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Storytelling and Important Influences
Hawk’s love and passion for storytelling began in his early childhood as he sat spellbound listening to his Grandpa Leo Hurst share exciting tales of ‘dust-bowl’ era, Oklahoma. These stories were always accompanied by a little harmonica playing and, of course, cookies and milk served by his Grandmother. The Hurst family grew wheat and milo, and raised upwards to 2,000 head of sheep, in addition to their cattle, horses, and hog operations. For several years when Hawk was in elementary school, a Navajo sheepherder named Tom Joe, and his wife, lived on their farm and ranch. It was during these brief encounters with Tom Joe, that he first heard exciting tales of Navajo tribal life. From this Hawk grew to love and appreciate Native American people and their culture.
While attending Sylvia Grade School, Hawk performed in several theatre productions and individual singing competitions. At Fairfield High School, he was involved in chorus, one-act plays, and was a member of the Debate Club. His true devotion, however, was competing in track and cross country. His efforts were rewarded when he received a partial scholarship to run on the track team at the University of Oklahoma. During high school, Mrs. Hughes, the school librarian, shared several books with Hawk that deeply influenced him, including Gordon Parks, ‘The Learning Tree’; John Howard Griffin’s, ‘Black Like Me’; and Forest Carter’s, ‘The Education of Little Tree’. He was extremely honored to meet Mr. Parks at a local community college event. His current love of photography stems from that brief encounter with Mr. Parks.
During his graduate studies with the Audubon Expedition Institute, a traveling, two-year Masters program in Environmental Education, Hawk learned the inherent educational value of storytelling, learning a great deal from master storytellers, N. Scott Momaday, Isabelle Ides (deceased), Greg Colfax, Alfred Yazzie (deceased), & Frank Trocco. His abiding love and respect for the natural world and for living in community was fostered during his two years of living on ‘The Bus’. Prior to and after his two years on ‘the bus’, Hawk lived and worked for three years in outdoor therapeutic camps in Texas and Georgia. It was at these camps that Hawk witnessed how valuable storytelling could be in restoring a sense of honor and self-respect to the lives of these deeply troubled youth.
In 1991, upon the invitation of storyteller, Dianne Hackworth, he joined the Yarnspinners organization, in Boone, North Carolina. It was here that Hawk began perfecting his storytelling repertoire. He has been performing and teaching others about the art of storytelling and traditional folk music ever since. During this same time period, Hawk and his family lived in a tipi at a summer camp, known as Turtle Island Preserve. For two years he studied with and worked for cultural arts educator, Eustace Conway. Eustace’s life story was detailed in the best-selling book, ‘The Last American Man’, by Elizabeth Gilbert.
It was during this time period that he met acclaimed Author and Jungian Analyst, Robert Johnson. Robert’s friendship and spiritual counseling had an overwhelming positive impact on his life, his marriage, and his fatherhood. He was soon, thereafter, introduced to the writings of Joseph Campbell, Michael Meade, as well as, poet, Robert Bly. The poetry of Rumi, as translated and shared by Coleman Barks has had a major impact, as have the works of numerous authors and poets.
Hawk has served as the President of the South Carolina Storytelling Network and has been a featured teller at numerous festivals across the Southeast. He has co-directed both the Stories for Life (storytelling) Festival and the Piccolo Spoleto Children’s Festival, held annually in Charleston, SC. He is a long-standing member of the North Carolina Storytelling Guild, the South Carolina Artist Roster, and of Southern Artistry.
Hawk’s storytelling influences include: Author/Poet, N. Scott Momaday; Audubon Guide, Frank Trocco; Navajo “Singers”, Alfred W. Yazzie (deceased) and Francis Teller; Outdoor Educator, Snowbear Taylor; Jungian Analyst/Author, Robert Johnson; Primitive Technologist, Steve Watts; Makah Storytellers, Isabelle Ides (deceased) and Greg Colfax; Cherokee Elder, Walker Calhoun; Storyteller, Dianne Hackworth; Master Craftsman, Darry Wood; Ceremonialist, Herbert Dancing Horse Walters; Cultural Arts Educator, Eustace Conway; Naturalist/Artist, Starcen Ellis; Creek Storyteller, Mary Johns (deceased).
The Value of Storytelling: Hawk Interview
‘Conversations’ with Joan Mack: Aired 5/17/07 on WSCI Public Radio 89.3 FM.
Hawk’s Arts Education Philosophy:“I like to impart a sense of wonder and mystery into a sometimes all too ordinary world. The stories and songs I share are interwoven with many lessons about community and our place within it - all of which can teach us not only moral lessons couched in story form, but they can also provide information about the intriguing diversity of cultures and creatures found in our world. Through pure joy and entertainment, art can teach environmental respect, personal responsibility, and tolerance for cultural differences and for each other.” - Hawk
“As president of several storytelling and community organizations, I have worked with Hawk on numerous occasions. He presents an accomplished, polished performance, incorporating music in with his stories, and always leaving the audience wanting more!” - Dianne Hackworth, Professional Storyteller
Flute Playing & Making
Hawk has a real passion for Native American Flutes. He has been playing them, making them, and teaching others how to create their own for over two decades. Gathering his own rivercane and bamboo - relaxing in the quite sacredness of the patches - this is one of his favorite ways to enjoy a day. Originally self-taught, he considers himself very fortunate to have studied with some of the finest flute makers and players across the country. His playing was influenced by his two friends, Snowbear Taylor and Frank Chambless, as well as, the early recordings of Carlos Nakai and Bob Two Hawks (deceased). He his grateful for the assistance he received from Eddie Bushyhead, Oreo Van Doren, & Hawk Littlejohn (deceased). He has perfected his craft with lots and lots of mistakes and practice.
He had the distinct pleasure to co- create two musical CD’s and tour the country of South Africa with the band, Sapien, performing at various festivals, clubs, and universities. Sapien’s first CD, ‘Gathering’, was a 2000, first-round Grammy nomination. He is a long-time member of the Carolina Flute Circle and always enjoys getting together with others to hear new songs and discover new flutes.
“I received my new flute this afternoon... I’m sitting here now with the flute at my side. You are a truly wonderful craftsman.” - Joshua
“I received my Bb river cane flute this morning; and, I’ve had a wonderful time playing. It certainly does have the sound quality to be included in my program, and it really does exceed my expectations in every way.” - Steve
“Our son recently made a flute with you, so all together our family has four of your flutes. It is really enjoyable for us to make up tunes and play together.” - Ginsberg Family
Drumming & Drum Making
A longtime interest in drumming began for Hawk, at the University of Oklahoma, where he attended college. He received his first instruction from two members of the Streetpeople Reggae band - percussionists, Jahruba Lambeth and Jordan Benison (from Togo, Africa). He learned how to make African-style drums by restoring a Cuban-style conga, with the help of his next door neighbor, Pedro. His West African drumming skills were greatly enhanced under the tutelage of Master Drummer, Babatunde Olatunji (deceased) of the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. He has continued to learn new songs and rhythms from his good friends, Snowbear Taylor and Fuz Sanderson.
African Drumming: Hawk Interview
‘Conversations’ with Joan Mack: Aired 5/17/07 on WSCI Public Radio 89.3 FM.
Hawk first studied Native American-style drum making, in 1987, with Northwest Coast drum-maker, Jim Hickey. Jim learned to tie this style of drum from the First Nations people of British Columbia. The sound that resonates from these authentic, ceremonial hand drums is absolutely wonderful. Hawk has made several different styles of drums over the past two decades, but has found that the method of tying used on the Northwest Coast style is the only one which will keep a drum tight in the dampest climates.
“Our drums are Perfect! Thank you for making Debi’s birthday so special - she “loves” her drum and the experience. Your encouragement and faith in our abilities will last a lifetime.” - Henry, drum making participant
“I have been wanting to tell you how much I have been enjoying the rivercane flute and the drum I bought from you. Thanks for all the work and spirit that went into the making. I receive blessings every time I play.” - Donna, a satisfied customer
“I haven’t quit talking about my drum making experience. I am quite proud of how it looks. You were sooooo patient with me while making it. Thanks ever so much for your part in my music adventure.” - Judith, drum making participant
Carving a Pow-Wow Drum
“While teaching at the Green River Preserve, near Tuxedo, North Carolina in 2005, I was honored to have the opportunity to work with campers and staff to carve three, 30” diameter drum frames from a fallen, hemlock tree. This tree, which was partially hollow, allowed us to make two absolutely beautiful Pow-Wow (community) drums, as well as a four foot tall, African-style pegged drum. Two of the drums were headed with Elk skin, while the third relied on a Buffalo hide. I could not have succeeded with this project without the generous knowledge and guidance from master craftsman and ancient skills educator, Darry Wood. The photos show the carving of the drum and the lacing (using Elk rawhide) of the drum with the students.”
Watch Darry Wood & Snowbear Taylor share information about Earthskills: CLICK HERE.
UNC-TV Folkways video clip.
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Charleston, SC 29401