Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper, when the King of Clubs closed down, for Claremore, it was the day our music died. Until Sarah and Andy came along, that is. They breathed new life into our dead music scene. At almost any event in Claremore, if there is live music being played, there’s a good bet Musician’s Haven is behind it. And, this last year, they opened up a community center, now dubbed the “Bison Flat Listening Room,” where they host a regular concert series where artist can come play acoustic sets in a very intimate environment, to a crowd that enjoys and values the music. It’s incredible.
Five years ago, Claremore Collective didn’t exist, either. Claremore Collective is a young professionals organization that was founded in late 2015 by Brandon Irby under the Claremore Industrial and Economic Development Authority, but is better described as a collection of young people who are passionate about Claremore and want to be a part of its success. Really, it’s hard to believe that Claremore Collective hasn’t quite finished its third full year. They have championed causes that they feel are important to them as they begin to put down roots in a community that they want to call home. Whether it is downtown development, a healthy, walkable city, arts and culture, or new districting across the city, members of the Collective have been at the forefront of so many efforts, facilitating the conversation, serving on boards and committees, and rolling up their sleeves to get the work done. All the individuals in Claremore Collective give me hope and excitement for the future, not because they are better than any other generation, but simply because they step up when needed and always hustle. Those that see something different just aren’t paying attention.
Five years ago, downtown Claremore was vastly different. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Claremore Main Street organization. It was the first professional board I ever served on, and being involved with them gives me a chance to imagine all the stories that those old bricks might tell. There is some much there that has changed in the last five years! Our current Main Street director, Jessica Jackson, came aboard in that time. Under her leadership, the Food Truck Thursday events have become a “can’t miss” community event, preservation efforts are underway, and the downtown businesses are thriving. Speaking of businesses, places like Main Street Tavern, The Haberdashery, The District on Main, and North Block Common, home of moreClaremore.com, all opened their doors in the last five years.
I could go on. There is so much good out there. There are so many people that MAKE this town such a good place to call home. It’s easy to feel insignificant as just one thread, and not see what all is happening around you. But, when you take that important step back, you can see the beauty of the tapestry woven around you.
Jake Krumwiede is the assistant director of the Will Rogers Memorial Museums.
Did you know?
In the history of the United States, specifically the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the yeoman farmer was considered the model of American values. They were the independent, non-slaveholding, sustenance farmers, who often followed the first wave of pioneers to the settle the frontier. With them came the work ethic, and the independent nature which fostered democratic values. They toiled in obscurity creating a new life for themselves, and laying the foundations of society for those who would come after them.
I used to have a regular campfire where my friends and I would sit around it and tell stories. In some ways, we were all yeomen. In some ways, we were all pioneers. We all toiled in obscurity and sought to create a better world. It was our time to come together to celebrate or lament the daily labors and struggles. It was the Yeoman's Lament.