Wild Woods Music Co-op

Rutland, Vt., Acoustic Song Circle

History of the WildWoods Music Co-op

The Wild Woods Music Co-op began on April 7, 1993, when Doug Norford of Brandon called together area fans of "non-commercial" music at the Harlequin Movie House on Center Street. Owner Gerd Hirschmann made space available for the gathering. The invitation offered an "open stage" for musicians to perform, and it cast a broad net, seeking followers of traditional and contemporary folk, alternative rock, blues, jazz, reggae and world beat music. "Listen in, or play along," beckoned an early poster.

Besides Norford, the first meeting included members of the folk trio Woodchucks' Revenge, John Peterson, Steve "Mr. Blues" Baldwin, and Peter Hickey.

The first year of the co-op also featured a series of concerts at Harlequin Movie House with outside artists, including Harper's Ferry, Boiled in Lead, Michael Grande, The Dorkestra, Gary Dulabaum, Brooks Williams, and Hand to Mouth. The following year the co-op presented Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen, Richard Shindell, Rod MacDonald, and Lui Collins, as well as a "percussion party."

Open Stage has moved its meeting location at least five times over the years. The complexion of the group has changed with the participants, but the tradition of shared, "homemade" acoustic music in a friendly atmosphere has continued. The current "open stage" operates as a song circle, with players taking turns while others listen or play along.